Who Was Elisa Lam? What We Know About the Woman Last Seen Alive in Cecil Hotel Elevator Surveillance Video

The Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles
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Who was Elisa Lam? The 21-year-old Canadian who disappeared in Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles and then found dead in a water tank. Netflix's new series Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel premieres Feb. 10.

Eight years ago, Elisa Lam vanished in plain sight at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The hotel was reportedly known to have drug dealers, killers and ex-convicts roam its halls. So why would a young woman from Vancouver choose to stay there?

A new four-part docuseries, "Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel," is set to premiere Wednesday on Netflix. The series, directed by Joe Berlinger, is anticipated to unveil the mysterious case of 21-year-old Lam and the hotel's dark and sordid history.

Lam went missing on Jan. 13, 2013, five days after she hopped off an Amtrak train. Her disappearance launched authorities into a weeks-long search for the missing woman, according to police reports.

The last physical tracings of Lam were captured on an elevator surveillance video released on YouTube on Feb. 13. The Los Angeles Police Department released the footage in hopes that members of the public to come forward with any information.

The video released of the Canadian student went viral. The tape showed a lonesome Lam entering the elevator and proceeding to seemingly play a one-person game of hide-and-seek. 

Lam was seen walking into the elevator, pressing random buttons, and peeking her head out of the open elevator door –– almost like she was taunting someone outside on the hotel's floor, some who have analyzed the video have said.

The over 3-minute-long video ends with Lam ultimately leaving the elevator on the same floor she entered, never to be seen again.

That is until weeks later when guests started complaining about murky water and low water pressure. When maintenance was directed to the rooftop to inspect the plumbing issues, a lifeless Lam was discovered face up and unclothed in the 8-foot-tall water cistern.  According to reports, the area where Lam was found was restricted and guests were not allowed there. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The elevator video sparked conspiracy theories centering around alien abductions, demons and even theories of traveling to different dimensions to explain the haunting history of reported killings, rapes and deaths at the Cecil Hotel which, over the years, was called by some, "Hotel Death." Famously, Richard Ramirez, otherwise known as the Night Stalker, frequently crashed at the Cecil Hotel in the 1980s. Ramirez, a convicted serial killer, went on a killing spree in California during that decade. 

Others interested in the case combed over Lam's own posts online, which included blog entries where she discussed her struggles with depression and bipolar disorder. 

In September 2013, Lam's parents, David and Yinna Lam, filed a wrongful death suit against Cecil Hotel Management Inc., claiming the hotel failed to "inspect and seek out hazards in the hotel that presented an unreasonable risk of danger to (Lam) and other hotel guests." They sought unspecified damages and burial costs. 

The hotel denied the allegations arguing in part that it could not have reasonably foreseen that Lam might enter the water tanks. It also said that since the circumstances behind Lam being in the water tank were unclear, no liability could be assigned to them for failing to prevent it. In 2015, the suit was dismissed.

In 2011, the hotel was rebranded as "The Stay on Main" after the street it is nestled on. The property was purchased in 2014 by a New York real estate developer who said the interior of the hotel would undergo a major renovation and remodeling, according to Los Angeles Curbed.