Since this season's premiere of American Horror Story: Cult, there have been several theories swirling around about hidden messages laced throughout the season. There's a new theory out that gets to the bottom of those creepy smiley faces that have been plastered all over the background of the show (and were a major feature in episode 3).
The smiley faces have a dark, real-life history outside of the show. The "smiley face murder theory" is something that has been developed by two retired New York City detectives — Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte — after they noticed a pattern in some of the cases they worked. A number of young men were found in bodies of water but weren't the victims of drowning. In each of the cases, graffiti of smiley faces were found near the locations where it was speculated that the killer or killers committed the crime, throughout Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and New York City. Those cops theorised that a group of serial killers were responsible for a cross-country killing spree.
How does this tie into AHS: Cult? The smiley face murder theory may have been an inspiration for some of the plot we've been seeing unfolding this season. The smiley face graffiti has been popping up to "mark" those who are doomed to die, according to PopSugar. In the original theory, the smiley faces were always found somewhere near the victim's body. The theory matches up with what we've seen: a group of masked killer clowns taking the lives of victims.
Even though the smiley face theory is creepy on the show, the police have been skeptical of accepting it as credible, which might be part a red herring that Cult is throwing viewer's way. In fact, AHS: Cult may be suggesting that the clown killings we've seen so far aren't real — so far, it's been difficult to tell what is real and what is imagination working overtime in the show. Whether that's the direction that the show will be headed towards, it does play into the fact that many of the characters aren't who they appear to be.