Discount Ghost Hunters
I believe in ghosts, vampires, werewolves, zombies, and demonic possession. Because it's just so much more fun that way. I entertain a healthy belief in the supernatural because the alternative is distressingly boring. A face value world is a cynical one, and a cynical world is not one that is so much fun being a part of. I have to believe that there is another world everywhere you look. And if you don't see it, you're not looking the right way.
I love haunted things. I love things that might be haunted. I love things that look like they could possibly be haunted, or have been haunted at one time. I get that from my mom. Once, we were traveling to see some family in a small town in Missouri. We pulled into a small motel late at night. When we woke up in the morning we realized that the motel was surrounded by a graveyard. Overjoyed, we ran off to play in the graveyard. This happened maybe 5 years ago, and it took me writing that last sentence to realize that might be an odd activity to do on a family vacation. It was a rad graveyard.
I used to get up early in the morning, so I could sneak downstairs and watch a show called "Sightings" which was a paranormal investigation show replete with with masterfully performed reenactments of alien abductions, yeti encounters, and vaguely racist voodoo rituals. In short, it was the greatest show ever created. I recently returned to Los Angeles. After growing up here it seemed impossible to find anything remotely remarkable. The glory of the places that we come from is in their predictability not their mystery. And then I heard about the Cecil Hotel.
It was a mystery. You may have heard the story. The Cecil Hotel. Guests start complaining about odd tasting water. As it turns out there is a body in the water tanks on the roof. A Canadian tourist, Eliza Lam is found dead in the tanks.
People dismiss it like they dismiss every crime in Los Angeles. The other people, the crazy people, people in gangs, secret psychopaths that haunt our streets. The people who end up at the business end of them- sad stories about people in the wrong place at the wrong time. But then the quesitons are there.
How did she get up there? How did she get in there? Why was no one ever arrested? And then the video. A youtube video of the last footage of Ms. Lam alive surfaces. She runs into an elevator, she pushes all fo the buttons, the elevator doesn't go anywhere. It looks like she's hiding. She peeks her head from inside the elevator looking out into the hallway, seemingly afraid of an unknown assaliant. Then she leaves the elevator. She comes back and it appears that she's talking to someone- gesticulating oddly. The doors close. the next time she is seen is by the firefighters who find her body. There are just too many questions. So I enlist the help of my two best friends to go investigate*.
The hotel itself has a storied past. Two serial killers have called it's crumbling halls home, a TB epidemic gutted it, it has been a flophouse for gangsters and nightwalkers, a crashpad for Hollywood elite, and a suicide hotspot in the City of Angels. This is a building with a story. But the story doesn't end with the death of Eliza Lam, patrons and staff have reported sightings and supernatural activity for the years up until my friends David, Deven and I checked into the hotel.
We snuck three people into a two bed room with no bathroom, because we're cheap and we weren't going to spend a night alone in a room. We closed the door and a large piece of plaster fell off the wall. The room smelled like cough drops and hospital with a background of cigarette smoke. The kind of smell that you just can't get used to.
We setup recording equipment. We got out our Oujia board. We drank warm rye whiskey out of plastic cups. The Oujia board grabbed when my buddies placed their fingers on it. It whipped from left to right, answering yes or no answers quickly and clearly, much to all of our surprise. Then we asked more specific quesitons:
"What is your name?"
"What is your name?"
We tried again and again but we got no where. Either the unconscious twitching of my friends hands were providing our superstitions unnecessary fuel, or ghosts were giving us answers that we could not understand. Or they were messing with us. I assumed that was a possibility.
We took a break from the board and went exploring. There are only two types of corridors on each of the floors: long and narrow or short, jagged, and curved. You are either in an interminably long hall of identical doors or you can't see more than two or three feet in front of you. It was unsettling but bad design does not a haunted place make. It helps, but it doesn't make it.
We climbed through each of the floors up and down the echoing concrete stairways. Each floor was the same as the save for slight unsettling differences. A bit more plaster dust ground into the carpet, an open door, a broken mirror. Were we finding ghosts because we were looking for them? Honestly, probably?
Then we got up to the roof. A long dark stairway up to the door outside. There were alarms and locks bolting the door to the frame, It would have been impossible to quietly bring a body up the stairs, let alone through the door. Dave pointed it out first, uttering a soft "Dude..."
In the frost on the window outside, visible from where we were standing, "I am here" was written. We stared blankly.
Much like the movements of the Oujia board, much like the mysterious case of Eliza Lam, we had only our suspicions and little else. We went back to our room.
We listened to the recordings that we had made while we were gone, strange bleeps and bloops in an otherwise silent room. We went back to the board. They placed their fingers on it and closed their eyes. This time we would make sure that cheating was impossible.
the planchet (as we learned that it was called) flew. Again, yes or no answers came quickly and easily.
"Are you a spirit?"
"Are you in Heaven"
Music started playing in the next room. Deven and I cracked our eyes and rolled them. Of course, just when we were getting into it someone would start blasting jazz music. We continued with the questions.
"Are you in Hell?"
"Are you somewhere else?"
"What do you want from us."
We opened our eyes again. I was concerned that it would be more insistant. I had already paid for the room. We put let the board alone and we listened to our recording. We wanted to hear if the bleeps or the bloops had come back.
"I hope we didn't record the music from the room next door," I said.
"What music?" Dave asked. We had previously established a firm no fucking with eachother rule as long as we were ghost hunting. Deven and I looked to each other and confirmed that we had heard the music. The recording, did not confirm that there was any music. We only had more questions.
We fell into an uneasy sleep cramming three 20-somethings into two twin beds pushed together. When we woke up in the morning, the light streaming through dust motes in a beautiful Downtown Los Angeles morning. We went to breakfast and realized that there were simply things that happened in that room that we would not be able to explain. There are things that happened in that hotel that we were not able to explain. the unexplainable and the unknowable was once again in my own backyard. It felt goot to not know something.
*I told them it would be $20 a piece. Spending a night in a haunted hotel is comparable in price to going to see a movie. Protip: Gents, keep that under your hats for first dates. Ladies, if a man suggests doing this instead of going to see a movie...Run.