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.


91 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.


  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.


  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.


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