There are mysteries that are so eerie and strange that they boggle the mind for days on end. The case of Elisa Lam is one of them. In February 2013, this 21-year-old student from Vancouver, Canada, was found dead inside the Cecil Hotel’s rooftop water tank in Los Angeles. The L.A. County Department of Coroner ruled the death “accidental due to drowning” and said that no traces of drugs or alcohol were found during the autopsy. However, there is much more to the story than what is implied by police reports. The first piece of evidence that needs to be considered is an elevator surveillance tape that recorded Elisa’s behavior only a few moments before she lost her life.
The four-minute video posted on YouTube shows Elisa pressing all of the elevator buttons and waiting for it to move. Seeing that the elevator doors are not closing, starts behaving extremely bizarrely. Here’s the video.
At first, Elisa enters the elevator and apparently presses all of its buttons. Then, she waits for something to happen but, for some reason, the elevator doors do not close. She starts to look around as if she is expecting (or hiding from) someone. At 1:57, her arms and hands start moving in a bizarre matter (almost not human) as she appears to be talking to someone or something. Then, walks away and the elevator doors shut.
Right after the events of the video, Elisa apparently gained access to the rooftop of the hotel, climbed to its water tank and, somehow, ended up drowning in it. Her body was found two weeks later. The reason: Hotel guests complained about the water’s taste and color.
Seeing the surveillance footage, most people would conclude that she was under the influence of drugs. However, Elisa did not have a history of drug use and her autopsy concluded that no drugs were involved. When one looks at the context and the circumstances of this death, things become even more mysterious.
Cecil Hotel’s Dark History
Built during the 1920s, the Cecil Hotel was built for “businessmen who come into town to spend a night or two”. However, the establishment was quickly upstaged by more glamorous hotels nearby which attracted the wealthier clientele.
Located near the infamous Skid Row area, Cecil Hotel began renting rooms on a long-term basis for cheap prices, a policy that attracted a seedier crowd. The hotel’s reputation soon went from “seedy” to “morbid” when it became notorious for the great number of murders and suicides that occurred within its wall. The Hotel also became known for lodging famous serial killers.
“Part of its sordid history involves two serial killers: Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger.
Now on death row, Ramirez, labeled “the Nightstalker”, was living at the Cecil Hotel in 1985, in a top floor room. He was charged 14 dollars a night. In a building filled with transients, he remained unnoticed as he stalked and killed his 13 female victims. Richard Schave, said “He was dumping his bloody clothes in the Dumpster, at the end of his evening and returned via the back entrance.”
Jack Unterweger was a journalist covering crime in Los Angeles for an Austrian magazine in 1991. “We believe he was living at the Cecil Hotel in homage to Ramirez,” Schave said.
He is blamed with killing three prostitutes in Los Angeles, while being a guest at the Cecil.
In the 50’s and 60’s the Cecil was known as a place that people would go to jump out of one of the hotel’s windows to commit suicide.
Helen Gurnee, in her 50s, leaped from a seventh floor window, landing on the Cecil Hotel marquee, on October 22, 1954.
Julia Moore jumped from her eighth floor room window, on February 11, 1962.
Pauline Otton, 27, jumped from a ninth floor window after an argument with her estranged husband, on October 12, 1962. Otton landed on George Gianinni, 65, who was walking on the side walk, 90 feet below. Both were killed instantly.
There was also a murder of one of the residents. “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood, a retired telephone operator, known for protecting and feeding pigeons in a nearby park, was found dead in his ransacked room on June 4, 1964. He had been stabbed, strangled, and raped. The crime still remains unsolved.”
– Las Vegas Guardian Express, Elisa Lam, Morbid History Of Two Serial Killers Unfolds At “Cecil Hotel”
Elisa Lam’s case is yet another sordid addition to the hotel’s history and can lead us to ask: “What the hell is wrong with that place”?
The Movie “Dark Water”
The story of Elisa Lam is eerily similar to the 2005 horror movie Dark Water. Dahlia, the main protagonist of the movie moves into an apartment building with her young daughter Cecilia. Both of these names are relevant.
Black Dahlia is the nickname given to Elizabeth Short, a woman who was the victim of a gruesome murder in 1947 – one that appeared to be particularly ritualistic.
The daughter’s name, Cecilia, is quite similar to the name Cecil … Hotel.
After moving into her apartment, Dahlia notices dark water leaking from the ceiling into her bathroom. She ultimately discovers that a young girl named Natasha Rimsky drowned in the building’s rooftop water tank, which caused the water to turn black. The owner of the apartment building knew about this fact but refused to take action.
Elisa Lam’s body was in the water tank for over two weeks, causing hotel guests to complain about foul-tasting “black water”.
The ending of the movie is also eerily relevant: The apartment building’s elevator malfunctions as the ghost of Dahlia haunt the premises.
No Foul Play?
In June 2013, authorities concluded that Elisa Lam’s death was accidental and that she was “probably bi-polar”. That being said, some questions remain unanswered. How did Elisa end up in the hotel’s water tank, an area that is difficult to access?
News reports stated that the rooftop area was protected by an alarm system and that the water tank is difficult to reach. How did Elisa reach that area? Also, how did she close the water tank lid?
As is usually the case for strange deaths, authorities have been incredibly secretive and non-transparent during this investigation. What truly happened here? Why are there so many strange coincidences? Why was Elisa Lam acting so strange in the elevator? Was there a ritualistic aspect to this death? Why is the Cecil Hotel a hotbed for these kinds of stories? Is there some paranormal happening there?
The mystery remains whole and authorities are not probing further. In this context, the tagline on Dark Water movie poster takes on all of its meaning: “Some mysteries are not meant to be solved”.
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