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My point being that the appetites of the filthy rich are specific, altered from that of the common man. I feed some of that hunger with this building. My art. But sometimes... if I really want that good, full feeling...
~ James Patrick March, just before stabbing an unsuspecting foreman to death.

James Patrick March is the main antagonist of American Horror Story: Hotel behind the actions of John Lowe, and later he returns in American Horror Story: Apocalypse as a minor antagonist. A millionaire and serial killer, he is directly responsible for the creation of the Hotel Cortez during the 1920s, having built it with the specific intention of using it as a venue for his murders - as well as a place to dispose of the bodies.

March is also original Ten Commandments Killer, having committed the first two murders; however, his designs of continuing the murders were cut short when the police learned of the killer's true identity through a tip-off, forcing him to commit suicide in order to escape arrest. However, his spirit lingered on in the hotel after his death, intent on finding a successor to continue his work.

Over the course of his century-long search for a successor, he was responsible for molding several of the Hotel Cortez's guests into some of the most infamous killers in American history, including Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, Jeffery Dahmer, Aileen Wuornos, John Wayne Gacy and the Zodiac Killer. His newest target is series protagonist John Lowe, who March believes to be the best candidate for the role of the modern day incarnation of the Ten Commandments Killer.

He was portrayed by Evan Peters, who also portrayed Tate Langdon in Murder House, and Kai Anderson in Cult.

Appearance

Ah, yes. I had a marvelous professor at Exeter: I freely admit that I mimicked his Brahman diction until I made it my own. As for my clothing, my choice of decor, the modern world is an awfully uncomfortable place, don't you think? Yes, I know the accoutrements of modern living allow an ease of communication, but the price paid for that is that no one actually sits and talks over a drink, like the good old days.
~ March explaining his mannerisms
As a product of 1920s new money, James Patrick March is always impeccably dressed in tailored pinstriped suits, often augmented with bowler hats and walking canes - most of which usually conceal a blade of some kind. March's handsome features and immaculate 30's-era attire often lead others to compare him to movie stars like Clark Gable, especially thanks to his pencil mustache and clipped Brahmin accent. Having been dead since the 1930s, March does not age, firmly cementing the sense of timelessness.

The only time he can be seen out of his familiar uniform is during his more labor-intensive murders, during which he wears a heavy apron, a pair of gloves, and an elaborate mask - the latter to prevent any victims from seeing his face, the former to avoid chemical burns while in the process of dissolving bodies in acid.

However, like many ghosts, March's spirit has been marked by the wound that killed him: having killed himself by slitting his own throat, his ghost can be instantly recognized by the gaping wound across his neck, and March generally goes out of his way to hide this distinctive mark with an ascot - particularly while dealing with visitors who aren't aware of the supernatural.

Personality

You can scream as loud as you like. In fact, I prefer it.
~ March, getting ready to immolate a contractor
Glibly charismatic and superficially polite, James Patrick March was able to keep his guests, workers and the general public oblivious to his true nature for many years prior to being unmasked, and even as a ghost, he is still in the habit of charming visitors to his hotel. Much of his mannerisms are only adopted affectations: having been born into poverty and achieved wealth on his own, March was determined to reinvent himself as a gentleman despite his status as a member of the noveau riche. To that end, he attended university, studied literature, architecture, theater, and regularly quoted works like Hamlet in order to show off; he even copied his tutor's Brahmin diction until he adopted it as his own accent.

Ultimately, his image as the perfect host is upheld even during the worst of March's crimes, and throughout his many acts of murder and torture, he can be seen smiling, laughing and chatting jovially with his victims right up until he kills them. Tristan Duffy, John Lowe and at least two unwitting foremen were completely disarmed by his well-mannered facade - to the point that Lowe even considers him a friend for a time. Incidents such as these almost always ended with the target of March's overtures being either corrupted into serving him or killed.

The only thing that can get him to abandon his disguise is anger: if annoyed or incensed, March can drop the well-mannered mask at a moment's notice and begin screaming at the top of his lungs; an easy way of getting on his nerves is to interrupt his monthly meeting with his Elizabeth, though getting him to lose his temper can be a simple matter of refusing to obey him - or even merely taking his lessons lightly.

As a psychopath, March's relationships are shallow at best, and often grounded in abuse and manipulation. Though he apparently considers his serial killers he tutored to be his friends, he's not above menacing, assaulting or psychologically toying with them if it allows him to sculpt them into individuals more to his liking, and shows little qualms about insulting them behind their backs - dismissively referring to Jeffrey Dahmer as a "poof." Similarly, though he claims to love Elizabeth, their marriage is extremely dysfunctional: his rescue of her is framed more like a kidnapping, and their continued relationship is barely cordial, to the point that March actually calls her a "perverted animal" - right to her face. More often that not, Elizabeth is treated as a henchwoman no different than Miss Evers, used and exploited at will in order to further March's designs for the Ten Commandments Killings. And when Elizabeth is killed in the penultimate episode of the season, March reacts with absolute glee when her spirit ends up trapped in the hotel alongside him, overjoyed at the prospect of being able to torment his estranged wife for all eternity.

For good measure, March can be very possessive of things that he considers his, and responds with considerable spite if he believes that his property has been violated. In one case, having selected John Lowe for the task of continuing his work, he erupts with rage when Hypodermic Sally allows John's suicide attempt by hanging, threatening to have Sally fed to the Addiction Demon unless she behaves. This sense of megalomaniacal ownership extends to his marriage to Elizabeth: upon discovering her relationship with Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova, March had the two vampires kidnapped and imprisoned in a sealed-off wing of the hotel with no chance of escape, and expresses utter glee in observing Elizabeth's horrified reaction when she finally learns of what happened to them almost a century after the fact.

March despises religion, claiming it to be the worst thing in all the world, and even boasting of his intention to kill God at one point; the Ten Commandments Killings were his way of attacking God, and for this reason considered the completed work his magnum opus. He also went as far as to collect all the bibles from his hotel bed stands, and arranged them with a pile of his victims that he had left for the police. It's likely that he developed his hatred of religion as a result of abuse, having described his father as both a true believer and "the meanest son of a bitch" he'd ever seen.

However, March was a prolific serial killer for many years prior to taking up the Ten Commandments as a basis for murder, using a wide variety of methods in order to dispatch his victims: stabbing, lacerating, impalement, bludgeoning, shooting, immolation, and in at least two unfortunate cases, live burial behind brick walls. A sadist by nature, he liked employing both physical and emotional torture against his victims, having outfitted the Cortez with numerous dead-end hallways that would allow him to corner victims and savor their terror as he closed in for the kill. Most often, the murders were committed for no other reason than perverse enjoyment - although he occasionally made exceptions for people who inconvenienced him, as was the case with his accountant. As he later explains, he tried many drugs in his time but none of them ever satisfied him: the only way for him to experience "that good, full feeling" was to murder someone. Even as a ghost, he still occasionally finds time to indulge his addiction.

In keeping with his vicious, sadistic nature, his sexual tastes are extremely sadomasochistic: he took great pleasure in throttling Elizabeth on their wedding night - and also clearly enjoyed being strangled by her in turn. As flashbacks demonstrate, he wasn't above raping his victims, particularly while in the process of murdering them; given that he didn't reach climax until well after one unfortunate woman was quite clearly dead, he also has a penchant for necrophilia.

Because he cannot venture beyond the boundaries of the hotel, the true danger that March poses lies in his ability to persuade, manipulate and corrupt, warping unsuspecting individuals into fellow murderers: upon being introduced to him in a time of grief, both Miss Evers and Elizabeth became his eager partners in crime - the latter going on to become a vampiric serial killer in her own right. Over the course of the 20th century, he made contact with people he considered ideal material for his successor, and inspired in them a bloodlust that they might never have discovered on their own. However, his gift for corruption is most effectively displayed in his interactions with John Lowe, in which he not only appealed to John's deeply-buried rage at the injustices of the world, but also went out of his way to break John's family and spirit just so the detective fully committed himself to the role of a serial killer.

Biography

In Life

Well, I had it all once. Fortune, fame. But nothing satisfied. "To thine own self be true." Polonius.
~ March musing on his addiction.
Born somewhere in the eastern United States in 1895, James Patrick Marsh grew up in humble circumstances. Little is known of his childhood other than what March himself is willing to admit to, and given his propensity for lying and emotional manipulation, most of these anecdotes should be taken with a pinch of salt. According to him, his father was reportedly a very devout Christian but also violently abusive, and it's likely from him that March developed his noted disgust for religion.

March achieved success comparatively early in life, making his fortune in oil and coal as a young man and virtually guaranteeing a luxurious lifestyle for himself. Eager to cast off his lowly origins, he reinvented himself, dressing in tailored suits, studying literature, design and theater, and taking part in grand hunts in which he brought back numerous trophies to hang on his wall; he even attended Exeter college at Oxford University - where he also picked up his distinctive Mid-Atlantic "Brahmin" accent from one of his tutors. But no amount of reinvention could ever make March suitable for the blue-blooded elite of East Coast society, who despised him for being of "New Money." So, March decided to resettle in the West Coast, where breeding meant little compared to wealth, and eventually found a home for himself in Los Angeles.

At some point in the early 1920s, March began killing. Nothing is known of what first inspired him to do so, though he hints that his wealth eventually drove him to seek out more unusual means of assuaging his boredom. Whatever the case, he soon found himself addicted to the sheer pleasure of taking life by any method imaginable. In keeping with his pursuits in the high society of the Roaring Twenties, he indulged heavily in alcohol and cocaine, but no drug quite satisfied quite like murder. However, he soon realized that he would need a venue where he could continue his hobby in private, and he would need a place to hide the bodies.

Thus, in 1925, he began work on the Hotel Cortez. Advertised as "a monument to opulence and excess," a fortune was spent on its Art Deco design and luxurious furnishing, all of it intended to disguise the building's true purpose. Initially, March attempted to hire Julia Morgan to design the hotel, but she refused to accept due to the poor treatment of his workers; as such, March applied his own skills in architecture to the task, and created a blueprint for what would be his masterpiece. At least one foreman made the mistake of asking too many questions about the seemingly illogical plans, and was murdered upstairs before any more unwanted queries could be made.

Unknown to all but himself and a handful of unfortunates, the Cortez had been built specifically to serve as a playground in which March could indulge his grotesque appetites: the walls were lined with asbestos to muffle the screams of victims; several hallways terminated in dead-ends, cutting off potential escape routes; certain rooms were fitted with deathtraps to aid in execution; a network of secret passageways allowed March easy access to unsuspecting guests; concealed chutes ensured that bodies could be easily be dumped in the basements for easy disposal... and of course, numerous hidden rooms and chambers were arranged to store trophies of past kills. Among them was the severed head of March's accountant, murdered for the dual offenses of embezzlement and halitosis. For good measure, March adopted the Cortez as his permanent home, adopting Room 64 as his office and room 78 as his private residence.

Assisting in the overwhelming majority of the murders was Ms Hazel Evers, March's laundress and assistant. Having fallen in with the millionaire some time after the death of her son at the hands of Gordon Northcott, Evers was easily corrupted in her time of grief, and adapted quickly to her employer's peculiar habits. Among other things, she washed the bloodstained linens, disposed of the bodies, and even helped secure fresh victims. In fact, by the end of her time with March, she was personally infatuated with the man and would have done anything to please him.

Marriage

March: Your heart's beating like a hummingbird.
Elizabeth: Let me go!
March: No. I don't suppose I will. In fact, I may
never let you go...
~ March and Elizabeth meet for the first time
In August 1926, the Hotel Cortez was completed. Soon after, March invited the city's upper crust (along with numerous up-and-coming Hollywood actresses) to a gala opening, with booze provided especially by Al Capone himself in gleeful defiance of the Volstead Act. However, the festivities were somewhat dampened when the news of Rudolph Valentino's death reached the party guests.

In the aftermath of this shocking announcement, a heartbroken Elizabeth Johnson - Valentino's secret lover - crept away from the party and climbed onto one of the corridor windowsill, intent on jumping to her death. At the last minute, though, March grabbed her and pulled her away from the edge, gleefully refusing to ever let her go.

Despite feeling nothing for the man who'd "rescued" her, Elizabeth eventually consented to marry him, having decided that being surrounded by wealth and beauty might offer some consolation in her time of grief. The two were married in the hotel foyer, and enjoyed an extremely violent wedding night involving mutual strangulation. Despite her better judgement, Elizabeth found herself enthralled by March's darker habits, and like Ms Evers before her, she was eventually corrupted by it: when she finally caught her husband in the act of dismembering a homeless man, her only complaint was that murdering a beggar didn't profit either of them; from then on, she recommended that March should target wealthy victims so that they could steal their valuables as well - and allow Elizabeth to watch the murders.

However, Elizabeth still mourned Valentino, and took to visiting his grave in the guise of the legendary Woman In Black. Suspicious, March followed her one day and by chance, witnessed her meeting Valentino and Natacha Rambova, now reborn as vampires. Having faked his death in order to be preserved for all eternity, the movie star wanted to take Elizabeth with him when he and Rambova left Los Angeles; still infatuated with the pair, she agreed to meet the two of them the next day and leave via train - and was made into a vampire right there at the cemetery.

Unfortunately, March had seen and heard everything; consumed by jealousy, he planned revenge.

Before Valentino and Rambova could rendezvous with Elizabeth at the train station the following day, he had them attacked by a gang of hired thugs and brought to the Hotel Cortez. There, while still unconscious, they were sealed inside an entire wing of the hotel: all but one of the rooms had been walled off, as had all the windows, and the only exit from the corridor had been covered by a heavy metal bulkhead - reinforced by another brick wall. Satisfied with allowing his rivals to remain alive but trapped and starving for all eternity, March left the two vampires there. Unaware of what had become of her friends, Elizabeth was forced to return to her husband when Valentino and Rambova failed to appear at the train station.

From then on, she had nothing left to do but embrace her darker nature wholeheartedly and accept her role as her husband's accomplice. This she did with shocking enthusiasm, at one point going so far as to remove a victim's gag so she could listen to the unfortunate women's screams as she was slowly immured behind a brick wall. Even March himself was surprised at the extent of his wife's cruelty.

That same year, Elizabeth ended up pregnant with March's child, though given that vampires appear to be effectively sterile, it's likely that the baby was conceived prior to being made into a vampire by Valentino. Unfortunately, complications arose due to this, resulting in the pregnancy developing unnaturally quickly, to the point that Elizabeth appeared to be in the third trimester after only three weeks. Before March learned of this, however, his wife sought out Dr Charles Montgomery and requested an abortion. To the surprise of both Elizabeth and Montgomery, the vampire-hybrid infant survived. Despite her horror, Elizabeth accepted the baby, naming him "Bartholomew" and soon cloistered him away at the Cortez for his own safety. To date, it's not known when March finally learned of his son's existence or how he reacted to baby Bartholomew's hideous appearance, though given his fascination with the morbid and grotesque, he probably took it in stride.

The Ten Commandments

Well then, I guess I'm just going to have to kill God. That is my message to the world.
~ March, in the decision that was to form the basis of the Ten Commandments Killings.
For the next few years, March happily continued on his murder spree within of the Cortez, with Miss Evers dutifully washing the linens and Elizabeth gleefully watching the murders play out. To date, nobody knows how many people were killed by the end of his tenure at the hotel, though popular rumors claim that he averaged at least three victims a week - more if he went on a bender.

However, March's approach to murder changed dramatically after one devout victim remained defiant in the face of death - and claimed that "as long as there is a god, men like you can kill thousands, millions, but you will never find peace." After clubbing the man to death, March began a new project alongside his usual recreational murders: a series of killings modeled on the Ten Commandments, intended as his ultimate attack on religion and on god.

Beginning with "Thou Shalt Not Steal" in 1926, March tracked down infamous thief Bobby "Two Guns" McGregor, then proceeded to beat and stab him to death. He then cut off McGregor's hands - taking one of them as a trophy and storing it in a secret chamber hidden behind an armoire in Room 64.

Following a lull of several years, he moved on to "Remember The Sabbath To Keep it Holy" in the 1930s: here, March found six migrant workers looking for work on a Sunday and brutally dismembered them; their bodies were later found in a field, surrounded by a border of bibles taken from the Cortez's bedroom. Once again, March took trophies - in this case, the teeth of the unfortunate workers.

However, left among the bodies was a handkerchief with March's initials embroidered on it - included as a direct tip-off to the police. The identity of the informant remained unknown to both the police and the general public, but Elizabeth herself was a popular suspect in later years, given that she was in line to inherit March's fortune following his death; in reality, it was none other than Miss Evers. Having resented Elizabeth for some time as a rival for March's affections, she'd hit upon alerting the police to her employer's proclivities as the perfect means of ensuring that she and March would be together in death - knowing full well that he would never allow himself or his most trusted confidante to be captured alive.

Soon after, the police arrived at the hotel with a warrant for March's arrest. Drawing a gun and a knife from his safe, the millionaire serial killer prepared to commit suicide, but not before offering Evers a means of killing herself as well; instead, the laundress asked for her employer to kill her, requesting the honor of being March's last "meal" - fulfilling her desire to be united with the object of her desires. March obligingly shot her in the head, then slit his own throat, bleeding out before the police could break down the door.

Unexpectedly, March's ghost was preserved inside the hotel. Though he incorrectly suspected Elizabeth to have been responsible for his discovery by the police, he allowed her to inherit both the hotel and his millions and go on living her own life... on the condition that they share at least one night together every month. Though leery of an arrangement that would last for the rest of her eternal life, she reluctantly consented to her husband's terms.

