Conspiracy Theories, Mysteries

LA’s most dangerous hotel and the gruesome case of Elisa Lam


On February 19th 2013, 21-year-old Canadian student Elisa Lam was found dead and decomposing in a water tank at the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Theories as to how she got there range from mental illness to murder to demonic possession…

I’ve heard that Downtown LA has a bit of a bad rep. I suspect the grisly history of the Cecil Hotel on Main Street – which has now been renamed ‘Stay on Main’ and is a budget hotel and unofficial residence for ‘transients’ – is a big reason for that.

Hotel of Horror – suicides, stabbings and serial killers

Since the Cecil Hotel was built in 1924, three people have committed suicide by jumping out of windows. One jumper also killed a passing pedestrian.

In 1964, a woman named Goldie Olsen, known for feeding the pigeons in Pershing Square, was raped, stabbed and strangled in her hotel room. The room was ransacked. Her killer was never found.

Satanist Richard Ramirez, aka the Night Stalker, lived in a top floor room at the Cecil for several weeks in 1985, during which time he committed a vast spree of horrific burglaries, rapes, murders and attempted murders.

Killer-cum-journalist Jack Unterweger was a guest at the Cecil while he was supposedly working for an Austrian magazine, but was in fact up to his old tricks: strangling prostitutes with their bra straps.

And in 2013, Elisa Lam became the hotel’s latest victim.

The bizarre death of Elisa Lam

On January 26th 2013, Elisa Lam checked into the Cecil Hotel. On January 31st, she went missing. While authorities searched for her, guests at the hotel complained about low water pressure in their rooms, discolouration and a funny taste. Then, on February 19th, maintenance workers discovered Lam’s body in one of the water supply tanks on the room, naked and decomposing. No wonder the water tasted funny!

Elisa Lam
Elisa Lam

Her death was ruled to be an ‘accidental drowning’, possibly contributed to by her bipolar disorder. Many people take issue with this ruling…

The elevator video

One of the reasons this case caused such widespread speculation is because of the CCTV footage of Elisa Lam in one of the Cecil’s elevators, released by the LAPD on February 14th 2013. The footage is the last time Lam is seen alive.

In the footage, Lam behaves in an utterly bizarre manner. Looking frightened and as if someone is after her, she steps in and out of the elevator several times, hides in the corner, looks up and down the hallway and waves her arms about erratically. Eventually she steps out and is not seen again. For another minute, the elevator doors are seen opening and closing, apparently by themselves.

Some have theorised that she was having a psychotic episode, imagining that someone was pursuing her, because of her bipolar disorder. Others have theorised that she was under the influence of drugs. Given the Cecil’s dark and sordid past, some have said that her inexplicable actions are because she was possessed by a demon or a ghost. Others believe she was murdered, either by a lone killer or as part of an insidious conspiracy.

See for yourself…

Unanswered questions and shocking coincidences

A long list of questions still surrounds the mysterious death of Elisa Lam…

  1. How did she get onto the hotel’s roof? Doors accessing the roof were locked, and the only way of getting to it without triggering an alarm was to use a staff member’s pass code or key.
  1. How did she get into the water tank? Some have argued that she wouldn’t be able to get into the tank by herself or without a ladder, and wouldn’t have been able to replace the very heavy lid – one of the leading reasons why people argue that she was murdered.
  1. What happened to her phone? It wasn’t found in the water tank or in her room. Was it stolen just prior to her death?
  1. Who has been sporadically updating Elisa’s blog since her death?
  1. Is it merely an astonishing coincidence that at the time of Elisa Lam’s death, the Centre for Disease Control was testing for a new strain of drug-resistant tuberculosis that had broken out across Los Angeles – and the test was called the “LAM ELISA TEST”?
  1. Did some kind of conspiracy lead to Elisa’s death? Suspiciously, the release of the autopsy report was postponed many times, and her cause of death marked “accidental”, then three days later marked “undetermined” – apparently in error. Another big question hangs over the elevator CCTV footage. Disturbingly, the time stamp on the footage jumps by a minute, suggesting that the video has been edited and some of the footage of Elisa – or perhaps even her killer – is being withheld.

What do you think? Is the Cecil Hotel cursed? Are ghosts or demons at work within its walls? Is a much larger, more corporeal conspiracy at work? Or is all this just a series of strange and unfortunate coincidences?

I know one thing. I certainly won’t be booking a room.

Next week: what really happened to King Edward II?


5 thoughts on “LA’s most dangerous hotel and the gruesome case of Elisa Lam”

  1. 1. It is (was?) actually very easy to get onto the roof. Even AFTER her body was discovered an amateur Chinese investigator managed it with zero problems and had a good look around the roof and the water tanks.. His video is here on YT somewhere (FYI its very interesting, but its in Mandarin).

    2. The latches on these water tanks are not heavy. Why would they be? They are for inspecting the water level. Workmen need to be able to open them – which is exactly how the janitor was able to find her. The suggestion that Elisa would not have been able to open them is completely wrong. I think this myth has circulated due to the fact that the fire & recue services cut a hole in the side of the tank to retrieve her body. They only did this because it was easier than trying to do it from above.

    3. This is the easiest one to answer. Read her blog; she lost it on the 27th at a place called ‘The Speakeasy’. She said that it was not hers and that it was an old Blackberry that a friend did not want anymore.

    4. Its pretty simple to setup Tumblrs “queue” function to send out posts when the user is away. It is very very obvious that she had used it many times in the past. There were only four posts that went out after she disappeared.

    5. Yes. ELISA is an acronym for “Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay” It is a standard diagnostic test for pathogens. LAM is an abbreviation for Lipoarabinomannan. A glycolipid found on the bacterial cells that cause TB.

    6. No. No conspiracy. In these cases nine times out of ten the most obvious answer IS the answer. Elisa was taking a cocktail of drugs. One of which was definitely in her system when she was found; Venlaxafine. This on its own has been known to cause mania. When it is used with other drugs the probability of a manic episode are greatly increased.

    Elisa had a mental break. What we are seeing in the video is her in the throes of a manic episode. From the moment she enters the elevator to the moment she walks off, her actions and mannerisms are clearly indicative of such. She went up to the roof, climbed onto a water tank using the ladder, took off her clothes and got in. It was a tragic accident.


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