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5 American Horror Story: 1984 Theories About WTF Is Really Happening at Camp Redwood

Is it a time loop? Is it Hell? Is it ever going to get answered?

Sadie Gennis

We're nearing the halfway point of American Horror Story: 1984, but fans are still largely in the dark as to what the big twist of the season is. That doesn't mean the past four episodes have been boring, by any means. Ryan Murphy has kept the storyline moving along quite nicely, despite the first four episodes of 1984 seemingly taking place over history's single longest night. We've already been gifted twisted secret agendas for several characters -- most notably Montana (Billie Lourd), Donna (Angelica Ross), and Margaret (Leslie Grossman) -- and seen the deaths of several others, including Ray (DeRon Horton), Trevor (Matthew Morrison), Chef Bertie (Tara Karsian), and the Night Stalker (Zach Villa) -- although the last of these has already risen from the grave in spectacularly dramatic fashion.

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But what is really going on at Camp Redwood? There's more than enough evidence to make it clear that this isn't your average slasher story and there is something else going on that hasn't been fully revealed yet. So, here are our five best theories as to what the impending twist is going to be.

Zach Villa, ​American Horror Story: 1984

1. It's ghosts.

So far we've seen Jonas (Lou Taylor Pucci), the Night Stalker, and Mr. Jingles (John Carroll Lynch) all come back from the dead. (Some fans are saying that Jingles wasn't killed by Margaret, but given that she shot him multiple times, we're going to believe he was killed and resurrected.) Each of those resurrections has been wildly different: Jonas doesn't seem to remember anything that's happened before, Mr. Jingles seemingly does, and the Night Stalker was raised up in the air, had his wounds healed, and his eyes turned black like he truly was the Devil himself. So, uh, what's going on here?

In cases like this, sometimes the best answer is the simplest: ghosts. AHS has always been fairly inconsistent with ghost rules over the course of the series, so we wouldn't actually be that surprised if they invented a bunch of new ones that would explain why people are coming back from the dead in various ways. Or maybe only Jonas is a real ghost and the other resurrections are explained in different ways (ex: Mr. Jingles really did survive Margaret's attack, the Night Stalker really was revived by Satan). To be perfectly honest though, AHS has done so many ghosts in the past we kind of doubt they're dipping back into that well this season. Or at least we hope they aren't.

American Horror Story: 1984

2. It's a time loop.

Jonas is the biggest evidence that at least someone in Camp Redwood is stuck inside a time loop. But what if everyone is and it just hasn't reset for them yet? It's possible that next week's episode will find the remaining counselors slaughtered by the morning, after which the entire loop will restart at the point of them driving to Camp Redwood, likely right before they hit Jonas with the van. Then it would be up to them to relive the night, survive it, and potentially break the loop once and for all.

Besides the fact that Jonas, who has the same name of the lead character of Dark(a show all about the circular nature of time), appears to have no memory beyond 1970, the other telling evidence supporting this theory is a moment from the "still to come" trailer that shows Mr. Jingles pouring gasoline on Ray while he's trapped in the spike pit -- something that definitely did not happen before Ray's death in Episode 3. So either that moment was cut from the series or it confirms that Ray will be back, likely once the time loop resets.

​American Horror Story: 1984

3. It's purgatory.

While we still haven't learned the backstories on all the characters, what we have learned so far is pretty damning. Ray is on the run after murdering a fraternity pledge, Margaret committed the original Camp Redwood massacre, Montana teamed up with the Night Stalker to kill Brooke (Emma Roberts), Donna is willing to sacrifice human lives to satisfy her own academic curiosity, and Brooke is most clearly not the innocent girl she plays off being (were the three rings in her jewelry box proof that she's a black widow, perhaps?). Though we haven't learned anything too terrible about them yet, we're sure Trevor, Chet (Gus Kenworthy), Xavier (Cody Fern), and even Chef Bertie likely have some darkness in their pasts as well. So maybe Camp Redwood is actually be purgatory, with everyone trapped there to be punished for their previous sins.

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With the season's heavy religious themes, particularly played out through Margaret and the Night Stalker, it would make sense for the camp to be a place of limbo -- or even Hell itself. If we wanted to get very tin-foil hat about it, maybe each of the people even represents one of Dante's circles of Hell (we all know Ryan Murphy loves a good AHS-Inferno connection, after all). Although it's still too early to know where everyone would fall, they could potentially be sorted as follows: Lust (Trevor), Greed (Donna), Wrath (Montana), Heresy (Margaret), Violence (Richard, the Night Stalker), Fraud (Ray), and Treachery (Brooke). That would leave Xavier and Chet for Limbo and Gluttony, but we don't really know enough about either yet to say who would go where.

​Emma Roberts, American Horror Story: 1984

4. It's Room 101.

In George Orwell's novel 1984, there is a torture chamber, Room 101, where prisoners are faced with their biggest fears in order to break down their resistance to the government. Camp Redwood could be AHS's take on Room 101, with each of the characters being subjected to precisely what they're trying to run away from (Ray with the chance to save a friend instead of kill him, Xavier with the fear of his gay porn career being made public, etc.), and whether or not you survive might depend on whether you're able to make the choices the totalitarian overlords desire. This is really just a slight twist of the purgatory theory, but with more of an Orwellian angle rather than a religious one.

Cody Fern, ​American Horror Story: 1984

5. It's a simulation.

While there are those who theorize the big twist coming will be that everything we've watched so far is a horror movie (the way Roanokebegan as a show within a show), we're more inclined to believe that all the clues are pointing at everything so far being part of a simulation. Of all these theories, this is the one that best plays into the anticipated Orwellian twist viewers are still waiting for, giving us some serious Big Brother vibes.

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Being a simulation would also explain several mysteries surrounding Jonas, including why he hasn't aged since 1970, why he's returned from the dead multiple times, and how his body disappeared after each death. If Jonas was part of the simulation (either a pre-programmed aspect or has been trapped in it for 14 years), it would also clarify the meaning behind him saying "you're not supposed to be here" multiple times, since there would be a course of events that he was expecting to play out.

As for the reasons behind the simulation, maybe it's a large-scale experiment similar to the one Donna is interested in and it's all about discovering what brings out the worst in humanity. Or maybe it's more of a game (think the movies Gamer or Nerve), perhaps even with viewers watching and cheering on their favorites. Or maybe it's just aliens messing with humans because we are still dying for those damn aliens to return one day and will never let this theory rest.

American Horror Story: 1984 airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on FX.

​American Horror Story: 1984