So, the newly-widowed "Countess" Elizabeth took up residence in the Cortez's penthouse suit and continued her increasingly debauched lifestyle in the fashionable society of Los Angeles; she periodically claimed attractive young men and women as lovers, making them into vampires to spend decades at a time with her - and then discarding them once they no longer interested her, a habit her ex-husband tolerated. In the meantime, seemingly content with his arrangement with the Countess, March's ghost retreated into the shadows of the hotel and out of public life; from then on, he only emerged in order to claim one of the guests as material to practice his art upon... or as a possible apprentice.

In Death

Thank you all for being here on Devil's Night, but it is I who should be the one celebrating you. I look around and I see the definition of American success. They write books about you, make movies of your life. Years after your death, people continue to be enthralled. You've made your mark in history: like The Iliad, your stories will live on... forever.
~ March, addressing the assembled serial killers on Devil's Night.
Though his inability to leave the hotel had stymied his ability to continue his tenure as the Ten Commandments Killer, March was not discouraged for long. Over the course of the 20th Century, when not seeking out victims, he periodically surveyed the Hotel Cortez's guests for potential successors who could complete his work - and in the process ended up shaping the careers of some of America's most infamous serial killers. It's not known how many aspiring murderers accepted him as their muse, however, for only the most successful and infamous were considered worthy of commemoration by March; as such, only six have been identified - one of the less prominent of them being career criminal and cult leader Charles Manson.

One of the earliest of March's "students" was John Wayne Gacy in 1962. Having been living in Las Vegas at the time, the nineteen year-old ambulance worker had driven up to Los Angeles for the weekend to see the Pacific Ocean - and by chance, he happened to stay at the Hotel Cortez. Taking an interest, March took Gacy under his wing and taught him his secrets; in turn, Gacy responded positively and committed these lessons to memory. Adopting a jovial demeanor and styling himself as a respectable businessman in much the same way as March had, John Wayne Gacy went on to rape, torture and murder over thirty-three young men before being arrested in 1978 and executed by lethal injection in 1994.

At some point prior to 1968, March made contact with an as-yet unknown guest and offered him his tutelage as well, teaching him how to hide from the public. The guest responded with particular flair, and after returning to Northern California soon after his visit, he murdered at least seven people from 1968-1968, though it's suspected he may have killed as many as thirty-seven. Ultimately, the nameless killer truly gained infamy for his habit of sending coded letters to the local newspapers, calling himself "The Zodiac Killer." For good measure, the Zodiac was never caught, and remained undiscovered until his death.

In 1975, a nineteen-year-old prostitute by the name of Aileen Wuornos was unceremoniously stranded in Los Angeles by a trucker client, and stumbled into the Hotel Cortez. Admiring the woman's growing bitterness and rage, March took her in and offered her tutelage; years later, Wournos claimed that March was the first man in her entire life to treat her with respect, and that he taught her that she was "worth something." Eventually, she killed at least seven people before being arrested in 1991 and executed by lethal injection in 2002.

In 1981, shortly after being discharged from the army on grounds of alcohol abuse and sexual assault, Jeffrey Dahmer was on his way to Miami Beach when he happened to take a detour into Los Angeles, where he ended up staying at the Cortez. By this time, he was already a murderer, having strangled a hitchhiker to death not long before he joined the army, and March took it upon himself to tutor him in the finer points of his art in the hopes of molding him into his successor; along with impressing upon the neurotic ex-serviceman the necessity of disposing of human remains, he taught Dahmer that in order to be a truly great killer, he would have to understand people and "get into their minds." Upon leaving, Dahmer raped, murdered and cannibalized seventeen men from 1987 to 1991; for good measure, he took March's advice to a disturbingly literal extent by drilling holes in the heads of some of his victims and applying acid to their exposed brains in an attempt to make them into zombies (though all who were subjected to this treatment ultimately died). In the end, he was arrested in 1991 and sentenced to sixteen life sentences - only to be beaten to death by a fellow prisoner in 1994.

Likely during the early 1980s, a young Richard Ramirez also stayed at the Hotel Cortez for a few nights. After getting the burglar's attention - namely via sneaking into his room and beating Ramirez senseless - March taught him that, in order to be "a volume operation," he would have to be completely indiscriminate and kill without any kind of pattern. From 1984 to 1985, Ramirez committed a crime spree that resulted in the deaths of thirteen people, along with numerous rapes, assaults and mutilations, and earned the nickname "The Night Stalker." Arrested in 1985, he was sentenced to death in the gas chamber in 1989, but ultimately died of cancer in 2013 while still awaiting execution.

In turn, these five renowned killers were venerated by March after their deaths: once a year, the ghosts of the students and their teacher would gather at the Hotel Cortez for a special party on October 30th, Devil's Night - during which they would celebrate their greatness, drink absinthe, and take part in the murder of an innocent guest. Together, they formed what was to be known as the Mount Rushmore of Murder, an exclusive club that could only be brought together around Halloween time; its members revered March as a genius, calling him "The Master" and singing his praises for teaching them his art and allowing them to go on killing even in death. However, March was still disappointed that none of the killers he'd tutored had ever proved worthy of continuing his masterpiece, and resolved to continue looking for a successor.

Meanwhile, following repeated drug abuse within the supernaturally-polluted hotel, a creature known as the Addiction Demon was drawn to the Cortez and took to preying on the junkies that regularly stayed there. Sally McKenna was one of its few surviving victims, having first encountered it in 1993 after sewing herself to Nick Harley and Tina Black. However, following her death at the hotel in 1994, March decided to exploit her ghost's inability to leave the grounds: having somehow gained the power to control the Addiction Demon, he offered Sally a year free of the demon's advances, in exchange for an annual tribute of one innocent victim to be offered up to the Devil's Night celebration. After being brutally raped by the demon as punishment for disobeying March's orders, Sally reluctantly complied.

The Heir To The Master

March: He... is the one. All the others I've tried to mentor to finish my work - Gacy, Ramirez, that poof Dahmer - all amateurs compared to this one.
Elizabeth: He won't do it.
March: Why? This man has greatness in him! Once-in-a-generation rage! A man only has a grip as tight as he does because he knows that if he lets go, even slightly, he will hurl himself into the abyss.
Elizabeth: He won't let go. He still has hope.
March: Easily remedied. He just needs a little shove...
~ March and the Countess musing over John
In 2010, March's monthly evening with the Countess was unexpectedly interrupted when Elizabeth's current beau, Donovan, arrived at room 78 in the company of LAPD Detective John Lowe. As it happened, John was fresh from investigating the accidental death of an entire family due to a faulty portable generator and desperately needed a drink before he could return home to his family; as such, he'd been drawn off the streets by the Cortez's offer of martinis served at the hotel bar - only for Donovan to lure him upstairs with the offer of a party (intending to serve him up to the Countess as an evening meal).

Though March was instantly enraged by the interruption to his planned dinner, his demeanor quickly changed when he first saw John. Upon noticing the detective's weary nihilism, he called off his night with Elizabeth and gave the unexpected guest his full attention: he served John absinthe to loosen his tongue, then queried him at length about his frustrations with his chosen profession, eventually prompting the detective to give vent to his spleen and claim that he was being held back by regulations and that crime would only drop if he was taken "off the leash." Delighted at having drawn out John's darker side for a moment, March brought out more absinthe, and under its influence, the serial killer and the detective spent the next two days talking: they discussed law, the difference between the law of humans and the law of God, the meaning of true purpose and the meaninglessness of everything else - eventually allowing John to forget his sorrow for a time. The debate ended when, after forty-eight hours on an empty stomach with nothing to drink except absinthe, John finally collapsed into a drunken stupor.

While John slept, March gleefully declared that he'd found his true successor: his other students had shown promise, but they'd ultimately been too hobbled by their own obsessions to ever be worthy of his legacy, much less attempt to continue his work; by contrast, John possessed the willpower and the once-in-a-generation rage that would allow him to become the Ten Commandments Killer. However, he would never embrace the role of a murderer of his own accord, not while he still had a family and hope for the future. So, March asked the Countess for help in breaking his successor's spirit - offering John's son Holden as a reward.

Soon after, John awoke in his car with no memory of the last two days. That afternoon, he took his family on a visit to a local carnival at Santa Monica beach to make up for his absence from the household, and while his wife Alex and daughter Scarlett amused themselves with target shooting games, John took Holden on a merry-go-round. Unfortunately, the Countess was watching them, and the moment John turned his back on the ride, she snatched Holden off the merry-go-round and left the area before anyone could notice. While his parents frantically searched the carnival in vain, Holden was made into a vampire and adopted as one of the Countess's children; sequestered away in a hidden room in the Cortez, he and the other three "towheads" were to be doted upon for all eternity, and required to provide regular donations of blood to their vampiric "mother" in order to provide her with a healthy food supply.

Meanwhile, in the wake of Holden's disappearance, John's life began slowly falling to pieces almost exactly as expected: his marriage deteriorated, his faith in his work dwindled to almost nothing, and time spent in the same house as Alex became almost unbearable. Desperate for a means of finding peace, he found himself instinctively drawn back to the Cortez, exactly as March had intended. Over the course of the following months, he began attending regular dinners at the hotel, where March plied him with fine food and alcohol while continuing to tutor him in his uniquely amoral philosophy. Over time, John began to regard the ghostly millionaire as a friend, oblivious to the fact that he was being manipulated. Furthermore, due to the unique nature of the Cortez, he remembered nothing of his time there; instead, he simply carried on with his day-to-day existence without ever realizing his increasingly extensive double life, his memories and March's lessons remaining locked in his subconscious.

After many such dinners, March chose to finally reveal his true nature to John by taking him on a tour of his old hunting trophies - including the severed head of his former accountant. Shocked, John left with the intent of turning his host over to the police, only to once again forget anything that had happened there; soon after, a failed court case and the disappointment of seeing a guilty man go free subconsciously drove John right back to the Cortez. For good measure, John was also introduced to Hypodermic Sally at or around this time; as his double life at the hotel grew more and more secretive, he began an affair with her - even as he retained his marriage to Alex.

In 2015, March chose to complete John's education: at a special meal held on Holden's birthday, he exploited John's despair and longing for vengeance against his son's kidnapper by offering him a chance to bring a criminal to justice - on his own terms. The criminal in question was Martin Gamboa, a movie buff and film memorabilia collector who'd been staying the hotel earlier that day. However, as a photograph found in his room revealed, Gamboa was also a pedophile and had actually brought his victim to stay with him at the Cortez. Horror-stricken, John went about tracking him down.

Unknown to him, March had selected Gamboa as the first victim of the new Ten Commandments killings: as an obsessive collector in possession of numerous artifacts of film history, including an Oscar Award, he was the ideal candidate for "Thou Shalt Not Worship False Idols." In the ensuing confrontation between the two men, John lost his temper and proceeded to beat Gamboa into submission with the Oscar, sodomize him with it, before finally caving his skull in. Horror-stricken by what he'd just done and genuinely terrified by the happiness he'd felt at killing a man, John returned to his room at the Cortez and hanged himself in the bathroom, an act that Sally allowed in the hope that the suicide would allow his ghost to remain with her for all eternity.

However, March arrived at the last minute and cut John down before he could suffocate to death. Exploding with rage at Sally, he threatened to give her over to the Addiction Demon if she ever threatened to ruin his masterpiece again, and made her swear to cooperate with his goals from then on. Once John had recovered from his near-death experience, March was gradually able to charm him into believing that the joy he'd felt at Gamboa's death was simply him discovering who he really was, claiming that it was his duty as a civilized man to impose order on the chaos of the world - by using his pain to make the world a cleaner place. March then introduced him to the trophies he'd hidden in Room 64, and charged John with the duty of completing the Ten Commandments killings - while also encouraging him to become the lead detective in the inevitable investigation of the murders, just to make sure he'd avoid getting caught. His only other piece of advice was to avoid conducting any of the murders at the Cortez, ensuring that the hotel would not become the focus of police scrutiny.

