"Good evening, and welcome to The Truth Unearthed...your only source of sanity in a 'paranormal' world. As always, I'm your host, Martin Heiss—and here with me is the returning Alec Melnitz. Tonight we'll examine the latest of New York's many mysteries. This one comes to us from the World Wide Web...stay tuned, and stay alert. This is The Truth Unearthed."
Martin Heiss's show (entering its sixth season) is filmed in a dusky, Ripley-esque office. Countless spooky curios frame the man himself. (His co-star sits off to the side.) Martin talks to the camera in a low voice. Never without his characteristic hat and cane, his countenance is like a familiar old relative, back from his worldly travels. That's how Martin captivates his audience.
(Some of his fans call him Uncle Heiss. A small subculture call him Daddy, but we don't talk about those people.)
This episode is one of Martin Heiss's last—it's filmed just weeks before his untimely demise. The theme song plays. The office fades back in. Martin Heiss introduces his show.
"Three months ago, a video was leaked from the closed-circuit cameras of the Mercado hotel." A picture of the facade appears. "The Internet's full of these 'found footage' viral sensations...and now it looks like the Mercado's the latest victim. Established in the twenties, it's one of the fanciest joints on 26th. It's said to have many unexplained deaths attached to it...right, Alec?"
"That's right, and even more unsubstantiated claims. The amount of urban legends probably DOUBLE the amount of unsolved cases—"
"Yes. Like any hotel. This video's spread like wildfire in a very short time. The Youtube original's got over a million hits. A modern urban legend, really—and it's easy to see why. Let's take a look."
The video fades in. It's grainy, low-quality, and without any sound. Just an empty elevator...then a blur of dark hair enters, slams into the opposite wall, and cowers in a forward corner. Her movements are jerky. Alien. She comes out of nowhere. She waits—frozen—for a second, then frantically starts pressing buttons, one hand wound in her hair.
"Nothing captured on any auxiliary cameras alludes to what this girl's running from...or how she got into the hotel." While the elevator starts its journey up, the show turns back to Martin Heiss. "While she's been identified by her sister, the guest manifesto never included her name. None of the staff remember seeing her. And you'd think someone would remember her, with what she does next."
The mystery woman's pacing. Practically shaking. Then she looks up at some sound. Hiding in that forward corner, it's like she's expecting a blow. The elevator doors slowly open (but the angle of the camera doesn't show the hallway floor). So, so hesitantly, she examines the outside. Twitching, motioning, and mumbling to things that aren't there, the girl waits for the doors to close again. They don't.
The lights flicker, just barely caught by the camera. The woman looks up; mystified. It's easy to see her through the grainy camera and think she's unhinged. It's easy to forget she's a person.
She darts in and out. Another camera angle catches her looking around an empty hall. There's nothing there to be afraid of. But she moves like she's dodging invisible things. The word on everyone's mind, seeing this display, is "ghosts".
The nameless Asian woman wanders in and out. It seems none of the buttons work. Finally, she ventures into the hallway, leaning on a wall. And she's gone.
A few more shots trace her running—stumbling—stealing through abandoned hallways. The time stamp reads 3:14 AM—the witching hour. The video's delegated to a corner of the screen as Martin and his co-star discuss what's happening.
"Some obvious electrical interference there." Alec Melnitz starts.
"It's hard to tell what's really happening—but the thing that's got everybody buzzing is the end here."
With Martin Heiss's voice-over, the video continues, full-frame.
The mystery girl's taking off down a series of halls.
It's like she hears someone behind her; blindly, she rounds a corner.
A few more camera angles are shown. Other second-floor hallways. The grand staircase. The front doors. They're all silent, they're all still.
The video fades away.
"That's the last time Anastasia Chen was seen alive." Martin says gravely. "In a police report released by the NYPD, she was positively identified—and no, she had no reason to be there. According to her family, she'd been missing for quite some time."
"The police failed to solve the mystery?" Alec asks, a scripted question.
"Yes—after a short investigation, no sign of Anastasia Chen was found. But they DID turn up an interesting fact about the Mercado—"
"What's that, Martin?"
"—Their security system hadn't been updated since the '70s. There are enough blind spots on those cameras someone could get around totally undetected."
(Martin Heiss forgets to mention most of those 'blind spots' were behind doors that could only be opened with a staff card.)
"And the elevator, what's—what happened with that?" Alec asks.
"Well, digging a little deeper into hotel records, it turns out the Mercado had a host of electrical problems all that week. Starting that night, in fact. Remember, this is a very old hotel." Martin addresses the camera again. "And now, I know what you're all thinking...what about the girl?"
Nán, actually nearing her thirties, appears in the corner again—pacing in the elevator, caught the limbo that would be her legacy.
"Missing since her college days, suddenly she turns up at a five-star hotel, of all places—and disappears into the ether just as quick. Where did she come from? What was she doing there? What happened to her? Those have been the questions on everyone's mind…but not everything is as it appears."
For a moment, Nán is full-frame again, frozen. Dark hair. Dark circles around her eyes. A pretty mystery, a sympathetic picture, a China doll for Martin Heiss to play with.
"Sometimes the truth is buried only inches under the surface! It took my team of researchers and I no time at all to uncover the truth. Anastasia Chen's no stranger to trespassing in hotels—this girl's a paranoid and dangerous schizophrenic!"
The still frame in the corner changes. Martin Heiss could've chosen any of the pictures on Nán's social media. One of her studying, or smiling with friends, or at Disneyworld with her family...the picture that represents her on the Truth Unearthed was from the time she was processed by the NYPD for trespassing. She could be the monster Martin Heiss was describing. (And he's describing a fictitious kind of schizophrenia.)
"It's no wonder she's jumping at shadows here, is it? NYU records state she lost her scholarship for "withdrawal from academics". And it took some prying, but the family admitted at long last, she's been on the streets—not locked up, like some would suggest."
"So the behavior on the video—"
"Was nothing more than one woman's insanity."
A society saturated with Hollywood's horror stories would believe that. No investigation is held. No public vigil. After Martin Heiss 'debunked' it, the video fades into obscurity.
"I'll tell you one thing—"
"What's that, Martin?"
"The most dangerous thing in that hotel is that schizo."