Anyone looking for their horror fix doesn’t need to wait anymore: the ninth season of Ryan Murphy’s FX anthology horror series premiered last night, and with it, we were let in on a harrowing American Horror Story: 1984 true story clue. Turns out, one of this season’s monsters existed in real life.
In last night’s season premiere, we met him as “The Night Stalker” (played by Zach Villa, who also looks eerily similar to his character’s real-life counterpart). The Night Stalker makes his appearance as he breaks into Brooke’s (Emma Roberts) apartment and attacks her. Brooke manages to fight him off—we won’t spoil how—but he doesn’t leave without making a truly terrifying threat: “You’re going to be famous,” he said, “You’re going to die by the hands of the Night Stalker. I will find you. Satan will show me the way!” Yup, trespassing and abuse aren’t all he’s got to offer; The Night Stalker is a Satanist, too. Unfortunately for Brooke, he’s a Satanist who also happens to keep a promise—later in the episode, The Night Stalker makes a reappearance to stalk her at the creepy summer camp where she’s working as a counselor. Yikes.
All of these behaviors—the stalking, breaking and entering, and abuse—directly mimic the actions of the real life Night Stalker. Here’s what we know about him:
His name was Richard Ramirez.
The Night Stalker was born as Richard Ramirez in El Paso, Texas as one of five children to Mexican parents. His father, who worked on the Santa Fe railroad, was reportedly physically abusive—which certainly did not set up a moral compass for young “Richie” Ramirez.
He was influenced by his older cousin.
Ramirez spent a great deal of time with his cousin Miguel “Mike” Ramirez, a decorated Vietnam War veteran. Mike often bragged about his appalling experiences to Richie, some of which included raping Vietnamese women and posing in Polaroid flicks with their decapitated heads. He also began taking drugs and committing small crimes with Richie, who was only around 12 years old at the time. Later, Richie was present when his cousin murdered his wife, Jessie. This incident sent young Ramirez on a downward spiral—he began to take harder drugs, such as LSD, and develop an interest in Satanism. This marked the start of Ramirez’s commitment toward more serious crimes.
His murder spree began in 1984.
Ramirez murdered at least 14 people between April of 1984 and August of 1985 (which is when he was apprehended), and raped or tortured dozens more. He was known for his home invasions—at first, he was popularized as the “Walk-In Killer” and the “Valley Intruder,” as he broke into homes across California. He commonly attacked his victims before stealing their valuable possessions, and most of his victims were women or couples.
His crimes ended in 1985.
Only because he was caught. After his photograph was released by the authorities to the public, a group of bystanders committed the ultimate act of justice when they saw him attempting to flee via the Santa Ana Freeway. They held the murderer down and beat him until authorities arrived. Ramirez was later convicted of 13 counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder, 11 counts of sexual assault and 14 counts of burglary on September 20, 1989. Soon thereafter, he was sentenced to death—yet he spent the next two decades on death row and was never executed. Instead, he died of lymphoma related complications on June 7, 2013.
So don’t worry, AHS fans. The Night Stalker exists no more.