Elisa Lam, also known by her Cantonese name, Lam Ho Yi (藍可兒), was a Canadian student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She was discovered dead, naked and decomposing, in a water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles on February 19, 2013.
Lam’s death was officially ruled an accidental drowning by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, but due to the unusual circumstances surrounding her death, it has been the subject of intense public speculation and conspiracy theories.
Lam’s parents, who are of Chinese descent, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owners and operators of the Cecil Hotel in September 2013. The lawsuit was settled in 2015 for an undisclosed sum.
Lam was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, on April 30, 1991. She was the only child of Ying and Johnny Lam, who had emigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in the 1980s. Lam’s father worked as a waiter and her mother was a housewife.
Lam was a student at the University of British Columbia, where she was studying fashion design. In January 2013, Lam embarked on a solo trip to California, where she planned to visit Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
Lam arrived in Los Angeles on January 26, 2013, and checked into the Cecil Hotel. She was due to check out on February 1, but she extended her stay until February 19.
On the morning of February 19, 2013, hotel staff went to Lam’s room after she failed to check out and found that her belongings were still there. They then called Lam’s parents in Canada, who said that they had not heard from their daughter in several days and asked the hotel to check on her.
Hotel staff went to Lam’s room again and found that she was not there. They then checked the hotel’s surveillance footage and saw Lam acting strangely in the hotel’s elevator on the day she disappeared.
In the footage, Lam can be seen pressing all of the buttons for the floors in the elevator, then stepping out and peering down the hallway in both directions before getting back into the elevator and pressing the button for the roof.
The last time Lam was seen alive was on the elevator footage, which showed her exiting the elevator on the roof of the hotel.
Hotel staff went to the roof and found that Lam was not there. They then searched the hotel and found her body in a water tank on the roof. The tank was about 4 feet (1.2 m) tall and had a diameter of about 5 feet (1.5 m).
Lam’s body was naked and showed signs of decomposition. There was no water in her lungs, indicating that she had died before she was placed in the tank.
The autopsy report determined that Lam’s cause of death was accidental drowning. The report also found that Lam had bipolar disorder and had been taking medication for the condition.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) launched an investigation into Lam’s death, but they were unable to determine how she had ended up in the water tank.
The LAPD released the elevator footage to the public in the hope that someone would recognize Lam and be able to provide information about her final days.
The footage showed Lam behaving strangely, but the LAPD did not believe that it showed anything criminal taking place.
The release of the footage led to a number of theories about Lam’s death, including that she was possessed by a demon, that she was trying to escape someone who was chasing her, or that she was suffering from a mental breakdown.
In the months after Lam’s death, several other deaths and incidents occurred at the Cecil Hotel. In June 2013, a Canadian tourist named Peter Bergmann was found dead in a room at the hotel.
In September 2013, a worker at the hotel fell to his death from the roof. In November 2013, a guest at the hotel committed suicide by jumping from the ninth floor.
In January 2014, a man was found dead in the hotel’s swimming pool. The following month, a woman was raped and murdered in a room at the hotel.
The spate of deaths and incidents led to the hotel being nicknamed the “Hotel Death” and the “Cecil Hotel Curse”.
Lam’s death remains unsolved and the LAPD has said that the case is inactive.