The Ersatz Elevator

The Ersatz Elevator

infobox Book |
name = The Ersatz Elevator
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Lemony Snicket (pen name of Daniel Handler)
illustrator = Brett Helquist
cover_artist = Brett Helquist
country = United States
language = English
series = "A Series of Unfortunate Events"
genre = Fantasy novel
publisher = HarperCollins
release_date = March 2001
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (hardback & paperback)
pages = 259 pp (first edition, hardback)
isbn = ISBN 0064408647 (first edition, hardback)
preceded_by = The Austere Academy
followed_by = The Vile Village

"The Ersatz Elevator" is the sixth novel in the book series "A Series of Unfortunate Events" by Daniel Handler under the pseudonym of Lemony Snicket. The Baudelaires are sent to live with the wealthy Esmé and Jerome Squalor.

Plot summary

As the Baudelaire children walk with Mr. Poe to their new home on 667 Dark Avenue, which is literally dark due to the fact that there are giant trees blocking out sunlight (Because at the moment light is "out"). The children and Mr. Poe find their way to through the gloom by being directed by the door man. Mr. Poe does not go with them to meet their new guardians because he must go on a three month helicopter into the mountains to find the Quagmire triplets. When the Baudelaires enter the apartment building, they are dismayed by the fact that the elevators have been closed down and that there are many, many, many stairs to climb. When they get to the top, Jerome Squalor welcomes the children in to the penthouse. He offers them aqueous martinis, which is simply water with a olive in it served in a fancy glass, and introduces them to his wife Esmé Squalor who is a very "in" person and the city's sixth most important financial adviser. She is obsessed with what is "in" and "out," (Currently, orphans, dark and aqueous martinis are "in", while tools, elevators and light are "out"). Esmé presents the children with "in" pinstriped suits, overriding Jerome's suggestion that the children be allowed to choose their own clothing, but Jerome doesnt say anything because he despises to argue, and sends them off to the terribly "in" restaurant, the Café Salmonella. She remains in the penthouse to discuss the "In" Auction with Gunther, the auctioneer.

The Baudelaires recognize Gunther as Count Olaf, despite his attempt to disguise his eyebrow with a monocle and high boots to disguise the eye tattoo on his ankle. Despite their protestations, Jerome takes the children to Café Salmonella. Jerome believes the children are being xenophobic and dismisses their fears of Gunther.

The children are left alone in the penthouse the next day when Esmé and Jerome head off to pick up the new "in" drink, parsley soda. They search the penthouse for Gunther, find nothing, and decide to look for him in the other apartments by walking down to the lobby and listening at each door, but with no success.

Klaus notices that there is one elevator on each floor except for the top floor which has two. The children investigate and find one is an ersatz elevator--there is no elevator but just an empty shaft. They climb down the shaft, using an ersatz rope of Violet's design (she uses cords, ties, and curtains), to find that Quagmire triplets are trapped in a cage at the bottom of the shaft. The Quagmires say Gunther/Olaf is planning to smuggle them out of the city by hiding them in an object in the "In" auction, which one of his associates will bid on. The Baudelaires plan to attempt opening the Quagmire's cages by creating some ersatz blowtorches (three pokers heated in the penthouse's ovens) but when they return they find that Olaf has spirited the Quagmires away already. They return, dispirited, to the penthouse. Klaus finds a Lot #50, V.F.D. in the auction catalog. Esmé pretends to believe the children's story about Olaf's plot to kidnap the Quagmires, but when they show her the ersatz elevator, she pushes them down the empty shaft. They land halfway down in a net.

Sunny climbs up the shaft with her razor sharp teeth, gets their ersatz rope and jumps back down into the net. Sunny bites a hole in the net, they attach the rope to the pegs that hold up the net and climb down. They travel along the hallway at the bottom of the shaft, using Violet's ersatz welding torches for light, only to find that it is a dead end. Pounding on the "ceiling" reveals that it is in fact a trap door; the children escape through it only to find themselves in the charred remains of the Baudelaire Mansion, their home at the beginning of the series.

They rush to Veblen Hall, the location of the auction, and join the crowd already there. The auction has begun, and Gunther and Esmé are on the stage auctioning off Lot #46. The children ask Jerome and Mr. Poe to buy them Lot #50 as a present. Mr. Poe and Jerome back down but Sunny bids 1,000 dollars on it and wins. The Baudelaires rip open the box only to reveal Very Fancy Doilies. "Gunther" slips on the doilies and is revealed as Count Olaf when his boots and monocle fly off, revealing his eyebrow and tattoo. He and Esmé flee, pursued by the audience, but the pursuers. The doorman is revealed as The Hook-Handed Man, and the Quagmires are hidden in the red herring statue. Although Jerome wants to keep the Baudelaires, he insists on taking them far away. They refuse this, however, because they want to rescue the Quagmires. The story ends when Jerome is forced to give them up, because he is too cowardly to help them, Mr Poe is calling a Vietnamese restaurant instead of the police and the three children sit on the stairs of the Hall.

On the last illustration there is a crow, foreshadowing The Vile Village.

Cultural references and literary allusions

*The Café Salmonella is a reference to either the Salmonella bacteria or the infection that can result when people eat food contaminated with the bacteria.
*The Crying of Lot 49 is a novel by Thomas Pynchon in which a set of rare stamps are sold in Lot 49 of an auction.
*Esmé Gigi Geniveve Squalor's name might be a reference to "Nine Stories" by J. D. Salinger. One the of the stories is called "For Esmé - with Love and Squalor". Jerome is also J. D. Salinger's actual first name, as it is also the name of Esmé's husband. He has the initials J.S., which is a recurring acronym in the series. Her middle names may be references too. Gigi may be a reference to the grande cocette, as well as Esmé's love of Count Olaf (not her husband). Geniveve may refer to Coya Knutson.
*The opening discussion of nervous versus anxious is reminiscent of The Giver written by Lois Lowry.
*The Verne Invention Museum is said to be located in town, a reference to Jules Verne.
*Akhmatova Book Store is also referenced as located in the town, a reference to a Russian poet.
*Pincus Hospital, we learn, is where Sunny was born. This is an ironic reference to Gregory Goodwin Pincus, inventor of the contraceptive pill.
*Gunther, Olaf's disguise, may refer to the ancient King of Burgundy, Gunther.
*Jerome Squalor, when discussing xenophobia, mentions Galileo and Jun'ichirō Tanizaki.
*There are 1849 windows in 667 Dark Avenue. 1849 is the year in which Edgar Allan Poe died.
*"Armani", another one of Sunny's utterances, is a reference to Armani, an expensive clothing brand.
* 667 Dark Avenue is one number away from 666, a number often associated with evil.
* Veblen Hall, site of the auction of mostly useless goods, may be a reference to Thorstein Veblen, sociologist, who coined the phrase "conspicuous consumption".
*When the Baudelaires first climb the stairs to the penthouse, they overhear a woman say "Let them eat cake". This quote is attributed to Marie Antoinette.
*In the final image, a crow flies overhead, foreshadowing The Vile Village.

pecial Editions


"A Series of Unfortunate Events No.6: The Ersatz Elevator or, Salmon!" will be a paperback rerelease of The Ersatz Elevator, designed to mimic Victorian penny dreadfuls. The book will include approximately five new illustrations, an 11-part comic by Michael Kupperman entitled "The Cafe with a Theme", and a gossip column written by Lemony Snicket, along with other additions.

Esme is described as a great actor for dragging the children into her evil lair.


* Russian: " _ru. Липовый лифт", Azbuka, 2004, ISBN 5-352-00952-1

*Lot #49 is one with the Quagmires in it.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries: