What Does Croatoan Mean On 'American Horror Story'? It's Historically Significant

While the premiere of Season 6 of American Horror Story was unusual (to say the least) and not quite as forthcoming as fans may have wanted about the season's theme, the title of the fake series within a series does give some hints about just what's going on. Instead of American Horror Story, fans seem to be watching an episode of My Roanoke Nightmare, which references an island off the coast of North Carolina (where Season 6 is set) with a strange history. Fans had been tipped off about the Roanoke connection before filming began, when pictures of the set leaked, showing the word "Croatoan" carved into a tree. But what does Croatoan mean on American Horror Story?

To understand what it means, one first has to be familiar with the history of the Roanoke Colony. It was one of the first colonies settled by the English in the New World but they struggled to survive while living there. The governor of the island, John White, went back to England for more supplies but his return kept being delayed; by the time he finally made it back, three years had passed. And all the settlers were gone. The Roanoke colony was a ghost town, with only one clue left behind: the word Croatoan carved into a fencepost.

There have been many theories about just what happened to the settlers there. There was no indication of violence or bloodshed; apparently the houses had been dismantled there without a great hurry. White and the rest of the colonists had even had an agreed-upon sign that they were meant to leave behind if they were in any danger (a Maltese cross) and there wasn't one anywhere to be found. There was only the word Croatoan.

Many believe that the settlers left the colony due to the lack of food and an inability to survive there, eventually integrating into local Native American tribes. One of the local tribes were the Croatoans (or Croatans), and there was a nearby island called Croatoan Island (now called Hattaras Island) that White himself assumed the colonists had moved to. However, due to weather conditions he was unable to search farther and, in fact, it would be twelve years before anyone would investigate what happened.

It seems most logical that the Roanoke colony did end up joining the local Native American tribe, particularly as the Croatoans were known to be friendly with them. It's not as if the word Croatoan came out of nowhere. It's how it will figure into AHS that becomes the real question; will it merely be a mysterious footnote in the disappearance of the settlers, or will it take on greater significance? In the first season, psychic Billie Dean Howard said that "Croatoan" was a Native American spell (for want of a better word) that had been used to banish the violent ghosts of the Roanoke people, who had all mysteriously died and were tormenting the Native Americans of the area.

AHS may heed its own lore in this case, or it may err closer to the reality of the situation which, while more banal, is certainly more realistic.