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'American Horror Story: Carnival': Fans might see pickled punks and geek shows

Jessica Lange might be playing a burlesque dancer at a carnival in season 4 of "American Horror Story"
Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images

Jessica Lange is headed to a carnival for season 4 of "American Horror Story."

According to a March 17 report by Variety, writer Douglas Petrie revealed the setting of the next season during a Nerdist writer's panel podcast. "It doesn’t have a title, but that’s the idea," he said. "Very roughly, that’s the idea." It's also been revealed that season 4 will be set during 1950 and that Jessica Lange will be playing a Marlene Dietrich-like character.

The carnival setting should excite "American Horror Story" fans who want to see the series take on the freak shows that were once so popular. Freak shows usually featured people suffering from disfiguring medical conditions, such as the famous Elephant Man. Other "attractions" included hermaphrodites, conjoined twins, and bearded ladies. There were also tattooed ladies, as well as performers like fire-breathers and sword-swallowers. Some sideshows featured burlesque shows, or "hootchie-kootchie" shows. This may be where Jessica Lange's character comes in.

Perhaps Lange will be playing a once-famous actress who ends up performing at the carnival when she can no longer find work in movies. Marlene Dietrich did start performing in cabaret shows in the 1950s, but she starred in big venues and was well-paid. Perhaps Jessica Lange's character can't find that kind of success for some reason. The finale of "American Horror Story: Coven" seemed to reference the 1950 movie "All About Eve" when an enthusiastic young woman asked Delia about what a Supreme is, so maybe Lange's character will get "All About Eved" by a young actress before she ends up at the carnival.

There are other real sideshow exhibits that "American Horror Story" can feature that viewers might not be aware of. "Pickled punks" were dead baby fetuses in jars, and "geek shows" featured drug addicts and alcoholics biting the heads off of live chickens. Shows also featured macabre exhibits like the "Bonnie and Clyde Death Car." However, many exhibits billed with sensational names like this weren't the real deal. A real "Death Car" sounds like something that could be haunted by the ghosts of those who died in it. Since season 4 is going to film in New Mexico and is set shortly after the Roswell incident, perhaps one of the exhibits will be a living alien.

Ryan Murphy always hides clues about what the next season is going to be about in the finale of the previous season. Perhaps Myrtle's playing of an instrument called the theremin will play into the plot. The creator of the instrument, Russian inventor Léon Theremin, definitely has an interesting life story. He was a brilliant man, and his creepy-sounding instrument was a big hit in the United States during the late '20s and '30s. Members of the celebrity's elite social circle were shocked when he married a black ballerina (obviously this was a time when many looked down on interracial relationships). Theremin ended up working in a secret laboratory in a Gulag camp after returning to the Soviet Union, and he created a listening device that was concealed in a wooden replica of the Great Seal of the United States. It was gifted to the U.S. Ambassador and hung in his Moscow office, where it was used to monitor confidential conversations during the Cold War. It was discovered in 1952.

Perhaps the mention of the theremin was hinting that season 4 has something to do with the Cold War. Myrtle also pointed out that the eerie instrument was used for the soundtrack of many 1950s horror movies, so maybe Ryan Murphy will borrowing a plot from a film that the instrument was featured in.

Léon Theremin and his ballerina bride would definitely be interesting characters to include in season 4. TV Guide also thinks that people affected by the nuclear testing done in New Mexico might make an appearance on the show (think "The Hills Have Eyes").

What and who would you like to see at the carnival during season 4 of "American Horror Story?"

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