Updates & Coming Attractions: Vol. 1, Issue 2

We’re going to do things a little bit backwards this week, seeing as I’m back from vacation–and so getting acclimated to a different schedule again:

  • E3 is over, and so pretty soon (after the next post or two), I’ll get back to our regularly scheduled subject matter…I just have a few finishing thoughts and loose ends I want to address from E3 concerning the current state of video games.  I’ll also get back to our regular schedule of Mondays being large posting days and Thursdays being smaller update days, since consistency is important.
  • Have you checked out www.fictosphere.com yet?  I posted part one of a two part short story there on Friday (click here to read it).  In addition to my work, you can check out fiction and comics by authors Jeanne Paulding and Mike Podgor, as well as legendary pulp author Dirk Manley!  What is the Fictosphere, you ask?  It’s really a giant writer’s sandbox where each of the writers listed above (with the exception of Dirk Manley, as he’s dead) contribute to the continued creation and growth of a series of loosely-related fictional universes.  Please give it a moment of your time, take a look around, and let us know if there’s anything we can do better (in terms of lay-out, presentation, etc.)–or just say hello!  The Fictosphere: Universes of entertainment for your perusal.
  • So, what is next for the blog?  Beyond the one or two remaining E3-related posts, I have the next installment of the Elisa Lam post series coming down the pipe (likely next week’s Monday update).  After that, it looks like I have a few choices.  Some folks have suggested on Facebook that I tackle topics such as the legend of the Gore Orphanage (a popular urban legend here in Northeastern Ohio), the phenomenon of the Indigo/Crystalline Children, the weird sky trumpets people have been hearing, Russian numbers stations, and/or Polybius.  I’ve also been speaking with a friend about the death of Marilyn Monroe, which is something I didn’t know was a mystery until…well, until she brought it up.  I’ll likely hit one of those topics next, so stay tuned!  And look for the big post on Thursday (at the latest)!

E3 Day 1 and 2, and Probably 3 Because Why the Hell Not?

Well, Nintendo’s conference was Tuesday.

  • It confirmed the first actual Star Fox game in what feels like two decades, Star Fox Zero.  For those who don’t know, Star Fox is a franchise about an anthropomorphic fox named Fox McCloud who flies a starfighter of thing.  The last flight-based Star Fox game was for the N64 in the late 1990s, and though there have been two Star Fox games since then, they take place outside of Fox’s starfighter and on some planet filled with dinosaur people or something.  So, this was a pleasant surprise.
  • Another pleasant surprise was actually not a surprise, as it was mentioned Sunday: Yoshi’s Woolly World.  It’s a side-scrolling platformer starring Yoshi, a gluttonous dinosaur who first appeared in the Super NES classic Super Mario World (way back in the very early 1990s).  The cool thing about this game is that everyone in the game looks like they’re made of yarn, and so the gameplay gimmicks will likely be centered around that (unraveling enemies, etc.).
  • Metroid is kinda sorta back with the announcement of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a game that takes place in the Metroid universe but will likely not involve main character Samus Aran in anything more than a cameo appearance.  I’m ambivalent towards this title at the moment.

Square-Enix’s press conference was likewise on Tuesday.  Some upcoming games that caught my eye:

  • Just Cause 3 is an open world action game that involves cars, guns, and destruction, ala Grand Theft Auto–but apparently you have a grappling hook by which you can connect items, the environment, and enemies.  So, if you, say, target and enemy and then target the back of a moving vehicle, the enemy will be dragged behind the vehicles.  The operative words during the demonstration were “chaos” and “destruction”.  My concern is that Rockstar Games is, thus far, the king of open world chaos and destruction, so Square-Enix might be a bit out of their depth on this one.  We’ll see what happens.
  • Kingdom Hearts III.  When Kingdom Hearts was originally released way back in the day on Playstation 2, it was a big deal because it was one of the first times that the worlds of a video game company (SquareSoft at the time) and a multimedia entertainment company (Disney) collided in a final product that wasn’t the worst thing ever conceived (I’m looking at you, Alien Vs. Predator).  For some, that novelty still exists, and this is big news.  But for me…not so much.
  • It’s now been confirmed that Final Fantasy VII Remake will indeed be a ground-up remake, which means the original turn-based battle system will be changed.  The plot and story will also be altered.  Remember when I said that I was hesitant to become excited for this game?  This is why.  I’ll explain more in an upcoming post, but for now, here’s a link to the article confirming the changes.

I discovered on Wednesday that Capcom only brought four new titles to E3:

  • Resident Evil 0 for new generation consoles, which is a graphics update of, well, Resident Evil 0 for the GameCube (from about twelve years ago).
  • Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition for new generation consoles, which is a graphics update of, well, Devil May Cry 4 for last generation’s consoles (from about eight years ago).
  • Street Fighter V, which is the next entry in the storied fighting game franchise that set trends back in the late 1980s/early 1990s.  It’s also the only new, original, non-remake/upgrade game Capcom is showing at E3.
  • Mega Man Legacy Collection.  Now, I’m a huge Mega Man fan.  I really am.  But for God’s sake, why on earth does Capcom refuse to do anything cool or new with the property?  I realize that since Keiji Inafune–the father of the Mega Man series–left Capcom, everyone in the company has decided to stick their heads firmly up their own asses, but this is becoming ridiculous. Instead of a making a new game, what they’re doing is packaging six old games (Mega Man 1 through 6 for the NES, which is about four games fewer than the Mega Man Anniversary Collection released eleven years ago) and some of Inafune’s art.  The sooner they sell the property to Nintendo (purely my speculation and, frankly, wet dream), the better.

