CRIME TIME: ELISA LAM





(Before I start I wanted to quickly mention I've changed my name! Starry Skies is long gone and I'm now LCY JNE. Knowing me I'll get sick of this one in a few months and want to change it again but for now I'm well chuffed with my new name. As you were.)

This is new, isn't it? In case you didn't know, alongside makeup I'm also a massive fan of true crime, murder mysteries and basically anything in that general vein. I spend a lot of my spare time watching documentaries, reading articles and listening to podcasts on this kind of stuff, on top of studying Criminology at uni, so true crime is a pretty big passion of mine. Some people may describe it as a bit sick but some people are boring. I know there's a massive community of people who are equally as fascinated and disturbed by real life crime as I am so this series is for you. Oh, and I've called it 'Crime Time' because a cheesy, rhyming title makes the whole idea seem a bit cheerier, right?

I want to start with possibly my favourite unsolved case ever: the death of Elisa Lam. Was it murder? Suicide? Aliens? Honestly who knows. Regardless, it really creeps me out.


THE FACTS

Elisa Lam was a 21 year old student from British Columbia, Canada doing a spot of solo travelling around the West Coast of America. She checked into the Cecil Hotel in LA on 26th January 2013 but never checked out. Now, this hotel is a very sketchy place which seems to attract death and violence. Notorious serial killer Richard Ramirez lived there from 1984 to 1985 during which time he killed 13 women. It is also rumoured to be where Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, was seen drinking days before her gruesome murder. Countless people have committed suicide at the Cecil Hotel, including Pauline Otton who jumped to her death in 1962 and landed on a pedestrian, killing him as well. The hotel even served as inspiration for the Hotel Cortez in American Horror Story: Hotel. So, you won't be surprised to hear that Elisa Lam's stay there didn't end well.

Her parents started to worry when they didn't receive their daily phone call from Elisa on January 31st and called the LAPD to report her as missing. After a search of the hotel turned up nothing, missing person flyers were posted online and around the neighbourhood. Still nothing. So the police decided to release some rather disturbing CCTV footage of Elisa from the hotel. In the video Elisa can be seen running in and out of an elevator, hiding against the wall, pressing multiple buttons, and gesturing like she is talking to someone out in the corridor. You can watch it here if you want but something about it is really unsettling. 

A couple of weeks passed with no new information. Then, guests at the Cecil Hotel started complaining about the water: it tastes weird, it's a funny colour, the pressure is low. So, on the 19th February, hotel staff go up to the roof to check on the water supply and discover the naked body of Elisa Lam floating in one of the water tanks. Her death was officially ruled as an accidental drowning but many people, myself included, aren't convinced.


THE THEORIES

I think the most convincing theory is that Elisa was having some sort of manic episode. She was bipolar and taking several different medications for it. Some people have theorised that unless her combination of medications are taken in exactly the right way, it can lead to manic or psychotic episodes. This would explain Elisa's odd behaviour in the lift where she seems to be running from/playing with/talking to an imaginary person and why she might have thought going for a swim in the water tanks on the roof was a good idea.

However, in order to get onto the roof in the first place Elisa would have had to get through several locked and alarmed doors and no alarms were triggered that night. That said, a Chinese student has filmed a video showing that, by using the fire escape, it is possible to access the roof of the Cecil Hotel fairly easily. Once on the roof, Elisa would have needed a ladder to climb into the 8 foot tall water tanks but no ladder was found at the scene. Finally, the lid of the water tanks were 4 feet wide and very heavy so it seems impossible that Elisa would have been able to not only lift the lid to get into the tank but also replace it once she was inside and treading water, all by herself. So, maybe there was someone else in the elevator with Elisa - either someone she was trying to escape from who ended up murdering her or someone she was just messing around with who helped her into the tank where she accidentally drowned.

Suicide seems unlikely. In addition to the problems with physically accessing the roof and water tank alone, people who interacted with Elisa in the days leading up to her death described her as happy and lively. Katie Orphan was the manager of a bookshop near the Cecil Hotel and quite possibly the last person to talk to Elisa. They reportedly chatted about the books Elisa was buying for her family back home and how she was worried they might not fit in her suitcase and, according to Orphan, she was 'outgoing, very lively, very friendly'. Obviously this doesn't sound like someone planning to commit suicide but I suppose you never know.

Or maybe she was possessed by a demon? The hotel definitely has an unusually violent and death-y history so what if something supernatural was going on? Only joking. I think...


THE CONCLUSION

There's so many disturbing parts of this case that make it equal parts horrifying and fascinating: the creepy CCTV footage of Elisa in the elevator, the violent history of the Cecil Hotel, the hotel guests unknowingly drinking water contaminated by Elisa's body, the list goes on. There seems to be big,  unexplainable holes in every theory so I don't think we're ever going to find out how or why Elisa Lam was tragically found dead inside a water tank on the roof of an LA hotel.

What do you think happened to Elisa Lam?

Thanks for reading, Lucy x

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