What killed Elisa Lam, whose body rotted for 2 weeks in a hotel water tank?


This post, especially the surveillance video at the end, will unnerve you. Make your own judgment as to what happened to Elisa Lam, but note that the title of this post is “What killed Elisa Lam,” not “Who killed Elisa Lam”.

Elisa Lam

On February 19, 2013, the body of Elisa Lam (pic above), a 21-year-old college student from Vancouver, Canada, was found in a gigantic water tank on the roof of Cecil Hotel, a rundown hotel in Los Angeles’ tenderloin district which marketed itself as cheap lodging for international tourists but also rented rooms to long-term residents.

Cecil Hotel2Cecil Hotel1

The young woman had traveled alone to California for tourism, arriving on January 27. Reportedly in daily contact with her parents in Vancouver, Lam was last seen by hotel employees on January 31, which meant her body had been in the water tank for more than two weeks.

Indeed, for two weeks guests at the Cecil Hotel had complained of low water pressure and a foul taste in the water. After the discovery of Lam’s body, L.A. County health officials at first issued a do-not-drink order. After conducting two tests of the water, officials declared the water was safe from a “microbiological standpoint.” Chlorine in the water probably killed any bacteria in the tank where Lam’s body was found. 

On June 20, 2013, Los Angeles Coroner’s Lt. Fred Corral said Lam’s body had no signs of trauma indicating foul play, and ruled her death “an accident with bipolar disorder listed as a significant condition,” without elaborating what “significant condition” meant. Toxicology tests found nothing that contributed to her death. Authorities have not said how they believe Lam got into the tank. She had simply “accidentally drowned.”

But as you can see from the pictures below of the hotel’s water tanks, how Lam could have climbed up to the top of the 8-foot tall, 4-foot diameter tank, pushed aside the lid, “accidentally” fell into the tank, then put the lid back on and “accidentally drowned” defies a rational explanation.  For an assailant to drag her  body up to the top of the tank would be even more difficult.

The only ways to get to the roof are via a fire escape and a locked door to which only employees have access. The door is equipped with an alarm system that notifies hotel personnel if someone is on the roof.

Cecil Hotel water tanksCecil Hotel water tanks1

The hotel has a checkered and rather spooky history, including: 

  • “Night Stalker” serial killer Richard Ramirez, who died of cancer June 7 while on death row for 13 slayings in the 1980s, had lived on the hotel’s 14th floor for several months in 1985.
  • In 1962, a female occupant jumped out of a hotel window, killing herself and a pedestrian.

Before the discovery of her body, police searching for Lam had released a surveillance video of the hotel elevator, showing her behaving oddly — pushing buttons for multiple floors, peering out of the elevator, stepping in and out of the elevator, waving her arms, and seemingly trying to hide herself in a corner. The video triggered widespread speculation and conspiracy theories about her death on the Internet in the U.S., Canada, and especially in China, where the video went viral.

Warning: The video is disturbing, more so than a horror movie because it’s not a movie. Please watch the video till the end, even after Lam had exited the elevator. Tell me if you see movement in the wall of the elevator, including a face. I’m not joking.

Sources: USA Today; CBS News; L.A. Times; CNNVigilant Citizen.


112 responses to “What killed Elisa Lam, whose body rotted for 2 weeks in a hotel water tank?

  1. I will not tell you

    Did anyone see the dark figure next to the buttons that looked like her and was pressing the buttons. Creepy!!!


  2. This is what I noticed…

    How long do elevator doors take to automatically close? Here, you see, the first time is about 8-9 seconds… it starts to close, then stops. It reopens, and stays open… Keep in mind, she is not touching any buttons at this point, and by the looks of it, has depressed a few floor buttons.

    By the looks of it.. that elevator was put onto service by someone.. as a hold door open button usually only lasts a short while or while held.

    Food for thought anyway…

    I would also add, that I myself, would only push multiple buttons is so that someone watching from a different floor couldn’t track which one it stopped at easily. It’s one of the few things you can do to confuse a pursuer, if forced to use an elevator for escape.


