When you put down a book by Stephen King, or get to the credits of a Hitchcock film, you can breathe a sigh of relief and laugh off what just scared the shit out of you. It’s fiction! But true horror stories, ones legitimized through respected news organizations, are harder to disconnect from. They happened… and could happen to anyone. Suddenly we’re not safe. The real world is more terrifying than anything we can make up. Here are five that continue to creep us out:
The Death of Elisa Lam
Elisa Lam was last seen on January 31, 2013 in the lobby of the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. She was vacationing through the West Coast, documenting the trip on her blog, and checking in with her parents every day. On January 31 those calls stopped. Lam had vanished. Soon the police were involved and her parents arrived to help with the search.
They had nothing. That February, LAPD released elevator surveillance footage of Lam before her disappearance. The footage shows Lam behaving strangely in the elevator, appearing to talk with invisible people, peering around the corner of the door, crouching in the corner, and opening and closing the door. But what exactly is going on in this video raises more questions than answers. Theories range from psychotic episodes, to demonic possession, to unknown assailants just out of the camera’s view:
Around that time, hotel guests started reported weird things happening with the Cecil Hotel water supply. As CNN reports:
“The shower was awful,” said Sabina Baugh, who spent eight days there during the investigation. “When you turned the tap on, the water was coming black first for two seconds and then it was going back to normal.”
The tap water “tasted horrible,” Baugh said. “It had a very funny, sweety, disgusting taste. It’s a very strange taste. I can barely describe it.”
But for a week, they never complained. “We never thought anything of it,” she said. “We thought it was just the way it was here.”
On the morning of February 19, a hotel employee climbed to the roof and used a ladder to investigate the hotel’s water storage tanks. That’s where authorities found the decomposing, naked body of Lam, whose personal items were found nearby. After an autopsy, her death was labeled accidental. NBC Los Angeles reported at the time about the strange circumstances in the hotel’s past:
The tank has a metal latch that can be opened, but authorities said access to the roof is secured with an alarm and lock.
The single-room-occupancy hotel has an unusual history. “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez, who was found guilty of 14 slayings in the 1980s, lived on the 14th floor for several months in 1985. And international serial killer Jack Unterweger is suspected of murdering three prostitutes during the time he lived there in 1991. He killed himself in jail in 1994.
In 1962, a female occupant jumped out of one the hotel’s windows, killing herself and a pedestrian on whom she landed.
An Exorcism in Indianapolis
Last year, the Indianapolis Star published a lengthy report on a family terrorized by three children allegedly possessed by demons. The account of Latoya Ammons and her family tells disturbing stories of children climbing up the walls, getting thrown across rooms, and children threatening doctors in deep unnatural voices. It would seem like something straight out of a movie–a work of fantasy, except all of these accounts were more or less corroborated with “nearly 800 pages of official records obtained by the Indianapolis Star and recounted in more than a dozen interviews with police, DCS personnel, psychologists, family members and a Catholic priest.”
One of the more chilling sections of the report includes a segment about the possessed 9-year-old:
According to Washington’s original DCS report—an account corroborated by Walker, the nurse—the 9-year-old had a “weird grin” and walked backward up a wall to the ceiling. He then flipped over Campbell, landing on his feet. He never let go of his grandmother’s hand.
Another segment of the piece reads:
The 12-year-old would later tell mental health professionals that she sometimes felt as if she were being choked and held down so she couldn’t speak or move. She said she heard a voice say she’d never see her family again and wouldn’t live another 20 minutes.