I don’t think I’d be wrong to say that most people who are into horror are also aware of this young woman who died under mysterious circumstances at the Cecil Hotel in California a few years back. I personally remember when the body was discovered. The reason being that I was watching CNN and they talked about a hotel where the water tasted funny. It was then they found out that a body was in one of the water cisterns at the top of the hotel. The body of Elisa Lam. The reason I remember this so clearly is I am all to familiar with urban legends surrounding finding bodies in water tanks or cisterns, in this exact manner. Water tastes funny, people investigate, and bam it’s a body. Until that point I had always thought it was an urban legend (even if I also agreed that it was possible to happen). I hadn’t ever done more research beyond “it’s possible” but had never heard a plausible event of it happening. It was odd, to say the least, but from that point they didn’t exactly have a ton of information so I forgot about it.
Elisa Lam was a student visiting at the Cecil hotel on break. Something she was calling her “West Coast Tour” and had been posting pictures of her trip on social media sites, especially her tumblr blog. She was traveling alone using Amtrak and city busses, first she visited San Diego and then headed on to Los Angeles. That’s where she was last seen alive.
The Cecil Hotel
This place alone has an interesting backstory of which I’ll give a brief summary and I might do a more in depth article on later. This isn’t a “nice” place. Hasn’t been for a while. There is a long history of deaths and supernatural occurrences (reportedly). Drug addicts, criminals, and murderers have stayed in this hotel over the years. It doesn’t even seem to be uncommon for people to die there, just die. It has a very long history of being a shady place.
Elizabeth Short (The Black Dahlia) was a resident here back in the day. She’s one of the most well known unsolved murder victims in the area, possibly even the country. A few movies have been made about her, only some of them good.
Serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger also held residence at the Cecil hotel before their ultimate convictions.
Even reports of a woman throwing her new born baby out of the window (only to have the body discovered on the roof of another building later). The mother, Dorothy Jean Purcell was convicted then later found not guilty by reason of insanity.
I’m not someone who readily believes in ghosts, hauntings, or anything like that. I do have somewhat of a belief in negative energy though, especially gathered in a specific place. Not that I believe it can really do anything or cause people to do anything but I can say that with all the bad shit that has happened at this hotel, maybe there is something to the idea? This is just a small portion of it but it will help give some idea of where Elisa Lam was in her final week alive.
The Security Video:
It wasn’t long after the discovery of the body that a viral video started to spread. This video is of Elisa on an elevator in the Cecil Hotel behaving oddly. Some say it looks like she’s being followed, others say it looks like she’s playing a game. There is an “elevator game” that is said to be played (it’s an Asian horror type game) and with how she presses the buttons some believe it may have something to do with that.
More plausible theories include her having a manic episode (she had mental health issues) or reactions to medications which inevitably led to her suicide/drowning. There are some problems with this, though.
The very first problem is that despite being Bipolar and having depression, Elisa had no history of suicidal ideation. She was on a combination of meds but this apparently was being kept secret by her family (obviously up until her death). There seems to be no reason why Elisa would commit suicide after having no history of such behavior. The death was ruled as “accidental drowning” but with bipolar as a factor which seems to indicate that the bipolar disorder led to her demise in some fashion.
The toxicology report was normal and consistent with the prescribed medications she had with her and no recreational drugs or alcohol were found in her system. It didn’t seem this was a case of either lack of taking medication or taking too many medications to make her become disoriented and loopy.
Even if we could attribute the behavior to a manic episode or some sort of psychotic break, Elisa was able to access the roof via doors that were locked and only employees had keys too. One of them even had an alarm attached to it that would go off if the door was opened without sufficient permission.
Even if we could bypass that by saying that maybe the doors weren’t locked and an employee left them open for some reason, there’s almost no possible way she could have gotten into the cisterns herself. They are free standing with no ladder and the caps on them weigh a ton. There is almost no physical way a girl her size would have been able to move one enough to get in, then close it back on top of herself. Not alone at least.
There are plenty of questions as to how and why but no real answers. There have, of course, been lawsuits. Not only by the family in case of wrongful death but by guests of the hotel as well. The people drinking the water which contained the body of a dead girl for about a week. It has been argued that Elisa could have possibly been on illegal drugs in the elevator video and due to the process of being in the water, the toxicology report wouldn’t have found them. In the autopsy report, a rape kit and finger nail scraping was done but they have not released any results of those kits to the public and the status of them (or the evidence found or not found in those kits) is unknown.
My own, personal theory, has a lot to do with the possibility of Elisa believing that she was being pursued by someone due to a manic episode or a psychotic break. Bipolar disorder can do amazing things to the mind. I also theorize that she wasn’t taking her medication properly, and/or skipping doses. Not so much on purpose but more because she was on a trip and may have been distracted or inconvenienced to take them properly. Which does happen. Either she skipped them all together and only took some, or tried to double up a dose in order to “catch up”. It’s not implausible to think that. This could have led to an altered state of mind.
Even if this is what I personally believe, it would not and could not explain how she got up on the roof, how no one heard alarms go off, and how she some how got in that tank. There are openings on the top of the tanks but too small for her to fit through. She wouldn’t have even been able to reach them entirely alone if she could. This is a situation where it screams someone else was involved. An employee? A random man who some how had the keys to those doors (or woman)? I don’t think it was supernatural, despite the hotel history. I do think that the hotel is shady as all fuck and either locks were broken or keys were just real easy to steal (From employees or guests).
In this situation, it’s possible that due to her mental state she was taken advantage of in some way. She was scared, manic, delusional, paranoid (or any combination of this). She fell in with some shady people (or a person) who for some reason aided in her death. I do remember reports of her clothes being removed and neatly folded by the cistern on the roof which indicates some sort of premeditation. I do not know how accurate my memories of those reports are. What I can say is that there had to have been more than one person involved for some reason and they quite possibly aren’t even an employee at the hotel. Just someone with access. This case will either forever remain cold or someone will speak up. It’s been years and they haven’t yet, so I wouldn’t hold my breath.
There are some good theory videos out there ranging from very plausible to “no way that fucking happened) but here are some of my favorites which I think take a more logical approach to what possibly could have happened and skip all the mumbo jumbo about ghosts and demons.
- Video alleging the CCTV tape was altered for some reason (possibly to hide the identity whoever may be following her)
- A good break down of the footage of Elisa Lam, all the videos are good but this one was the one that caught my eye first.
- Break down of the Autopsy report as well (by the same BrainScratch Guy)
- Article about probable (and improbable) theories on her death
- Interesting discussion thread on reddit about this specific case with many details being spoken and disputed.