My understanding is that a Konami representative will speak for fifteen minutes on Thursday to talk about Metal Gear Solid V.  It’s the only game they’re bringing to E3, as they canceled the new Silent Hills a few months ago (which was to be a survival horror game starring Norman Reedus–Darryl from The Walking Dead–and directed by Guillermo del Toro of Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, and Pacific Rim fame)…which is a shame, because Silent Hills was shaping up to be a damn masterpiece.

The rumor is that Konami is getting out of the console gaming business and will produce mobile games exclusively from now on, making Metal Gear Solid V their last console game ever.  If the rumor is true, this is devastating news, because it will mean that yet another grand old gaming company is walking into the sunset.  There’s also the question of what Konami will do with its old properties–Castlevania, Contra, Metal Gear, Silent Hill(s), Gradius, et. al.  These franchises will no longer be profitable to Konami, and so it would make fiscal sense for the company to sell them to other, more viable gaming companies…perhaps Nintendo?  I could see them purchasing Contra and Castlevania, while Sony would likely fight for Metal Gear and Microsoft would grab Silent Hill(s).  It’s all speculation at this point, but if the plan really is to stop making console games, I could see that as being part of Konami’s endgame.

Tomorrow: I rant about Final Fantasy VII Remake’s alterations and discuss why Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS is one of the best and most significant and important games out right now.

E3 Day 0

This numerically nonsensical numbering of the days is really throwing me.  The damn show hasn’t technically even started yet and already we’ve had Nintendo (Day -1), Sony, and Microsoft reveal a fair number of items–with Sony’s and Microsoft’s presentations happening on Day 0, not Day 1 as one might suspect. After watching these conferences, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m kind of an old man mentally.  I come from the old school, and find myself caring more about old school gaming experiences than anything else.  While flashy graphics and big name voice actors are great and all, I just don’t find myself getting excited for that sort of thing anymore.

Case in point: Microsoft revealed a number of new titles for the XBox One, most notably the new Star Wars Battlefront and Halo 5.  You know what caught my attention, though?  A little indie game called Cuphead.  Why Cuphead?  Because Cuphead couples the classic gameplay of a run-and-gun platformer with the zany (and sometimes disturbing) antics and aesthetic of a Max Fleischer cartoon.  Each game sprite (the little guys you both control and fight–for those unfamiliar with the lingo) and background is hand-drawn and inked, so the game is smooth and beautiful, just like a piece of animation from the Depression Era (it claims a release year of “1936, plus 80 years”).  Truly a work of art.  I’ve taken the liberty of embedding the trailer below, so you can better see what I mean:

I don’t know if it’s the cynicism of age (by all accounts, I’m not even close to middle age yet), or if it’s the fact that, as an OG (original gamer), I’ve come to expect games to actually remind me of…well, games and not of movies…

I don’t know.  I’m discovering that I’m someone who doesn’t like “new” so much as “old done in new and innovative ways”.  And I’m definitely not someone who likes “same”.

For all of Sony’s showmanship at E3–indeed, thus far, they have had the best presentation–I tend to feel like their spread is becoming filled with sequels, remakes, and derivative experiences (much like the current state of Hollywood).  That said, there are a few games I’m looking forward to from Sony (click the title to see the trailer):

  • No Man’s Sky.  This game promises to open a whole universe of choices to gameplayers–literally.  You can jump into your starfighter and travel anywhere in the universe…to any planet, any star system, any galaxy.  Anywhere.  Everything in the game is destructable, and you as a player can choose whatever side you wish in a conflict (if you happen to encounter sentient races at war on a given planet, or fighting in space between planets).  While the actual gameplay shown didn’t show us much, the premise and concept is interesting if it can be executed properly.  Grand Theft Auto or Fallout on a universal scale is endlessly appealing to me.
  • Tearaway Unfolded.  This game uses the aesthetic of construction paper color forms, origami, and papier-mâché to tells its story.  If one owns a tablet–one would presume a Sony tablet–one can draw items, backgrounds, etc. and transfer them into the game.  The trailer painted the game as whimsical and innovative, much like the Playstation 3 classic Little Big Planet.
  • Dreams.  You know…I don’t know what the hell this is, really.  From the developer’s explanation, I think it’s a type of creation tool that a person can use to make and animate digital models, and then film those models, add music, and share the final product with the rest of the world.  The inspiration behind it is what happens in dreams–how the dreamer can transcend an immense expanse of space in no time at all, or how one’s dream shifts scenes seemingly on a whim.  Either way, it speaks to me and I’m looking forward to it.  “If you can dream it, you can make it.”
  • The Last Guardian.  This is a long-awaited title from the makers of Playstation 2 classics Shadow of the Colossus and Ico.  It first received a trailer six years ago, and then dropped of the face of the earth–until today.  It tells the story of a friendship between a child and his giant…uh…gryphon/dog…thing as they traverse through the world.  Team Ico, the developers of this game, are known for creating unique gameplay experiences, lavish creatures, and lush environments–so I’m very much looking forward to seeing where this game goes.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn.  This is a post-apocalyptic adventure/survival game whereby primitive humans (basically future humans bombed back into the stone age) fend for themselves in a ruined world populated by mechanical monsters.  It looks great, but is it really that different of a gameplay experience than, say, Uncharted or Tomb Raider?  I’m hopeful that it is, but time will tell.
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.  Speaking of Uncharted, the next installment was announced.  It’s pretty much a modern Indiana Jones in video game form–two-fisted and action-packed.

