What happened to Elisa Lam? A look at theories behind her mysterious death at LA's infamous Cecil Hotel

What happened to Elisa Lam? A look at theories behind her mysterious death at LA's infamous Cecil Hotel
Elisa Lam as seen in 'Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel' (Netflix)

Elisa Lam, a young university student, went on a break at the beginning of 2013 and traveled to the West Coast alone. After spending some time in San Diego, she came to the “La La Land” - Los Angeles, California, to have some fun, but the trip ended dramatically or rather mysteriously. The Canadian was staying at the infamous Hotel Cecil, where dozens of suicides, overdose and murders had happened, while in LA, Cecil had in the past even hosted serial killers like - “The Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger.

Lam was last seen inside the hotel on February 1, 2013, inside an elevator. The surveillance footage of the elevator showed her behaving quite weirdly. She appeared to be acting erratically in the elevator, which included pressing its buttons, walking in and out of the elevator and apparently trying to hide from someone or something. After that, no trace of Lam was seen and weeks after her naked dead body was found inside a water supply cistern on the hotel roof. Though her death was ruled an accidental drowning, several answers left unanswered, like how Lam reached the water tank without being seen by any hotel staff or captured in CCTV camera, why she was behaving abnormally inside the elevator and many more.


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Over the years, a lot of theories have surfaced explaining Lam’s mysterious disappearance and death. One of the most common is that she took her life. As per the young woman’s Tumblr blog, she was suffering from depression and felt not being herself some days. Based on that, many claimed that the day when she vanished, that day might be her low day and consequently, she took her life. Another theory supports accidental drowning, stating her bipolar disorder. In her blog, Lam had admitted that she was bipolar and based on that many think that she had a manic episode causing hallucinations and she drowned.

Some even speculated that Lam was high on some drugs that led to her death. According to reports, a few self-proclaimed body language experts claimed that the student’s body language inside the elevator resembled someone using narcotics. Another bizarre theory in the list is she was the victim of some “creep”, who abducted her and then murdered her before hiding the body in the water tank. When her remains were found, there were no clothes on her, but her clothes were found with her and her phone was missing. People have even cast doubt that maybe some hotel employee was behind her disappearance and death.

'Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel' (Netflix)

That hotel staffer was probably aware that Lam was alone and had access to her room. Also, the “killer” was one of the members of the hotel, they had keys to the roof and the alarm code and was well aware of where to stand to avoid the camera. However, one of the weirdest theories related to Lam’s death is that she was tortured by “ghosts”' at the hotel. Considering Cecil has a dark history since its opening in the 1920s, some believed that “ghosts” of those people who died inside the premises tormented her. Some said an evil spirit was following her when she was inside the elevator while some claimed she was possessed by a “ghost” that encouraged her to the suicide.

The strange case of Lam is the subject of Netflix’s latest offering, ‘'Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel', which will premiere Wednesday, February 10, at 12 am PST.

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