  3. I dont understand it!!!!! Everybody says that she can’t be killed, but how would a young girl do this all?????? Kill the security system, climb up on a 3 metres tall water tank and close it before die??? Bullshit! Somebody killed her!!!!!


  4. Did anybody think that maybe she did meet someone who whilst in the elevator was being playful with. Maybe she was going to ride to the top floor and try to beat whoever she was with up to the roof. It is possible they both went to the roof and playfully decided to take a swim in the tanks, and perhaps she accidentally drowned. Not wanting to be caught up in her death and be perhaps accused of something they didn’t do…the person wit h her left.


  5. Take the paranormal thinking out of it for a second. Everything you see here could be explained this way: The door wouldn’t shut, she started pressing multiple buttons, finally walked out into the hall to see if anyone was around to ask what’s going on with the elevator, then she leaves. The door finally does shut, and the elevator then proceeds to go to all the floors for the buttons she pushed. How she died, I don’t know, but it’s possibly unrelated. Just food for thought


  6. At the end, you can make out the image of a face. It’s unnerving. The part that bugs me the most out of the entire thing, more so than the elevator, is how she made it into the tank and why there has been no further information from the LAPD. If someone murdered her, who is it? The scary version is that the LAPD couldn’t figure out who did this to her and how she would have physically been able to do it to herself.


    • Yes!! I see the face just after the elevator door closes. It takes up the entire screen, like it is meant for the viewer to see or is a large “presence”. And it just “feels” wrong.


  7. CN where is the face? I can’t see it


  8. What i think happened is that Elisa was being playful with a friend, and Elisa is dared to swim inside the water tank, which would explain the hiding (being playful and trying to scare who ever she was with) and swimming arm motions, it could be that Elisa was trapped inside whilst she was inside or getting in, although, there are still some questions, such as why she was naked and how the alarm systems were not triggered.
    Just something to think about…


  9. I simply ask CN where the face is because I can’t see it and someone votes the comment down??


  10. I have no idea how any of that stuff works (almost completely technology illiterate lol), but can a person be photoshopped out of a video? It really looks like someone “clear” is moving around the elevator and pushing buttons; maybe someone important who was protected? Sorry if I’m dumb and that isn’t possible :)


  11. they say that it is impossible for her to climb into the tall tanks, but one picture on this page shows a railing that she could have easily climbed up to get access to the water tank. also somewhere it states that she had multiple perscription and otc drugs in her body, including many bipolar and depression drugs as well as pseudoephedrine which is used in meth and other similar drugs. it is very possible that she was taking drugs or slipped drugs without her knowledge that either did not show up on other drug tests or were washed away or diluted in the time after she had died. also i have known people on drugs that she was taking, especially the drug effexor and they have had very crazy psychotic outbursts. any of these factors could have led to her death, although i am not entirely sure if there wasn’t any other factors that are unknown or have been covered up. one reason i say this is the fact that the video has obviously been edited, if for nothing else than covering the timestamp data at the bottom. i dont understand why this would need to be done unless trying to cover something up.


    • The problem with this rationale is the lid. They are heavy and can’t be removed conventionally, let alone put back in place once someone is in the tank. Nor can someone pull someone up and remove the lid one handed and throw someone in.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. The elevator doors are not shutting. It could be that someone outside the door is pressing the button outside to prevent it from moving. At the last instant when she turns out of the elevator to the left.. the feet seem odd. She was on the 14th floor already when this clip was taken and the doors didn’t close and move until she left. Something or someone definitely was preventing it from moving.

    For the water towers, it’s indicated she was nude. The chlorine in the water killed any DNA evidence. Definitely seems to be foul play, since the location was known for it’s seedy residents and likely those that worked there.

    Other sites indicate that her phone was missing, and her laptop – to which she blogged regularly were missing. Odd that it’s assumed this was immediately considered to be a mysterious accident – and not a homicide.