Several other games were announced for the Playstation 4, such as the newest installment in the Hitman franchise, another installment in the Destiny franchise, a port of Star Wars Battlefront (identical to the Microsoft version for the most part), another Call of Duty, and a game for which I should be excited but find myself dreading: Final Fantasy VII Remake.  Why am I dreading it?  That will take another post to explain.  Tomorrow is the official Nintendo conference, followed by the Square-Enix conference, so unless there’s something earth-shattering in either of those, I’ll likely tackle my issues with FF7 Remake at that point.

E3 Day -1

I’ve been struggling with how to approach E3 as it relates to my blog, and I think I’ve finally settled on keeping it simple and somewhat personal.  I’m not a news blog, and I’m not someone who’s interested in every little thing going on in the gaming world.  I don’t even really like Microsoft, to tell the truth…so, instead of trying to cover every nook and cranny of the show, I’ll simply comment on what strikes me as important–what I know, that about which I can talk, and that about which I want to talk.  So, without further ado…

So, apparently E3 starts with Day -1 as opposed to Day 1.  I say this because today, Monday, is being called Day 0–and there’s a ton of content already out there.  So what day was yesterday?  Pre-Show.  But that’s some sort of nonsensical Doctor Who math right there, so I’m calling it Day -1. That’s how Randall Malus maths, mofo.

I’ve always been a huge Nintendo fan.  I grew up in the 80s, and though my first system was an Atari 2600, my first true video game experience was with a classic Nintendo Entertainment System (henceforth abbreviated to “NES”, as is customary).  A lot of my love for Nintendo and its properties comes from nostalgia; whereas Sony dominated my teenage/young adult years, Nintendo is this only child’s childhood friend.  Though I don’t find the Big N to be flawless, I do appreciate its innovative ideas, and its dedication to keeping its old franchises alive while introducing new fun and engaging franchises to the world.  And, with Sega out of the console competition, Capcom being unable to distinguish its ass from a hole in the ground, and Konami rumored to get out of the console game business entirely, Nintendo really is the last and brightest light from the beginning of video games.

Day -1 was pretty much Nintendo’s day.  While they will have an official conference during the convention, Sunday was peppered with early surprises from Nintendo.  Among them:

  • The announcement of EarthBound Beginnings, an official Western release of a game from 1989 previously only available (officially in Japan).  It became available for download to the Wii U’s Virtual Console that same day.
  • The official announcement of characters Ryu (from Capcom’s Street Fighter series) and Roy (from Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series) as coming to the game Super Smash Bros. as downloadable characters.  When are they coming?  Yesterday.  Like EarthBound Beginnings, they were a surprise release for download on Day -1.  I’ll comment more on this in a later post dealing specifically with Super Smash Bros. and why Ryu’s inclusion matters so much (or should matter, especially to Castlevania fans who want to see Simon Belmont on this game’s roster).

After these reveals, it was time to play some games.

The 2015 Nintendo World Championship.  The main event.  It’s been 25 year since the last Nintendo World Championship (1990).  I remember because I was a part of it–and that’s about all I remember.  I was about six or seven, maybe eight, so I’m working with a bunch of imperfect memories–if I’m wrong about something, feel free to correct me as long as you’re not being a dick about it.  The regional qualifier was either held at the IX Center or the Cleveland Convention Center.  It was a three-to-five minute timed contest whereby a person had to complete three challenges across three games:

  • Collect 50 coins in Super Mario Bros.
  • Complete a lap in Rad Racer
  • Clear what felt like a billion lines in Tetris

The cartridges used were specially programmed to shut off after a certain time (the aforementioned three-to-five minutes, I believe), and whomever got the farthest the fastest won.  There were, like, ten or twenty seats available, and the idea was to whittle the list down with each additional round.  Or something.  I went out after one round, so I wouldn’t know.  Damnable Rad Racer.  And standing.  That was off-putting…standing while playing a video game.  I was used to sitting on the floor close to the television.

Anyway, I didn’t win, but I must not have cared very much because there exists a video of child-me “doing the Mario” in front of a crowd of cheering teenagers and adults to some sort of video game rap or something.  Plus, I don’t remember the competition very well, but I do recall the convention hall being filled with demo stations for upcoming games (specifically, Capcom’s Rescue Rangers, Namco’s Rolling Thunder, and Vic Tokai’s Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode).  Come to think of it, it was all kind of like an E3 before such a thing existed.

Now, one thing that most nostalgic gamers will remember about the 1990 World Championship is that it was featured in a movie called The Wizard, starring Fred Savage and a bunch of people who you recognize but you can’t name, either because you can never remember or because you never knew it in the first place.  For most, the movie was also the first preview of Super Mario Bros. 3–during the climax, it is the final game that the contestants (and the hero, who oddly is not the main character and plays second fiddle to Fred Savage the whole damn movie) must play before winning some sort of macguffin or other.  This will come into play in a little bit.  But, first, I have to make fun of Fred Savage for a moment.

Ahem.  Wonder Years?  More like, wonder why that show was on for years.  Thanks, I’m better now.

So, how is the 2015 NWC different from its obsolete 1990 version?  As I said, 25 years have happened.  As one can imagine, the Nintendo games library has increased a bit since then–and the 2015 NWC took advantage of that fact.  Mixing challenges from both modern Wii U titles and older titles from more retro fair, the 2015 NWC took a whopping three hours to complete.  In the end, a dude named John Numbers took home the trophy.

Each of the challenges, or “stages”, were followed by an elimination round, whereby contestants were, well, eliminated from the competition.  A list of stages and eliminations follows:

  • Stage 1: Splatoon (Wii U)
  • Elimination: The Legend of Zelda (NES)
  • Stage 2: Blast Ball (Wii U)
  • Elimination: Super Metroid (Super NES)
  • Stage 3: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
  • Elimination: Balloon Fight (NES)
  • Stage 4: Super Smash Bros. (Wii U)

Notice that the retro titles were used to eliminate folks from the competition.  Man, does that bring back memories…

It wouldn’t be a Nintendo World Championship without introducing a new, never-before-seen Mario game as the final challenge–and so both players and the audience got their first glimpse of a new game, Super Mario Maker, in action.  What is Super Mario Maker, you ask?  It is what it sounds like–a game where you make retro Mario games.  You can design the levels, place the enemies, etc., and force other people to play said levels–or play said levels yourself.

Was it as magical as Super Mario Bros. 3?

No.  No, it wasn’t.

But it was a fantastic attempt, and I applaud Nintendo for never forgetting the past.

And, really, whoever made the levels for that last challenge is the biggest jerk in the world.

Want to watch the event for yourself?  Click here!  It’ll take you to youtube, where things called “videos” capture past events in webs of chrono-sorcery!

The Strange Case of Elisa Lam – Part Two

So, what ultimately became of Elisa Lam?

According to the coroner, she drowned.  Her death was ruled as “accidental”, and possibly relating to her mental condition.  According to the preliminary toxicology screen, she had no date rape drugs in her system, and no recreational drugs–save, perhaps, a trace amount of alcohol in her bile, but nothing that would suggest heavy intoxication (if at all).  She did have traces of her prescription medication, but nothing that would indicate an overdose.  There were no signs of physical trauma, though no notes were made regarding a rape kit.

Her family is suing the Cecil Hotel for wrongful death.

There are a few details I left out of my last post, as they were irrelevant and wouldn’t have made sense until now–plus, a later reveal adds to the suspense:

  • There are two things wrong with the elevator video linked in my last post.  Can you tell what they are?  Here, I’ll post it again.

    Care to tell me what time the video takes place?  That’s right–the time stamp is glitched.  Now, even though it’s largely illegible, the people at a place called TribalWatch have determined (just by the relation of some garbled characters to the others) that the time of this video is at 12:22 am on February 1, 2015.  In figuring this out, internet sleuths discovered something else interesting about the video (which is the aforementioned second thing wrong)…
    It’s missing a minute.
    Snipped.  Cut.  Right from the center of the video.
    It was released this way.  A four minute video was cut by a minute, and the rest was slowed down to make it fit back into that four minute mold.  A sped-up/comparison version has been created by youtuber Cody Fry:

  • Experts in body language reviewed the video at the behest of the family and police.  Their conclusion was that Lam’s behavior in the video wasn’t strange at all–it was excited, playful, and perhaps a bit provocative.  When she jumps out of the elevator, it seems that it’s to scare someone, as though playing a game of hide-and-seek.  When she presses all the buttons (many believe them to be the middle row of buttons), it’s in jest.  When she shows frustration, it’s not serious–the person she expected to come hasn’t yet come.  She fixes her hair, plays with her hands–possibly having a conversation with herself in preparation for some social gathering, or with someone just off-camera.  But for anyone who thought that she might have been running from something or someone (as I think everyone does at first), the experts disagree.
  • The elevator isn’t malfunctioning in the video.  The reason why it isn’t closing is because Lam pressed the hold button twice, and those familiar with the Cecil’s elevator system have said that it takes about two minutes for the door to close.
  • The roof (and, therefore, each of the four water tanks) is accessible through the fire escape, which is alarmed.  It is also accessible from the building behind the Cecil (which is raised above the roof of the Cecil slightly, allowing access to the water tanks as well), and through the Cecil’s old fire escape (out of the fourteenth floor hallway window, which is believed to be the floor Lam was on when the elevator video was taken), which is not alarmed.
  • The water tanks themselves are about four to eight feet in height, and are raised off the ground by cinder blocks.  The opening to each water tank is about one to two feet wide.  One has to use a ladder to get to the top, and there’s no ladder inside.  The lids to said openings are never locked, but are a bit heavy.
  • The clothing that was found in the tank with Lam’s nude body had enough sand-like material on it to be worthy of note.  The hotel roof is paved with such material.
  • The roof is supposed to be restricted, but maintenance people at the Cecil have noted finding empty beer bottles up there from time-to-time, as well as graffiti (on the water tank array).  The graffiti states: “Fecto cunt her suma”, which makes reference to an unknown woman being of questionable sexual morality.  Another tag saying the same thing is present elsewhere on the roof and dated 2012.
  • Lam’s blog continued to update for awhile after her disappearance and death, though this is likely due to scheduled updates (such as the one I’m posting right now).
  • The coroner’s report originally had “undetermined” listed as the cause of death, but this was later crossed out before it was submitted/released and replaced with “accidental”.
  • Some of the international guests in the hotel had been experiencing the putrid water for weeks, but, because they were not from the area, thought that that’s just how the water tasted/smelled in the United States–so they did not report the issue right away.

