Category Archives: true crime

The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam – 31 Days of Halloween #1

Hey guys!

Happy October! 30 days until Halloween; I’m super excited!

Every day of this month, I am going to be uploading a new blog post. There will be some true crime, some personal experiences and even some movie reviews so I’m sure that you’ll find at least one post that you like.

Before you read any further, if you don’t already, I would appreciate it if you could hit that follow button in the bottom right corner and enter your email so that you are notified every time I upload a new post; it would mean so much to me.

But without further ado, Happy October folks,

Let’s jump into this post…


The Case

Elisa Lam was a 21-year-old Canadian student studying in Vancouver.

In January 2013, she left Canada to ‘tour’ numerous cities on the West coast of the United States.

Her travels began in San Diego, where she visited the city zoo and wrote about the experience on her Tumblr blog. From there, she moved on to Los Angeles on January 26 and checked into the Cecil Hotel, intending to stay there for five days and then continue on her travels to Santa Cruz.

However, on this day, January 31st, Lam’s parents did not receive their customary daily phone call from their daughter and, finding this uncharacteristic of Lam, they contacted the Los Angeles Police Department and reported her disappearance.

During further investigation, hotel staff said that she was alone on the morning of her disappearance. The manager of a local bookstore, who was the last person to have seen Lam alive, described her as ‘outgoing, very lively, very friendly’. He stated that she had gone in to the shop to buy gifts for her family.

The police searched the hotel for her but with no definite evidence that a crime had been committed, they were acting on a limited search and found nothing.

On February 6, the LAPD posted flyers around the local community, urging anyone with any information on Lam’s disappearance to come forward and contact them, hoping to gain new leads. A week passed with no new information and it was at this point that the case took a turn for the bizarre.

On February 16, the LAPD released surveillance footage taken from the Cecil Hotel on February 1. The video, which has become the most talked about piece of evidence from the case, depicts Lam in one of the hotel’s elevators, acting in a rather strange manner.

While in the elevator, she peers outside, as if looking for someone and occasionally pushed herself up into one of the corners of the small confines, as if trying to avoid someone. The video also shows her pressing multiple buttons hurriedly and making erratic hand gestures. Before the video ends, she exits the elevator and the doors open and close multiple times before the video ends.

The video sparked numerous theories about what could have caused Lam’s disappearance including drug abuse, mental health issues and even demonic possession. It is believed, however, that the video had been altered at some point before it’s public release. Evidence of this is that the time-stamp is obscured, some parts of the video appear slowed down and nearly a minute of footage has supposedly been removed mid-video.

It was around the time of the release of the video that guests at the hotel were beginning to complain of discoloured water coming from taps and others claimed that the water tasted funny. One woman described the water as:

It had a very funny, sweet, disgusting taste. It’s a very strange taste. I can barely describe it.

Upon hearing these complaints, hotel employees investigated the rooftop water tanks in order to try and find the cause of the water disturbances. What they found instead, however, in one of the water tanks, completely naked, was Lam’s body.

An autopsy of Lam’s body found no traces of trauma or sexual assault, no traces of illicit drugs and evidence that Lam had committed suicide. Eventually, the cause of death was settled as accidental drowning, however this conclusion raised more questions than it answered.

After this, the investigation ceased but there are many vital questions that remain unanswered. For example, the water tanks were all 4 ft by 8 ft and were propped up on cement blocks with no easy access to them – hotel employees had to use a three-metre ladder to access the tank when they were investigating. Also, the lids on the tanks were heavy and difficult to displace. The lid of the tank Lam was found in was closed and there are many questions as to how she had managed to firstly open the lid and secondly, close it again after her.

The Toxicology Report

Lam’s family had stated that their daughter had suffered with bipolar disorder and that she was on multiple medications to help her cope. Finding her doctor’s files, police were able to compile a list of her prescribed medication, which included:

1. Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) – 2 10mg capsules

Dexedrine is a stimulant often prescribed for ADD/ADHD and narcolepsy.

2. Lamotrigine (Lamitical) – 100mg

Lamitical is an anti-convulsant and mood stabiliser often prescribed for epilepsy and bipolar disorder.

3. Quetiapine (Seroquel) – 25mg

Seroquel is an atypical anti-psychotic prescribed for major depressive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

4. Venlafaxine (Effexor) – 225mg

Effexor is an SNRI anti-depressant prescribed for major depressive disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social phobia.

5. Buporpion (Wellbutrin) – 300mg

Wellbutrin is an atypical antidepressant prescribed for depression and smoked cessation.

Two OTC medications were also found on the list:

  1. Advil – Ibuprofen, painkiller
  2. Sinutab – decongestant

Although it is a popular theory, it is unlikely that the toxicology report was affected by Lam’s prolonged stay in the water (3 weeks) as it was her bile, blood from her heart and her liver enzymes that were tested, which wouldn’t have been affected until about 6 weeks of decomposition.

Below is a brief list of the drugs that were found within Lam’s system during the toxicology tests and what implications this had on the case and any theories:

1. Venlafaxine was present in the blood and the enzymes tested – this suggests that Lam had had taken this medication the day she had died.

2. Bupropion metabolites were also present in the blood and enzyme tested – this suggests that Lam had also taken this drug recently prior to her death but not on the day itself as only the metabolites were detected, not the drug itself. It is important to note that Bupropion can also sometimes cause mania in bipolar disorder.

3. Quetiapine and it’s metabolites were not detected in any quantity meaning that she had not taken the medication recently.

4. Lamotrigine was found in very small amounts in blood, so much so, it is debatable whether it was present at all. However, traces were also found in the enzymes that were tested – this suggests that again, she had taken the medication but not on the day that she had died.

5. Her bile ethanol levels were 0.02g%, which is a normal amount.

6. Aside from this, no ethanol was detected meaning that she had consumed no alcohol prior to her death.

7. No obvious illegal drugs were found in her system. The tests scanned for marijuana, cocaine, MDMA, barbiturates, opiates and amphetamines. As the results came back clear, this also suggests that she hadn’t taken her Dexedrine recently either.

Conclusions that can be drawn form the toxicology report are that she had taken at least one antidepressant on the day of her death. It can also be concluded that she had taken a second anti-depressant and a mood stabiliser a short time prior to her death. It is also clear she had not taken her anti-psychotics recently. She had also not consumed or any alcohol and was not under the influence of mainstream drugs.

The Theories

Many believe that Lam was murdered although there is no evidence that leads to foul play and no one was sighted with her that night. Further speculation claim that the killer could have been a hotel employee who would have known where to stand so that they were not picked up by security cameras and would have easily blended in to the surroundings if spotted by someone. It is also not too far fetched that a murderer may have been in the hotel. The Cecil Hotel has attracted many serial killers over the years, including Rickard ‘The Night Stalker’ Ramirez and Jack Unterwerger. The theory of a creeper seems probable and is also supported by the security video of her frantically pressing the elevator buttons. Many police departments put out statements such as this one form the Tokyo Meteropoliton Police and it is likely that her parents would have imparted this wisdom before allowing their daughter to travel alone:

If, on the occasion that you find yourself riding in an elevator and feel afraid, regardless of how rude it may seem, immediately press all of the buttons and get out of the elevator at the next floor. If you wait until something happens, it is already too late.

Lam’s Tumblr blog had also spoke of ‘creepers’ in the hotel, which suggests that she was afraid and that she was being followed by someone.

A second theory is that the dark history of the hotel influenced the events. Below is a timeline of notable events that have happened over the years at the Cecil Hotel:

1947 – The body of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short was found in a field on south North Avenue between Coliseum and West 39th Street – a 20 minute walk from the hotel. The body had been cut in half, completely drained of blood, and given a ‘Cheshire Grin’. The Cecil Hotel was the last place that the aspiring actress had been seen alive and the murder was never solved.