  13. As far as the above video:

    The hotel she was staying in had a reputation for being a bit seedy, tenants and employees. I assume at least management/owners were not the most efficient or caring.
    The elevator was probably faulty. She was probably hitting several buttons in order to see if that would get a response from the elevator. The jumping in and out may have been a humorous way to see if the doors would close. That type of animated physical expression as well as the talking and hand waving suggests someone was in the nearby vicinity. I don’t think it’s something paranormal or someone somehow cloaked. Nor do I think the tape has been tampered to the degree to remove someone. I simply believe there was someone in the hall or off camera and she was talking to them and expressing her frustration in a light hearted way.

    That person or persons off camera were either no longer staying at the hotel when her body was discovered or due to the fact it was a police investigation regarding a death, they didn’t want to be involved and did not come forward. Especially, considering that the type of clientele residing there, may not be the type to want to deal with the police.

    As for her death:
    Given the hotel and obvious lack of proper management, I highly doubt that the door to the fire escape was locked at all times. She may have gone to the fire escape to look for a different way down. Once outside she might have become curious as to what was around and gone exploring. (I’ve never been on a rooftop of a historic building but I would be curious) Perhaps she didn’t realize the water cistern for what it was and went for a look. Maybe the door to the cistern closed unexpectedly while she peered in and it knocked her into the cistern when it closed. Once in the cistern she removed her clothes, either to attempt to make a rope in order to try to get herself out or after treading water she began to get tired and thought her clothes were adding extra weight.

    Unfortunately, I doubt we will ever know the truth. My prayers for her friends and family.


  14. I noticed the time stopping and starting also, looks like some type of editing.


  15. Not bad, Jennifer. BUT, did they say her clothes were in the cistern with her? I didn’t see that. Only that she was nude.


  16. Someone mentioned she was on the 14th floor, I noticed she walked to the left after she exited the elevator for the final time and on a map of this hotels floor plan it showed a stairwell in very close proximity to the direction she took. So was someone waiting in the stairwell, the fire escape, or on the roof? Did someone rig the elevator so she would have to take the stairs? Maybe the person had knowledge of the workings of elevators, or even worked there. Given you’re dealing with things that would require someone to be familiar with 1. elevators, 2. the exits 3. stairwells 4. fire escape 5. the roof top 6. the water tanks and have “access to all these places” only leaves someone who worked there or lived there with possibly a degree maintenance knowledge, in elevators in particular. Like in many of these old hotels these elevators are really old! and date back!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I think there were two people, one to the left of the elevator and one to the right. The left one seems to be her friend as all he did was stand there and we saw his shoe, and the right person was clearly a murderer or something and that’s the one she was gesturing to. This case gives me the creeps, for some reason it reminds me of the video game called the crooked man. There was obviously a lot of stuff that happened off camera that we’ll never know about …


    • At what point in the video do you see the unseen man’s shoe? minute and second, please.


      • When she left the elevator the final time,u can clearly see a strange black Object(possibly Someone’s foot-not sure but it does look like a foot) on her left.when she moved to her left,if u closely observe her movement,its very strange.outside of elevator,she leaned a little bit forward then moved to her left in a way as she is lifting her right leg like something was there on her right leg area.so to avoid the collision,she moved around that black thing.her foot movement is clearly visible. This is what I observed.the other explanation can be her weird feet movement like she totally twisted her left leg and what we see in the video is her left foot alonng with right leg but it doesn’t make sense(unless she practiced yoga).


  18. She was being playful. Not necessarily with anyone other than herself. I’ve known Asian females and her behavior isn’t really unusual. However, she could have been with someone else who was down the hall and fooling around / playing with her.


    • I’ve watched the video of this young lady many times…to me she seems frightened of someone or something in the hall…she looks panicked as she presses all of the buttons in the elevator, then backs herself into the corner of the elevator…I don’t see anything playful about her behavior…if she was “with someone else, down the hall who was fooling around/playing with her”, then where is this person?…I believe this poor girl wanted to just get to the lobby of the Cecil Hotel, for whatever reason, but by pressing all the elevator buttons she ended up on the top floor, where someone or something brought her to the roof…the video sends chills down my spine because I believe that there was something very dark and evil in the hallway and she just wanted to get away from it…playful and having fun??..no way…
      I pray she’s in Heaven with God..


