The mysterious death of Elisa Lam

Elisa Lam arrived in Los Angeles on January 26, 2013. She had just reached Santa Cruz by Amtrak train from San Diego as part of her solo trip around the West Coast. The trip was meant to be a break from her studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where she grew up. Her family had been concerned about her traveling alone, but the young student was determined to go on her own. As a compromise, Lam made it a point to contact her parents every day of the trip to assure them that she was safe. Her parents were surprised when they didn’t hear from her on the day she was meant to check out of her Los Angeles hotel, the Cecil, on January 31, 2013.

Elisa’s parents eventually got in touch with the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD examined the Cecil’s property but was unable to locate her. The police launched a plea for public assistance and posted a video of Lam, who was wearing a red sweatshirt, inside an elevator at the hotel. In it, she clicks many buttons, looks out the elevator, retreats into a corner, steps outside the elevator, and waves her hands around in the video. The video quickly went viral, generating extensive curiosity and discussion about the case.

Guests at the hotel began to complain about low water pressure while Lam was still absent. On February 19, 2013, a maintenance worker glanced into one of the hotel’s four 4-by-8-foot water tanks on the roof and discovered a dead body that turned out to be Lam. “I saw the entrance to the main water tank was open and peeked inside and observed an Asian woman lying face-up in the water roughly twelve inches from the top of the tank,” the worker later stated in court documents. Previously, the roof had been searched with the assistance of a police dog. One theory is that Lam was playing the Korean elevator game, in which hitting elevator buttons in a precise rhythm is said to open a portal to another dimension.

No one, however, had looked inside the water tanks. Although her death was ruled an “accidental drowning” by the coroner’s office, the strange details of Lam’s case have fueled rampant speculation about what happened. Internet commenters have proposed plenty of theories about the tragedy, ranging from murder plots to evil spirits. But where does the truth lie in the disturbing death of Elisa Lam?

Elisa Lam died on February 19, 2013. She was found dead in a water tank at the Cecil Hotel. No one knows why or how she ended up there. (Netflix )

NBC LA reporter Lolita Lopez added, “In 22 years of doing this job as a news reporter, this is one of those cases that kinda sticks with me because we know who, what, when, and where. But the question of why is constantly present.” The peaceful, nice trip to get away from her studies turned into a nightmare. As a result, various theories about the occurrence have emerged, ranging from murder conspiracies to demonic beings. Even though her death was ruled an “accidental drowning,” the strange characteristics of Lam’s case have arisen considerable debate regarding what happened.