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The Real-Life Inspirations Behind American Horror Story: Hotel

What we can learn from Los Angeles' real murder hotel

Sadie Gennis

American Horror Story often draws inspiration from real-life events, and this might be more true than ever for Hotel, which introduced Evan Peters' horrific take on serial killer H.H. Holmes last week. What other people and events will show up this season? Here are our theories:

Elisa Lam: Executive producer Ryan Murphy revealed at the Television Critics Association summer press tour that the idea for Hotel was inspired by Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old Vancouver woman who was found dead in February 2013. Lam was staying at the notorious Cecil Hotel, a hotel known for its guests' mysterious deaths and suicides, when she disappeared on Jan. 31. Her body was eventually found naked in one of the hotel's rooftop water tanks after guests complained about the taste of the tap water.

During the investigation, police released a surveillance video of Lam acting bizarre in one of the hotel's elevators. The four-minute tape featured Lam waving her arms around, pressing all the buttons and hiding in the corner as though she were being pursued. Her death was eventually ruled accidental, but there are many who believe the supernatural was at play.

How AHS will use it: The Hotel Cortez has beautifully ornate elevator cars, and we're betting their presence will factor into at least one gruesome murder this season.

American Horror Story: Hotel reveals the Cortez's deadly history

The Night Stalker: In the 1980s, the Cecil was home to Richard Ramirez, a serial killer known as the Night Stalker, whose childhood was shaped by violence. When he was 12, his elder cousin Miguel showed him photos of his violent exploits during the Vietnam war, including Miguel posing with the severed head of a woman he had raped. Around the same time, Ramirez began avoiding his father's physical abuse by sleeping in a local cemetery. In 1973, Ramirez watched as Miguel shot his wife in the face and killed her. It was after the shooting that Ramirez took an interest in Satanism.

Ramirez often brutalized and raped his victims, and was prone to shooting them in the face, much like his cousin. Ramirez's victims ranged from 9 to 83 years old and he killed using a variety of weapons, including a machete, a hammer, a carving knife and a gun. Ramirez was convicted of 13 murders, but never expressed any remorse for his actions. He died while awaiting execution on death row.

How AHS will use it: Ramirez's twisted family history, as well as his Satanist ideals, seem tailor-made for American Horror Story. Could he have inspired this season's Ten Commandments Killer?

Everything you need to know about American Horror Story: Hotel

H.H. Holmes: Often dubbed "America's First Serial Killer," H.H. Holmes designed and built a hotel during the 1983 Chicago World's Fair specifically to aid in and conceal his murders. The labyrinthine three-story, block-long hotel was dubbed The Castle by locals and featured more than 100 windowless rooms, doorways to nowhere, secret chutes, soundproof rooms fitted with gas lines that allowed Holmes to asphyxiate guests and a bank vault where he would leave certain victims to suffocate. In order to conceal his murderous design, Holmes was constantly hiring and firing construction workers so no one man would have a full picture of the building.

Many of Holmes' victims were his employees, whom were often required to take out life insurance policies naming Holmes as the beneficiary. And while only nine murders at Holmes' hand have been confirmed, some estimate the total count to be as high as 200. Holmes was eventually caught and hanged, and the Murder Castle he built mysteriously burned down in 1895, allegedly in an attempt to destroy any remaining evidence.

How AHS will use it: If any of that sounds familiar to you, it's because Mr. March (Evan Peters), the Cortez's first owner, did almost the exact same thing in the late 1920s before committing suicide and haunting the hotel he built. Will the season end with one of the killers burning down the Cortez to conceal all the gory crimes that have gone down? Will the Countess fix her money problems by forcing employees to take out life insurance policies before slitting their throats? We shall see.

American Horror Story: Hotel: Meet Ramona Royale, the Countess' vengeful ex-lover

Jack Unterweger: Another resident of the Cecil, Jack Unterweger, was an Austrian killer who was sentenced to life in prison for strangling a prostitute with her own bra when he was in his 20s. After he was released for good behavior after only 16 years, Unterweger became a minor celebrity: His autobiography was taught in schools and he hosted TV shows about criminal rehabilitation.

