A young girl, Zoe, is shattered to discover she possesses a strange genetic affliction tracing back to the dark days of Salem. Zoe is whisked away to Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, a mysterious school in New Orleans devoted to safeguarding the few remaining descendants who share this unique bloodline. Harboring a secret agenda, Fiona Goode, the most powerful witch of their generation, returns to town, reigniting old rivalries with the Coven's deadly enemies, the Voodoo.
After discovering her unique bloodline, a young girl is whisked away to a special academy for girls who share the same lineage.
- At a dinner party, Madame Delphine LaLaurie introduces her three daughters: Marie-Louise Pauline, Marie-Louise Jeanne and, from her first marriage, Joaquita. She promises their potential suitors that what they may lack in outer beauty, they make up for in other talents, except she's not quite sure where Pauline's talents lie.
Pauline suggests they're in the boudoir, angering her mother.
New Orleans, 1834
Later, Madame paints her face with blood, said to tighten her skin. Her husband comes to alert her, something happened during the dinner party.
Madame goes to her daughter Pauline and beats her ferociously for sleeping with one of the black servants. He insists that she came on to him, but Madame is unmoved. She drags him upstairs, where she has a dozen black men in wooden cages, including one with his eyes and mouths sewn shut. "Why are you doing this to us?" pleads one. "Because I can," says Madame serenely.
The skin has been peeled back from one's face and maggots chew at his flesh, as he's still alive.
She calls for the bull head and has it put on the offending slave's head as he fights and writhes in his chains. Madame LaLaurie's husband is impressed with her ingenuity.
(Present Day) Zoe brings a boy home to her empty house. He checks to make sure she's sure, and worries about being her first as they strip. As soon as they begin having sex, blood starts dripping from his nose. His eyes roll back and he starts twitching.
Later, Zoe rides a train. The official word on Charlie's death was brain aneurism. Her mother told her she has a "genetic affliction" like her grandmother. She's a witch.
She reads through an old history book, about how the real Salem witches avoided detection during the trials and then fled to New Orleans. Her mother tells her about a boarding school for girls like her and albino men in suits and sunglasses come for her as her mother says it's too dangerous for her to stay.
Zoe arrives in New Orleans at Miss Robichaux's Academy. It's in a stately white mansion behind a wrought iron gate. Inside, the walls are pure white and mostly unadorned except for portraits. Zoe sees something sneak through the house, but can't find it. She wanders around the empty rooms. Two figures in capes pass by her, another one grabs her and throws her on a table. She screams but then they take off their masks. They're just messing with her. She meets Queenie, Madison Montgomery the movie star and Nan, who has Down syndrome. Then Cordelia Foxx, the headmistresses, introduces herself.
She gives a brief history on the school, which was founded in 1790, and converted into a military hospital during the Civil War. In 1868, Marian Morton, the reigning supreme at the time, bought the house and established it as a safe haven for young witches. It was once home to 60 girls. She explains that each generation has one supreme, one witch who is the most powerful. Cordelia is not it, nor is Zoe.
Cordelia explains the risks of not learning to control one's powers through the story of Misty Day, a young girl with the power to bring things back to life. At a revival service, Misty brings back a bird and then collapses. Her people strung her up, doused her in gasoline and set her on fire. "It's you that will end in flames, I swear it," she said as she burned. Cordelia reminds the girls that they're always at risk.
At a research facility, Fiona Goode hears from her head researcher, David, about his serum RF47. He shows her video footage of a monkey that was the equivalent of an 80-year-old woman. After receiving the injection, the monkey was able to walk and bounce around like a young monkey. They'll be ready for human trials in two years, but Fiona wants it now for an injection of "vitality". Her late husband's money is funding the research. David says no.
Later, Fiona rocks out by herself, doing lines of cocaine as she sees the news about Misty. David comes to her apartment. He's been injecting her with his serum for five days and nothing has changed. She wants him to double the dose, but he says no and resigns. With a flick of her wrist, she closes her patio doors, turns out the lights and then flings him across the room. She starts kissing him and he ages rapidly, finally dying on the floor an old man.
At dinner, Spalding the mute butler serves the girls dinner. Madison mocks him mercilessly, and because he has no tongue, he cannot reply. The girls quiz Zoe on what brought her to the school. Nan tells Zoe she'll find "a strange and unexpected love."
Madison claims she gets blamed for things she didn't do, but Nan knows otherwise. Flash to Madison on a movie set and the director yelling cut when she misses her mark, explaining the light needs to hit her. She uses her magic to loosen the screws of a spot overhead and it falls, killing him.
