Mystery & Paranormal
Death of Elisa Lam: 5 Theories About What Really Happened To Her

On February 19th, 2013, the body of 21-year-old Elisa Lam was found inside a 2ft x 8ft water tank, located on the rooftop of the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Lam was a Canadian student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and the hotel staff didn’t find her disappearance suspicious as often people left without formally checking out.

However, after residents complained of low water pressure and foul-tasting water, the hotel sent a worker up to the tanks for maintenance where her body was discovered. Residents had been using this water to brush their teeth, have showers and even as drinking water for 19 days.

Worryingly, when they checked the CCTV footage, Lam appeared to be acting strangely and hiding in the lift before promptly leaving. Still, to this day, not a single person can explain how she met her fate but the theories online have grown over the years.

Here we look at the 5 potential theories that are all just as haunting as the CCTV footage itself…


Was She Murdered And Her Body Dumped In The Tank?

Many believe Elisa was murdered, although there was no evidence of foul play or anyone sighted with her that night. Further speculation claimed that the killer could have potentially been a hotel employee who would have known where to stand so they were not captured on the cameras.

The Cecil Hotel is known for attracting serial killers – Richard “The Night Stalker” Ramirez and Jack Unterweger had previously stayed at the hotel.

This theory also ties in with Elisa frantically pushing all the buttons in the elevator. Many police forces recommend this if you feel unsafe or someone if following you, Tokyo Metropolitan Police explained, “If, on the occasion that you find yourself riding alone in an elevator and feel afraid, regardless of how rude doing so may seem, immediately press all of the buttons and get out of the elevator at the nearest floor. If you wait until something happens it will already be too late.”

She Was Tormented To Death By The Dark History Surrounding Cecil Hotel

The Cecil Hotel has one of the most sinister pasts nobody can quite explain. These following events all took place within its very walls…
  • In 1947, the body of 22-year-old Elizabeth “The Black Dahlia” Short was found in a field on south North Avenue between Coliseum and West 39th Street – a 20-minute walk from the hotel. Her body had been cut in half, drained of blood, and her face slashed to give her a “smile” effect. The Cecil Hotel was the last place Short had been seen alive.
  • In 1962, two women committed suicide at the hotel by jumping from the windows. 27-year-old Pauline Otton threw herself from the ninth floor after an argument with her estranged husband. She fell 90 feet and landed on a 65-year-old man who was walking by. Both were killed instantly.
  • Another lady named Julia Moore jumped from the eighth-floor window the same year. There was no suicide note – she only had a bus ticket and a bankbook with $1800.
  • In 1985, serial killer Richard Ramirez (pictured above left) stayed in a room on the top floor of the hotel. Ramirez would leave the hotel at night, brutally butcher his victims, then remove his bloody clothes and hide them in the dumpsters at the back of the hotel. After he murdered 9-year-old Mei Leung, he disposed of her body in the basement of the hotel.
  • In 1991, Jack Unterweger (picture above right) also stayed at the hotel posing as a true-crime writer researching the murders of prostitutes. The hotel staff had no idea he had already slain seven prostitutes before moving to Los Angeles from Austria. He lured prostitutes back to the hotel, advising to use the back fire escape, then strangled them with their bras before dumping their bodies in nearby alleyways.

Had Elisa Lam looked into the dark history too much and this tormented her so much she was driven to suicide?

The Death Was A Sinister Homage To The Movie Dark Water

The 2005 horror film Dark Water and the death of Elisa Lam have so many similarities that people couldn’t help but overlook that this might have been a sinister homage. These include:

  • The main character’s name is Cecilia and Elisa died at The Cecil Hotel
  • The elevator camera in the video of Elisa is placed at the exact same angle as the footage in Dark Water
  • A child in the film gains access to the roof by going through a door that was supposed to be locked – the same way Elisa would have accessed the roof
  • The child in the film is wearing a red jacket when she falls in the water tank – the same color jacket Elisa is wearing when she was captured on camera
  • Both victims died in a water tank on a rooftop and guests complained about foul-tasting water

Does Her Online Blog Prove She Was Depressed And Feeling Suicidal?

Elisa’s blog can still be read online and her opening quote is by Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk that reads: “You’re always haunted by the idea you’re wasting your life.” She often posted about feelings of depression and suicidal thoughts.

According to the coroner’s report, medication for bipolar disorder was found in her system so she was still receiving treatment. Could she have so did she take her own life during a manic episode?

This theory isn’t a popular one with theorists as police reported there was no evidence she had taken her own life or how she could have possibly moved the water tank roof back into position after drowning herself. Also, she could have just as easily have jumped the roof is she was serious about suicide.

Elisa Lam Never Existed And She Was A Distraction From A TB Testing

Conspiracy theorists claim that the entire Elisa Lam case was a fabrication to distract from government-sponsored TB outbreak and testing. TB testing in the same area as the Cecil Hotel was named Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay or LAM-ELISA for short.

So if anyone was to search online LAM-ELISA they would be flooded with information about the strange case of Elisa Lam instead.

About the author

Cheish Merryweather is the founder of Follow on Twitter: @thecheish

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