The Spooky Connection Between 'The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel' and 'American Horror Story'

The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel on Netflix tells the true crime story of the disappearance of student Elisa Lam from the titular hotel. With that hotel infamous for the number of deaths that happened on its premises, and said to be the one-time residence of a number of serial killers, however, the location has provided plenty of inspiration to horror directors over the years.

Particularly, the hotel is believed to be a major inspiration for American Horror Story's "Hotel" season, which was set in a hotel that was above a Hellmouth.

However, that is not the only link between The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel and American Horror Story. The latter was actually directly inspired by Lam's final moments in the hotel in February 2013.

Particularly, the show's Hotel season began to come together after producer Ryan Murphy saw the video of Lam in the Cecil Hotel's elevator acting erratically, a video that had been released by the LAPD during its investigation.

cecil hotel american horror story
Lady Gaga and Kathy Bates in 'American Horror Story: Hotel.' FX

At a Television Critics Association event, Murphy said: "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."

Though Murphy has got some of the details wrong—she was never seen alive again, but Lam's body was found in the water tank of the hotel a few days later—the Cecil Hotel is the most famous supposedly haunted hotel in the Downtown area of Los Angeles.

American Horror Story: Hotel, which changes the name of the hotel to the Cortez also lifts some of the lore from the notorious real-life history of the Cecil—a place where there was so many violent acts committed that there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to a "List of deaths and violence at the Cecil Hotel."

For example, the real-life serial killer Richard Ramirez (the subject of his own Netflix documentary Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer) is thought to have stayed there for a few weeks in the 1980s. In Hotel, Richard Ramirez (played by Anthony Ruivivar) is one of the serial killers whose ghosts come to the hotel during the "Devil's Night" episode. The character then returned (played by Zach Villa) in American Horror Story: 1984.

AHS is not the only pop cultural property to have been inspired by the Cecil, which has been called "the most haunted hotel in LA" and "Hotel Death." The Coen Brothers' 1991 masterpiece Barton Fink, where a blocked screenwriter stays in a hotel that is the setting for a number of murders, is also thought to have taken some inspiration from the Cecil.

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is streaming now on Netflix.