It’s somewhat surprising that it took American Horror Story five seasons to get to the concept of hotels, given how many stories and films have used temporary living spaces as a source of terror. As it happens, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have a very specific inspiration for why they wanted to make this season all about a hotel, and it has to do with a spooky surveillance video.
In talking about the show with Zap2It, Murphy shared the concept’s origin story.
We were really inspired by the idea of a hotel. There was a surveillance video that went around two years ago that just showed a girl getting into an elevator in a downtown hotel that is rumored to be haunted, and she was never seen again. So that was around two years ago [when] we started thinking of this idea.
There have certainly been worse inspirations for TV shows over the years, and a creepy video of a missing woman sounds right in line with everything that Ryan Murphy wants to embody in this anthology series. But what video is he talking about?
Our best bet is that he’s referring to the video of Elisa Lam, the Canadian college student who went missing in February 2013 and was later found dead and naked inside the water tank sitting on top of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. The video of Lam in the elevator, which was her last known sighting, went viral a few days before her body was discovered, and presumably inspired many a nightmare as it did so. Her behavior the video is quite odd, and has been attributed to everything from a psychotic episode tied to her bipolar disorder to drugs to more paranormal causes. You can check it out below.
It’s possible that this incident, which seems eerily like the Japanese movie Dark Water and its American remake, isn’t the one he’s talking about, but it likely is, given the specifics. Of course, he and Falchuk probably cribbed this season’s scares from a plethora of different places. The show has one room that’s way scarier than all the others, which is quite like The Shining, and he’s got one killer who uses a dildo and one who uses the Ten Commandments, so those are similar to Se7en (which wasn’t about a hotel, but whatever).
Always be on your best behavior in elevators and check out American Horror Story: Hotel when it premieres tonight, October 7, on FX.