Elisa Lam’s name is pronounced ‘Lam Ho Yi’ in her native Cantonese dialect, and written in Chinese characters as ‘藍可兒’. In Putonghua (the official language of Mainland China), Elisa’s name is pronounced ‘Lan Ke Er’ – and this is how most non-English speaking Chinese people knew her outside of Hong Kong – the area of China her parents originally came from, before emigrating to Canada to live (where they opened a Chinese restaurant). Since early 2013, the Canadian citizen Elisa Lam has become famous in both the West and China for the tragic nature of her death, and the bizarre circumstances surrounding it. Although reported as being a student at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver), Elisa had taken a trip to Downtown Los Angeles in early 2013, where her dead naked body had been found in the rooftop water-tank of the Cecil Hotel on February 19th.
It is believed that her body had been in the tank for about two weeks prior to its discovery. Western narratives tend to focus on a hotel surveillance video subsequently released by the US police, which shows Elisa apparently apprehensive about someone or something, where she seems to be attempting to hide in a lift – the doors of which will not shut when she presses numerous buttons. Her body-language seems defensive and apprehensive. In a number of Chinese language stories about this tragedy, it is reported that a number of people think that this video-tape has been ‘altered’ in some way – perhaps to hide an assailant – or to deliberately give the false impression that it was Elisa who was acting strangely. If correct, this would support an allegation of ‘racism’ aimed at the US police, who blamed a non-White victim of murder for her own death. This is the footage:
Chinese media reported that an 89 year old man identified in the US Press only as ‘Bernard’, a resident of the hotel for 32 years, stated that he heard a loud banging sound on the roof during the night of Elisa’s disappearance. Bernard also reported that on that night, the hotel experienced flooding. Despite these observations, however, the Autopsy report (finally released after a number of delays on the 20th of June), ruled the incident was an ‘accident’ (by ‘drowning’) with no evidence suggesting that she had been attacked, sexually assaulted, or that she had committed suicide. Although Western sources focus on Elisa’s state of psychological health, the Chinese media emphasise the fact that the 21 year old Elisa, had travelled to California (with the eventual intention of visiting Santa Cruz), for a ‘relaxing’ sight-seeing tour of that part of the USA – where she retained her habit of telephoning her parents daily in Canada. Up until her tragic death – her family reported that she was in a happy and up-beat mood – looking forward to her further travels. Chinese youths keeping in regular touch with their family is not unusual, and very much a regular habit. However, despite this, Elisa’s family reported that her regular telephone calls ceased after January 31st, 2013. Although the US police (LAPD) responded to reports of Elisa’s disappearance, they could find no evidence of her whereabouts – although on February 13th (Western sources state Feb. 14th), the US police released the video-footage of Elisa in the lift – footage that was dated to February 1st – it is believed that Elisa died not long after being filmed in the lift. Other residents in the hotel reported hearing odd or strange noises on the roof, but as a number of rooms flooded around this time, the noises were dismissed as being caused by blockages in the water-pipes.
By February 19th, guests at the Cecil Hotel started reporting that their drinking water was discoloured and emanating a foul smell. When a hotel employee checked the drinking-water tank, he found the naked dead body of Elisa Lam lying face-up about one foot below the water’s surface, with her clothes floating around her (Chinese sources state that Elisa was downward facing – and her body ‘twisted’). The water-tank was drained and Elisa’s body and personal belongings recovered (although apparently missing her mobile phone). Although the US police were initially suspicious of certain members of the Cecil Hotel staff – all suspects were eventually released without charge – although it has never been fully explained how Elisa gained access to a ‘locked’ and ‘securitised’ area of the roof, or how she climbed-up the water-tank without a ladder, etc. (The situation is compounded by the idea that the staff of Cecil Hotel apparently knew a ‘short-cut’ up to the water-tanks on the roof – but that such a detour required specialised knowledge of the hotel layout not readily accessible to paying guests). Today, many Chinese people visit the Cecil Hotel in an attempt to carry-out their own research into the matter as part of a ‘civil investigation’. Many people believe that Elisa Lam was alone and afraid when she died, and that justice has not been served in her case. As an interesting aside, it has been reported that Elisa’s mobile phone continued to make pre-programmed posts on to her tumblr account for a few weeks after her death, and that a female friend of Elisa received the following postcard from her on February the 6th, 2013:
The Chinese Press reported that on March 6th, 2013, Elisa Lam was buried in Vancouver during a low-key funeral attended by around 50 or 60 Chinese people, and three Hispanic people. A large screen played photographs from Elisa Lam’s happy life, as different people came up to her coffin and photograph to solemnly ‘bow’ out of respect, and express their deeply-felt sorrows and regrets. The atmosphere was understandably solemn, due to the fact that a young woman with her entire life ahead of her, had needlessly died under very strange and bizarre circumstances.
Elisa’s parents had migrated to the greater Vancouver area of Canada probably in 1990 – opening a restaurant – as Elisa was born in Canada in 1991. It has been reported that Elisa Lam was studying Psychology at the University of British Columbia – but when asked for a comment about this, the university would not confirm or deny the statement. Whereas the Western narratives tend to focus on an imagined ‘paranormal’ reason for her death, the Chinese narratives focus on the unjust nature of her death, and the apparent failure of the Western police (and other authorities) to pursue the matter properly.
UPDATE: 13.3.2017. The above British documentary (recently published on the ‘Paranormal Scholar’ Youtube Channel) offers a very good over-view of Elisa Lam’s tragic story. The elevator footage has one minute of footage missing – and is ‘slowed’ down in an apparent attempt to hide this fact. Furthermore, one of the detectives involved in the case has admitted that there was other (brief) footage of Elisa being filmed with two unknown men, who appeared to hand Elisa a ‘box’. The police have declined to identify these men, or release this footage. Not only this, but it is believed that there were three people staying at the hotel who were registered ‘sex offenders’. This British documentary also includes amateur footage taken by another Chinese guest who easily accessed the roof and filmed the ‘open’ water tanks not long after Elisa’s death. Although I do not subscribe to any ‘paranormal’ theory surrounding this case, this video explores one or two of those theories, before rejecting them as not being applicable. However, the authors of his video have felt that there is something deeply disturbing about this case, and have started an online petition requesting that police in the USA re-open this case. This petition can be accessed at:
English Language Reference:
Chinese Language References: