American Horror Story Season 5 opened last week on FX in one of the creepiest, goriest episodes to date. But that's nothing once you've heard about the real life inspiration for Lady Gaga's Hotel Cortez. Here's all the gruesome things you need to know before this week's Episode 2
You've probably heard of the Bates Motel and that Slovakian Hostel with a butcher shop in the basement. These are just a couple of fictional accommodations that have inspired our real life travel phobias. But what about a fictional hotel that borrows some of its most unnerving elements from real life? That's what Ryan Murphy's latest goth-camp brainchild is shaping up to be. Ever since last week's American Horror Story Season 5 premiere, which saw Lady Gaga arriving in Hotel, rumors have been swirling about the myriad influences fueling the horror anthology's latest iteration. From the obvious cinematic precedents like The Shining and Rocky Horror Picture Show to historical personages like Aileen Wuornos appearing throughout this season's seven-episode run, one element always remains a constant, and that is the Hotel Cortez. But something has come to light in the months leading up to Season 5; Hotel Cortez doesn't merely exist in the ether of Ryan Murphy's twisted imagination. According to reports, the idea of a temporary residence as the basis for AHS' continued abominations first came to Murphy's attention after the naked body of Canadian vacationer Elisa Lam turned up floating and decomposed in one of the water stacks on top of the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
Lam's death in 2013 was only the latest in a string of disconcerting episodes that have branded the Cecil as everything from the haunted recreation of poltergeists to the preferred haven of serial killers. One of America's most heinous murderers, Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker, used his $14-a-night room there as his personal headquarters for a string of burglaries, robberies, rapes and mutilations perpetrated with cool detachment on his random victims, often dumping their still blood-wet clothes in the Cecil's back dumpster. Other anomalous deaths, murders, and suicides over the years (including a Ramirez copycat killer from Australia), gave the Cecil a reputation as the skid-row residence to avoid, precipitating a rebranding effort that redubbed the hotel as Stay on Main, "the hippest boutique hotel and hostel in downtown" whose "location, style accommodations and vibe offer our guest the best value in Los Angeles." Ironically, the location has reportedly experienced a spurt in business based on its previous reputation thanks to American Horror Story fans trying to catch a glimpse of the hotel that inspired Hotel. Hopefully other derelict businesses can get a boost if Lady Gaga returns for Season 6. Would you ever stay at the Cecil?