Do you remember the unsettling story of Elisa Lam, the 21-year-old Canadian tourist who was found dead in a downtown Los Angeles hotel's rooftop water tank? Workers at the historic Cecil Hotel near Skid Row made the gruesome discovery after hotel guests complained of low water pressure, and although there was a very strange surveillance footage video of Lam inside an elevator pushing buttons and behaving oddly, authorities ruled in June 2013 that her death was accidental.
The only explanation offered for how Lam ended up in a difficult-to-access water cistern (workers had to cut the tank open to remove her body) is that she had bipolar disorder. That might shed some light on the disturbing elevator footage ... but it certainly doesn't answer all the questions.
In fact, some believe that the hotel itself may have played a role in her death. I know, I know -- but check out these skin-crawling theories.
Let me back up a little to the circumstances of her death. Lam, of Vancouver, BC, had traveled alone to Los Angeles on January 26 and was last seen five days later by workers at the Cecil Hotel. Her plan was to travel to Santa Cruz, but on February 19, a maintenance worker found her body in one of the four 8-foot tall, 4-foot diameter tanks on the hotel roof.
Surveillance video taken minutes before her death shows Elisa Lam entering and exiting the elevator in the hotel’s lobby, pushing all of the buttons, and generally acting very strange. The footage at 2:00 is particularly odd, when you see her hand gestures. Also weird? The elevator itself. Why does the door stay open for so long?
It's also difficult to understand how she accessed the water tank, when the rooftop area is locked and protected by an alarm system. Plus, the holding tanks themselves look really hard to get into, and how would she have managed to shut the lid of the tank?
Here's a news video describing the tank holding area:
The coroner report noted that the medical examination found no visible signs of trauma on Lam's body and toxicology tests found nothing that contributed to her death. Her death was ultimately concluded to be an "accidental drowning," with her bipolar disorder listed as a "significant condition."
Okay, so far we have a really unusual story that we can generally chalk up to the inexplicable actions of a mentally ill woman. If you want to take things a little farther into the Twilight Zone, though, here are a few more creepy facts:
The Cecil Hotel has a hell of a dark past. Richard Ramirez, a serial killer and rapist known as the "Night Stalker," lived on the hotel's 14th floor for several months in 1985. Johann "Jack" Unterweger is another serial killer who lived in the hotel in 1991. In 1964 a woman was found dead in her ransacked room, having been stabbed, strangled, and raped by an known assailant. The hotel has also been home to a number of suicide deaths from patrons who leaped from an upper-floor windows, including a woman who jumped from the 9th floor in 1962 and killed a man walking below.
Elisa's death is uncomfortably similar to a horror movie plot. The 2005 film Dark Water (a remake of a 2002 Japanese movie by the same name) tells the story of a young woman found drowned in a hotel water tank. A scene in the movie depicts an elevator malfunctioning, and a character is named Cecilia. Cecilia/Cecil?
There's a REALLY weird medical test name coincidence. Just days after Elisa Lam's body was found, national health experts were called into Skid Row near the hotel to investigate a deadly persistent tuberculosis (TB) outbreak that local health officials called the largest in a decade. More than 4,500 people may have been exposed to tuberculosis and scientists linked the outbreak to a TB strain unique to L.A. A test used to diagnose tuberculosis, particularly in patients with advanced immunosuppression? The LAM-ELISA. That's ... huh.
My skeptic nature insists that people are just scrambling for explanations for something that simply can't be explained, but it's hard not to get swept up in the mystery of it all, isn't it? I guess no one will ever truly know what happened to Elisa Lam, and I can only begin to imagine how tragic that must be for her family.
What do you think about this story? Do you think Elisa Lam died by suicide, or was there something else going on?
Image via YouTube