Soon after, John hastily returned to the scene of the crime to remove all evidence connecting him to it, including what was left of Gamboa's brains (which were taken as another trophy). With his connection to the Cortez Hotel continuing to suppress all memory of what he'd done, John was able to continue his daily life as a detective while secretly playing the part of a serial killer. By the time the series begins, John has just completed the "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" murder.

Events of the Series

I invited you here tonight to help you, John. I've watched you, and it makes me sad, because greatness is about vision, and you have made yourself blind to everything but what your eyes can see.
~ March trying to snap John out of his denial
James March's first chronological appearance in Hotel occurs during the first episode, "Checking In" - though the audience is not made aware of his true identity at this point: having been busy with his usual murders (judging by the screams from behind the door), he is dressed in his mask and apron. As Gabriel strides down the corridor, March happens to emerge from one of the rooms just behind and glances at the departing junkie with apparent interest; ultimately however, Gabriel ends up as the victim of Sally and the Addiction Demon instead.

March is not formally introduced until the events of episode two, "Chutes and Ladders." Following his violent departure from Will Drake's services, Tristan loses his way in the darkened corridors of the hotel and happens to blunder into Room 78. Deciding to loot the suite for valuables, he is immediately startled when the original occupant appears before him, granting him leave to take anything he likes. After Tristan politely turns down the ghost's offer of a drink in favor of another belt of cocaine, March tries to interest him in a new means of satisfying his addictive tendencies by introducing him to murder: bringing in a guest kidnapped from the bar by Mrs Evers, he encourages the troubled model to shoot her - but Tristan resists the idea, getting into a brief scuffle over the gun and dislodging March's ascot in the process, revealing his slit throat for the first time. Disappointed, March simply shoots the girl dead, frightening Tristan away.

However, after being transformed into a vampire by the Countess and introduced to murder on a more essential basis, Tristan returns to March's suite in the following episode, "Mommy," and enthuses over the joy he's achieved through killing. Perhaps looking for a successor of a different kind (if not an actual understudy for John), March begins suggesting possible death traps at the hotel that Tristan can make use of, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Will Drake.

In episode four, "Devil's Night," March begins the annual celebration by helping the ghost of Richard Ramirez capture a fleeing guest. By this time, John has been staying at the Hotel Cortez for several episodes, still oblivious to the killer's true identity, and the following evening (after a violent run-in with Aileen Wuornos), he finds himself unexpectedly invited to March's Devil's Night party. Over the course of the evening, March tries to break through John's sense of denial and make him fully aware of his other self's activities, but when the bewildered detective reacts with horror at the sight of the captives being murdered, he is allowed to leave early - with Sally convincing John that he'd hallucinated everything.

March remains chronologically absent until episode seven, "Flicker," in which Will Drake's continued renovations to the hotel result in Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova being unexpectedly released from their sealed corridor. Some time after the escaped vampires have begun preying on the other guests to replenish their vitality, March holds his monthly dinner with the Countess: the two of them discuss her plans to marry Will Drake for his fortune, and March recommends that she murder him off the premises lest his ghost end up haunting the property as well; evidently in the mood to get on her ex-husband's nerves, Elizabeth denies the possibility of killing Drake, falsely claiming that she has found true love for the first time. At this, March reflects with disappointment on the fact that he could never make Elizabeth love him no matter how hard he tried, and takes the opportunity to reveal how he imprisoned her one true love within the walls of the hotel, openly relishing the Countess's horrified realization.

Over the course of the following episode, "Ten Commandments Killer," John finally becomes aware of his true identity. To March's delight, he chooses to embrace his violent nature, and returns to the Cortez with the newest trophy in tow: the severed genitals of Detective Hahn, John's partner - removed for "Coveting Another Man's Wife."

As renovations to the hotel continue in "She Wants Revenge," March decides to involve himself in the Countess's secret modifications to the building: when the contractor starts getting cold feet about installing new security members in the previously sealed-off hallway where Valentino and Rambova were imprisoned, the ghost offers to direct the man in his efforts to create what will (unknown to him) become a new prison for the Countess's enemies. The moment the contractor leaves, Elizabeth gives full vent to her anger, slapping March in the face and declaring that she is leaving him once and for all, regardless of their agreement. Ignoring his pleas for her to stay with him, she demands that the modifications to the hotel must be completed on time and leaves.

Shocked by this decision, March goes on to sabotage Elizabeth's wedding night by secretly introducing himself to Drake, and while sharing "friendly" congratulations with the newly-married fashion designer over glasses of Armagnac, reveals the existence of the Countess's son to him. Leading him up the room where Bartholomew is kept, he ensures that Drake gets a good look at the vampire infant's monstrous features right before Elizabeth arrives on the scene, allowing her to hear every word of her new husband's horrified reaction. Enraged by the perceived insult towards her baby, she abandons her plans to have Drake killed in Paris, instead knocking him out and imprisoning him in the sealed corridor alongside Ramona Royale - later taking great delight in watching the security footage of the starving vampire feeding on him.

March's schemes come to fruition in the following episode "She Gets Revenge," where it's revealed that Elizabeth's impulsiveness has ensured that Drake's ghost will haunt the Cortez for all eternity, leaving her unable to inherit his fortune for as long as he is still willing to make public appearances. Later, while casually incinerating the unfortunate contractor for failing to complete the renovations on time, he regales John with further possibilities for a post Ten Commandments Killings career; however, John is not interested in listening, and demands to know where his wife is, threatening to end the killings once and for all if March does not comply. Surprised by his apprentice's initiative, he ushers him upstairs to a reunion with Alex, now reborn as a vampire in the Countess's service.

