Ever since the first season of American Horror Story came out, fans have been itching to know everything about any stories or locations that are the inspiration for all of the morbid tales depicted in the FX series. This includes Season 2, American Horror Story: Asylum, which took place in a 1960’s mental institution and included a serial killer, demented priest, and aliens all at the same time. Yes, it was a lot, but it was also some fans' favorite overall story.
And after Destination Fear rolled out its episode in November 2020 about the Rolling Hills Asylum, which has a website that clearly states its affiliation to the series, it brought back those fan questions about how AHS: Asylum came about. It's not as simple as the show’s writers using the real-life asylum for inspiration or even as a filming location. But there is a link.
What does the Rolling Hills Asylum have to do with 'American Horror Story'?
When AHS: Asylum came out, there was a running promotion for fans to enter a contest for the chance to see the asylum from the show. The details on that are a little unclear, though, because the asylum that was used in the promo was the Rolling Hills Asylum in New York state. So if you had entered the contest to "get committed," as the promo said, and experience the same institution as depicted in the show, it may not have been the exact same one.
Or, FX used the exterior shots of the Rolling Hills Asylum for the promotional footage only. Whatever the case was at the time, American Horror Story was not filmed at the Rolling Hills Asylum. That doesn't mean it’s not a real place you can visit yourself, though. And honestly, it’s more of a hotbed of paranormal rumors than the actual filming location for AHS Season 2.
The filming locations for 'American Horror Story: Asylum' were on the West Coast.
American Horror Story is largely filmed throughout California. Season 3, Coven, took place in and was filmed in New Orleans, and Season 4 shot some scenes in the Louisiana city as well. But, for the most part, AHS sticks to California. So it should come as no huge shock that AHS: Asylum was also filmed in the same state.
The exterior shots of Season 2’s Briarcliff Asylum weren't even from a real institution of any kind. They are actually from the Santa Ana Courthouse. The rest of the season was filmed at Paramount Studios, but it wasn't shot in an actual mental health facility and certainly not the Rolling Hills Asylum, which is across the country.
Is the Rolling Hills Asylum really haunted on 'Destination Fear'?
Like most former facilities, there is a ton of lore that comes with the Rolling Hills Asylum. It’s likely even creepier than the set of the AHS season, to be honest. Rolling Hills was once a "poorhouse" inhibited by those who couldn't afford to live elsewhere: individuals who were disabled to the point where they couldn't care for themselves, orphans, and even criminals.
There was also a cemetery on the grounds once, which only adds to the allure of paranormal investigators and enthusiasts. You can pay to tour the former asylum yourself and even during the pandemic, there have been deals to secure private haunted tours with your own small group. You can even sign up for an eight-hour "captive" ghost tour / hunt.
If the place really is haunted, then you might just see the 7-foot tall man the Destination Fear hunters were in search of.