Elisa Lam was a young woman who died mysteriously at the Cecil Hotel in 2013 in Los Angeles. Her tragic death became fodder for conspiracy theories and Internet sleuths after police released footage of her behaving strangely in an elevator.
Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel digs into her death, the theories surrounding her disappearance and the speculations about paranormal activity at the Cecil Hotel. The first season was released on Netflix Wednesday, February 10, 2021.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Lam’s Body Was Found in a Tank That Supplied Water to the Cecil Hotel & Her Death Was Ruled Accidental
Lam, 21, was on a solo journey when she checked into the Stay on Main in Los Angeles’ skid row, a budget hostel which shares an elevator with the Cecil Hotel. She was last seen alive January 31, 2013 and reported missing. On February 19, 2013, he body was found nude in a water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel, 20 days after she failed to check out of her room and police opened their investigation. Her body was found when a hotel employee was sent to check on the water tanks, her full autopsy report says. Some guests were reporting low water pressure and murky water, Esquire reported.
The Los Angeles County Coroner ruled Lam’s death was accidental caused by drowning, and listed bipolar disorder as a significant contributing factor. On the Netflix documentary, the investigators said she had not been taking all of her prescribed medication in the days leading up to her death.
However, web sleuths questioned how she died after the elevator surveillance footage was released. They questioned how she was able to get onto the locked roof and climb a ladder to get into the tank. Internet sleuths also questioned the uncanny similarities to the 2005 film, “Dark Water.” Another conspiracy centered around a tuberculosis outbreak in skid row at the time. The government-administered test for tuberculosis was named “Lam-Elisa.”
Tales of Crime detailed another odd detail.
“The last known person to see Elisa Lam was Katie Orphan, the manager of The Last Book Store. If you perform a whois lookup of Katie’s website you will see that she has purchased domain privacy, however it gives you a post code address: V5G 4S2,” the website said. “Typing the post code into Google Maps will take you to a town in Canada, to the exact location of where Elisa Lam’s funeral was held.”
2. Lam Was Recorded on Surveillance Footage at the Cecil Hotel Shortly Before Her Mysterious Death & Disappearance
The Los Angeles Police Department released video of Lam in an elevator at the Cecil Hotel, after she was reported missing and before her body was found in a water tank. The video spurred conspiracy theories about her disappearance. In the two minute, 26 second video, she is seen wearing the same clothes found inside the tank, along with her nude body. She had been wearing a red hoodie, black shorts and sandals.
“Surveillance video of 21-year-old Elisa Lam, the Canadian woman found dead in the rooftop water tank of the Cecil Hotel, shows her acting bizarrely in the Los Angeles hotel’s elevator,” says the description of the YouTube video, posted by CBS News.
The video shows Lam enter the elevator and hit several buttons. The door does not close, and she repeatedly peeks in and out of the elevator. At one point, she seems to hide behind the elevator’s metal wall. She eventually hits more buttons on the elevator. At another point, she steps out of the elevator and moves her arms in strange motions. The video ends with Lam outside of the elevator. The doors of the elevator did not close during the video.
“it’s like she was trying to get away from something but couldn’t poor girl,” one person wrote in the comments of the YouTube video.
3. Lam’s Tumblr Account Remains Active & Was Used by LAPD in Their Investigation Into Her Death
Lam was very active on Tumblr, and nearly a decade after her death, her account remains active. You can still read Lam’s blog, nouvelle-nouveau, today. Lam posted frequently, often with more than a dozen posts every day.
On January 29, 2013, Lam wrote about her arrival in Los Angeles.
“I have arrived in Laland…and there is a monstrosity of a building next to the place I’m staying,” she wrote. “when I say monstrosity mind you I’m saying as in gaudy but then again it was built in 1928 hence the art deco theme so yes it IS classy but then since it’s LA it went on crack Fairly certain this is where Baz Lurhmann needs to film the Great Gatsby.”
She once wrote about depression, and said that if a person reveals they have depression, they should be supported and not questioned on what caused it.
She quoted author Chuck Palahniuk’s Diary on the bio of her account.
“You’re always haunted by the idea you’re wasting your life,” she wrote.
Another post spoke about potential.
“That’s the thing about potential. It was so close,” she wrote. “What could have been and didn’t happen breaks your heart.”
4. Lam Was Close With Her Sister, Sara Lam, & Her Parents Filed a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against the Cecil Hotel
Lam was close with her family and her sister, Sara, The Cinemaholic reported. Lam called her family every day as part of her routine. They reported her missing February 1, 2021, and she was last seen alive January 31, 2021. She had not responded to any messages, and she did not call home. Sara Lam detailed her sister’s mental health history to investigators, which was detailed in Elisa Lam’s autopsy report.
Lam’s parents, David and Yinna Lam, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Cecil Hotel, which was eventually dismissed by a Los Angeles Supreme Court judge. The judge ruled the hotel could not have foreseen the circumstances leading to her death. The suit claimed the hotel should be required to “inspect and seek out hazards in the hotel that presented an unreasonable risk of danger to (Lam) and other hotel guests,” which the judge determined did not apply in Lam’s case.
Lam lived with her parents in Vancouver, British Columbia, and was attending college. Cinemaholic reported Elisa Lam and Sara Lam had a special bond, and the sisters shared a love of fashion.
5. Zak Bagans of Ghost Adventures Was Inspired to Conduct a Paranormal Investigation at the Cecil Hotel After the Elevator Footage Surfaced & Questioned the Ruling in Lam’s Death
Bagans talked about his paranormal investigation at the Cecil Hotel in an exclusive interview with Heavy. He said it was the elevator footage which made him decide to investigate the hotel on Ghost Adventures, and said Lam’s death has “haunted” him.
“The elevator footage of Elisa Lam and the tragic mysterious circumstances of her death have haunted me for years. In a place like that with soooo much dark history, serial killers, devil worshipping, murder and suicides you can’t help but theorize she may have been affected by a dark unseen force,” Bagans told Heavy.
He questioned the circumstances surrounding her death and the ruling that her death was accidental due to drowning. The facts didn’t add up for him, he told Heavy.
“What stands out most for me is her behavior in the elevator, and how she ended up in a water tank with so many questions about how she could have even gotten on that roof with the access door locked and alarmed. They ruled her death accidental, but how could she have closed the heavy metal lid to the tank after she allegedly jumped in? Why did her clothes have sandy particulate in them, showing they fell to the ground… why would she go pick them back up and throw them in the tank? If she was having a manic episode from her bipolar disorder, how could she have performed such a calculated journey to end up in the roof-top tank?” he said.