But Unterweger continued to kill. It wasn't until he was hired as a journalist to cover crime in L.A. that the local police realized that the reporter they had taken on ride-alongs of the city's red light districts had also strangled three more prostitutes with their own bras. Unterweger was eventually charged with 11 homicides in Austria and he committed suicide in prison.

How AHS will use it: It's often said that Unterweger stayed at the Cecil as an homage to the Night Stalker, much like the Ten Commandments killer is likely staying at the Cortez to honor Mr. March. Could the Ten Commandments Killer be someone fans would never suspect, John or Alex Lowe perhaps? Or maybe Donovan's mother Iris, who demonstrated a deep knowledge of Mr. March and seems to have no patience for those whom she deems vulgar.

The Black Dahlia: Murphy already introduced us to Elizabeth Short (Mena Suvari) during American Horror Story's first season, but it's possible that the infamous Black Dahlia could return - alive - in a flashback. Murphy's version of the Black Dahlia visited the Murder House to receive dental work by Dr. Curran (Josh Malina). Curran put Elizabeth under nitrous and raped her, and then realized she had accidentally died. That's when Curran enlisted the help of Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross), who cut Elizabeth's body in half and carved the Glasgow smile into her face.

How AHS will use it: There are rumors that Short had been staying at the Cecil Hotel shortly before her death, so there's a good chance we could see her again before her trip to the Murder House, especially since this season seems to be extremely connected to the first.

Elizabeth Bathory: Elizabeth Bathory, a Hungarian countess whom the Guinness World Records deems "the most prolific female murderer" of all time. Bathory was accused of torturing and killing hundreds of young women between 1595 and 1610. Bathory allegedly committed the crimes with the aid of her servants and others who helped supply her with new girls. There are also rumors that Bathory practiced vampire-like rituals, including bathing in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth. After she was caught, Bathory was kept bricked in solitary confinement with only slits left open for ventilation and food passing for four years until her death.

How AHS will use it: So... ageless countess named Elizabeth who has a blood fetish and uses her employees to bring her new victims? Yeah. That sounds familiar, and doesn't bode too well for the future of Lady Gaga's character The Countess.

Ryan Murphy wants Lady Gaga to return to AHS Season 6

Aileen Wuornos, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy: Wuornos, who killed seven men in Florida in 1989 and 1990, was famously portrayed by Charlize Theron in the movie Monster. Dahmer, who is known as the Milwaukee Cannibal, raped, murdered and dismembered 17 boys and men between 1978 and 1991. Many of Dahmer's later murders also included necrophilia and cannibalism. Gacy murdered at least 33 young boys and men between 1972 and 1978. All but one were killed by asphyxiation or strangulation with a tourniquet, with most of the bodies being buried on his property. Gacy's obsession with clowns (he performed as a clown at events) earned him the nickname the "Killer Clown."

How AHS will use it: Murphy has announced that many real-life serial killers will appear in the first hour of the two-part Halloween episode, in which John Lowe will attend a dinner party with them at the Cortez. AHS alums Lily Rabe and John Carroll Lynch will play Wournos and Gacy (see this trailer for a glimpse of Lynch wearing very Twisty-like makeup), respectively, and Seth Gabel will play Dahmer.

Gordon Northcott: In 1924, Northcott moved to Los Angeles, where he began abducting and molesting a number of young boys at his chicken ranch. There are also rumors Northcott "rented" victims to wealthy Californian pedophiles. Northcott killed at least three of his victims, including Walter Collins, who was murdered after Northcott's mother discovered him kept in a chicken coop. Mrs. Northcott, Gordon and Gordon's nephew Sanford each delivered a fatal blow to Walter with the blunt end of an ax so that none of them could implicate the others. Sanford, who was beat and sexually abused by Gordon, was forced to do this against his will. Northcott's story inspired the Angelina Jolie film The Changeling.

How AHS will use it: Murphy revealed that Mare Winningham's character, the peppy laundress Ms. Evers, has a child who is kidnapped by Gordon Northcott. It's not yet known whether Northcott will attend the Halloween dinner party or appear in other 1920s-set flashbacks. If it is the latter, one theory is that the Countess could have "rented" boys from Northcott for their blood back before she assembled her platinum-haired brood.

What are your Hotel theories? Share them in the comments below!

American Horror Story: Hotel airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on FX.