Elisa was a 21-year-old Canadian student who went missing in 2013 while traveling throughout the United States at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
Elisa was last seen in the hotel elevator before she vanished, and a recorded video of her in the elevator was released by LA cops as part of their investigation.
The elevator doors did not shut properly. She seemed to be conversing with someone she couldn’t see. Her actions were unusual. She hurriedly entered and exited the elevator. Then she was gone.
Elisa’s body was discovered 19 days after she went missing in a water tank on the hotel’s roof.
Some believed the CCTV footage to be a proof of supernatural activity, and conspiracy theories regarding Elisa’s abduction persist to this day.
Although an autopsy on February 21 was inconclusive in determining Lam’s cause of death, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office later deemed the death an accident, with bipolar disorder playing a key role.
Lam had been diagnosed with depression and bipolar illness. For her mental health concerns, she had been prescribed a number of drugs.
Although one account said Lam had previously gone missing for a brief period, she had no history of suicidal thoughts or attempts.  Lam had a history of not taking her bipolar meds, and as a result, she had hallucinations that caused her to seek sanctuary under her bed on multiple times; she was hospitalized at least once for one of these episodes.
Lam traveled to California on Amtrak and intercity buses by herself. She went to the San Diego Zoo and shared pictures on social media. She arrived in Los Angeles on January 26. She checked into the Cecil Hotel, which is located near Downtown’s Skid Row, after two days.
Lam was initially allocated to a shared room on the hotel’s fifth floor; however, her roommates complained about “some unusual conduct,” according to the hotel’s lawyer, and Lam was moved to a private room after two days.
Lam was leaving letters for her roommates that stated “go home” and “go away,” according to Amy Price, the manager of the Cecil Hotel and Stay on Main at the time of Lam’s disappearance. Lam would also lock the door to the room and need a password for entrance, according to Price.
Lam attended a live taping of Conan in Burbank a few days before her disappearance, but was forced off the premises by security due to disruptive behavior.
Lam was in touch with her parents in British Columbia on a daily basis until the day she vanished. Her parents did not hear from her on January 31, 2013, the day she was supposed to check out of the Cecil and leave for Santa Cruz, and they contacted the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD); her relatives flew to Los Angeles to assist with the search.
When hotel employees spotted Lam that day, they reported she was alone. Katie Orphan, manager of “The Last Bookstore” located outside the hotel, was the only person who remembered seeing her that day.
Orphan said that while collecting gifts for her family, “she was outgoing, very lively, very nice.” “[She] was talking about what book she was receiving and whether or not it would be too hefty for her to carry around when she was traveling,” she said.
The police searched the hotel to the extent that they were legally permitted to. They searched Lam’s room and had dogs search the entire building, including the roof, but the dogs were unable to locate her scent. “But we didn’t check every room,” Sgt. Rudy Lopez later explained, “because we could only do so if we had probable cause.”
The LAPD decided that extra assistance was required on February 6, a week after Lam was last seen. Flyers containing her image were distributed throughout the area and on the internet. It used the media to bring the case to the public’s attention.
The Finding Of Her Body
Guests at the hotel started complaining about low water pressure throughout the search for Lam. Some people afterwards said their water was dark in color and tasted strange.
Santiago Lopez, a hotel maintenance worker, discovered Lam’s body in one of four 1,000-gallon (3,785 L) tanks on the roof that provided water to guest rooms, a restaurant, and a coffee shop on February 19. He saw Lam lying face-up in the water through the open hatch. Because the maintenance hatch was too narrow to allow the equipment needed to remove Lam’s body, the tank was drained and cut open.
The Los Angeles coroner’s office issued an accidental drowning finding on February 21, citing bipolar disorder as a key factor. Lam’s body was discovered naked, according to the full coroner’s report, and clothing similar to what she was wearing in the elevator footage was floating in the water, encrusted with a “sand-like particulate.” Her watch and room key were also discovered in her possession.
Lam’s body was swollen and moderately decomposed. It was primarily greenish, with some marbling and skin separation visible on the abdomen. Physical harm, sexual assault, or suicide were not found. Toxicology examinations revealed traces of prescription medication, as well as nonprescription medications like Sinutab and ibuprofen, located among her possessions. There was a trace amount of alcohol (approximately 0.02 percent) but no other recreational drugs.
However, investigators and experts noticed that the proportion of her prescription pharmaceuticals in her system suggested she was undermedicating or had recently stopped taking her meds.
Lam’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit in September 2013, alleging that the hotel failed to “inspect and seek out risks in the hotel that constituted an undue risk of danger to (Lam) and other hotel guests,” seeking unspecified damages and burial fees.
The hotel contended that it could not have reasonably anticipated Lam entering the water tanks, and that no blame could be assigned for failing to prevent it because it was unknown how Lam got to the water tank. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2015.
- Blankstein, Andrew; Flores, Adolfo (February 20, 2013). “Woman’s body found in hotel’s water tank”. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
- Nickels, Jesse (May 28, 2014). “Elisa Lam: The College Girl Whose Hotel Death is So Mysterious It Inspired a Horror Movie”. College Times. Archived from the original on February 19, 2015. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
- van der Merwe, Marelise (December 12, 2014). “The Elisa Lam mystery: Still no answers”. Daily Maverick. Archived from the original on September 7, 2018. Retrieved January 29, 2015.