Elisa Lam was a 21 year old student originally from Vancouver, who in 2013 began her solo tour around America. Lam arrived in Los Angeles January 26th 2013 and checked into the Cecil Hotel in downtown LA. This was the last place Elisa Lam was ever to be seen; last captured by the hotel's CCTV footage on the evening of January 31st 2013.
Lam was originally sharing a hostel room with roommates however they soon after requested she was moved elsewhere due to her odd and disturbing behaviour. This behaviour is captured in the hotel surveillance footage whereby she acts very erratically and as if she is hiding from somebody (who does not appear to be there in reality) and later displays eery hand gestures (shown at 2:00).
It is widely speculated that Elisa Lam committed suicide following a bipolar psychotic episode. It was originally believed that Lam's unusual behaviour towards an "invisible" being was as a result of drug induced hallucinations, however toxicology reports found no trace of recreative drugs. However, this fact does not dispute this explanation. Lam relied on medication for her bipolar disorder; and blood tests showed that whilst Lam had taken her antidepressants around the time of her death, she had not taken her antipsychotics for a while. Studies have shown that without antipsychotics to balance the effects of the antidepressants, bipolar patients are vulnerable to an increased risk of mania, which can be expressed in the form of hallucinations and paranoia. The suicide theory interprets Lam's behaviour in the lift as a result of mania and suggests she may have climbed into the water tank to "escape" from someone or something she believed to be after her and drowned, leading to an accidental suicide.
However, critics of this theory raise doubts surrounding Lam's ability to reach the water tank alone. The Cecil Hotel is laid out in such a way that it is seemingly impossible to access the hotel roof (where the tanks were situated) without setting off any alarms or without a staff access card. This means for Lam to reach the water tanks by herself she would have needed an elaborate route plan, which does not make sense with the mania theory for she would not have been able to predict or plan for this situation. Additionally, it is sceptical how Lam would be able to lift a 20lb lid after climbing a 10ft ladder into the water tank, and then pull the 20lb lid back over the tank; especially as the autopsy results showed no signs of struggle or strain.
The implications of the suicide theory lead to a second theory that suggests Elisa Lam was murdered by a hotel staff member. The Cecil Hotel had a poor reputation due to high rates of crime, deaths and suicide. The theory argues that Lam was not hallucinating; rather there was a genuine individual chasing her, and one who knew the positioning of the cameras and therefore how to avoid being picked up by CCTV - knowledge only a staff member is likely to know. This would explain why Lam hides after checking outside the lift, and why the lift doors do not close as somebody may have been obstructing them. In addition, the CCTV footage had been tampered with before the police had access to it, for it had been slowed down and a minute of footage is entirely missing. This serious contamination of evidence leads to the theory that the hotel staff may have wanted to protect the perpetrator, and therefore adjusted the speed to make her behaviour appear "odd", and deleted the footage where the staff member(s) may have accidentally been picked up by CCTV. This also would explain how Lam reached the water tanks without setting off any alarms, and how the lid managed to be lifted back over the tank.
Despite this theory resolving many implications of the suicide theory, it is important to reinforce the fact the autopsy showed no signs of struggle or physical trauma. Arguably, this disputes the murder theory to quite a considerable extent. There also does not appear to be any clear motive for anybody to murder Elisa Lam. There is another theory that I will not go into in this post, however it aims to resolve this point by suggesting somebody may have been hired to murder Lam as a cover up for a failed drug trial for TB. This drug kit was coincidentally called "Lam Elisa", suggesting the murder may have been planned (or made up entirely) so that when people searched for those terms they would only find knowledge about a mystery murder as opposed to the failed drug trial. Whilst I personally do not believe this theory, there is a huge amount of evidence and theory to it, so I would be happy to discuss this with anybody or provide you with some literature if this is of particular interest to you.
3. Korean Elevator Game
Whilst the debate between suicide and murder surrounding the death of Elisa Lam is significant, there is also a host of paranormal explanations - one being that Lam was attempting the "Korean Elevator Game". This is a game whereby players follow a set of elevator rules to ultimately enter a second dimension filled with hatred and evil spirits. Some believe that Lam may have been interacting with a paranormal being in the elevator which could have possessed her mind leading her to her death, or that she was traumatised to the point of suicide whilst trying to escape this second dimension. Whilst I personally am very skeptical of a paranormal explanation, I decided I would include this theory as it is fascinating how closely linked the rules of the game and Lam's behaviour are - it is worth looking this up further for an interesting read.
There are many many more theories as to what happened to Elisa Lam, with a noticeably high amount of paranormal theories in this particular case. I personally am most inclined to believe it was a suicide, theorising that her solo tour may have been a very sad escape. Lam was very open about her struggles with mental health on her social media accounts (which I do believe can still be reviewed if anybody would like the links); therefore whether this was a psychotic episode or a case of depression heartbreakingly developing into suicidal thoughts, I do believe this is the most credible theory. I am more inclined to believe it was a planned suicide due to the striking similarities between this case and the movie "Dark Water". This 2005 horror movie shows the death of a young girl from drowning in a water tank on the rooftop of an apartment. In this movie footage of the girl in an elevator is remarkably significant, just as it is to the Lam case, and she is shown getting to the water tanks via a certain route that prevented setting off any alarms. Probably the most striking similarity is that the girl in the movie and Elisa Lam were wearing almost identical clothing around the time of their "deaths".
I believe the similarities are chilling, and whilst they may be a big coincidence, I do think the possibility that Elisa Lam was recreating this movie therefore resulting in her death should definitely be considered. However, I still am very very conflicted by a lot of theories and would LOVE to discuss your thoughts and opinions too, and perhaps discuss some of the other theories I didn't mention in this post.
Thank you so much for reading, and please do feel free to leave any comments so we can discuss your thoughts below!
21 year old Psychology student, running a blog to satisfy my love for writing and debating.