Dr. Elias Cunningham was a professor at Bradley University, a researcher, and author. In August of 1997, he traveled to Roanoke House to do research for his new book, "a true crime novel in the vein of Helter Skelter". The primary subjects of his research were murderous nurses Miranda and Bridget Jane who in 1989 ran an assisted living facility from the house. His stay at Roanoke House led him to the brink of madness, documenting and researching paranormal activity in the house.
Personality and Appearance
In the found-footage video, he wears the standard academic uniform of suit jacket over a black turtleneck. His salt-and-pepper hair was greatly receding and, after two months living in a root cellar, his beard was long and disheveled. He appeared intelligent but spoke manically suggesting impending insanity.
Elias has a habit of expressing himself as if he was writing down the speech, relying in particular on expressions such as "fact."
Dr. Cunningham filmed the footage found by Shelby and Lee in the house's basement. It was a short, shaky hand-held video documenting Elias' tracking of a pig-headed man. A longer video was found by Matt and Shelby in a nearby root cellar. Intended as a last testament, it depicts Dr. Cunningham in the same cellar revealing that he had been hiding there for two months from the evil forces in the house. He recounted the story of sisters Miranda and Bridget, nurses who ran a hospice from the house which provided victims for their gleeful murder spree. A third video depicts Elias returning to the house where he appears to be attacked by the Piggy Man.
Whilst under attack from the Piggy Man, Elias saves Matt and Shelby by attacking the monster and then using the Croatoan spell to temporarily banish it. Elias explains the murderous past of the house to Matt and Shelby. He further explains how the blood moon works, enabling the ghosts to murder at will. The next day, Elias takes them to find Flora and Priscilla. They find Flora and Priscilla, along with the rest of the Butcher's victims. The three come under attack from the colonists before they were able to retrieve Flora, and Elias is shot three times in the chest by the colonists' arrows. Shelby and Matt flee to safety, and Elias is left behind.
After narrowly fleeing the Butcher and other Roanoke colonists, Matt and Shelby are captured by the Polk Family, who take them to their secluded barn as revenge for turning two of their children over to the police during their search for Flora. There, they find that Elias has survived his wounds, but he is severely deformed from the endeavor, having been amputated by the Polks so that they could consume his flesh. After cutting and drying his severed limbs to produce jerky, his meat is described as "spoiled", and he is quickly disposed of by having his skull bashed in, much to Matt and Shelby's horror.
- Elias Cunningham: "Despite appearances, I am not crazy! I am an academic! I am an author!"
- In the faux documentary “My Roanoke Nightmare”, professor Elias Cunningham was reenacted by William van Henderson, a fictional actor portrayed by AHS Repertory Company actor Denis O'Hare.
- A video of the real Elias Cunningham was briefly played on a television screen when Sidney Aaron James and his crew were setting up the Roanoke House to scare the cast for “Return to Roanoke”.