The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam

Lily Ives, Editor in Chief

On Jan. 31, 2013, college student Elisa Lam went missing while staying at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Her body would be discovered about 19 days later on Feb. 19, floating in the water tank for the hotel.

I adore mysteries and true crime unsolved cases. Trying to understand each part of a story to figure out who did what is incredibly interesting, and the ones that especially capture my attention are the odd ones. The cases where there are weird details and pieces that can’t be explained easily. That is exactly why I am enthralled by the case of Elisa Lam.

Let’s first start with some basic context. Lam, at the date of her disappearance, was a college student in Vancouver who was in LA on vacation. The hotel she stayed at, the Cecil Hotel, is no stranger to death, and even murder. 

Before her death, Elizabeth Short, a.k.a. the Black Dahlia, was rumored to have been at the hotel before her grizzly murder. It is also well-known that serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger stayed at this hotel. There have also been a number of suicides that have taken place on Cecil Hotel property. 

When it comes to disappearances, the most important things that people look at following the missing persons label is what the person was like and what they were doing before they went missing. In Lam’s case, the one detail of her person that people focus on is her having Bipolar disorder, which she was on medication for. Some people point to this as being one of the causes of her death, but I am not going to be focusing on this in this piece. 

Before she went missing, however, is one of the aspects of the story with the most mystery. Caught on CCTV footage in the hotel, we can see video of Lam walking through hallways and spending time in an elevator. In the time in the elevator, you can see Lam swaying slightly in her steps, and peaking around the corner of the doorway. She goes into the corner, briefly, as if hiding from someone. 

Besides this, it has also been stated that the water tank she was found in was near impossible to access, especially by oneself. 

Many theories have been posed about the truth of what happened to Elisa Lam on that evening, with the biggest being that she was either murdered or had committed suicide by drowning. With these being the most logical, I also have to mention how some people point to there being an otherworldly cause of her death, with the biggest indicators being the CCTV footage and the bizarre location she was found in. 

The police ruled the cause of death as accidental drowning. I, personally, believe that there is something more to her story. I think someone had a hand in her death and they got away with it, never giving her true justice. The Lam family also wants to know more, seeing as they filed a wrongful death suit against the hotel following her death, but this was dismissed a couple years later. 

Overall, we will probably never know what happened to Lam. With her body being found in the water, it wasn’t easy to find any answers from her corpse. This and the amount of years that have passed makes it virtually impossible to know exactly what caused her death.