Camp Redwood has a bloody history, as we learned in the AHS: 1984 premiere: In 1970, the worst summer camp massacre in history took place there, when a mass murderer killed a slew of young campers and three counselors — collecting their ears as trophies (nope). And as it turns out, some of AHS: 1984 is inspired by true story.
In the show’s present (which is, of course, 1984), Camp Redwood has re-opened just as convicted mass murderer Mr. Jingles (John Carroll Lynch) has escaped from the mental hospital. Until now, he’d been kept there following his trial and conviction for the Camp Redwood massacre. He seems hellbent on revenge, returning to the scene of the crime to finish the job he started years ago. The real thorn in his side? One victim (played by Leslie Grossman) survived the massacre, acted as the star witness in his trial, and is the person responsible for re-opening the camp. Bad news all around — but there's more.
Not only is Mr. Jingles back to haunt Camp Redwood, but the Los Angeles area is plagued by another serial killer, one who attacks our protagonist Brooke (Emma Roberts) in the AHS: 1984 premiere. The Night Stalker (Zach Villa), as he’s called, also pops up at the end of the episode, watching Brooke from afar.
This is where that true story starts to factor in. As if two serial killers in one summer wasn't scary enough, consider that the Night Stalker, a.k.a. Richard Ramirez, was a real serial killer and rapist. He went on a killing spree in Los Angeles in 1984 and 1985, before being convicted of 13 murders and 30 other felonies including sexual assault and burglary in 1989, according to the LA Times. Ramirez was a self-professed Satanist, who never expressed remorse for his crimes; at the time of his conviction, told the courtroom "I am beyond good and evil. I will be avenged. Lucifer dwells in us all."
That would explain why the Night Stalker tells Brooke, “Satan will show me the way.” He believes the devil will help him find her after she escapes his first murder attempt.
Beyond the statistics and Satan worship, Ramirez’s bloody run marked a truly terrifying time for residents of L.A. County. His M.O. was driving through suburban neighborhoods looking for open windows to climb through. Once he was in, he'd attack his victims viciously and brutally, with methods ranging from stabbing to slashing to bludgeoning and beyond, according to the LA Times. He was eventually caught after a 13-year-old boy evaded the killer, woke his father, caught Ramirez's car and license plate details, and alerted the police. Detectives later pieced the rash of killings in L.A. County together, and after a trial, Ramirez was sentenced to death for his crimes (he later died in prison, before the state could carry out his execution).
AHS has obviously taken some liberties with the Night Stalker — namely sending him to to a fictional summer camp to chase fictional escaped victims — and Mr. Jingles appears to be a made-up killer. Still, adding that dash of reality, especially by evoking a killer who struck fear in the hearts of all of Los Angeles throughout the summers of 1984 and 1985, is extra chilling.