From time to time when I walk past the Hotel Cecil I gaze up and look at the tops of the water tanks that sit on the roof. Two years ago a 21-year-old student named Elisa Lam was found dead inside one of them.
It’s a death that you probably have heard about. A woman is seen in a CCTV security tape going into an elevator and acting in a very bizarre manner. She disappears from sight and is found several days later floating in one of the building’s water tanks.
However, unlike the many deaths that have occurred inside the hotel Elisa Lam’s death hasn’t been ruled a suicide or homicide. It was ruled as an accidental drowning, which could have been caused by her bipolar disorder.
Years later there’s still no satisfactory explanation on Elisa’s strange behavior and mysterious death. The only thing we’re left with is the unnerving CCTV video and the countless questions it left behind. Here is where Elisa’s story becomes interesting.
Hotel Cecil is situated 3-4 blocks away from Los Angeles’ infamous Skid Row. A seedy part of Downtown that houses many criminals, junkies, and mentally disturbed individuals. It has been this way for decades, like back when Richard Ramirez was on the loose and terrorizing most of Los Angeles in the 1980s. Skid Row and the Hotel Cecil were places that Ramirez frequented while he went through his murderous spree killing Angelenos. Years later another serial killer would call the Hotel Cecil his temporary home.
In 2013 Skid Row and most of Downtown were under the threat of a severe Tuberculosis outbreak.
“Historically, Skid Row has been kind of a…for lack of a better term…a Petri dish for a whole lot of things,” he said. “As long as I’ve known it and we just got to find a way to change that…” – LAPD Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph
The Los Angeles Times reports that more than 4,500 people may have been exposed to tuberculosis and that scientists have recently linked this recent outbreak to a TB strain unique to L.A., with a small number of isolated cases outside the area.
Isoniazid is the most common antibiotic prescribed to those who suffer from TB. One of the main side effects of this drug is confusion and abnormal behavior. Why is this relevant?
In a strange coincidence, a tool that is being used to test patients for Tuberculosis is called the LAM-ELISA test, or Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent assay.
MMRP.org has the information:
Of interest was a significant correlation between the level of microscopic density of mycobacteria in sputum and LAM antigen concentration in urine (χ2=8.44). The LAM-ELISA is a field-adapted tool that can improve screening standards in countries with a high incidence of TB.
We are currently conducting a much larger final phase III evaluation in TB suspect patients in Mbeya.
In a city that has an outbreak of Tuberculosis, a woman named ELISA LAM is recorded on video behaving abnormally in the lobby of the Hotel Cecil hours before her death. Suspicious death in where her lifeless, naked body was found floating inside one of the water tanks.
Is there a correlation between Tuberculosis and Elisa’s death?
Well besides the highly strange coincidence of both the name of the TB test and the victim, the answer is no. Unless you were to think about the possibility of Elisa being some secret guinea pig for a new anti-TB drug. In that case, that’s one hell of a side effect if you asked me.
There exists another strange, highly coincidental fact in this odd case. In 2005 a movie titled Dark Water was released in the U.S.
The film opens in 1974, as a young girl, Dahlia, stands outside after school in the rain, waiting for her mother.
Flash forward to 2005, the audience sees a grown-up Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) in the midst of a bitter mediation with ex-husband, Kyle (Dougray Scott), over custody of their daughter, Cecilia (Ariel Gade). Kyle wants Cecilia to live closer to his apartment in Jersey City, but Dahlia wants to move to Roosevelt Island, where she has found a good school. Kyle threatens to sue for full custody because he feels the distance is too great. He also claims that Dahlia is “mentally unstable.”
Dahlia and Cecilia see an apartment in a complex on Roosevelt Island, which is just a few blocks from Cecilia’s new school. The superintendent of the dilapidated building is Mr. Veeck (Pete Postlethwaite). The manager is Mr. Murray (John C. Reilly). During the tour, Cecilia sneaks to the roof where she finds a Hello Kitty backpack near a large water tank. They leave the bag with Veeck, and Murray promises Cecilia that she can have it if no one claims it. Cecilia, who had disliked the apartment, now wants desperately to live there. Dahlia agrees to move in.
Shortly after, the bedroom ceiling begins to leak dark water. The source is the apartment above, 10F, where the Rimsky family lived up until a month ago. Dahlia enters 10F and finds it flooded, with dark water flowing from every faucet, the walls and toilet.
She finds a family portrait of the former tenants—a mother, father, and a girl Cecilia’s age. Dahlia complains to both Veeck and Murray about the water, but the former does little about it despite the insistence of the latter. Meanwhile, Cecilia develops a strong bond of friendship with an imaginary friend called Natasha.
The ceiling, shoddily patched by Veeck, leaks again. At school, Cecilia appears to get into a fight with Natasha, who appears to control her hand while painting. She’s taken to the girls’ bathroom where she passes out after dark water gushes from the toilets and sinks.
Dahlia, who is meeting with her lawyer, Jeff Platzer, can’t be reached so Kyle picks Cecilia up and takes her to his apartment. Later on that night, Dahlia is feeling better, now that Jeff will have her apartment fixed and that Cecilia is safe with Kyle.
Dahlia hears footfalls from the hallway outside of her apartment going up to the roof. She sees that water is spilling out of the water tank. She climbs up the ladder, opens the hatch to the water tank and finds Natasha’s body floating in the water. Dahlia is stunned and Natasha’s eyes snap open.
Eight years after Dark Waters is released Elisa met a very similar fate to that of the imaginary ghost friend named Natasha in the movie. Both were found dead inside the building’s rooftop water tanks under mysterious circumstances. Take note of the name of the fictional character in the movie, Cecilia, and the name of the hotel in which Elisa’s body was found. Hotel Cecil.
More than likely this is all just adds up to being one of the recent, strangest mysteries in Los Angeles. Whatever happened to Elisa Lam no one knows. Given all the speculation and conspiracy theories that are floating out there about her death, it’s more than likely to remain an unsolved mystery.