Netflix’s new true crime series Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is looking into the unexplained and mysterious death of Canadian student Elisa Lam.


Back in 2013, the 21-year-old went missing while staying at the hotel in Downtown LA.

She checked into the hotel on January 26th and was expected to check out on January 31st, however, when it came to the time she never showed up.

Lam’s parents reported her missing and a missing persons investigation was then launched.

However, on February 19th, Lam's body was recovered from a water tank on the roof of the hotel.

The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is the first season in a series that aims to dismantle the mythology and mystery surrounding infamous locations in contemporary crime.

The history of the Cecil Hotel is known to include some of the city’s most notorious activity, from sudden deaths to housing serial killers.

Director Joe Berlinger says The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is a chance to “set the record straight” on the Elisa Lam case, explaining: “It was an opportunity to play with the genre and set the record straight on a very famous story that has been told, I think, irresponsibly. Because I think it’s very disrespectful to the victim of the tragedy to dismiss it as a ghost story.”

In June 2013, Elisa Lam’s death was declared as accidental drowning, however, the tragic case had already ignited a lot of attention from the surrounding community and internet sleuths, who had come up with their own theories.

From murder to paranormal activity, here’s all the theories they came up with while trying to get to the bottom of what happened to Elisa Lam.

What happened to Elisa Lam?

Accidental drowning

On February 21st, the Los Angeles County Coroner's autopsy report stated that the manner of death was accidental, reporting no evidence of physical trauma.


During the early investigation into the disappearance of Elisa Lam, the LAPD released a video of the last known sighting of the 21-year-old in one of the Cecil's elevators, which was captured by a surveillance camera on February 1st.

In the Elisa Lam video, she can be seen entering the lift and pressing a button. When the lift doors fail to close, she can be seen looking outside of the lift and peering from left to right as if someone is there, and then moving quickly back inside and hiding in the corner of the lift. When the doors still don't close, she can be seen pressing numerous buttons, and then exiting the lift while seemingly gesticulating at someone outside of the elevator, although no one else is picked up in the footage.

How Lam managed to get inside one of the tanks and the whereabouts of her body has confused the authorities, as the tanks were four-by-eight-foot and behind a locked door.

The Cecil Hotel has been connected to some of the city’s most notorious activity, from untimely deaths to housing serial killers. 'The Night Stalker' serial killer Richard Ramirez stayed on the 14th floor of the hotel during his 1980s killing spree.

Korean elevator game

Some theories allege that Elisa Lam was playing the Korean elevator game, summoning some kind of paranormal activity which was responsible for Lam's death. The Korean elevator game entails a player pressing different buttons in a lift in a certain order to supposedly reach another dimension – playing in elevators can be dangerous and it is not advised to do so.

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Meanwhile, Netflix says Lam's disappearance and unexplained death is the latest chapter in a complex history for the hotel, and the series will offer a chilling and captivating lens into one of LA's most nefarious settings.


Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel will launch on Netflix on February 10th, 2021 at 8am. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide.