Monday, 15 August 2016

The Cecil hotel / Stay on main and the death of Elisa Lam

I know I'm constantly going back to old posts and updating them, but in this case I've decided to give my look at the Elisa Lam case a whole new post of it's own.
I don't know why exactly I always think back to this one, I suppose it's a pretty modern case and Elisa had an online presence with accounts that are still up, and just browsing through them just brings her to life.
Anyways, since there's always mixed comments about this case I thought I'd look for every piece of information I could possibly find (given the spare time I have today) and give the old post an overhaul. 

Grab your ice tea, it's gonna be a long one.

“Fear of death is very silly to me. I am reassured that death is something that all things before me and all things after me will go through. When it comes, I will know what it is. I just hope for a chance to say my goodbyes. I am more scared of going before my time, without having lived a full and meaningful life.”


Built in the 1920’s, the Cecil hotel is a budget hotel located in downtown LA on 640 S. Main Street with 600 rooms and grim, dark past.
You may know it as Richard Ramirez’ old haunt back in ’85. Ramirez used to pay $14 per night and reportedly killed in the local area during his stays there.

Maybe you’ve heard the rumour about unsolved murder victim Elizabeth Short in 1947- known in the media as “the Black Dahlia” murder. She was thought have been hanging out in the hotel bar before her disappearance and subsequent murder and was later found dead in Leimert Park, LA; her face mutilated into a Chelsea smile and her body drained of all blood.

Maybe it’s Austrian serial killer Jack unterweger’s stay at the Cecil in the 1991 that rings a bell? Underwerger was responsible for the murders of three sex workers, Sherri Ann Long, Shannon Exley and Irene Rodriguez. He assaulted, abused and murdered them- strangling them with their own bra’s.  Unterweger was actually a crime journalist (with a record of his own), who was paying homage to Ramirez. 

The hotel gained more attention in 2015 due to the plot of the “American Horror Story” series “Hotel” being loosely based on the building. But most likely, you’ve heard of this hotel since the story of the death of 21 year old Canadian tourist Elisa Lam in 2013.
You've most likely watched the footage of her acting strangely in an elevator before going missing and being found dead.

On the 19th of February 2013, in what many considered to be true horror movie style, (some say reminiscent of a scene in the Japanese 2002 horror movie “Dark Water”) Lam was found dead at the bottom of one of the hotels water tanks located on the roof, with (according to the media) “no explanation of how she had even gotten in there in the first place.”

News outlets and online reports suggested that it would have been impossible for Lam to get access to the roof of the hotel, possibly to add to the creepy-spin they were putting on their stories; however later discussions online from actual guests indicated that it was much easier than the reports were letting on.

Updates on a reddit thread, however, by user rockdrigoma pointed out in a discussion on the subject that from this google maps view (toggle around), we can see a security rail behind the water tanks, which could be easily used as a makeshift ladder.

In this photo from a Chinese website you can see alternative forms of access. 

Although it was discussed that there surely would be an alarm system connected to the “staff only” door that lead to the roof, a websleuths user named “smeinzer” claimed to have stayed there and accessed the roof with his brother to take photos at the same time Elisa was there, and there was no alarm. (The user verified his claims by providing a receipt of his stay which you can view on the thread)

It is easy. I am a photographer and my brother and I went up onto the roof on the night of the 5th to see how the vantage point of the skyline was from there (not that great by the way). And yes... We shouldn't have been there, I know that, but we were and it was easy. There is a window that was open on the 15th floor that allowed access to the fire escape and was just a quick climb up a short ladder and there we were on the roof, and now we know that we were probably only a few feet from Elisa's body at one point. Pretty creepy...” 

He also mentions in his forum post that one of the elevators was not in service.
 A brief search online will turn up other guests of the Cecil complaining about malfunctioning lifts.

(A screencap of the users original post)

A comment from a report posted on a Chinese website by a guest of the Cecil who investigated the roof states that the hatch on the water tanks were not locked. They added:

The opening at the top of the water tank where Elisa was found was not small. Me and Brandon found we could each easily fit through the opening. Perhaps a very obese person may not fit through - but otherwise, any normally-sized person (even one who is slightly plump in appearance) would probably fit through that opening easily. Even if Elisa had been murdered first before her body was disposed in the tank, it would be possible to fit her body through the tank easily.”