Queenie lays into her, suggesting she take an acting class. They start yelling and Queenie jabs a knife in her own hand and Madison's starts to bleed -- Queenie's a human voodoo doll. Queenie holds a knife to her throat and Nan whisks Queenie away for a walk to diffuse the situation.
"Well, given the choices around here, it looks like you're my new best friend," Madison tells Zoe. She informs Zoe they'll be going to a frat party.
In her greenhouse lab, Cordelia mixes up a potion. Fiona comes up behind her and startles her. She thought Fiona was in Switzerland, but she was in LA. She tells her mother she looks rough and offers her a potion. Her mother tells Cordelia she's a disappointment as the only child of the supreme. Cordelia wants her to leave, but Fiona says she's there to help. She heard about Misty being burned at the stake and thinks it's Salem all over again. Fiona thinks Cordelia's is teaching the witches to cower and her philosophy is all wrong. Cordelia threatens to call the council, but Fiona points out they wouldn't turn the supreme away. "When are you going to die and stop ruining my life?" Cordelia asks. Fiona is stung. "I'm here and I'm staying, so why don't we make the best of it?" says Fiona.
On the frat bus, Kyle Spencer gives the rules for the night heading into the party. It's a rager in a giant frat house.
Madison Montgomery strolls into the party like she owns the place. Zoe feels totally out of place in the tight black dress Madison made her wear, but Kyle notices her. She sees him through the ice sculpture but walks away. He brings her a drink. She tells him she thinks frats are full of fascists. He doesn't mind being reduced to a stereotype, but he's there on scholarship.
One of Kyle's frat buddies approaches Madison, who calls him her slave and orders him to bring a drink. He roofies her.
Kyle and Zoe talk the night away. "You're the first hot girl I've ever met who doesn't want to talk about herself, there must be something wrong with you," he says. She tells him she likes him, but it won't work out. She asks if he's seen Madison.
Upstairs, the frat guys take turns raping a totally out-of-it Madison. Kyle goes upstairs to look and finds them videotaping the gang rape. He pulls them off and scares them away. Zoe finds her and checks on her then goes after the guys. Kyle chases after the lead guy for his phone as evidence to give to the cops, but they knock him out and throw him on the floor of the bus.
Madison pulls herself out of bed and stumbles down to the street. She sees the bus driving away and with a gentle flick of her wrist, she flips it over.
A news report the next morning says that seven fraternity members died and two are in the hospital.
Zoe thinks they should tell someone. Fiona wanders in like she owns the place and tells Madison her bus trick was sloppy. When Madison is rude to her, Fiona flings her against a wall while coolly lighting her cigarette without a flame. She announces they're taking a field trip.
They're going to Pop's Fountain, a kind of holy place for their order. Back in the 1970s, Marion led an alternative coven there. After Hurricane Katrina, the city closed the place down.
Madison continues to dismiss Fiona, it's Nan who announces Fiona is the supreme.
As they're walking, suddenly Nan wanders off and to the historic home of Madame LaLaurie. Fiona brings the other witches and compels the tour guide to give them a free tour. The torture LaLaurie inflicted spawned two centuries of haunting.
As the tour guide talks, we see LaLaurie running out of her special blood for her face. She makes her daughter gets it from cutting out the pancreases of slaves.
The tour continues to the attic, where LaLaurie tortured her slaves and where, we learn, she also met her own demise.
A mysterious woman (Angela Bassett) visits Madame LaLaurie, saying she has a potion guaranteed to ensure her husband's fidelity. LaLaurie drinks it down, then writhes on the floor. One of the slaves LaLaurie tortured was Marie Laveau's lover and she came to exact her revenge.
Laveau goes up to the attic and sees her lover strung up with the bull's head on. However, Madame LaLaurie's body was never found and no one knows where she is buried, the guide explains.
Out in the garden, Nan tells Fiona that she hears the lady of the house beneath the cobblestones.
Zoe goes to the hospital. She sees that the leader of the gang rape lived and is in a hospital bed. She closes his room door.
Fiona has her things moved into the house. Cordelia threatens to spell the locks. "Don't make me drop a house on you," Fiona says.
Zoe goes to a memorial, where people lay flowers for Kyle.
Madison cries alone from her trauma in the shower.
In the hospital, Zoe decides that since she can't experience real love, she's going to put her curse to good use. She gets the unconscious rapist aroused, then climbs on top of him and rides him until he dies.
Fiona goes back Madame LaLaurie's house and spells two men to dig up her coffin. She opens it up to find Madame inside -- bound, gagged, alive, and unaged. "C'mon, Mary Todd Lincoln, I'll buy you a drink," Fiona says.