Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Real Name: Elisa Lam
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: February 2013


Occupation: College Student
Date of Birth: April 30, 1991
Height: %'4
Weight: Unrevealed
Marital Status: Unmarried
Characteristics: Depressive and bipolar, but probably not suicidal. According to her Autopsy: "Sara Lam [...] said their sister had a history of depression and bipolar disorder. She was taking 4 medications, Wellbutrin, Lamotrigine, Quetiapine and another that she could not recall. She had no suicidal ideations or known prior attempts."


Details: Elisa Lam was a Canadian college student of Hong Pekingese origin who went missing on January 31, 2013 and was found dead two weeks later inside a water tank in the hotel she was staying in Los Angeles. While investigation concluded that her death by drowning was accidental, the reason why she ended up there is unknown. Security cameras in the hotel's elevator recorded a footage of the last time she was seen before her death, in which she appears to be hiding from someone and makes weird gestures. Several theories about what actually happened emerged on the Internet, but none was ever confirmed. To date, Elisa's case remains largely unsolved and mysterious.
A 21-year-old student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Elisa traveled to Los Angeles alone in late January. She stayed at the Cecil Hotel, a budget inn infamous for having housed a number of murderers, serial killers and suicides in the past. Usually, she contacted her parents every day, but they didn't hear from her on January 31, the day she was supposed to leave the hotel to Santa Cruz, so they decided to contact the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and flew to the city to help with the investigation. The police searched Elisa's room and the hotel to the extent they legally could, having also used tracking dogs, but found no sign of her.

Elisa hiding

On February 13, the police released a footage recorded by a security camera inside one of the hotel's elevators. It shows Elisa entering the elevator, pressing several buttons (which do nothing), trying to hide inside the cab and making certain gestures, such as waving her hands with outstretched fingers. Many observed that she appears to be interacting with someone else, but no other person was ever confirmed to have been there. The footage went viral on the internet, with many commenting about it. It was later discovered that the footage is actually slowed down and skips a period of about one minute.
In the meantime, several guests at the hotel complained about the quality of water, including its low pressure and unusual color and taste. Elisa's corpse was found inside one of the hotel's water tanks in the morning of February 19. Officers had to empty the tank and cut it open in order to remove the body, which showed no signs of sexual assault, suicide or physical trauma. What was collected of her blood wasn't intoxicated with recreational drugs.
In June, the official coroner's report about the case stated that Elisa's body had been found naked, with her clothes (the same as in the video) floating on the water.
Many theories about what actually happened to Elisa in and after the elevator footage appeared on the Internet since her case went viral. What appears to be unanimous consent is that she was hiding from someone, but the disagreement begins on the exact circumstances of this. Many suspect that she was gesturing and talking to a second, unseen person, who could have been her assaulter, or just someone playing hide and seek with her. Others think she was having an episode of mania or psychosis or was under the effect of hallucinogenic drugs. It was also noted that the footage may have been manipulated either by the possible assaulter or by the hotel staff; the motives proposed include not only hiding evidence, but also hiding possible embarrassing behavior (such as Elisa taking off clothes) and promoting the hotel's infamy with another unsolved case.
Suspects: Another curiosity about Elisa's case that some find unsettling revolves around its similarities with the 2005 American horror movie Dark Water, based on a 2002 Japanese movie of the same name, which is in turn based on a 1996 novel by Koji Suzuki. The movie involves a girl named Cecilia and a case in which residents of a house complain about the water's aspect, which is caused by a corpse in a water tank.
Extra Notes: The case has yet to be featured on Unsolved Mysteries. The case was documented on Real Life Nightmare.
Results: Unsolved.