They mention a wooden ladder propped up against the tank Elisa was found in that appeared as if it had not been moved for a long period of time.

The previous guest even talks about the graffiti found up on the roof- an indication that many people had ventured up there without problem.

(pic source)

Another noteworthy observation from guests is how sketchy the hotel and surrounding area is in general, despite being advertised as hip or boutique. 
Drop by a rating website or read a few blog posts by those that have stayed there and it won’t take you long to find similar comments about the area. “Don’t stay there alone if you’re a girl” one post warns. 


Not everyone has had a bad experience, of course, but most guests do not seem to enjoy their stay and vow to never return again.

It took a few months for Elisa Lam’s autopsy report to be released publicly.
As stated in the report, Lam had been diagnosed as bi-polar.

I managed to find a report of Lam’s autopsy online which you can view here.

Her behaviour in the hotel CCTV footage could be due to the possibility that the Canadian tourist was having an acute manic or mixed episode. During an episode, it is not unheard of for some individuals with bipolar disorder to feel confusion and paranoia, or have delusions and visual/auditory hallucinations.

The bi-polar foundation describes acute mania as follows:

…judgement can be significantly impaired and overactivity and irritablity highly problematic. The individual is at risk of behaviour which they may significantly regret later on such as spending or sexual indiscretions that they would never normally consider. In some people, there may even be uncharacteristic and unpredictable violent behaviour. Also some individuals with mania will have psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions which may put them or others at risk. For all of these reasons, one of the first decisions to be made is about whether hospitalisation is required. Many individuals with anything more than mild mania may require hospitalisation for at least a short period of time until treatment is established and symptoms are brought under control.”

Not every individual with bi-polar disorder is the same, and not every treatment is the same for each person. It can often take time, trial and error regarding what combination of medicine an individual needs. 
Often a medication intended to manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder can actually induce episodes of mania- an indication that the individual should be prescribed an alternative medication. Continued use of the wrong prescription can cause reoccurring episodes.

The full video can be watched here and of course there are many more online. [X]

In another post on Reddit, a redditor who claimed to be a close friend of Elisa Lam gave this insight:

I don’t know exactly what kind of mental problems she had, but I and her close friends know that she had some strange episodes before ( and she has disappeared before too). However,her family was always reluctant to talk about her problems like in this case when they refused to release any information regarding her mental problems. Once we found out that she was going though some therapy for 3 weeks and she has regular depressions. I didn’t talk to her for a year so I didn’t know why she was going to LA. I suspect it is connected to schizophrenia or some mental problems rather than recreation drug use. She was traveling alone and it is suspicious too…

Elisa herself talked about her mental health on her tumblr blog in the “life” tag, giving readers small windows into how she felt and what she was dealing with.

Some websites claim that Elisa continued posting in her blog after her death, however she probably just had a queue that posted to schedule, which is a feature on the tumblr blogging site.

Bit terrified right now. My heart rate is going pretty damn fast. Today, if I took a walk or ran for the bus or went up a flight of stairs, I would be out of breath. Not to mention I was incredibly irritated for no reason. It feels as though I’m having trouble breathing. I sincerely hope it’s not the adderall but it most likely it is. However, I took that 6 hours ago and only now is my heart skyrocketing? Is it because I had some green tea and now the caffeine is mixing with the adderall causing my heart to want to leap out of my chest? Not to mention my hands tremor and I have absolutely not appetite (I don’t think I’ve had 3 meals a day for months) due to the anti-depressants. Or is this because I’m not eating enough? Yay side-effects.

Not good. Have been sleeping and avoiding any remote resemblance of human responsibility since last wednesday. Have not worked on paper, haven’t tried to see doctor, haven’t spoken with friends, haven’t left the house.

She loved to read, watch films, was a Harry Potter fan, loved fashion and was excited about her upcoming trip along the west coast. Unfortunately she wouldn’t make it past Los Angeles.

When questioned by investigators Lam’s sister stated that Elisa was taking Wellbutrin (an antidepressant) , Lamotrigine (used to treat bi-polar type 1) , Quetiapine (an atypical antipsychotic usually prescribed to treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder) and one more medication that cannot be recalled.

