Elisa Lam: Bad Vibe Hotel (Show Notes/Script)
Artwork: Julia Marie Artistry
Find more of her work at: http://instagram.com/juliamarieartistry
Intro/Midroll/Outro By: H0M3SYK Entertainment
Find them at: https://www.youtube.com/c/H0M3SYK
Elisa’s Tumblr: https://nouvelle-nouveau.tumblr.com/ The Elevator Video: https://youtu.be/_rfLSVIA0L0
Autopsy Report: https://www.pdf-archive.com/2014/02/24/el-autopsy/preview/page/3/
This episode contains details of a real death. Common theories range from a mental health disorder, suicide, murder, and possible sexual assault. We will go over the autopsy report. We will attempt to not go into any unnecessary details to prevent causing distress to any listener with sensitivity to these issues. Although none of these situations are humorous, we will be making jokes throughout to lighten the mood. Our condolences go out to the Lam family.
“The date is February 19th, 2013 you’re a maintenance worker and you’ve been contacted by your manager to check on the water tank. There’s been complaints over the last day or two that the water tasted funny or had a strange scent, some even said the water was black. But that’s an exaggeration, right? You crawl all the way to the rooftop of the Cecil Hotel, 19 floors in total. Nobody is allowed up here, only you, other maintenance workers, and the hotel manager should even have access. There was no way for you to prepare for what is to come. Unsuspecting of anything, you make your way to open one of the four 1,000 gallon water tanks, grabbing a ladder to do so. Expecting maybe to find some mold at the most, you open up the 60-80lbs lid to discover something floating in the water. You gasp, take a second look, but there’s no doubt about it. That’s a nude, three week old corpse floating in the water. You stumble down the ladder, vomiting, shocked and confused. What did you just find? How could this happen? On this week’s episode, we take a drive down Tangent Avenue and hang a left on Conspiracy Drive and discuss the tragic passing of Elisa Lam.”
“Hey man, this is our first episode. Episode number one. We did it. It’s all downhill from here, folks.”
- Do you know anything about Elisa Lam? -
Alright, well going to start a little backstory for who she is and the events leading up to her body being discovered in this water tank, but first I do want to state that there are some graphic details later in this podcast. I also don’t typically believe in most conspiracy theories, but I find them entertaining to talk about, so I will also be disproving some details if I can, but still talking about the attached conspiracies around her death. “The following is taken from several sources: Elisa Lam, 21 at the time, was the daughter of emigrants from Hong Kong and was a student at the University of British Columbia in Canada. She was not registered for school at the beginning of 2013, I assume this was because of her “West Coast Tour” trip that she had planned which is where this all happens. She went on a trip to California, on January 26, she arrived in Los Angeles. She had already visited San Diego before this. She travelled alone, mostly by bus or train. She had lost her phone very early on, I believe in San Diego, but managed to keep in touch with her parents checking in every single day. I believe she got a prepaid phone after this, though I’m not sure. There is some information saying this, and some saying she just borrowed people’s phones to stay in touch. After two days, she checked into the Cecil Hotel. At first Elisa was given a shared room on the hotel's fifth floor; however, her roommates complained about “odd behaviour” and she was moved to a room of her own on January 28th. We would never get specifics about what this odd behavior was. Elisa had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression. She had been prescribed four medications—Wellbutrin, Lamictal, Seroquel and Effexor—to treat her disorders. According to her family, who supposedly kept her history of mental illness a secret, Elisa had no history of suicidal ideations or attempts, although one report claimed she had previously gone missing for a brief period. In 2010, Elisa created a blog named Ether Fields on Blogspot.She posted there for two years, mostly pictures of models in fashionable clothing and tidbits about her life, particularly her struggle with mental illness. In January 2012, Elisa stated that a "relapse" at the start of the current school term had forced her to drop several classes. She said this made her feel "so utterly directionless and lost." She titled her post, "You're always haunted by the idea you're wasting your life" a quote by novelist Chuck Palahniuk. She used that quote as a title for her blog. Elisa worried that her transcript would look suspicious with so many withdrawals and that it would result in her being unable to continue her studies and attend graduate school. A little over two years after Lam had started blogging, she announced she would leave her blogspot blog for another she had started on Tumblr, "Nouvelle-Nouveau". Her posts stayed mostly the same, and the same Palahniuk quote was used as a title for her blog.” Her Tumblr is still available, and is linked in the description. So, some red flags there, right? She struggles from depression, as well as bipolar disorder. I did do some research on bipolar disorder. The following is from the National Institute of Mental Health, or NIH for short. Also known as manic-depressive illness or manic depression, bipolar disorder causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day activity levels. According to the NIH, there are three types of bipolar disorder. Typically all three of these have clear changes in moods, from periods of extreme ups and downs, and can change very quickly. Ups can mean increased energy or happiness, but also increased irritability. Downs are of course the opposite, feeling sad, indifferent, or hopeless, typically downs are known as depressive episodes, and ups are known as manic episodes. Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes. Remember, I’m not an expert but I’m quoting experts so forgive me if I get anything wrong. According to an article on Everyday Health, paranoia can be a symptom. However, I can’t find anything on Elisa ever having a history of manic paranoid episodes, but she did post several times about feeling like she was in danger, or that somebody was after her. She stated several times something along the lines of “I wish I could keep my mouth shut” or “my mouth is going to get me in trouble one day.” Following so far? Any questions? Okay, as I said earlier Elisa checked in with her parents every day on her trip. On January 31, 2013, the day she was scheduled to check out of the Cecil and leave for Santa Cruz, they did not hear from her and called the Los Angeles Police Department; her family flew to Los Angeles to help with the search. Hotel staff who saw Lam that day said she was alone. Outside the hotel, Katie Orphan, manager of a nearby bookstore, was the only person who recalled seeing her that day. Katie was quoted saying to CNN that she was outgoing, very lively, very friendly, and she was getting gifts to take home to her family, she was talking about what book she was getting and whether or not what she was getting would be too heavy for her to carry around as she traveled. Police searched the hotel to the extent that they legally could. They searched Elisa’s room and had dogs go through the building, including the rooftop, but the canines were unsuccessful in detecting her scent. They couldn’t search every room because there had to be probable cause to believe a crime had been committed. On February 6, a week after Lam had last been seen, the LAPD decided more help was needed. Flyers with her image were posted in the neighborhood and online. It brought the case to the public's attention through the media. Okay, so next we’re going to go over the elevator video which I will link in the description. If you’re at work, or driving, and can’t watch the video right now; don’t worry, I’ll describe it the best I can. But if you’re available to watch it, I highly recommend it for you to see how absolutely fucking weird it is. So on February 15th the LAPD released elevator surveillance from February 1st that went viral pretty much immediately and garnered worldwide attention and immediately started conspiracy theories about what could have happened to her. On one website, a Chinese video-sharing site Youku, where it got 3 million views and 40,000 comments in its first 10 days Wikipedia has a very good description of the video, so I’m just going to straight up read that. In the clip, the camera is at one of the elevator cab's rear corners looks down from the ceiling, offering a view not just of its interior but the hallway outside as well. It is somewhat grainy, and the timestamp at the bottom is obscured. At some points Lam's mouth is pixelated. At the start, Lam enters, clad in a red zippered hooded sweatshirt over a gray T-shirt, with black shorts and sandals. She enters from the left and goes to the control panel, appears to select several floors and then steps back to the corner. After a few seconds during which the door fails to close, she steps up to it, leans forward so her head is through the door, looks in both directions, and then quickly steps back in, backing up to the wall and then into the corner near the control panel. The door remains open. She walks to it again and stands in the doorway, leaning on the side. Suddenly she steps out into the hall, then to her side, back in, looking to the side, then back out. She then steps sideways again, and for a few seconds she is mostly invisible behind the wall she has her back to just outside. The door remains open. Her right arm can be seen going up to her head, and then she turns to re-enter the cab, putting both hands on the side of the door. She then goes to the control panel, presses many more buttons, some more than once, and then returns to the wall she had come into the elevator from, putting both hands over her ears again briefly as she walks back to the section of wall she had been standing against before. The door remains open. She turns to her right and begins rubbing her forearms together, then waves her hands out to her sides with palms flat and fingers outstretched, while bowing forward slightly and rocking gently. This can all be seen through the door, which remains open. At one point she steps out of frame, and it looks like someone else’s foot is in the frame, not bending the way her’s should have. After she backs to the wall again and walks away to the left, it finally closes. So, the video is fucking weird, right? It gets weirder. There’s some evidence to believe that the video was tampered with before being released. So there’s the obscured timestamp, some people think it’s been slowed down, and nearly a minute of footage has been removed. This could have been done to protect the identity of someone who may have came in frame of the video but had little or nothing to do with the case, or to conceal evidence of Elisa’s disappearance and death. But you know what won’t try to conceal evidence about someone’s death? This add.
