This post, especially the surveillance video at the end, will unnerve you. Make your own judgment as to what happened to Elisa Lam, but note that the title of this post is “What killed Elisa Lam,” not “Who killed Elisa Lam”.
On February 19, 2013, the body of Elisa Lam (pic above), a 21-year-old college student from Vancouver, Canada, was found in a gigantic water tank on the roof of Cecil Hotel, a rundown hotel in Los Angeles’ tenderloin district which marketed itself as cheap lodging for international tourists but also rented rooms to long-term residents.
The young woman had traveled alone to California for tourism, arriving on January 27. Reportedly in daily contact with her parents in Vancouver, Lam was last seen by hotel employees on January 31, which meant her body had been in the water tank for more than two weeks.
Indeed, for two weeks guests at the Cecil Hotel had complained of low water pressure and a foul taste in the water. After the discovery of Lam’s body, L.A. County health officials at first issued a do-not-drink order. After conducting two tests of the water, officials declared the water was safe from a “microbiological standpoint.” Chlorine in the water probably killed any bacteria in the tank where Lam’s body was found.
On June 20, 2013, Los Angeles Coroner’s Lt. Fred Corral said Lam’s body had no signs of trauma indicating foul play, and ruled her death “an accident with bipolar disorder listed as a significant condition,” without elaborating what “significant condition” meant. Toxicology tests found nothing that contributed to her death. Authorities have not said how they believe Lam got into the tank. She had simply ”accidentally drowned.”
But as you can see from the pictures below of the hotel’s water tanks, how Lam could have climbed up to the top of the 8-foot tall, 4-foot diameter tank, pushed aside the lid, “accidentally” fell into the tank, then put the lid back on and “accidentally drowned” defies a rational explanation. For an assailant to drag her body up to the top of the tank would be even more difficult.
The only ways to get to the roof are via a fire escape and a locked door to which only employees have access. The door is equipped with an alarm system that notifies hotel personnel if someone is on the roof.
The hotel has a checkered and rather spooky history, including:
- “Night Stalker” serial killer Richard Ramirez, who died of cancer June 7 while on death row for 13 slayings in the 1980s, had lived on the hotel’s 14th floor for several months in 1985.
- In 1962, a female occupant jumped out of a hotel window, killing herself and a pedestrian.
Before the discovery of her body, police searching for Lam had released a surveillance video of the hotel elevator, showing her behaving oddly — pushing buttons for multiple floors, peering out of the elevator, stepping in and out of the elevator, waving her arms, and seemingly trying to hide herself in a corner. The video triggered widespread speculation and conspiracy theories about her death on the Internet in the U.S., Canada, and especially in China, where the video went viral.
Warning: The video is disturbing, more so than a horror movie because it’s not a movie. Please watch the video till the end, even after Lam had exited the elevator. Tell me if you see movement in the wall of the elevator. I’m not joking.
Dr. Eowyn is the Editor of Fellowship of the Minds.