  19. oh that’s right, she was already on the 14th floor (which is obviously the 13th floor),, and that’s really creepy to me, too…was she staying on the 14th floor?…I just can’t watch this video again; it’s just too scary :(


  20. Elisa didn’t climb up the water tank by herself undetected, open the lid (impossible) climb in, close it (also impossible), and drown. It’s be even more impossible for someone to drag her up there, hold onto her, then basically open the lid one handed and throw her in.

    What are we dealing with here? A murderer with the strength of the hulk? Come on. She didn’t die by conventional means. She didn’t kill herself as she couldn’t have removed the lid, nor was it any staff as for the same reason, couldn’t remove the lid.

    Whatever killed her was obviously not of this world if it’s to be put bluntly.


  21. Notice at the beginning of the video, when the girl pressed on all the buttons and stood in the corner of the elevator (body language telling that shes creeped out) The elevator was closing.. but somehow it stopped and opened again. You need to focus to be able to spot that. For the elevator to do that, someone must be pressing the buttons outside.
    After that, she puts her head out and looks to her right and left really fast. No one was there.
    Around the middle of the video, the girl acts really abnormal. As if she’s seen something unbelievable. A paranormal force that led to her death.
    If a human was following her, she wouldn’t act like she is in the video. She would act more differently. She could do anything, she can scream, anything.


  22. what time frame or seconds in the video can you see the image


  23. I do see a bearded face towards the end, however maybe 40 seconds before that if you look closely there seem to be words forming on the wall (I thought I saw the words roof and pug? and something else that looks crossed out) Could be my eyes playing tricks on me, but did anyone else notice this?


  24. I see a young woman acting very strangely, yes. But I don’t see faces, just a poor quality camera that pixelates easily with changes in light levels. And as to the lid being on the cistern and it being difficult to move, impossible for her to have done from the inside…where is the proof it was in place for the whole two weeks she was missing? My idea: an employee had tampered with the roof security as an easy place to go smoke, smoke what is debatable, and as a result she got out there without a record of it. She ends up in the cistern (1)because it seems like a good idea at the time, the lid being open when she gets there, (2) she’s up there with someone else and horseplay gets out of hand and she falls in with the other person panicking. She can’t get out and drowns. With in a day or two an employee is on the roof smoking and notices the lid and closes it not seeing her body, it wouldn’t float until decomposition gases brought it to the surface. Her body is found and the employee doesn’t come forward because then they would have to admit to tampering with the door/security and smoking what was undoubtedly an illegal substance. Sad, gross, not paranormal at all.


  25. I still suspect foul play. I think someone “perhaps and employee” forced her or drugged her to get her to the roof. Heck maybe she’s already been drugged by the time she is in the elevator. The person outside the elevator obviously knows not to be seen by the camera. She was probably stripped naked by the creep who then probably raped her. Then threw her in the tank. She was 115 pounds. Any in shape man at 250 pounds at 6’2 could easily pick her up an toss her over his head dead weight or not.
    I would like to think its something creepy like a demon but lets be realistic, women being drugged and raped happens alot more than ghosts murderers…. I’m not intending to be mean just saying lets use some Occam’s razor here.


  26. Where did they find her clothes? I don’t recall reading anything about that.


  27. I believe she was having a psychotic episode, believed someone was after her, got onto the roof through the fire escape and thought the water tank would be a good place to hide. Being a maintenance area it’s logical to assume a ladder may have been somewhere nearby or maybe even set up against the tanks. She climbed up and opened the hatch, jumped in and drowned. Then, sometime between the time she died and the time they searched the hotel and roof for her, a maintenance worker came by and saw the ladder, and the open hatch, and figured it had been left open carelessly by another worker and closed the hatch and removed the ladder, probably without even thinking to look inside to see if anything or anyone was in there. Then didn’t want to say anything about it later for fear of losing their job or being sued, or they did speak up and we just haven’t heard all those details. I think it’s worthwhile to remember that time passed between when she died, when they looked for her, and when they found her, and a lot of potentially confusing things could have happened in that time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s