Crazy Theories and the Death of Ms Elisa Lam

Elisa Lam in a photograph released by the family.

Upfront I will say that the death of Elisa Lam is a strange case with a lot of unanswered questions. Equally up front I will say that if your conclusions involve conspiracy theories then try another website. If have no admiration for the YouTube ‘ sleuths’ as featured on the Netflix  documentary. If you are the sort of person that thinks you can come up with anything more than an idea from your laptop, this is definitely not the website for you.

Brief, Much Trodden, Tale of Elisa Lam’s Death

At the beginning of February 2013 Elisa Lam, 21, disappeared from the Cecil Hotel in Downtown LA. The Canadian student had been staying at the budget hotel for five days. This young lady had a history of bipolar disorder, was travelling alone and there have been questions as to whether she was following an advised medication regime.

This hotel has 700 or so rooms and is located in an area of high crime and homelessness. At least the area at the time was known as skid row. After a couple of days fellow residents of the,bunkhouse style, room she was in said her behaviour was a problem. Lam was moved to a private room as a result.

On the day of her death footage from an elevator shows her acting in a bizarre way. She was alone throughout. When she disappeared it was unusual for sure. She had kept in touch with the world throughout her lone tour of California both with her family and via a very active blog.

Her missing case was actively pursued by the cops. The giant hotel was searched and at one point there were 18 officers engaged in just that. Notably a sniffer dog indicated she had gone onto a fire escape that gave access to the roof. Cops went up on the roof. They found nothing. On the roof are four big water tanks. They are only accessed by ladders and effort. The cop numbers by this time had been scaled down to just two detectives. They did not check into the water tanks. This is seen as significant by ‘sleuths’, not by me.  I was a copper for 12 years. The tanks are normally covered and until this case I have not heard of a similar one. I might have checked them but I doubt it.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and there are dump truck loads applied to analysing this now. Elisa Lam was found in one of the water tanks. She was naked, her clothes were in there too. A hotel maintenance guy had gone up there because guests were complaining about the colour and taste of the water. Ms Lam had been in the tanks a long time.

Post Mortem ( Autopsy)

No illicit drugs were detected in Ms Lam’s body. However, low amounts of her prescription medication were. The low amounts are believed to indicate either a poorly managed regime or that she had not taken her medication for a while. Her alcohol level was very low and there were appropriate traces of a painkiller and sinus relief medication. Her body was bloated from immersion in the water. There were no signs of violence, sexual or otherwise.

Some issues were noted that in other circumstances could have been suspicious, but they were put down to the time her body spent in the water.

Access to the Water Tank

The worker who found her body said that the hatch was open. Yet according to an interview with a cop on the TV at the time it was closed.

Newsflash! Information gets ‘messed up in the early chaos of situations like this. The media and the ‘sleuth’ community ran with the closed hatch. Yet there in the file and known to the detectives was that the hatch was open. There should be a lesson there but next time? No, they will theorise like mad again.

The 8ft tall tank was on blocks so the top was difficult to reach. As I understand it though the ladders were there to be used. All in all I have heard nothing that makes it impossible that Ms Lam, in an altered mental state, could not have climbed up there herself. More to the point, despite intensive enquires, no evidence exists of anyone else being involved.

Elevator Footage

In an effort to get wide public interest the LA cops released film of Ms Lam that was captured over a couple of minutes on the day she disappeared. It shows Ms Lam making strange gestures, acting as if trying to hide and constantly moving in and out of shot. Later it was theorised that her actions were possibly because she was in the grip of a psychotic episode.

The time stamp is obscured as in faulty or tampered with. The ‘sleuths’ believe this was deliberate. The video was shared and shared. One of the original  detectives states clearly he cannot explain the time stamp issue but the master copy is on file and intact.

It has been suggested that she was hiding from someone and that the clip has been edited. It has also been suggested she was trying to deal with a paranormal experience. Simply put there is no evidence of tampering that cannot be explained and no ghost has stepped up to claim responsibility.

The Netflix Documentary

This is on the streaming channel now, The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel.

In this series they interview hotel employees, cops and YouTubers. They also do a history of the place since the 1920s when it was built. It is billed as a spooky place full of death and intrigue. I didn’t find evidence to support that in their hyped efforts to bolster that claim. It is a big place and very old. Big surprise! There have been murders and tragic deaths there.

In addition, it has not always had it easy. From the depression period through the ups and financial downs of the last century it has been both a hotel and a glorified doss house.

I believe that the Youtubers were involved in this documentary for their crazy takes and the film makers knew it. It is like it was a documentary on Elisa Lam’s disappearance and subsequent death and the vacuous nature of an online generation.  The ‘sleuth ‘ community commentate and attempt to solve the crime. Except there is no evidence it was not a tragic accident. They even book rooms and wander about the roof. In one video the ‘sleuth’ declares they might find clues that were missed. I mean this is a long time after the event.

Elisa Lam in a photograph released by the family.

Logic goes out of the window faster than a trapped cockroach. There is little or no progression from one piece of evidence to the next. Also there is no mention of the fact that these have no experience investigating anything more than their navel. Everyone becomes a seasoned investigator if they have a webcam and a space between their ears that needs filling. Certainly no groundless theory is out of reach to them.

Sadly my favourite section is when the ‘sleuths’ examine the autopsy report.

‘I have spent hours studying this case’ before one declares that it doesn’t make sense. Another says that just because there are no injuries on or in the body she could have been forced at gunpoint. ‘ That sounds like foul play to me.’ Except of course there is no evidence of that.

They become marvellous experts on the autopsy. No, forget the experts, forget the cops who have investigated and have hard won real experience. No, these men and women have been online. I know they don’t realise it, but they sound worse from one to the other.

Then the first statement of the maintenance guy is released and there it is in print. The hatch was found open. Ah, then they back track fast over the conspiracy theories. The heavy hatch that couldn’t have been closed by Ms Lam had been simply left open.


It is a simple process, looking at evidence that is. You start with one fact and then look for more. If there is no evidence you at most have theories. Theories are not facts. Theories are good when you then look for facts, but theories are useless if you chase the theory just to prove yourself right.

If you have read this far you are probably someone who knows this already. This lot on this Netflix documentary do not. By all means think outside the box but if there is nothing found then you have to return to the facts.

There is no evidence that anything malicious happened to this poor young woman.


Well there has been a legal one. The interview I saw with the medical examiner says clearly that the evidence was overwhelmingly pointing to an accidental drowning with Bi Polar being a complicating factor.

Of course it could be wrong, the examiner would probably allow for it being wrong. The fact remains, however, there is no other train of evidence that it is logical.

Even at the end of the documentary there is a general consensus that Ms Lam drowned.

I don’t know what you think. For me this has been an awful example of the way we are these days. We as a society seem to have lost perspective. There are never rumours, rumours become facts. There are never accidents there are just cover ups. There is never a need to consider harm to a grieving family from treating a victim like a game. No, just post it online.

Rant over