In February 2013, 21-year-old Canadian student, Elisa Lam, was found dead in a water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, California. A police investigation and public discussion have still yet to pinpoint the exact cause of death.
So, what happened to Elisa Lam?
In January 2013, Lam embarked on what was supposed to be a tour of the US West Coast. Starting in San Diego, California, she would continue her journey eventually arriving in Los Angeles on the 26th of January where she would check into the infamous Cecil Hotel. The stay was meant to last five days, but by the final day she had failed to contact her parents, something which led them to report her disappearance to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
The manager of a nearby bookstore was the last person to report seeing Lam before her subsequent disappearance after she had entered the store to buy gifts for her family. He described her as “outgoing, very lively and very friendly”.
On the 19th February, after hotel guests had complained of strange tasting water, the body of Elisa Lam was discovered, naked, floating in a rooftop water tank. Following a post-mortem, the toxicology report showed no sign of drugs or alcohol and there was no evidence of trauma; she had died as a result of drowning.
Three days prior to this discovery, the LAPD released surveillance footage from the hotel which had been taken on the 1st February. The video can be seen below and shows Lam entering the elevator before pressing all the buttons. She then waits for the elevator to shut but, for some reason, this does not happen. She then begins to peek in and out of the elevator and hide in the corner before gesturing erratically with her hands, as if she was talking to someone. As she walks away, the elevator door shuts and appears to start working again.
The footage, and subsequent discovery of the body, sparked more questions than it answered. The rooftop was both locked and alarmed, access to the tank would require a 10-foot climb and the opening to the tank was a mere 16-inches so how did she get there? The autopsy found no evidence of trauma, sexual assault, drugs or alcohol, as already stated, and there was no evidence of suicide. The death remains listed as ‘accidental drowning’ but what really happened?
Theory 1: Murder
Although there is no conclusive evidence that Lam was a murder victim, many people believe this to be the most plausible explanation. A hotel employee would be able to access the alarmed roof through passcodes, thereby not triggering any alarm. They would also have sufficient knowledge of the hotel to go unnoticed and this theory could explain why Lam appeared to be hiding from someone in the released footage. The difficulty in gaining access to the roof, as well as moving and replacing the heavy lid of the water tank, leads many to believe there had to be someone else involved, as a woman of Lam’s size would struggle alone. Lam had also complained of ‘creepers’ in the hotel during her stay on her blog.
Theory 2: Suicide
This theory matches closely to the official police report regarding the death. According to her own Twitter account at the time, Lam was prescribed several medications for bipolar disorder. Many people believe that being away from home and not on her medication, Lam had a breakdown of sorts. This would explain the erratic behaviour seen in the surveillance footage and would also support the theory that Lam took her own life. Others suggest that the elevator did not function correctly as it was in service mode and that Lam had peaked in and out because she believed someone was holding the door open despite her attempts to close it.
Theory 3: Possession
There is also the theory that Lam had fallen victim to a paranormal event or demonic possession. Believers of this theory point to the elevator not working, Lam’s strange behaviour and the perception that she appeared to be hiding from some unseen entity as evidence. Many people on the internet believe, upon examining the footage, that the buttons Elisa pressed in the elevator were 14, 10, 7, 4 and B. It is pointed out that in the biblical book of John, chapters 14, 10, 7 and 4 all talk about water and some link this to Lam’s cause of death: drowning.
Theory 4: Assassination
Stranger yet, another far-fetched theory suggests Lam was the victim of a government assassination. Prior to her death, Lam had tweeted an article about a Canadian company who had gained Pentagon funding for the development of futuristic, cloaking devices for military use. Looking at the hotel using Google Maps you will see a company registered inside the hotel (now named the Stay on Main Hotel) as the ‘Invisible Light Agency’ who specialise in lighting effects but little other information on this company can be found. Believers then suggest that Lam’s behaviour in the footage was due to her trying to evade an assailant using the ‘invisibility’ technology.
So, what really happened in the tragic case of Elisa Lam? The world may never know, but what do you think? Let us know if you have any interesting theories!