The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam

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There is a myriad of mysteries surrounding Elisa Lam’s death. Moreover, her death brings up a plethora of questions like why was she acting weird in the elevator? How did she end up in the cistern? Was Elisa Lam’s death a result of something paranormal? As one digs deeper into the events of her death, one ends up with more questions than answers.

Let us read into The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam

1) Who was Elisa Lam?

Elisa Lam was a Canadian student studying at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

A picture of Elisa Lam during student days at University of British Columbia (LAPD)
Elisa Lam during student days at University of British Columbia (LAPD)

2) Arrival at Cecil Hotel

She arrived in Los Angeles on January 26, 2013, and checked into the infamous Cecil Hotel after two days. She had travelled via the Amtrak train and was headed to Santa Cruz as part of her solo trip to the West Coast.

A picture of The Cecil Hotel
The Cecil Hotel

3) Odd Behaviour

Initially, she shared a room with other people on the hotel’s fifth floor, but her roommates complained that Elisa Lam displayed odd behaviour. Subsequently, Elisa moved into a single room.

4) Her parents were wary of the trip

Elisa Lam’s parents were wary of the trip and did not like that their daughter was travelling solo. However, she assured them of her safety and promised to call every day. Hence, her parents found it odd that she didn’t call them on January 31.

5) Elisa Lam’s parents contacted the L.A Police

On January 31, 2013, Elisa was supposed to check out of her hotel, but her parents hadn’t heard from her. Worried about their daughter’s safety they contacted the Los Angeles Police. The police searched the hotel but to no avail. A week later, the police sent out flyers and her image was posted online.

6) The infamous elevator footage

This particular surveillance footage takes us further down the rabbit’s hole, the footage in question shows Elisa Lam just a while before her death. The police released the elevator footage on February 15, and the bizarre contents of the footage garnered worldwide attention.

The footage is grainy and it showed Elisa Lam entering the elevator. She then proceeds to click several buttons of the elevator and steps into the far right corner. She then peeps out of the door, looks to the right and left and then quickly jumps back into the corner. The door still remains open, subsequently, she goes and stands outside and makes wild gestures with her hands. She then stands in the left corner towards the wall and walks away, finally the elevator door closes.

Many viewers found this footage unsettling and bizarre to watch. Since its posting, the video has been analysed extensively, some say she was hiding from someone, some say she was on drugs while others argue that the footage was altered to hide the identity of her assailant.

The picture of the screengrab from the elevator footage of Elisa Lam
A screengrab from the elevator footage of Elisa Lam

7) The discovery of the body of Elisa Lam

On February 21, 2013, Elisa Lam’s body was discovered in the water tank of the hotel. Prior to the discovery, the hotel residents complained of low water pressure and an unusual taste in the water. This prompted the hotel to send Santiago Lopez, the maintenance worker to go check the water tank.

There he discovered the 5’4″ naked body of Elisa Lam. Subsequently, the water tank had to be completely cut open from the side to take out her lifeless body.

A picture of  Rescuers removing Lam's body from the water tank (KTLA)
Rescuers removing Lam’s body from the water tank (KTLA)

8) The autopsy report

The coroner ruled her death as ‘accidental drowning’. A toxicology test was conducted however it was incomplete because not enough of her blood was preserved. According to the report, she did not have any drugs in her body except for her prescription medication.

Additionally, the autopsy report shines a light on her mental illness, stating that Elisa Lam suffered from Bipolar Disorder.

9) The internet gives its two cents

A part of Elisa Lam’s toxicology report was posted online and one Reddit sleuth gave a wise insight and summarised the report. He pointed out that 1) Lam had consumed at least one antidepressant that day; 2) She had consumed her second antidepressant and mood stabilizer recently but not on the same day and; 3) she had not taken her anti-psychotic medication recently.

It is important to note that antidepressants are to be taken with caution while treating Bipolar Disorder. If the medication is not taken properly it can induce manic side effects. Many people have latched on to this detail and believe it to be a likely explanation for her odd behaviour.

A picture of ELisa Lam
Elisa Lam

10) How did she end up in the cistern?

The water tank was on the roof of the hotel and it took a lot of effort to get up there. As noted from the testimony of Santiago Lopez who said that he had to take an elevator to the 15th floor of the Cecil hotel, following which he took a staircase to the roof. After which he had to turn off the rooftop alarm and then climb up to the platform where the hotel’s four water tanks were located. After which he had to climb another ladder to reach the main water tank. And that is where he discovered the body of Elisa Lam. In all, it seems difficult for Lam to reach the water tank all on her own and that too without anyone noticing.

11) Did anyone see Lam before her demise?

Before her death, Lam made a visit to a local shop called ‘The Last Bookstore’ and the shop’s owner Katie Orphan was one of the last people to see her alive. She stated that she remembered Lam buying books and music for her family back home. Further stating that Lam had plans to return home and reconnect with her family.

A picture of graduation day
Elisa Lam with a friend during graduation

12) Elisa Lam’s parents file a lawsuit

Her parents David and Yinna Lam filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Cecil Hotel, stating that the hotel had the responsibility of inspecting and seeking out hazards that could put Lam and other hotel guests at an unreasonable risk of danger.

The hotel fought back stating that they could not have possibly anticipated that Lam would get into the water tank. Additionally, the hotel’s Chief Engineer Pedro Tovar also made it clear that its difficult to access the hotel’s rooftop without triggering the alarms. Only the hotel staff could properly deactivate the alarm. Moreover, the sound of the alarm would reach the front desk and the top two floors of the hotel.

Eventually, Elisa Lam’s death was ruled as “unforeseeable” because it took place in an area where guests were not allowed. The case was then dismissed.

Today, her death is classified as an unsolved mystery.

13) The sinister Cecil Hotel

The Cecil Hotel has a sinister and checkered past. Since opening its doors in 1927, at least 16 different grisly deaths have taken place at the hotel. Numerous paranormal activities have taken place as the hotel as well.

Moreover, the hotel also hosted notorious serial killer Richard Ramirez a.k.a the Night Stalker, who lived on the top floor of the building in 1985. The story goes that after killing his victim, he used to dump his bloody clothes outside the hotel and then enter inside in nude. Six years later another serial killer Jack Unterweger also took up a room at the hotel.

The Cecil Hotel has also witnessed numerous suicides and is now regarded as the haunted hotel of L.A. It subsequently rebranded itself as ‘Stay on Main’ in an effort to distance itself from its sinister past.

A picture of the Cecil Hotel
The sinister Cecil Hotel

14) Elisa Lam’s death in popular culture

Elisa Lam’s death garnered worldwide interest and there has been a lot of speculation about her death. It subsequently inspired many pop culture adaptations such as the fifth season of American Horror Story: Hotel and ABC’s How to get away with murder.


Enjoyed the above article? You may also enjoy The Legend of the Green Man: Raymond Robinson



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