The documentary series “Crime Scene: The Disappeared from the Cecil Hotel”, available on Netflix, traces the strange disappearance of Elisa Lam. Spotlight on a news item unlike any other.
A story straight out of a horror movie. Eight years after the Elisa Lam affair, Netflix revives memories with a documentary series called Crime Scene: The Disappeared of the Cecil Hotel. In 4 episodes, Joe Berlinger – director of Ted Bundy: Self-portrait of a killer – investigates the news item with the help of numerous testimonies and provides real answers for demystify an enigma that continues to fascinate the world. The famous surveillance video, which marks Elisa Lam’s last appearance, is subject to a lot of conspiracy theories. Not to mention the millions of views accumulated since it was put online. To understand the birth of this sordid phenomenon, a leap back is necessary.
What really happened?
It all starts with a trip to Los Angeles. Vancouver student Elisa Lam, 21, from Hong Kong, offers herself a stint in the City of Angels. Two days after her arrival, January 28, 2013, she reserved a room at the Stay on Main until the end of the month. The hotel is located in Skid Row, a notorious part of town. The insecurity of the place explains the low prices of the establishment which mainly attracts young tourists. In fact, Elisa Lam is staying at the infamous Cecil Hotel – the name was changed in 2011 to attract more guests. The place, built in 1924, was the scene of many crime scenes, domestic violence, suicides, but was also the landmark of some serial killers, such as Richard Ramirez. The young woman does not yet know that she is about to be part of the history of the hotel.
Under the nickname Nouvelle-Nouveau, she opens up on her personal Tumblr blog. She shares photos, thoughts of the day and her travel anecdotes. One of his last posts dates from January 29, 2013, the day after his arrival at the hotel. Very quickly, his parents no longer received any sign of life. On February 1, 2013, when she had to return the keys to her reservation, Elisa Lam was nowhere to be found. However, his things still occupy his room. Katie Orphan, the manager of the T bookstorehe Last Bookstore, is one of the last people to meet her. She explains to CNN that she found her “friendly“and”worried about not being able to fit all her travel memories in her suitcase“.
Elisa Lam’s parents go there. The case begins to make noise. Posters are stuck on the poles and walls of the city. For its part, the police are investigating and viewing the hotel’s surveillance cameras. The missing person appears in one of them. The footage is from February 1, 2013 and shows Elisa Lam in an elevator. This is where the story takes a different turn. She adopts a most curious behavior. She presses all the buttons, keeps the door open, makes movements with her arms, hides and goes back and forth. The investigation did not advance and the Los Angeles police decided, on February 15, 2013, to publish the video on their site.
Discover the surveillance video uploaded by the police:
In a matter of hours, it is shared all over the world and attracts millions of views. Many Internet users are passionate about this strange document which is the birth of crazy theories. Some speak of possession, others of a killer hidden behind the wall. The fate of Elisa Lam becomes everyone’s business, and amateur investigators are desperate to find the end of the story. One of the hotel’s former guests, Pablo Vergara, known for his gothic videos, is charged with murder without any valid evidence. The FBI even goes to his home to ask him questions.
The power of fake news
On YouTube, the archive is commented on by experts on various facts and creates a wave of fake news which are spreading at high speed on the Web. When hotel guests complain about the taste of the water, Santiago Lopez, in charge of maintenance, goes to the roof. He checks the rtanks and discovers the naked body of Elisa Lam in one of them. Her clothes – the same as in the video – float by her side. Bad information reignites the craziest rumors. By mistake, the media specify that the cistern was closed and that it was impossible for the young woman to get inside. The murder theory is on the table.
Thanks to the documentary Crime scene: The Missing Cecil Hotel, viewers learn that the tank door was fully open. Elisa Lam, suffering from mental disorders, entered the tank during a crisis before drowning. As for clothes, experts explain that the young woman probably undressed in panic. His body did not contain any trace of physical attack. Authorities conclude death by accident. The Netflix documentary demonstrates how quickly conspiracy theories can harm ongoing investigations and the lives of those involved. Even today, many people continue to question the veracity of the facts.
Discover the trailer for the documentary series: