The Most Terrifying Stories Involving Elevators

There’s something universally off-putting about elevators as a concept. Every day, countless people elect to stand in a metal box suspended precariously over a looming abyss. Perhaps people think this is safe because elevators seem to run on magic, but when the magic runs out, the results aren't pretty. 

Reading about terrifying elevator stories should make everyone pause and think about the risks they take on each time they step into one of these mechanical deathtraps. Sure, falling elevators are something to worry about, but that's just the tip of the grisly iceberg. 

Most elevator horror stories come from modern times, but people have always had suspicions about the contraptions. When elevators were first invented, many users were skeptical and some even had episodes of panic upon entering.

Early elevators had operators, as it made people feel like there was someone in charge of the machine when, in reality, all they did was push a button. Now, without even the facade of a human director, elevator-related carnage often feels like an inevitability. 

  • A Terrifying Fall Ended With An Amazing Story Of Survival

    In 1945, Betty Lou Oliver was working as an elevator operator at the Empire State Building. On July 28 of that year, a plane flew into the building, leaving her with serious burns. Unfortunately, her ordeal wasn't over. To get to safety, she was put on an elevator to descend the 75 stories between herself and the ground. Midway down, the elevator cables snapped and her car hurdled towards the hard floor of the basement.

    She survived because the snapped cables landed beneath the elevator, creating a kind of spring to soften her drop. As of 2018, she holds the Guinness World Record for the longest elevator fall ever survived. 

  • A Spurned Worker Turned An Elevator Into A Flaming Deathtrap

    In 2011, a fired handyman got revenge on his former employer by turning an elevator into a deathtrap. Jerome Isaac was hired by Deloris Gillespie to do odd jobs around her Prospect Heights, NY, apartment. But when Gillespie caught him taking her stuff, she quickly let him go. 

    Apparently, Isaac wanted revenge and decided to use an elevator as a key part of his plot. One day Isaac ambushed Gillespie in her building's elevator, drenching her in a flammable material then lighting her on fire with a makeshift incendiary device.

    After setting Gillespie ablaze, Isaac threw more accelerant on her to make sure the job was done. She did not survive the ordeal, and authorities later caught Isaac and charged him for the slaying.

  • A Woman Succumbed To Starvation After The Elevator She Was In Stalled

    One of the most terrifying questions to ask in an elevator is, “What if the doors never open?” Sadly, a woman in China realized this fate. In March 2016, a 43-year-old woman was found lifeless in an elevator in Xi'an, China. Her body was discovered months after the elevator she was on got stuck between floors on January 30.

    Technicians allegedly yelled down the shaft to see if anyone was inside the car. After they got no response, they turned the electricity off, unaware a person was indeed trapped.

    When they returned to fix the machine on March 1, they found her remains. 

  • Just Before She Drowned, Elisa Lam Had An Episode Of Panic In An Elevator
    Video: YouTube

    Just Before She Drowned, Elisa Lam Had An Episode Of Panic In An Elevator

    The case of Elisa Lam has become something of an urban legend. Her passing inspired a plotline for American Horror Story, and there is interest in a film about her. In 2013, Lam's body turned up clothless in a water tank on top of a seedy LA hotel. While that is mysterious enough, the creepy part comes from the elevator security camera footage captured the night she passed. 

    The video, which went viral on YouTube, shows her descending into a kind of mania. She gets in the elevator, looks closely at the buttons, then hides in the corner. Afterward, she jumps out of the machine and acts like someone is after her.

    Illicit substances were ruled out after a test performed during her autopsy came back negative. While specialists determined she had bipolar disorder, they concluded it was not the main cause of her demise.

    Some have speculated she was possessed; others think one of the specters that haunts the hotel caused her to meet her end. 

  • A Nun Was Trapped In An Elevator For Four Nights

    An 85-year-old nun got stuck in an elevator for multiple days. One fateful night in 2011, Sister Margaret Geary was alone in her Baltimore convent. Her sisters were off attending a convention, so when the convent's elevator was stuck, there was no one to hear her cries for help. 

    Sister Geary survived the ordeal, though it took four days for help to arrive. After realizing her cell phone had no service, she decided to ask God for assistance, and it seems as though her prayers were answered.

    Thankfully, she also had celery sticks, cough drops, and a container of water, so she wasn't totally without food during the ordeal. 

  • A Doctor Was Decapitated After He Got Caught In The Doors

    Elevator doors often seem to close without warning. Despite modern safety sensors, it's easy to imagine a rogue set of doors causing harm or even someone's demise. Unfortunately, what happened to Dr. Hitoshi Christopher Nikaidoh sounds like a worst-case scenario. 

    In 2003, one of Dr. Nikaidoh's colleagues held a departing elevator for him. The contraption was known to have mechanical problems, but no "out of order" sign was present that day. As he was walking into the elevator, the doors suddenly shut, trapping him between the hallway and elevator interior. 

    When the elevator started lurching upward, there was little Dr. Nikaidoh could do but wait. It decapitated him, then suffered a mechanical breakdown and stalled between floors. The elevator passenger was trapped with his severed head for over an hour until he was rescued.