Netflix’s “Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel,” a true crime docuseries directed by Joe Berlinger, isn’t for the weak. Not only is the 4-hour docuseries spooky, it will have your eyes glued to the television while you’re gripping your seat.
Cecil Hotel is a horrid hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The series tells the story of Elisa Lam, a Canadian student who mysteriously went missing inside the hotel before later being discovered drowned.
Cecil Hotel was known for its low rates, drug addicts and violent guests. The 700 room hotel had an estimated 80 deaths between 2007-2017, according to former general manager Amy Price. “Someone died here, someone died there, suicides, overdoses, and murders,” she recalls.
But what happened to Elisa Lam? A student traveling through California had reportedly disappeared as of January 2013, after an elevator security video shows the last footage of Lam alive. In the security video, Lam appears to be acting very unusual, pushing buttons, making weird hand movements, and possibly talking to someone in the hall outside of the elevator.
Lam’s body was later found in the hotel’s water tank almost three weeks later.
After the camera footage was released to the public, true crime fans became obsessed, analyzing the footage. Claiming there may have been another person Lam was talking to due to possibly seeing another foot in the hall, and suggesting there was a possible alteration with the timestamp that suggested manipulation by the hotel. Was the hotel covering up something? Were the rumors true about the hotel being haunted, or did Lam run into the wrong person?
Lam documented her thoughts on the social media site Tumblr. Her personal thoughts that were shared helped answer questions that detectives needed. Lam said that she didn’t abuse drugs, nor did she drink alcohol. Lam also mentioned being the target of unwanted advances, raising eyebrows of people around the world indicating that she may have met someone who wanted to harm her. Then there was the post about her dealing with bipolar disorder and thoughts of suicide, also explaining how she relapsed and tired of living with the disorder.
Lam’s family called the LAPD after days went by of not hearing from her. Cops began to search the hotel but couldn’t find Lam anywhere on the premises. It is still unclear how she died; authorities found no evidence of physical trauma in her autopsy report. Additionally, the only findings in the toxicology report were multiple different medications to treat her bipolar disorder, but there was no indication of alcohol or illegal drugs in her body.
An LA coroner issued a finding of accidental drowning, with bipolar disorder as a significant factor. Law enforcement officials never made any arrests in connection with the case and it was officially documented as accidental.
On Feb. 19, 2013, Lam’s body was found by a maintenance worker, floating in one of the hotel’s water tanks after several hotel guests complained about low water pressure and a weird taste in the tap water. According to the Los Angeles Fire Department, the tank that Lam was found in had to be drained completely and cut in order to fit her body inside of it. Lam was wearing the same clothes she had on in the elevator camera footage and her lifeless body was decomposed.
Numerous theories, such as government conspiracies, suicide, and malevolent spirit assumptions have been shared on the internet about how Lam’s life came to such a grisly end. Lam’s death is simply documented as a tragic death as a result of her mental health illness.