And now we get to her death. As stated in the intro, Elisa was found on the roof in the water tank that provided water to guest rooms, the kitchen, and a coffee shop. In other words, a lot of people were drinking Lam stew. So there’s the question of how she got in there. There is no fixed way to get up to the entrance of the tank. The tank is 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide, however is propped up on a concrete landing making it a total of 10 feet tall. I can’t find any information if a ladder is stored on the roof, I presume that it is, but where or not it is easily accessible is still a question. However I did research some numbers. These are all speculative and could easily be wrong, because everybody is different. But anyways, the average height of a Chinese woman, since I can’t find Elisa’s height, which ranges from 5 foot 2 through 5 foot 4 and the average height a woman can jump according to google is 12 to 16 inches. Assuming her arm length is about 21 inches, if she was 5’3 she could, taking the average numbers, jump about 7 feet 10 inches. So she couldn’t just straight up jump up and grab the top. There is a YouTube video of a regular person coming up onto the roof and being able to jump from some sort of Maintenance area onto the tanks. It looks like a good height difference, so I don’t see Elisa doing this in a rational state of mind, but it’s possible. How she got on the roof in the first place? Although any official access is locked and only hotel staff has a way to get up there through those means, you can access it through the fire escape. So it’s completely plausible she got up there and in the water tank herself. In the video, two tanks were open but were supposedly empty to air dry at the time. The lid is supposedly between 60-80lbs. Going by the average weight for a 5’3 female, she would likely weigh 104lbs-127lbs so although it may be heavy for her if it was on the 80lbs side, it would be possible for her to open if she had enough room off the lid to keep herself steady and squeeze through the 16inch hole. Closing it as she was inside herself? That would be significantly harder by all the sources I can find, as she would have to fight the water while trying to pull it down behind her. Still possible, but all of this is a lot of work for such a weird way to kill herself; less than 2% of suicides in the USA are by attempting to drown yourself according to a study written in Annals of Internal Medicine. But yet, still possible. Her body was of course moderately decomposed and bloated by the time of recovery and the autopsy. Being in water effects decomposition in several ways, in some it helps preserve features, in others it speeds it up. There appeared to be no evidence of physical or sexual assault. But I’ll come back to that. Toxicology reports, although only partial because not enough of her blood was preserved, were still said to be reliable by the coroner. It found traces of her prescriptions, as well as ibuprofen and sinutab which is a decongestant. Her prescriptions were for her bipolar disorder, which according to the report, were in her system. No other drugs or alcohol were in her system. A link to her autopsy report is in the description. So the first theory we’ll talk about is suicide. In the autopsy report, they noted that they didn’t believe this was suicide and was more along the lines of accidental drowning due to her bipolar disorder causing a manic attack, which could easily explain her behaviour in the elevator video. These could also come out of nowhere, so her interactions with Ms. Orphan would still make sense. Although this is most likely the cause of death, there are some inconsistencies. I did as much digging as I could on this, and I couldn’t find any history of Elisa having manic attacks. There was the brief period of time where she supposedly disappeared, but I can’t find when that was. Considering she was 21 at the time of her death, that’s not too surprising by any means. A lot of young adults and teenagers want to get away sometimes, hence her travel by herself to the west coast. On top of that, the official cause of death is dry asphyxiation, or dry drowning. This literally makes up less than 2% of drownings. Typically it only happens in children or women with high voices. What this means is that water never technically enters the lungs, but instead breathing in water irritates the vocal cords causing them to spasm and close up. But here’s what bothers me the most. So they never tested Elisa for any rape drugs. They never performed a rape kit. Although the autopsy says there’s no signs of sexual assault, and as I was writing this I could not think of a good way to say this because really there isn’t. Hey, man. Do you know what a pink sock is? ---- Yeah, her ass was prolapsed. So here’s the thing, this CAN happen due to decomposition but it is literally so incredibly rare that it would be wild if this was the case, because as I stated in the intro, she was also found nude. Her