American Horror Story Wiki
American Horror Story Wiki

Pepper is a microcephalic woman and former performer with Fräulein Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities who has been committed to Briarcliff Manor. She is a character in American Horror Story portrayed by Naomi Grossman. She appears first in Asylum, and earlier in life in Freak Show.


Pepper was abandoned by her family into the inept care of an orphanage when she was 18 years old. Soon after, she was discovered by Elsa Mars, who found Pepper’s condition bewildering as well as taking pity on Pepper due to her being an outcast in the orphanage. Elsa takes Pepper, who becomes the first member of Fräulein Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities. As the troupe grew, Elsa noticed Pepper's maternal instincts and upon acquiring dwarf Ma Petite from a rich Indian prince, Pepper adopts a maternal relationship with Ma Petite. Elsa later notices Pepper’s yearning for romance, and later takes on Salty, a fellow “pinhead” with whom Pepper forms an innocent romance with. The two then informally married in a mock ceremony with the entire troupe in attendance.[2]

Personality and Appearance[]

Despite her alleged history of infanticide, she was innocently playful and kind-hearted. She usually wore a flowery muumuu and a girlish bow in the topknot adorning her misshapen mostly bald head. Upon being abducted by aliens, she was given a highly intelligent, confident, forceful and sharply observant personality, who was unafraid to mock and threaten Dr. Arden when he threatened to mutilate Grace, and also correctly accused Oliver Thredson of being evil to his face.


Pepper's role as a performer was a sort of clown act with Salty, providing amusement through innocent dance and play. Her extended role was as an attendant to "Miss Elsa", providing manicures[3] and delivering messages.[4] During a visit from Edward Mordrake on Halloween, she was deemed innocent by the ghost's demon face and she was passed over for "collection".[5]

Upon the death of Salty, she became despondent and unwilling to perform, so Elsa took her to live with her sister, Rita Gayheart. There, she was treated with utter disdain by her sister and brother-in-law, Larry. She was tasked with serving cocktails to her sister and caring for her disfigured and equally unwanted infant nephew, Lucas. With his wife's complicity, Larry killed the child and framed Pepper for the crime. She was convicted of murder and consigned to the asylum at Briarcliff Manor, where she was admitted by Sister Mary Eunice. Although initially disgusted by Pepper’s apparent crimes, Sister Mary Eunice began to interpret Pepper’s constant crying and saying of the word, “Baby” as signs of remorse for what she did and a search for redemption. Sister Mary Eunice personally takes Pepper on, assigning her custodial duties in the manor's library.[2]

Pepper spent most of her years at the asylum a model inmate, only guilty of pestering visitors to play[6] and hoarding food in her cell.[7] On the night of a massive storm, Pepper excuses herself from the movie night to pee and did not return. Sister Jude mistakenly assumed that she was a casualty of the failed escape of Lana, Grace, and Kit.[8]

In reality, she was abducted by extraterrestrials, who performed genetic alterations that upgraded her subnormal intelligence to genius level. She was returned to the asylum to act as guardian to pregnant and resurrected fellow abductee, Grace. She defends Grace from the experiments Dr Arden tried to perform, stating the extraterrestrials have protected her from harm, as shown when Arden's scalpel is telekinetically flung from his hand. Pepper reveals that the extraterrestrials do not like Arden and mock his experiments, and that if Grace is harmed in any way, the extraterrestrials will abduct him and "stir his brain with a fork".[9] Pepper tried to carry out her charge of protecting Grace bravely against Oliver Thredson, pointing at him and saying she knows what he is up to and he doesn't fool her one second, but the effort to protect Grace was futile as he had her taken away by orderlies.[10] Pepper befriends a defrocked and committed Sister Jude who is in the asylum as a patient, becoming Jude's closest confidants during her time in the asylum. However, it is later revealed that Jude had been imagining Pepper being her friend, and that Pepper died two years ago from pulmonary fibrosis.


  • To Lana Winters: "Play with me!"
  • To Elsa Mars: "Stay!"
  • To Dr. Arden: "When my sister's husband drowned her baby and sliced his ears off, he told everyone I did it. They tied me up and paraded me in front of a judge. He took one look at the shape of my head, and I was locked up for good. That's how it works for us freaks. We get blamed for everything."
  • To Sister Jude: "You all right there, boss? You're looking a little green under the gills."
  • To Oliver Thredson: "I know everything you're up to. You don't fool me for one second."
  • To Dr. Arden: "If something happens to Grace in here and she's harmed in any way, there won't be anyone else to blame. They'll take you, open up your head, and stir your brain with a fork. And when you’ve returned, you'll experience first hand how people treat us freaks."
  • To Dr. Arden: "Why don't you go to your whore nun and have her soothe your deflated ego?"


  • Despite each story of the show originally being perceived as taking place in its own discrete universe up to CovenFreak Show changed the cards. Ryan Murphy stated that each story featured on the show shares the same one universe, per 31 October 2014 reports: "This is the first year where we begin to tell you that season two is connected to season four which is connected to season one."[11]
  • Pepper is the first character to be featured in more than one season along with Sister Mary Eunice and Arthur Arden before crossovers started to become a recurring event.
  • Pepper's augmentation in "The Coat Hanger" is similar to scenarios in Flowers for Algernon and other works.

Associated Characters[]

Rita Gayheart[]

Rita Gayheart is the sister of Pepper. Despondent after the loss of Salty and no longer willing to perform, Pepper was taken by Elsa to live with Rita. Rita made excuses that her husband would not allow it but Elsa convinced her to stand up to him and do the right thing by family. Unwilling to admit her own reluctance, Rita agreed. After Rita gave birth to a deformed child, she treated Pepper as a house slave whose duties were making her cocktails and caring for her otherwise unloved baby. She and her husband, wanting to return to a life of leisure, hatched a plan to get rid of both of them by killing the baby and blaming Pepper.[2]


  • Rita is the second character portrayed by Mare Winningham. For a complete list of her characters, see Cast.
  • Rita is Mare Winningham's only character to have not been killed by a character portrayed by Evan Peters.



  1. In "Drink the Kool-Aid" she appears in the cover of the comic book Twisty: The Clown Chronicles.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Episode: Orphans
  3. Episode: Monsters Among Us
  4. Episode: Test of Strength
  5. Episode: Edward Mordrake: Part 2
  6. Episode: Welcome to Briarcliff
  7. Episode: Tricks and Treats
  8. Episode: Nor'easter
  9. Episode: The Coat Hanger
  10. Episode: Spilt Milk
  11. Stack, Tim (October 31,2014). Ryan Murphy on 'American Horror Story': The seasons are all connected. Entertainment Weekly.