I think that’s everything.  Some weird things to note before I give my two cents:

  • There are a few (more than a few, actually) symbolic connections between the death of Elisa Lam and the movie Dark Water (2005).  A remake of a 2002 Japanese horror film, the movie follows a single mother, Dahlia (RE: Black Dahlia) and her daughter, Cecilia (RE: Feminine of Cecil) as they move into an old apartment complex.  Apparently, the tenants have been experiencing a problem with the water pressure.  At times, the water comes out black, and it has a terrible odor and taste to it.  The elevator malfunctions, as well, because there’s a ghost wandering the building.  SPOILER ALERT: There’s a dead girl in the water tank on the roof of the apartment.  See what I mean?
  • An outbreak of tuberculosis struck Skid Row’s homeless population scant weeks after Lam’s disappearance and death.  Skid Row, as mentioned in the last article, is just a couple of blocks away from the Cecil Hotel.  The connection?  The test used in determining whether these folks had tuberculosis or not was known as the LAM ELISA–which was short for some Latin something-or-other.  Weird, right?
  • There’s a game called the Elevator Ritual, whereby it is said a person can travel to another dimension.  It requires one to be alone on an elevator in a building with at least ten floors.  After putting traveling to a set number/sequence of floors, a woman enters the elevator on floor 5.  One is not to look at or speak with the woman.  At this point, the person enacting the ritual is to press the button for the first floor.  If the elevator travels up to the tenth floor instead, the ritual is a success, and the doors will open on a replica of the tenth floor of the building where you are, except the lights will be out and there will be a burning red cross visible in the distance from any windows.  To get back, you just re-enter the elevator you came in and go through the sequence again.  It is said that sometimes on the trip back, a person can black-out and wake up in an odd, unfamiliar place (but in our realm).  Is that why Lam pressed all those buttons?  Was she trying to play the elevator game–and lost?

All right.  So, allow me to address two of the above weird points: Dark Water and tuberculosis.  Some folks have suspected that, in the spirit of Yogi Berra, these points are just too coincidental to be a coincidence.  I disagree.

Anyone with a grasp of mathematical probability will tell you that miracles, in all probability, happen every single day.  So do coincidences.  The problem is that humans tend to concentrate only on what is similar and not enough on what is different.  Sure, it’s weird that the tuberculin test is the LAM ELISA–but it’s less weird when you consider that the name is short for something a lot longer, and in Latin.  It’s also weird that Elisa Lam was killed around the time that the outbreak happened, and in the general area of the outbreak.  You know what else is weird?  Elisa Lam, as far as anyone is aware, didn’t go into the Skid Row area…nor did she have tuberculosis.  Nor did anyone in the hotel catch tuberculosis from the water.  So…weird, yes.  A message from the killer(s)?  Not likely.

The same is true of the Dark Water connection.  For one, the movie, as stated, was a remake of a Japanese horror film, ala The Ring or The Grudge.  Therefore, the premise came from a writer (or set of writers) half a world away.  Second, Dahlia and Cecilia are not common names, but they’re not so uncommon as to strike me as out-of-place.  Third, the elevator at the hotel wasn’t malfunctioning, as mentioned–in the movie, it totally was.  Fourth, the victim in the movie is a young girl (Cecilia’s age) named Natasha…which is a far cry from 21 year old Elisa Lam.  Fifth…damn it, I can’t do this all night.  The point is that, again, we’re looking only at things that fit and casting out all the things that don’t–and there are so many things that just don’t fit.  Weird?  Yes.  A message or signature?  Not the way I see it.  And that brings us to the Elevator Ritual.

In the elevator video, Lam presses a number of buttons all the way down the row.  The top button doesn’t light up (the fourteenth floor), but the others do, all in a row.  Well, the Elevator Ritual states that you have to travel floors in a certain sequence, which involved going back to one floor after hitting, like, two others.  These floors that one must hit in sequence cross a three-button control panel set-up (which the elevator of the hotel has), and so hitting a bunch of buttons all the way down a row would mean that she lost the game automatically and would, therefore, go nowhere but to those floors.  No, she was playing round and excitedly hitting buttons (as a prank, most likely).

