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UCF #104200146

Canadian Student Missing While Traveling in California


Elisa Lam

Elisa Lam

Vancouver, British Columbia — In 2013, a Canadian student, a Canadian student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, went missing while traveling in California. Elisa Lam was traveling alone and had scheduled to check out of her hotel on Jan. 31, but once the front desk didn't hear from her, they called the police.

After about a week of searching, the police released a disturbing video that showed Elisa's last known sighting. In the footage, Lam is seen exiting and re-entering the elevator, talking and gesturing in the hallway outside, and sometimes seeming to hide within the elevator, which itself appears to be malfunctioning. The elevator surveillance footage showed Elisa acting strangely, and as the video went viral, many people had several theories for her behavior, from mental illness to paranormal forces.

Explanations ranged from claims of paranormal involvement to bipolar disorder, from which Lam suffered; it has also been argued that the video was altered prior to release.

Maintenance workers at the hotel discovered the body from a water tank atop the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles on February 19, 2013 when investigating guest complaints of problems with the water supply. Guests at the hotel also started complaining about "black" and foul-smelling water. Investigators said the cause of death was drowning.

Elisa Lam
Investigators checking the roof water tank where Elisa's body was found.

The circumstances of Lam's death, once she was found, also raised questions, especially in light of the Cecil Hotel's history in relation to other notable deaths and murders.

Her body was naked with most of her clothes and personal effects floating in the water near her. It took the Los Angeles County Coroner's office four months, after repeated delays, to release the autopsy report, which reports no evidence of physical trauma and states that the manner of death was accidental.

Guests at the Cecil, now re-branded as Stay on Main, sued the hotel over the incident, and Lam's parents filed a separate suit later that year; the latter was dismissed in 2015.

As for why or how Elisa got into the water tank remains a mystery.

Sandra Mlodzik

Sandra Mlodzik

See more Case Files contributed by Sandra Mlodzik.

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