- American Horror Story -The Real Conspiracy Theory 'American Horror Stories' "Feral" Is Based On
While I have always naively assumed that the U.S. government's National Park Service was to preserve the natural beauty of North America, the American Horror Stories episode "Feral" has proven me all wrong. Spoilers ahead. Apparently, America's national parks are full of cannibals if you believe the feral people conspiracy theory in American Horror Stories. And it's not just Stories that features this bonkers legend that must have Teddy Roosevelt rolling in his grave. There's a real conspiracy theory about feral people in the national parks... well, "real" as in people have talked about it in real life and not just in scripted TV.
As Cody Fern's Park Ranger Stan Vogel explains to the Gantz family, the park service was created to control this subpopulation of feral people who live in the wilderness and eat (what else?) other people. The sightings of these cannibalistic inbred humans got mixed up into the legends of Bigfoot (or Yowie, if you're Australian like Stan). No one knows their origins, though Stan throws out a couple of theories, including they've been around as long ago as when the Vikings landed in Newfoundland or were Civil War soldiers who were defeated but never surrendered. Stan says some 2,000 people have gone missing in national parks and these cannibals are the reason why.
When it comes to missing people, there are pages on the park service's website dedicated to missing persons and cold cases. And though there's no official tally, Outside reported how civilians and conspiracy theorists have the number of missing people to be around 1,600. As the New York Post reported, Jon Billman wrote about his investigations into missing persons in the North American wilderness in his 2020 book, The Cold Vanish.
Then, there's conspiracy theorist David Paulides, who founded the North American Bigfoot Search, which is... dedicated to proving that Bigfoot is real. As Outside reported, Paulides also documents missing people in the North American wilderness through his CanAm Missing Project and he created Missing 411, a series of books and documentary films that investigates the unexplained mysteries of people vanishing in national parks. Once you're done watching Stories, you can stay on Hulu to catch both of Paulides's movies Missing 411 and Missing 411: The Hunted. (The Hunted is also available for free on Amazon Prime.)
Investigating missing persons in national parks and contemplating perhaps paranormal reasons for these unsolved cases doesn't necessarily lead you to a secret community of feral people. But as In the Know reported, there's been a TikTok trend talking about cannibal feral people in national parks with some people crediting them for the alleged missing people. One TikToker claimed she grew up outside of Great Smoky Mountain National Park and that it's commonly understood that there's people out in the woods who will "get ya."
As Drivin' & Vibin' outlined, it's unclear how this TikTok trend started, though it began in January and February 2021. But there have been stories of missing people decades earlier that people are now attributing to these "feral people." In 1969, 6-year-old Dennis Martin went missing in the Smoky Mountains and TheSmokies.com outlined in March 2021 how conspiracy theorists are blaming feral people or "Wild Men" for the child's disappearance.
These TikTok theories have received some backlash since they perpetuate harmful stereotypes of people who live in Appalachian or other rural areas. (One video claiming this is a global issue was criticized for being offensive to Indigenous peoples but has nearly 15 million views.) One TikToker, who believes feral people exist and that there are paranormal explanations for missing people in the parks, stated it was wrong to blame these people who live in the woods for disappearances or to say they are cannibals.
Do people go missing in national parks sometimes? Yes. Is it possible that there are people living off-the-grid in the wilderness with limited interaction with other humans? Sure. Are these "feral people" cannibals and living in the parks as some vast government conspiracy theory? Uh, I'm going to go with a hard no. But "Feral" writer Manny Coto seemingly decided to tap into this trend and add feral people into the Stories universe, similar to the Polks before in AHS: Roanoke. And as "feral" as these cannibals may be in Stories, they were still civilized enough to crown a Feral Child King.
Images: FX on Hulu