"Battle Royale" features the final stage of March's plans, both in regards to the Ten Commandments Killings and Elizabeth: having already ruined his ex-wife's plans to steal a fortune, he now needs to keep her by his side for all eternity, but without killing her himself or allowing any suspicion to fall on him. As such, when Ramona Royale is released from captivity and ends up in a losing battle with the witch Queenie, March intervenes; with no physical body for Queenie's voodoo magic to attack, the ghost is able to easily deal her a fatal stab wound, allowing Ramona to drain her dry. In exchange for his help, March tasks Ramona with the task of killing the Countess for him before she absconds from the hotel. In the end, though, despite having hated Elizabeth for decades, she ultimately finds herself unable to go through with it and has sex with her instead. But later, as Elizabeth is preparing to leave the Cortez forever, she finds John waiting for her in the next elevator: with March holding his family hostage, he has been entrusted with finding a murderer for the final act of the Ten Commandments Killings and feels the only one suitable would be Elizabeth herself. Before the Countess can react, John brutally guns her down, then claims her severed head as the final trophy.

Exalting over his victory, March tries to usher John into the next round of killings - pausing only to save him from another murder attempt by Sally - but John asks only to be reunited with his family, and March is forced to abandon his future plans for now. Some time later, March welcomes Elizabeth's ghost to his suite for the first meal of their new existence, and makes a grand show of forgiving her for handing him over to the police back in the 1930s; however, she reveals that she was never responsible, prompting Miss Evers to finally admit to her role in March's downfall, confessing her love for her employer and pleading for him to return her feelings. Shocked and disgusted, March dismisses the laundress from his service. Then, once Evers has departed, he then takes a seat at the table across from Elizabeth and raises a toast to spending the rest of eternity with his wife, delighting in her despairing tears as she slowly realizes the fate worse than death she's been condemned to.

In the final episode of the season, "Be Our Guest," while Iris and Liz are struggling to convince the ghosts of the hotel to stop killing guests, March arrives at the meeting to provide his opinion on the subject: to the surprise of all, he supports the ban on killing, reasoning that further killings would damage the hotel's profits and likely result in the Cortez eventually being demolished; with nothing to hold them in place anymore, the ghosts would be forced to move on to whatever afterlife awaits them - a worrying prospect to a prolific serial killer like March. In order to ensure the hotel's long-term survival, he proposes that the killings must stop until at least 2026, by which time the US Department of Interior will have declared the building a historical landmark due to its age and cultural significance, making it effectively invincible. Sally, left bereaved by John's escape, refuses to give up killing and has to be threatened with the Addiction Demon. Ultimately, Iris and Liz take charge of the problem ghosts, the former introducing Sally to the world of social media in order to wean her of her addiction to murder, the latter helping Will Drake rebuild his ailing company.

On Devil's Night 2022, the Hotel Cortez finds itself faced with an unusual problem: though the ghosts have reformed and the building has been reinvented as a popular tourist attraction, it is beginning to garner unwanted attention from mystics and ghost-hunters - including the psychic medium known as Billie Dean Howard. With ghosts being repeatedly harassed and scrutiny being drawn to the Cortez's unsavory true nature, John Lowe's ghost arranges for Billie to be permanently discouraged from her investigations - a plan with which March eagerly complies. Offering her an exclusive interview, he lures the medium upstairs to March's Devil's Night party, where she is menaced by all seven of the long-dead serial killers; with March ready to use her as the evening's entertainment and Ramona threatening to hunt her down if she tries to continue her work outside the hotel, Billie is forced to give up her work at the Cortez, and is last seen fleeing the building in terror.

Apocalypse

Having been murdered at the Cortez, Queenie is damned to an eternity of playing poker with March at the hotel. Cordelia Goode, the Supreme of Miss Robichaux's Academy, arrives at the Cortez and attempts to free Queenie from March's grip, only to discover that her former protégé cannot leave - even with her exceptional powers.

After several years and tens of thousands of card games, Queenie is visited by Michael Langdon. Seemingly aware of his true nature, March is instantly intimidated by the Antichrist's arrival, and tells Queenie to leave with Langdon without challenging his will.

New Timeline

By the end of the Apocalypse, Mallory travelled back in time, killed Michael and dissuaded Queenie from entering Hotel Cortez, thus saving her from her fate of being trapped in the place. After Mallory managed to change history and stopped the Apocalypse from coming to reality, Hotel Cortez were still left standing, possibly leading to the confrontation between Billie Dean Howard and Cortez ghosts by the end of Hotel which happened in 2022, two years after the supposed Apocalypse.