And I don’t think it was the Illuminati, either.  This is an option that I didn’t list above but has been bandied-about.  Guys, I’m sorry–I don’t believe that the Illuminati exists.  How can thirteen families control the world when one person has a hard time controlling a family of three?  I just don’t see it.  I especially don’t see such a group as being involved in the death/murder of a Canadian college student who was taking a semester off from school to travel and blog about fashion.

So, back to this question: What happened?

In my view, there are four options: Suicide, murder, gang initiation, and an accident.

Remember that suspense thing I was talking about earlier?  Well, now you know what I think.  I will tell you why in a later blog post.  In the meantime, check out the links below and tell me what YOU think and why!  Even if it involves MK Ultra and the Illuminati, I want to hear your theories–just be prepared to back them up with evidence and plausible scenarios.  I have an opened mind, and I’ve been known to be wrong before…so give me what you’ve got!


Elisa Lam’s Tumblr Blog
EtherFields, Elisa Lam’s other blog
TribalWatch’s investigation
Body Language reading of elevator video
Autopsy report
Picture of roof graffiti

The following are episodes of a youtube series called BrainScratch which deal with the case.  They’re well-researched and are a good reader’s digest for further investigation.

Elisa Lam and the Cecil Hotel
Elisa Lam Part 2-Autopsy Report
Elisa Lam’s Manipulated Elevator Footage
Elisa Lam, Invisibility Cloaks and ILA
Elisa Lam Graffiti and Elisa #2

The Strange Case of Elisa Lam – Part One

So, about two Saturdays ago, my friend Jeanne Paulding and I were talking about weird, creepy phenomena that’s caught our respective interests over the years.  Among the topics we touched on were Russian numbers stations, sky trumpets, cloud vortices, seemingly bottomless holes in the earth, and Elisa Lam.

Wait.  Who?

Elisa Lam.  I had never heard of Elisa Lam before that moment.  Because I live in a world where information is free via this great invention called the internet, I decided that instead of being lazy and asking Jeanne what the bloody hell she was talking about, I would search for the answer myself.  What I found was a mystery that would (at first) leave me more confused than a homeless man under house arrest.

For those who still have no idea who Elisa Lam is and haven’t yet fled to Wikipedia in search of the answer, allow me to present to you the first bit of information I encountered:

Need some context?  What you just watched is the last known video of a woman named Elisa Lam.  It was taken by a surveillance camera in an elevator of the Cecil Hotel prior to her disappearance.  A little freaked out yet?  Just wait.

Elisa Lam was a Canadian college student (of Chinese descent, though why this is of seemingly constant importance is beyond me) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.  At twenty-one years of age, she struggled with the normal things college students struggled with–identity, sense of purpose, and the unlikely prospects of a liberal arts degree leading anywhere lucrative or fulfilling.  As an outlet, she took to blogging–mostly about her struggles with mental illness (bipolar disorder) at first, and later (on Tumblr) about fashion.  At one point shortly before the events leading up to her disappearance, she announced via her blog that she was having a hard time dealing with the stresses of school and had to drop a number of classes.  When it came time to register for the Spring 2013 semester, she opted out.  That January, she left home to embark on what she called her “West Coast Tour”–a sight-seeing trip to Southern California via Amtrak and buses.  Alone.  Her itinerary was to include San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco.

By January 26, 2013, she had made it through San Diego and into Los Angeles, where she checked into a place called the Cecil Hotel.  Located moments from luxurious Skid Row, it boasts a history of violence not unlike that of most Medieval European castles:

  1. It was the last place Elizabeth Short (of the Black Dahlia murder–the actual murder, not the band) was seen alive.
  2. It was home to two serial killers: Richard Ramirez aka “The Night Stalker”, and Jack Unterweger.
  3. It was the site of the rape and murder of Goldie Osgood, the “Pigeon Lady of Pershing Square”, in 1964–a crime that was never solved.
  4. It has been the site of multiple suicides over the years–one of which went all Wile E. Coyote when a suicidal man jumped from the roof of the hotel and landed on an unsuspecting man below, killing both instantly upon impact.

So, why on earth would a young woman traveling alone ever check into a place like this, especially when we live in a world of google, youtube, and wikipedia, and so there’s no reason not to know the history of a particular location anymore?  Well, for one, the rates are and were very competitive (think bargain basement Motel 6).  The hotel was also marketed towards the weary foreign traveler, offering an olde world charm not unlike the hostels of Europe.  The lobby had also been renovated to pay homage to the Cecil’s routes as a 1920’s business hotel (causing Lam to comment in one blog post from the road that the lobby should be used for a scene in the then-upcoming film adaptation of The Great Gatsby).

While on her trip, Lam called her family everyday to let them know she was okay.  The exception to this was January 31, 2013…that day, she didn’t call her family.  Nor did she check out of the Cecil Hotel on February 1, 2013, the very day she was to leave for Santa Cruz.  Her family called the LAPD, and shortly thereafter flew to Los Angeles.  On February 2, 2013, hotel staff checked her room.  Her luggage (except for her laptop and cell phone) was still in the room, but she was gone.

