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Spoiler alert: The following will include details about the season premiere of "American Horror Story."

The double-secret theme of the latest "American Horror Story" was much discussed in the weeks leading up to the premiere, exactly as mastermind Ryan Murphy intended. Rumors and teases were deliberately planted, just to throw viewers off the track.

One rumor, though, turned out to be true. In August, leaked set photos hinted that the new season (the sixth, following the recent "Freak Show" and "Hotel") would involve the disappearance of the early American colony in Roanoke, N.C.

Indeed, the setting (at least of the first story in this season's "Story") is Roanoke. But where this new season might go from there wasn't clear by the end of the season premiere, a pretty riveting piece of classic horror.

The setup is a documentary series, one of those cable shows in which people tell true ("true") stories of the paranormal as viewers watch cheesy re-enactments.

Sarah Paulson and Cuba Gooding Jr. (Marcia Clark and O.J. Simpson from "American Crime Story: The People v. O.J.") are Shelby and Matt Miller, Los Angeles newlyweds who, after a violent crime, move to North Carolina and buy a stately old farmhouse. It's a steal.

Matt is a traveling salesman; Shelby a yoga enthusiast and wine drinker.  (Paulson, naturally, is great here.) Strange things immediately start happening. (It hails human teeth at one point.) But because we know the title of the season is "My Roanoke Nightmare," we have a clue, especially when Shelby is attacked in the hot tub by people in old-timey clothes, holding pitchforks.

So far in the season, we've met Lili Rabe as the real (as opposed to re-enacted) Shelby; Angela Bassett as Matt's sister, Lee, a former cop with an addiction problem; and Kathy Bates as the strange old woman Shelby hits with her car. There's a cast of a dozen or more, with many more "AHS" regulars promised.

The premiere episode was stylish and scary enough to make horror fans think this season could be a strong one, especially if it turns out to cover several first-person horror yarns, not just this first.

"American Horror Story," of course, is usually strongest in the beginning. But it has veered off the track in almost every previous season, seemingly on a fast train to crazy town.

Could "My Roanoke Nightmare" be the installment that returns the franchise to a place of classic horror, the place it started with such promise? 

Gail Pennington is the television critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.