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“American Horror Story” DVD Launch Party in a Hollywood Graveyard

To celebrate the release of American Horror Story Season 1 on Blu-ray and DVD yesterday, 70 lucky and swift-fingered Facebook fans were invited to an event at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, along with select press like yours truly. Though we can’t necessarily assume that this sampling of fans was representative, it skewed female-heavy. On the one hand, this maybe shouldn’t be a surprise, as the show is driven by its women, played by Connie Britton, Jessica Lange and Taissa Farmiga (the male characters are inevitably selfish jerks); but on the other, it surely (and thankfully) puts a crimp in the notion that female-friendly horror has to involve vampires getting romantic. As the second season is going to be a completely new story with none of the same characters – albeit many of the same actors in different roles – it remains to be seen if this will be the norm in the new setting of a 1960s mental institution in Maine.

To kick off the event, we got taken on a mini-murder tour, hosted by the guys at Dearly Departed Tours, who were happy to finally be formally acknowledged as the inspiration for the show’s “Eternal Darkness Tours.” One visually significant difference: while the open-topped bus seen on the series is more visually appealing, the real-life vehicles are closed-roof vans with tinted windows – less conspicuously bothersome to the individuals who may still be residing inside the murder-site residences.

As we boarded the van, we realized we were not alone – the Rubber Man had tagged along, silently staring the entire time. Driver Scott Michaels regaled us with tales of Bela Lugosi’s funeral procession being hijacked by Lugosi’s ghost, and how he has amassed a personal collection of death-related items, from Sharon Tate’s fireplace to a piece of John Denver’s plane. Though we were on a severely abbreviated version of the normally 2-hour tours, we got to see the Marion Parker house before stopping at the real destination – the “Murder House” from season 1. In actuality, it was once a convent, but never, as far as anyone knows, a real haunted house.

Fun fact: under California law, you need only disclose if a murder happened in the last three years in a house you’re selling. Anything else is outside the statute of limitations. Scott also told us a tale about his encounter with a celebrity ghost, and the audio proof he posted to YouTube. I’ll just let that one speak for itself…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nX1WNoJMK7Q?rel=0]

Summoned swiftly back to the cemetery, we went upstairs into the Masonic Temple structure (which, I have to say, felt like a rather ordinary building), where bottles of wine floated in a bathtub of blood, buffalo chicken sandwiches and cookies awaited our stomachs, and a sickly, syrupy vodka cocktail that involved Coca-Cola and strawberry something-or-other was an option. After a few minutes of this, we were ushered next door to a room full of candles and red lighting. The Rubber Man was here, too, and everybody lined up for a picture, even as he creepily sniffed the hair of his female fans, and pretended to steal the drinks of the males.

Scott Michaels took the stage alongside author Tom Ogden, as they told us some tales of the “real-life” supernatural. Michaels recounted the more gruesome details of the Black Dahlia with gusto (the cut-in-half and slashed-smile are not the worst of it, folks, but I’m gonna leave it up to you to search out the rest if you’re that interested). Many of the ghosts in the show were based on real-life cases, including the Black Dahlia and the Sal Mineo murder. Ogden believes that most ghosts like to haunt places they enjoyed in life, rather than graveyards, as many believe they’re alive and are still trying to have fun.

You may or may not choose to believe that, but it was a bit more credible to a skeptic’s ears than what followed – a presentation by TLC’s Life Among the Dead host Lisa Williams, who claims to have been raped by a ghost. She didn’t use the r-word, just calling it sex, but made it clear that unwanted penetration was involved. For her, everyday life is like American Horror Story, in that she sees dead people everywhere, even when going to the bathroom naked at 3 a.m. – though when asked if she saw dead people in the room, she said she could turn her ability on and off. It then turned selectively on, as an audience member asking about his uncle’s suicide got a cold reading then and there, as she sensed a message from him. The cynical among us might point out that she got the uncle’s relationship wrong in said message (he was paternal rather than maternal) and that her other revelations (he was an alcoholic, and he’s sorry) are, let’s face it, easy guesses.

But if you do choose to believe, she’s talked to Marilyn Monroe at the Roosevelt hotel, and you might like to know that Marilyn hangs around because she just wants to be loved. Also, the spirit world is exactly three feet away from ours, at an angle.

Finally, actor David Anthony Higgins (Stan the Tour Guide) took to the stage with the Rubber Man to introduce one of the Blu-ray extra features – an “Eternal Darkness Tours” short in which Stan takes a group of tourists inside the house and shows them the site of every killing in there (enhanced by well-chosen, quick-cut clips of said deaths from the show), as visions of the Rubber Man phase in and out in the background. It’s a decent primer for anyone who may be confused about the show’s mythology, and it ends, naturally, with one unlucky soul staying behind, falling victim to our black-clad baddie. Anyone unfamiliar with the show might guess it was a slasher starring the Rubber Man – clearly, field research has been done and he was deemed the most marketable element.

The “sneak peek” of season 2, sad to say, was nothing new. It was this trailer, which is nonetheless quite cool….

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-Hr4Zqo0gM?rel=0]

After a brief break for yet more free food and drink, the final event of the night was a screening of the series 1 pilot. As I’d already seen it (presumably everyone else here had too) and the projection on a wall was probably not going to truly showcase the high definition of Blu-ray, this was where I called it a night.

Many thanks to Fox and ThinkJam on their creative presentation. American Horror Story Season 1 is out now; season 2, “Asylum,” premieres Oct. 17th on FX.

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