Zoe Benson accidentally kills her boyfriend while they have sex for the first time and is told that she is a witch. She is sent to a private school in New Orleans that teaches young witches how to survive in the modern world. The school is owned and run by Cordelia Foxx. After a witch named Misty Day is burned at the stake, Cordelia's mother, Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), arrives to ensure their protection, but also to find a way to regain her youth. Fellow student and actress Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) takes Zoe to a college frat party and is later gang-raped by a group of frat boys. The boys attempt to get away but are killed by Madison when she uses her telekinetic power to flip their departing party bus, which also contained the innocent Kyle Spencer who tried to stop the rape and also to whom Zoe had taken a small liking. Fiona learns that Madame LaLaurie (Kathy Bates), a socialite from the 1830s who tortured her slaves, is still alive, although buried, frees her from her grave, and takes her back to the school to hide her.