1962 – Two women committed suicide at the hotel by jumping from the windows. 27-year-old Pauline Otton jumped from the ninth floor after an argument with her estranged husband and fell 90 feet, landing on a 65-year-old man who had been walking by – both were killed instantly. The second lady, named Julia Moore, jumped from the eighth floor in the same year. She didn’t leave a suicide note, just a bus ticket and a bankbook with $1800.

1985 – Richard Ramirez resided at the hotel, staying in a room on the top floor. He would leave the hotel at night, brutally butcher his victims, then remove his bloody clothes and dump them in the bins behind the hotel. After murdering 9-year-old Mei Leung, he even disposed of her body in the basement of the hotel.

1991 – Jack Unterwerger stayed at the hotel, posing as a true crime writer researching the murder of prostitutes. Hotel staff had no idea that he had slain seven prostitutes in Austria before moving to Los Angeles. He would lure prostitutes to the hotel, advising to use the back fire escape to avoid detection at the main desk, where he would then strangle them with their bras before dumping their bodies in nearby alleyways.

This theory states that either Lam had read too much into the dark history of the place or that the spirits of the dead had either driven her to suicide or that she became so overwhelmed that she felt it was the only way out.

In 2005, eight years before Lam’s death, a horror film titled ‘Dark Water’ was released. The movie depicts a young woman who had gone to a hotel, only to die and be found in one of the hotel’s water tanks. There were multiple similarities between the movie and the case, including:

The main character’s name in the film is Cecilia and the hotel Lam was staying in was called the Cecil Hotel.

The elevator video in the movie is placed in the exact same angle as the camera that recorded Lam’s final moments.

The girl in the movie gains access to the roof through a door which should have been locked and alarmed – this is the way it is believed that Lam found her way onto the roof.

Whilst less of a theory but more of a coincidence, this has circulated around the internet and it is very bizarre, almost as if the movie prophecised her death or that a murderer decided to pay homage to the film.

There is another, simpler theory that Lam’s death was caused by depression and suicidal thoughts, although this theory is the less believed. Lam’s blog can still be read online and the opening quote is by ‘Fight Club’ author Chuck Palahniuk:

You’re always haunted by the idea that you’re wasting your life

Lam often posted about feelings of depression and suicidal thoughts however police reported that there was no evidence that she had taken her own life or how she could have managed to do it. Also, it would have seemed a lot more logical for her to leap from the rooftop if suicide had been her plan.

And the final theory I will speak about, although not the last theory that there is, is that many conspiracy theorists claim that Lam did not exist at all and that the entire case was a fabrication to distract the public from a government-sponsored tuberculosis outbreak and testing. During the time of the case and not long afterwards, there was tuberculosis testing in the same area as the Cecil Hotel and this testing was called the Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay or LAM ELISA for short. It’s said that the case was made-up so that anyone searching LAM ELISA would instead see news about the case instead of the testing, which the government was trying to cover up or complete as discreetly as possible.


And there we have it guys, my first post for ’31 Days of Halloween’.

I know, it was super long, but I wanted to really dive deep into this case as it is one that has interested me for years.

Definitely tell me what you think about this case in the comments down below or DM me on twitter – @Eerie_Unsolved .

Thank you so much for reading and until next time,

Stay Eerie!


Sources:

https://www.historicmysteries.com/what-happened-to-elisa-lam/

https://crimeviral.com/2018/04/death-elisa-lam-5-theories-really-happened/

http://smashinglife.co.uk/4-theories-what-was-elisa-lam-doing-just-before-she-died-in-this-video/

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If you are not already following me on Twitter, you definitely should be, because then you get to have a say in the content that I post – go and follow me, my handle is @Eerie_Unsolved.

A quick reminder that I am still looking for YOUR stories so be sure to send them to me via a DM, the contact page here or to my email, eerieunsolved.stories@gmail.com.

I am also looking for questions for an upcoming Q & A post so be sure to send me those as well!

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