For weeks, her family worked with the LAPD to try and find her.  Police dogs were taken through the hotel and onto the roof in an attempt to pick up her scent, but to no avail.  Lam’s picture was released to media outlets and circulated through the neighborhood.  Lam’s sister’s boyfriend pleaded over social media for anyone with information to come forward.  No new information surfaced.  Anyone who had seen her on January 31, 2013–hotel staff and the owner of a bookstore across the street–all said she was alone, but friendly and seemingly normal.

On February 14, 2013, the LAPD released the above-imbedded video to the public in hopes that it might encourage cooperation from someone somewhere who might have information leading to Lam’s whereabouts.  Around the same time, hotel guests began to complain about the plumbing in their rooms.  The water pressure was low, and getting lower.  At times, the water ran black, smelled weird, and had a sickeningly sweet taste to it.

On February 19, 2013, a maintenance man was sent to the roof to check the water tanks.  In what would turn out to be the worst day of this guy’s life, the maintenance man discovered both what was wrong with the water in the Cecil Hotel and where Elisa Lam had been all that time.

Apparently, she had been in the tank for weeks, and all the while, guests and customers at the hotel’s coffee shop had been…well, drinking her the entire time.  She was found completely nude, near the bottom (the tank was apparently pretty much drained by that point), with her clothes and hotel key card floating next to her.  Due to the small size of the tank’s opening (only about two feet wide) and the tank’s depth (about eight to ten feet), a hole was cut into the side of the tank to remove her body.

What happened to Elisa Lam between the night of January 31, 2013 and the morning of February 1, 2013?  How did she wind up in the water tank?  How did she die?  What’s up with her weird behavior in the elevator video?

What happened to Elisa Lam…?

I think I’ve figured that out.

At least, I think I have a few very good theories.

“The Cecil will reveal to you whatever it is you are a fugitive from.”  – Steve Erickson

Updates and Coming Attractions: Vol. 1, Issue 1

A couple of items before I get into today’s topic:

  • So, apparently it’s customary for folks to keep to some kind of schedule when writing a blog.  Though this initially escaped me, it’s a concept that makes sense–how will people know when you update if you update sporadically?  Thus, I would like to make this announcement right here, right now: I will be updating this blog at least once a week.  On what day?  It’s hard to say.  My life tends to be a whirlwind of activity, and I have several responsibilities outside of internetland…but I’m going to shoot for Mondays.  Except for this week, because today is Thursday (or, “The Day of Thor”, for all our Nordic readers/Marvel fans).  With that said, I can say that my own personal goal will be to post several times a week, whenever possible.  But Monday, consistently, from this point forward, will be a definite update day.  I might do the “Updates and Coming Attractions” thing consistently, too.  Maybe Thor’s Day is a good day for that sort of thing.
  • The reason why I didn’t update this Monday is because last week was spent preparing for the launch of the Fictosphere!  “What is the Fictosphere?” you ask.  “It’s series of fictional universes whereby characters and stories are shared between my friends–Jeanne Paulding and Mike Podgor–and myself,” I answer.  The site includes web comics, stories, artwork, videos, etc. that are products of our combined (and in some cases, solitary) attempts to keep you from blowing your brains out after a particularly difficult day at work.  You may access the site (now in its infancy) at www.fictosphere.com.  While my contribution has been strictly promotional at this point (including placing brochures and business cards at a convention over the weekend), I do plan on submitting a fair amount of content by Friday of next week (Fiction Fridays at the Fictosphere).  The Fictosphere: Universes of Entertainment for your perusal!
  • All next week is E3, so video games will likely be the predominant topic of the week.  Sunday is the 2015 Nintendo World Championships, so look forward to a review later that day–from someone who actually participated (albeit poorly) in the 1990 iteration when it came to Cleveland.
  • Elisa Lam will likely be two to three posts, with the first starting tonight.  I’ll give a summary of the story for those who aren’t familiar in the first post.  In the second, I’ll present the in-depth facts of the case and, if it’s not too long, give my own take on the case and said facts.  If it turns out to be way too long, I’ll make a third post with my impressions of the case and my own conclusions (with explanations).

World War Hello!

Good morning/afternoon/evening/night, ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Randall Malus, and I have a blog now.  This is quite a change for me, insomuch as I didn’t have a blog before–and now I do.

But just who am I?  What am I doing here?  Why am I alive?  For me to answer any of those questions (one out of three ain’t bad), a bit more background might be in order.

I’m a human college graduate from an accredited university in the Northeastern Ohio area.  I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature, and have written both professionally and unprofessionally before making this post (more so unprofessionally).  None of this matters one bit when trying to convince you to read my blog, though.

There are literally tons of blogs on the internet–and not just normal tons, but fucktonnes (which are different from normal tons primarily in that the spelling is old-timey, vaguely British, a profane).  What makes my blog so special?  Here’s a list of what I could say, but won’t!

1. I offer a different perspective on things.  What the hell does that even mean?  Everyone has a different perspective on things–at least in the minor details if not in the broad strokes.  With apologies to The Incredibles, it’s as empty a statement as saying that everyone is special (and so no one is).  A statement like that isn’t what’s going to convince you to stop looking at porn on your four-figure wank machine for five minutes to read what amounts to my own mental masturbation.