Quotes

Take any piece you like. None of it has any meaning for me. You look like you could use a drink.
~ James Patrick March's first lines in the season.
You've got to go out and grab life.
~ March, just before shooting a captive victim in the head
But more importantly, remind me to switch out this God-awful Secessionist light fixture! Makes this place look like a damned zoo! Excuse my language.
~ March, fresh from raping and murdering a woman.
Good. You've found your calling. Then you can appreciate what I've built here. Secret rooms, hinged walls, acid pits, asphyxiation chambers. Are you familiar with my Black Closet? [...] Yes. There are places in my murder palace that have sat in cold neglect for far too long. You can put them to good use, old boy.
~ March, grooming Tristan for the role of a serial killer.
This is my problem with police officers. All you care about is evidence. Evidence, evidence, evidence. Until that evidence no longer fits the narrative, you need to be true, at which point the evidence becomes an illusion, a mistake, a trick. You've lived in my hotel long enough, John, seen enough evidence to know that what is impossible becomes very possible here.
~ March, musing on John's difficulty in realizing the truth.
I'd like to welcome you all to the opening week of the Hotel Cortez! A shame we can't all enjoy these libations in my new Blue Parrot Lounge, but... until someone with some sense repeals that nasty Volstead Act, both I and Mr Capone will have to make due.
~ March, welcoming guests to the Hotel for the first time.
I have a sneaking suspicion you're going to miss your train.
~ March, preparing to imprison Valentino and Rambova for eternity.
Ah, yes. That light-in-the-loafers fellow that bought my hotel. Very good, darling. Very good. Might I suggest that when you murder him, you do so off the property? It'd be damned awkward to keep running into him for all eternity.
~ March, on Will Drake
I thought I could make you love me. I thought if I gave you everything your little heart desired - riches, comfort, this hotel... but none of it moved you. I could never compete with the shadow of a god on a screen, 20 feet tall!
~ March, bitterly musing on Elizabeth's infatuation with Valentino.
Yes. Your god... trapped within the walls of the palace I built... for my queen.
~ March, gloating over what he did to Valentino.
Damn it, who is interrupting us?! I'll break the finger who dared ring that bell! [...] I GET ONE NIGHT WITH HER! ONE NIGHT WITH HER THE WHOLE MONTH!
~ March losing his temper over an interruption
And you are full of rage. Dangerous to keep it all inside, John, it'll give you the cancer if you don't let it out sometimes. Tell me, have you ever roughed up a suspect a bit, put him in handcuffs and then forgotten to read him his rights, and then just given him some good old-fashioned justice right there on the spot?
~ March, poking at John's hidden resentment
Elizabeth: Why would I help you when it gives me so much joy to see you suffer?
March: He has children; the boy is very beautiful. Like I said, he just needs a little push, a nudge into the darkest places of his heart. He needs to hate the whole world and everything in it.
~ March, making plans to corrupt John
John, do you know the difference between you and I? [...] Pain. I've shed my load. You carry yours like a man with a sack full of rocks crossing a river. One false step and you go under. I submit you've received no justice for the pain you've suffered. You're constrained by the very laws you promised to uphold. It's not your fault, you see. It's what you've been taught.
~ March, to John at their penultimate dinner
You can report me, but it won't take an ounce of weight off those broad shoulders. What's holding you down is a moral code contrived by man, laws written by bureaucrats. Take my hand and climb out of that morass!
~ March, shrugging off John's threats of arrest
John: Everything's chaos.
March: It's up to us as civilized men to impose order on that chaos, just as you did tonight.
John: I lost control.
March: You let go. That's
very different.
John: It didn't bring Holden back.
March: No. Your son is gone, and the pain you're feeling will never go away. But you used it tonight: you took your pain, and you made the world a cleaner place. That's a
decidedly positive first step.
~ March drawing John back from a suicide attempt
Behold, the unfinished work of James Patrick March. This was to be my crowning achievement, my Hamlet. Well, really more of a sonnet when you compare it to my earlier work. What I really loved about this project was it's simplicity of statement, the elegance of a round number - ten - which make it all the more vexing that I was never able to complete it. Finish my work, John. Make it your own.
~ March, introducing John to the collection of trophies
Your magic has nowhere to go, my dear. You see, I'm not alive: you may be a witch... but I am a ghost.
~ March, after getting the drop on Queenie
A toast! How thrilled I am to have you across from me - not once a month, but from now on... until the sun falls from the sky and the heavens burn in conflagration.
~ March, gloating over having Elizabeth with him for all eternity
ENOUGH! This is not a democracy! We are not in the House of Lords! We are a ship at sea! And when it comes to you spirits, I am captain! SO LISTEN UP, MATEYS! There are six criteria that the U.S. Department of Interior uses to determine if a place is worthy of being called an historical landmark. This hotel fits them all. The one thing it does not yet possess is time. Age. August 23, 2026: That will make it 100 years that this hotel has stood, and on that day, it will earn its rightful distinction as an historical landmark. They won't be able to tear it down even if they wanted to. The killing must stop!
~ March, laying down the law

Gallery

Trivia

  • March is based on the historical figure of Herman Webster Mudgett, also known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes or simply H. H. Holmes, who is infamous of being one of the earliest serial killers in American history.
  • March is officially ranked by FX Network to be the evilest American Horror Story character portrayed by Evan Peters.
  • In both season 1 and season 5, Evan Peters's character is a ghost.
    • Coincidentally, both of these characters were known murderers, as Tate was a mass murderer and March is a serial killer.

Navigation

           Ecran Titre d'American Horror Story Villains

Murder House
Rubber Man | Constance Langdon | Hayden McClaine | Larry Harvey | Moira O'Hara | Charles Montgomery | Infantata | Bianca Forest | R. Franklin | Michael Langdon | Langdon Family | Fiona | The Devil

Asylum
Bloody Face (Dr. Oliver Thredson | Johnny Morgan) | The Devil | Dr. Arthur Arden | Sister Jude | Leigh Emerson | Jenny Reynolds

Coven
Fiona Goode | Marie Laveau | The Axeman | Delphine LaLaurie | Madison Montgomery | Hank Foxx | Spalding | Papa Legba | Minotaur | Joan Ramsey | Archie Brener

Freak Show
Dandy Mott | Stanley | Maggie Esmerelda | Elsa Mars | Twisty the Clown | Chester Creb | Dell Toledo | Edward Mordrake | Rita Gayheart | Larry Gayheart | Hans Gruper | Penny's Father

Hotel
James Patrick March | Countess Elizabeth Johnson | Ten Commandments Killer | Sally McKenna | Addiction Demon | Ramona Royale | Richard Ramirez | Hazel Evers | Charles Montgomery

Roanoke
Scáthach | Tomasyn White | Polk Family | Agnes Mary Winstead | Shelby Miller

Cult
Kai Anderson | Ally Mayfair-Richards | Ivy Mayfair-Richards | Beverly Hope | Twisty the Clown

Apocalypse
Michael Langdon | The Devil | Cooperative | Miriam Mead | Wilhelmina Venable | Dinah Stevens | Ariel Augustus | Tate Langdon | Constance Langdon | Madison Montgomery | James Patrick March | Moira O'Hara | Langdon Family | Papa Legba | Delphine LaLaurie | Marie Laveau

1984
Margaret Booth | Mr. Jingles | Lavinia Richter | Richard Ramirez | Donna Chambers | Montana Duke | Ray Powell | The Devil | David Chambers | Xavier Plympton

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