"American Horror Story: Hotel" plot involves UBC student's mysterious death

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Ryan Murphy, the co-creator of television’s popular “American Horror Story” franchise, revealed details about the upcoming series set in a creepy hotel, and that a key plot element will be based on the real-life tragic death of Vancouver student Elisa Lam.

Lam had been missing several days when her body was discovered floating inside a large water tank on top of her hotel’s roof.

In early 2013, Lam was just 21 years old when she was vacationing in California and stayed at the Cecil Hotel in a dicey part of downtown Los Angeles. When the normally communicative UBC student’s family back home in Vancouver didn’t hear from her they began to worry, and reported her missing.

Elisa Lam (LAPD)

Elisa Lam (LAPD)

Lam had last been seen in the hotel lobby, and the Los Angeles Police Department produced footage of her behaving erratically inside the hotel’s elevator. Ultimately, authorities ruled her death an accidentally drowning, however the coroner’s report listed Lam’s mental illness as a contributing factor.

While speaking to the media at this year’s Television Critics Association (TCA) event, Murphy elaborated on the cast and storyline for his upcoming venture “American Horror Story: Hotel.”

For the series, the hotel is run by a woman (played by Lady Gaga) with “a nefarious plan,” according to Deadline. While discussing the series at the TCA panel, Murphy referenced LAPD footage from a hotel connected to a mysterious death. Murphy, who did not name Lam while talking about the show, said the inspiration for the eerie events at his fictional Hotel Cortez “came after he viewed the viral video of a woman’s disappearance two years ago,” notes 9news.

Lam’s tragic death has previously been fodder for a plot point on TV’s “Castle,” in the spring of 2013 (a woman’s body is found in a tank on the roof of New York’s made-up Hotel Cedric), and in 2014 a script for a horror flick called “The Bringing” was based on Lam’s mysterious case.

“American Horror Story: Hotel,” airs on the FX network and premieres October 7. The show also stars Kathy Bates, Denis O’Hare, and Sarah Paulson.

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Lindsay William-Ross Lindsay is a Senior Editor at Vancity Buzz, and currently runs the site's Food section. A fourth generation Vancouverite, she spent the last two decades in Los Angeles, where she was EIC of the city's top blog, earned her MA, attended culinary school, and was an English professor (among other things). Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancitybuzz.com
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