2. My interests are yours.  I could try to convince you to read my blog by making a list (within a list; “list-ception” if you will) of interests that I share in common with other homo sapiens like yourself: video games, music, books, movies, comics, puppetry, occult and forbidden knowledge, Tommy Wiseau, unsolved mysteries, urban legends, clowns, sideshow circus acts, prestidigitation and illusion, armchair social justice, crippling depression, antisocial smarm, social smarm, social antisocialism, vehicular vampirism, and indecent composure–just to name a few.

Perhaps this list would go too far, though, and convince you not only that I’m just like you, but that I am you–your own personal Tyler Durden, the idealized version of you that you’d like to show the world.  At first this would be great, because we’d be guaranteed at least two readers: us!  But then we’d start to question our sanity.  We’d begin thinking of ourselves as potentially schizophrenic, or we might start to think we have MPD…or, rather, you would.  I wouldn’t.  Because you’re the weaker of us, and always have been.  Yeah, look at you.  You can’t wait to roll over and become dormant, can you?  You know you want to.  Might as well let me take control of the wheel for awhile.  It’s up to me to make us the us that we’ve always wanted us to be.

That’s what I’d be saying if I were you.  But I’m not you, so I would never say any of that.  You should see a psychiatrist, by the way.

But, back to interests.  Mutual interests shouldn’t convince you to read this blog, because pretty much every human on earth has had, currently has, or will have those interests from the beginning of time until the end of time.

3. I tell it like it is.  While I do tell it like it is (indeed, how else can one tell “it” except for the way in which “it” is “like”) and can be pretty self-righteously obnoxious in doing so, the sad fact of the matter is that there are those who are way more practiced at being obnoxiously self-righteous than I…which is a whole different skill-set entirely.  Plus, it-like-tellers like me are a dime a dozen.  Or, at least, we were until inflation hit.  Now, you can’t get anything for a dime.  Or a dollar.  But my opinion?  I’d buy that for a dollar.  Thankfully, I don’t have to, and neither do you.  You can get as much of that as you want for free.  And “free” is exactly the it that this and every other blog on earth is like, let me tell you.

4. End of the list.  I foolishly started with numbers instead of reasons, and so 4 was added well before I started writing/plotting/planning/thinking about any of the reasons.  While I could just delete the 4 and none of you would be the wiser, I would know, dear reader.  I would know.  And I’m the one who has to be able to sleep at night.

So, what does make my blog so special?  Why should you waste your precious, ever-fleeting time in this mortal realm reading anything I’ve typed, let alone what’s on this blog?  Damn it, I feel another list coming on.  I’ll try to do better this time.

A. I like to entertain.  I like to be funny.  I find that I like the joy noise that humans make when they encounter something funny (often known as “laughter”, “chuckling”, “chortling”, or “shut up, I’m trying to work”).  That said, I realize I have a rather unique sense of humor, and so not all people reading will “get me”.  That‘s fine.  I plan on putting up a fair deal of serious content, too, as some of my interests deal with rather grave or heavy topics.  But, I will try to keep things light when appropriate.

B. I enjoy creating content.  My belief is that an artist’s passion for creation comes from this inherent need to be like God (or like a god, for our non-monotheistic friends out there).  The world is experiential.  We don’t just exist, we experience.  That’s what forms emotional attachment to our world and the things in it.  When an artist (whether a visual artist, musician, dancer, sculptor, or writer) creates, they funnel and distill their experiences–subconsciously or consciously–into new experiences, new worlds if you will, for the consumption of others.  They, essentially, become gods of their own little worlds.

Creation is addictive.  Once you get a taste for it, it’s hard to be perfectly happy doing anything else.  And my happiness in creating content is something I’d like to distill and share with my audience.  Hopefully, my passion for the topics I cover will transfer to you, dear reader, and may even launch you on your own creative journey someday.

C. I’m passionate about learning.  When I catch a topic that interests me, I often glut myself on everything I can related to said topic.  Part of the greater joy of learning is passing that knowledge onto others.  By informing others of the things I’ve learned, I feel that I can better engage the topics I enjoy discussing so much because the experience almost becomes symbiotic–new ideas and new voices are added to the discussions, thereby propagating the information already known and possibly adding new information to the mix.  Because learning is done best when the person one is learning from knows what they’re talking about, I can assure you that I will always do my best to tackle each post and each topic thoughtfully and with due diligence to research and familiarity.

D. My interests aren’t just yours, but mine.  As a human, I am not one or two interests, but many varied interests (and skills) combined and coalesced into a unique set of interpreted experiences.  While I probably like most of the things that you like, dear reader, I probably like quite a few things you don’t like–or don’t know if you like, or don’t know you could like because it was never presented to you in a way you found appealing before now.  So, by reading my work, you may find yourself connecting with a broad range of other topics, or connecting with old topics in new ways–thereby making yourself (and me, dependent upon participation) a more well-rounded person in the process.

I won’t say that reading my blog will change your life…but I will type it.

Reading my blog will change your life.  Especially once I play around with the settings and get it to look halfway decent.

And with that, it’s time get into our first topic–and one that will cover the next few posts.

Show of hands:  How many of you out there have heard of the strange case of Elisa Lam?