ByJancy Richardson, writer at
To avoid fainting, keep repeating 'It's only a movie...It's only a movie...'
Jancy Richardson

While we wait anxiously for Season 5 of American Horror Story, it's been fun to speculate about what gleefully horrifying things will take place in the titular Hotel. However, you know what's even better than wildly theorizing about what AHS: Hotel is gonna be about? Finding out from the master himself!

Show creator Ryan Murphy confirmed the real life inspiration behind American Horror Story: Hotel in an interview with EW:

"There was a surveillance video that went around two years ago that showed a girl getting into an elevator in a hotel that was said to be haunted … and she was never seen again."
Image by Helen Green at
Image by Helen Green at

Murphy is referring to a particularly grisly tragedy in 2013...

The Sad Case of Elisa Lam and the Cecil Hotel

One night in February, 2013, a young Canadian student was acting oddly at L.A.'s Cecil Hotel. Her name was Elisa Lam and she had a history of bipolar disorder, causing her to act erratically. The following video footage shows her becoming increasingly agitated in the hotel elevator.

Warning: this footage is disturbing and depicts real life events.

After Elisa Lam's episode was captured on CCTV, she simply disappeared... until two weeks later. Guests at the hotel had complained that their water was a strange color, and tasted 'sweetly disgusting.' The cause of this 'funny' taste was found to be the body of Elisa Lam, decomposing in the Cecil Hotel's water tank for two whole weeks.

Elisa Lam and the fateful water tank
Elisa Lam and the fateful water tank

Whoa... creepy. But what's great is that a bunch of fans have just punched the air after being proved right about their AHS: Cecil Hotel theories (including me, I'm stoked!)

Even before Lam's death, the Cecil Hotel was cursed...

Serial Killer Richard Ramirez was staying at the Cecil Hotel while he killed his victims, which in turn inspired copycat killer Jack Unterweger to visit the place to commit his crimes. The hotel has numerous strange suicides to its name, which is frightening enough in itself... but here's the real kicker.

Soon after Elisa Lam's body was found, a lethal outbreak of tuberculosis occurred near to the Hotel. Perhaps the water supply was tainted? Oh, and the test kit used to ascertain water-borne tuberculosis is called the LAM-ELISA.

Yeah, Ryan Murphy's gonna have to seriously push this season to make American Horror Story: Hotel creepier than its real life inspiration!

The Cecil Hotel has inspired horror before

The American adaptation of Japanese horror Dark Water effectively draws on the terrifying case of Elisa Lam. Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) and her daughter Cecilia (Ariel Gade) move into a new apartment, only to find black water leaking mysteriously from the ceiling.

She investigates the leak and discovers some horrifying facts about a young girl who drowned in the water tank. These events are clearly reminiscent of Elisa Lam's story, but the names of Connelly and Gade's characters confirm the setting:

Dahlia: The Black Dahlia a.k.a. Elizabeth Short, the victim of the most famous unsolved murder in Los Angeles, also stayed at the Cecil.

Cecilia: The Cecil Hotel

American Horror Story: Hotel debuts October 7 on FX.


Will American Horror Story: Hotel be more frightening than its real life inspiration?

Source: Youtube, EW, Helen Green


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