clothes were in the tank with her, supposedly having traces of a sand like substance. So, for all of these rare occurrences to happen all at once would be absolutely crazy to me. She has her first paranoid manic episode, dry asphyxiates, and decomposes in such a way that her ass prolapses? That’s fucking bonkers man. But of course, there’s the evidence that says this wasn’t the case too. No signs of a struggle or any type of physical altercation, plus how would someone carry a body up the fire escape? I mean, the second part could be explained if it was a hotel staff member who had access to the roof, but not the other. If she had been drugged with a rape drug, which the didn’t test for, it is possible buuuut, still unlikely. So that’s it for the most likely theories. Now, we’ll get into the whack ones. I’ll be saving my favorite for last, of course. We’ll go over a little background of the Cecil Hotel and how it plays into the more supernatural theory. Question for you. Do you believe in a place manifesting negative energy and causing bad shit to happen there? The Cecil Hotel was originally built as a business hotel in 1924 by William Banks Hanner, the Cecil fell on hard times after the Great Depression and never recaptured its original market as downtown decayed around it in the late 20th century. The first suicide here was reported in 1931, when a guest named W.K. Norton took poison capsules. Throughout the 1940’s and 50’s more suicides occurred and it garnered the nickname “The Suicide” by the 1960’s. There was one suicide where somebody jumped and ended up killing a pedestrian who was just walking by. It wasn’t just suicides though. It was known for drug activity, prostitution, and a literal hot spot for cheating couples. In 1947 a lady by the name Elizabeth Short, or better known by the Black Dahlia, was seen drinking at the bar there before her mysterious and unsolved murder. In 1964, “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood who was a well liked and well known long-term resident of the Cecil. She was found dead in her ransacked hotel room, beaten, stabbed, and raped. The man originally charged with the murder was cleared of all charges, and the murder is unsolved to this day. In the 1980’s the hotel was rumored to be the residence of Richard Ramirez, or better known as “The Night Stalker.” According to one hotel clerk he had stayed there for a few weeks, during one of his killing sprees. Another serial killer Jack Unterweger stayed at the hotel in 1991 attempting to copy Ramirez’s crimes. So some people have theorized that over all of these deaths, it was a haunting of sorts, or perhaps a possession which is why she was acting very strange in the elevator video.. I don’t super agree with this one, because although I love supernatural stories, I don’t believe they’re real. And time for my favorite. Not that I necessarily believe it, but it’s fucking wild and I wouldn’t be shocked at all to find out if it was real. So in 2009 a tuberculosis test known as LAM-ELISA. Spelled exactly the same way. According to the CDA in 2013, during the time that Elisa Lam was in the water tank, there were a total of 4,500 people infected with TB in LA. As I stated earlier, that water tank was hooked up to the coffee shop, the rooms, and the kitchen. The government has done experiments on civilians before, like Operation Paper Clip which I will absolutely do an episode on in the future, so it’s not out of the question. The LAM-ELISA test was wildly inaccurate, only a 50.7% success rate at detecting TB when the goal is 87.8%. Which can raise some concern about why something like this was being used. One thing for certain is that if the government, or anyone, wanted to spread a disease or any pathogen throughout a city for any reason - choosing a well populated hotel’s water tank, is absolutely the way to go. A pathogen would thrive in a water tank. On top of that, a pathogen like TB could cause hallucinations if left untreated would could also explain the elevator video. Alright man. Conclusion time? What do you think happened to Elisa? DISCUSS THEORIES Conspiracy theories are fun to talk about, but the likely cause for Elisa Lam’s death is what the court ruled. An accidental drowning due to her Bipolar Disorder. Elisa was a bright young woman by all accounts and was robbed of her future by a terrible thing, herself. We both here know what it’s like to struggle with mental health. If you struggle with mental health, whatever it may be, please ask for help before it’s too late. Reach out to friends, family, or a professional. If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can reach out to the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. And if you know someone who’s struggling with their mental health, reach out to them too. Tell them you love them, that you’re there for them. The world’s on fire right now, be there for your loved ones. Plug twitters, ask for reviews, ask for people to share this podcast with their friends, etc.