Elisa Lam was last seen on January 31, 2013 in the lobby of the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. She was vacationing through the West Coast, documenting the trip on her blog, and checking in with her parents every day. On January 31 Lam had vanished. Soon the police were involved and her parents arrived to help with the search.
They had nothing. That February, LAPD released elevator surveillance footage of Lam before her disappearance. The footage shows Lam behaving strangely in the elevator, appearing to talk with invisible people, peering around the corner of the door, crouching in the corner, and opening and closing the door. But what exactly is going on in this video raises more questions than answers. Theories range from psychotic episodes, to demonic possession, to unknown assailants just out of the camera’s view:
Around that time, hotel guests started reported weird things happening with the Cecil Hotel water supply. As CNN reports:
“The shower was awful,” said Sabina Baugh, who spent eight days there during the investigation. “When you turned the tap on, the water was coming black first for two seconds and then it was going back to normal.”
The tap water “tasted horrible,” Baugh said. “It had a very funny, sweety, disgusting taste. It’s a very strange taste. I can barely describe it.”
But for a week, they never complained. “We never thought anything of it,” she said. “We thought it was just the way it was here.”
On the morning of February 19, a hotel employee climbed to the roof and used a ladder to investigate the hotel’s water storage tanks. That’s where authorities found the decomposing, naked body of Lam, whose personal items were found nearby. After an autopsy, her death was labeled accidental.
NBC Los Angeles reported at the time about the strange circumstances in the hotel’s past:
The tank has a metal latch that can be opened, but authorities said access to the roof is secured with an alarm and lock.
The single-room-occupancy hotel has an unusual history. “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez, who was found guilty of 14 slayings in the 1980s, lived on the 14th floor for several months in 1985. And international serial killer Jack Unterweger is suspected of murdering three prostitutes during the time he lived there in 1991. He killed himself in jail in 1994.
In 1962, a female occupant jumped out of one the hotel’s windows, killing herself and a pedestrian on whom she landed.