A lot of people don’t know, but the scene in the American Horror Story: Asylum season finale titled “Madness Ends” gives a little nod to Geraldo Rivera. See, back in 1972, Geraldo was a fledgling reporter for WABC-TV in New York looking for his big break. He found it through the Willowbrook State School, state-supported institution for children with intellectual disabilities in Staten Island, NY. It was open from the 1930s until 1987 when the doors were finally closed.
Geraldo’s exposé entitled “Willowbrook: The Last Disgrace” revealed the grotesque conditions ranging from overcrowding (the facility was built to hold 4,000 but by 1965 held over 6,000) to neglect to physical and sexual abuse of patients.
The scene in AHS: Asylum in which Lana sneaks into Briarcliff with a camera crew to expose the conditions there and find sister Jude is almost identical to Geraldo’s 1972 exposure of Willowbrook, right down to the dialogue about the conditions and the smell.
Willowbrook also had its own story of an employee turned murderer, only in this case it was a physical therapy aide and the victims weren’t women but helpless children. A documentary film called Cropsey discusses not only Willowbrook but also Andre Rand, a.k.a The Pied Piper of Staten Island, who from 1972-1987 (oddly the year Willowbrook was exposed and the year it was shuttered) allegedly abducted and murdered four children with ages ranging from 5 to 12 years old. Rand was suspected in the disappearance of Holly Ann Hughes in 1981, but the charges against him in that case were dropped due to lack of evidence.
This video shows two clips from Cropsey showing both the Willowbrook exposé and a discussion of Andre Rand.
The last scene of Asylum is also the first scene of the whole series, so you again see this 32-year-old girl who comes to this institution so she can get a big story and be taken seriously as a reporter in 1964. She ends up exposing Briarcliff and bringing that place down. By the very end of it, when Lana is a 75-year-old woman sitting in that chair being interviewed about her life, I didn’t have to fill in any blanks. It’s a very rare thing to be able to tell a story and not have to make it up because you’ve actually played it. It felt like I had actually lived Lana Winters’ life, and here I was now at the end of that. [x]
Freakshow is probably my least favorite season and I think the reason is because I don’t know what it’s all supposed to be leading up to. Every season has had an end game of some sort. Murderhouse: the birth of the babies, Asylum: Briarcliff being exposed/ everyone escaping, and Coven: finding out who the supreme was. But like there’s no goal here, nothing that it’s all leading up to. So I’m not really sure what the end is even going to be and I’m not sure I really care.