Photos By Luke Quezada
Rachel Lu and I walked up to the front of the Pico House right outside of Olvera Street. We waited for the rest of our walking group to arrive as we nervously anticipated our 5-star rated Haunted Tales DTLA Walking Tour. We watched as a short man in a bright yellow t-shirt introduced himself as Neel, our tour guide. We quickly set off to witness the first cemeteries of Los Angeles. Although I was excited by the prospect of glimpsing some spectral apparitions, I was skeptical that the tour would deliver on that promise.
Neel took us through LA from building to historical building excitedly describing the dark history of the structures before us. As riveting as these trivial facts were, Neel’s detailed descriptions of criminal trials and crime scenes left much to be desired.
We walked to the Alexandria Hotel, home of the Valentino Suite. Then, we made our way to The Palace Theater, the site of Michael Jackson’s 1982 “Thriller” music video. All of this was very amusing, yet I still felt cheated of my promised terror. Defeated, I continued to make my way along Spring Street, following Neel’s bright yellow shirt.
As the skies grew darker, we drew near to the Cecil Hotel. Neel pulled out his iPad and began playing surveillance footage of Elisa Lam, a Canadian tourist who was found dead in the water tank on the roof of the Cecil. We watched the last known footage of Lam, scrambling inside of an elevator, peeking her head out as if she was running from something. Finally, I was terrified. Neel recounted the stories of the guests that had been drinking that water for weeks before the body was discovered. I was disgusted. Suddenly, I was very conscious of anything that might arouse a bitter spirit.
As we walked along Main Street with a newfound fear of elevators, tap water and hotels, we no longer felt that we had been taken on a historical tour of Downtown LA. The thoroughly terrifying death of Elisa Lam brought peace to the entire experience. Any fears or previous reservations that I may have had about Neel, the tour, or Downtown LA, had been alleviated. Suddenly, I had bigger things to worry about.