The Mysterious Case of Elisa Lam

In February of 2013, several guests staying at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles reported issues with the water pressure in their rooms.  Others reported that the water had a strange color and taste.  Management investigation into the problem led them to the water tank located on the roof of the building.  When they opened it to find the problem, they found the body of 21 year old Elisa Lam.


Elisa had disappeared five days earlier and police, with the hopes of bringing in clues, had released the last known footage of Elisa.  In the video, she was seen behaving erratically while trying to enter an elevator.  She pushes the buttons, but the elevator appears to malfunction and doesn’t move.  She acts and moves strangely, and at some point appears to be talking to someone.  Finally, she gives up and leaves.  That’s when the elevator proceeds to shut and move off normally.

By the time her body was found, Elisa’s video had already gone viral on the Internet.


After this video was captured, Elisa gained access to the roof of the building, climbed into the water tank, and drowned.  As strange as this story already is, is manages to get even stranger.

The History Of the Cecil

The Cecil hotel had been built in the 1920’s for traveling businessmen, but was quickly outdone by more upscale hotels in the area.  It soon became a place where long-term renters could stay on the cheap.  This ended up included two serial killers: Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger.

Now on death row, Ramirez, labeled “the Nightstalker”, was living at the Cecil Hotel in 1985, in a top floor room.  He was charged 14 dollars a night.  In a building filled with transients, he remained unnoticed as he stalked and killed his 13 female victims. Richard Schave, said “He was dumping his bloody clothes in the Dumpster, at the end of his evening and returned via the back entrance.”

Jack Unterweger, was a journalist covering crime in Los Angeles for an Austrian magazine in 1991.  “We believe he was living at the Cecil Hotel in homage to Ramirez,” Schave said.

He is blamed with killing three prostitutes in Los Angeles, while being a guest at the Cecil.

In the 50’s and 60’s the Cecil was known as a place that people would go to jump out of one of the hotel’s windows to commit suicide.

Helen Gurnee, in her 50s, leaped from a seventh floor window, landing on the Cecil Hotel marquee, on October 22, 1954.

Julia Moore jumped from her eighth floor room window, on February 11, 1962.

Pauline Otton, 27, jumped from a ninth floor window after an argument with her estranged husband, on October 12, 1962.  Otton landed on George Gianinni, 65, who was walking on the side walk, 90 feet below. Both were killed instantly.

There was also a murder of one of the residents.  “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood, a retired telephone operator, known for protecting and feeding pigeons in a nearby park, was found dead in his ransacked room on June 4, 1964.  He had been stabbed, strangled, and raped.  The crime still remains unsolved.”

– Las Vegas Guardian Express, Elisa Lam, Morbid History Of Two Serial Killers Unfolds At “Cecil Hotel”

Strange Coincidence

Shortly after the incident with Elisa Lam, an outbreak of tuberculosis occurred near the area that the Cecil Hotel was located.  Incredibly, the test kit that was used in this situation was called the LAM-ELISA.

Cause of Death

The official ruling in Elisa’s death was that there was “no foul play” involved in her death.  That she was “probably bi-polar” and had gone through a tragic episode.  This seems possible, but in reviews of the location, reporters found that there should not have been a way for anyone without keys to reach the water tank.  The roof was protected with an alarm system and the lid of the water tank was difficult to open.  So how did Elisa, on her own, manage to get on the roof, past the alarm system, and into the tank?

There are a lot of questions about the situation that remain unresolved, and the mysterious behavior and strange coincidences leave a lot of room for speculation.  Despite the discussion in the media and the news, the authorities and family remain rather silent about the issue.  Maybe the simpliest answer is the correct one, and Elisa went found a way into the tank herself.  Or perhaps some outside force or some kind played a part in the incident.  Unfortunately, we may never know.