Maintenance workers found Elisa’s body 19 days after the death after guests of the hotel complained about low water pressure; and the bad tasting and discoloured water, which probably made sense after they saw the news reports.

Her death was ruled as a drowning with no trauma to the body.
She, reportedly, had not been assaulted in any way and the report ruled it an accidental death, possibly linked to Lam’s mental health issues and being in a manic / mixed state.

The decedent died as a result of drowning. A complete autopsy examination showed no evidence of trauma and toxicology studies did not show acute drug or alcohol intoxication. Decedent had a history of bipolar disorder for which she was prescribed medication. Toxicology studies were performed for the presence of these drugs. However, quantitation in the blood was not performed due to limited sample availability. Therefore, interpretation is limited. Police investigation did not show evidence of foul play. A full review of the circumstances of the case and appropriate consultation do not support intent to harm oneself. The manner of death is classified as accident.” (From the report)

Lam was found naked in the water tank, but I was unable to find any report stating why.

One theory floating around online is that Elisa was murdered.

When the previously mentioned verified websluethes member, smeinzer, was asked if he thought it was possible that someone could have carried Lam’s body up the fire escape he had this to say:

 “It would take SO much strength to carry someone up that ladder. I am fairly positive that someone would not be able to carry her up that way. The body would have to have been attached to the attacker in some way because you need both hands to climb the ladder (especially if trying to carry someone). I think she either made her way up the fire escape ladder by herself, possibly while being chased, or she was brought through the alarmed locked door by someone who had a keycard.

Some people entertain the possibility that security, staff or another guest disposed of Elisa in the tank and that foul play was involved.

The death was officially ruled as an accident, but not everyone believes that this is the case.
Sony is allegedly in the process of making a film based on the Lam case, titled “The bringing” -“Directed by Jeremy Lovering. A horror story centered around a man investigating a mysterious death at a hotel.” Originally the film was going to be directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, who is probably most known for his film “Drive” with Ryan Gosling- a movie that Elisa seemed to be a fan of according to her blog posts.

The customers of the Cecil inevitably sued, and the hotel has since re-branded itself as “Stay on Main”

So if you’re looking for a cheap place to stay in downtown LA, maybe think twice before you stay on main.


Elisa's twitter [X
Listography [X]
Tumblr [X]

Rest in Peace, Elisa Lam.


  1. Just a theory, if foul play was involved, quetiapine works as a sedative, if a person was to know her or have studied her prior to the act, they could have used her prescription drugs to sedate her and cause her to drown. All speculation, but I did notice that the coroner/mortician did state that the quantity of her prescription drugs wasn't checked in the toxicology report due to lack of blood to test. It is also entirely possible that she took her own life or it was just an accident, I suppose we'll never know. The fact that 'could not be determined'as cause of death was crossed and then amended to 'accident' on the autopsy is a little unsettling though.

  2. One of the strangest coincidences in the case is this -

  3. someone kill her,it must be one of the staff, she ws trying the lift censor at the time when she tried few times to close the god fucking damn lift ,but someone must hve watching her from cctv ,and knows that she is alone .i believe in . supersitious things ,but for elisa lam case this is involved someone had been killed .

  4. someone kill her,it must be one of the staff, she ws trying the lift censor at the time when she tried few times to close the god fucking damn lift ,but someone must hve watching her from cctv ,and knows that she is alone .i believe in . supersitious things ,but for elisa lam case this is involved someone had been killed .

  5. I wish I remembered what video I saw this in, but the narrator said that other people noticed that part of the elevator video was missing and another part was slowed down or something to make up for the lost time

  6. have read a lot of stuff on lisa lam now... seems like everyone wants to get into the act there is so much stuff out there now and its either copycat or ludicrous... you have achieved a balanced summary with details... I do happen to think she had some kind of help... well help isn't the right word here.

    Just too many odd things about the case still you have one of the best summaries I have come across. There are so many details... the whole time dimension to the video and whether or not it was monkeyed with being just one... thanks!! great job!!

  7. This girl was on medicine for being bipolar. In the elevator video she looks nuts. Ian pretty sure an employee killed her and put her in the water tank so no one would find her. Only an employee can bypass alarms and get to the roof water tank. Elisa was an easy target because she was alone and naive and nuts.