The blog of author Dennis Cooper

KJX3 presents … Elisa Lam Day *

* (restored)


There are mysteries that are so eerie and strange that they boggle the mind for days on end. The case of Elisa Lam is one of them. In February 2013, this 21-year-old student from Vancouver, Canada, was found dead inside the Cecil Hotel’s rooftop water tank in Los Angeles. The L.A. County Department of Coroner ruled the death “accidental due to drowning” and said no traces of drugs or alcohol were found during the autopsy. However, there is much more to the story than what is implied by police reports. The first piece of evidence that needs to be considered is an elevator surveillance tape that recorded Elisa’s behavior only a few moments before she lost her life.



The four-minute video posted on YouTube shows Elisa pressing all of the elevator buttons and waiting for it to move. Seeing that the elevator doors are not closing, starts behaving extremely bizarrely. Here’s the video.



At first, Elisa enters the elevator and apparently presses all of its buttons. She then waits for something to happen but, for some reason, the elevator door doesn’t shut. She starts to look around, as if she is expecting (or hiding from) someone. At 1:57, her arms and hands start moving in a very strange matter (almost not human) as she appears to be talking to someone, something … or nothing at all. She then walks away. The elevator door then shuts and appears to start working again.

Right after the events of the video, Elisa apparently gained access to the rooftop of the hotel, climbed to its water tank and, somehow, ended up drowning in it. Her body was found two weeks after her death, after hotel guests complained about the water’s taste and color. Incredible.

Seeing the surveillance footage, most people would conclude that she was under the influence of drugs. However, Elisa did not have a history of drug use and her autopsy concluded that no drugs were involved. When one looks at the context and the circumstances of this death, things become even more mysterious.



Built in the 1920s to cater to “businessmen to come into town and spend a night or two”, Cecil Hotel was quickly upstaged by more glamorous hotels. Located near the infamous Skid Row area, the hotel began renting rooms on a long-term basis for cheap prices, a policy that attracted a shiftier crowd. The hotel’s reputation quickly went from “shifty” to “morbid” when it became notorious for numerous suicides and murders, as well as lodging famous serial killers.

Now on death row, Richard Ramirez, labeled “the Nightstalker”, was living at the Cecil Hotel in 1985, in a top floor room. He was charged 14 dollars a night. In a building filled with transients, he remained unnoticed as he stalked and killed his 13 female victims. Richard Schave, said “He was dumping his bloody clothes in the Dumpster, at the end of his evening and returned via the back entrance.”

Jack Unterweger, was a journalist covering crime in Los Angeles for an Austrian magazine in 1991. “We believe he was living at the Cecil Hotel in homage to Ramirez,” Schave said. He is blamed with killing three prostitutes in Los Angeles, while being a guest at the Cecil.

In the 50’s and 60’s the Cecil was known as a place that people would go to jump out of one of the hotel’s windows to commit suicide.

Helen Gurnee, in her 50s, leaped from a seventh floor window, landing on the Cecil Hotel marquee, on October 22, 1954.

Julia Moore jumped from her eighth floor room window, on February 11, 1962.

Pauline Otton, 27, jumped from a ninth floor window after an argument with her estranged husband, on October 12, 1962. Otton landed on George Gianinni, 65, who was walking on the side walk, 90 feet below. Both were killed instantly.

There was also a murder of one of the residents. “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood, a retired telephone operator, known for protecting and feeding pigeons in a nearby park, was found dead in his ransacked room on June 4, 1964. He had been stabbed, strangled, and raped. The crime still remains unsolved.

Elisa Lam’s case is yet another sordid addition to the hotel’s history and can lead us to ask: “What the hell is wrong with that place”?



The story of Elisa Lam is eerily similar to the 2005 horror movie Dark Water. Dahlia, the main protagonist of the movie moves into an apartment building with her young daughter Cecilia. Both of these names are relevant. Black Dahlia is the nickname given to Elizabeth Short, a woman who was the victim of a gruesome murder in 1947 – one that appeared to be particularly ritualistic. The case was never solved. According to LA Observed, it is rumored that Black Dahlia was at Cecil Hotel right before she lost her life.

In the movie, the daughter’s name, Cecilia, is, obviously, quite similar to the name Cecil Hotel. After moving into her apartment, Dahlia notices dark water leaking from the ceiling in her bathroom. She ultimately discovers that a young girl named Natasha Rimsky drowned in the building’s rooftop water tank, which caused the water to turn black. The owner of the apartment building knew about this fact but refused to take action. Elisa Lam’s body was in the water tank for over two weeks, causing hotel guests to complain about foul tasting “black water”.

The ending of the movie is also eerily relevant: The apartment buildings elevator malfunctions and the ghost of Cecilia’s mother braids her hair. Is Elisa Lam’s death one of those ritualistic murders that are synchronistically mirrored in a Hollywood movie?



Shortly after the discovery of Elisa Lam’s body, a deadly outbreak of tuberculosis occurred in Skid Row, near Cecil Hotel. You probably won’t believe the name of the test kit used in these kinds of situations: LAM-ELISA. That is hardcore synchronicity.



In one theory making the rounds on the internet, Elisa Lam never existed. According to the website Godlike Productions, known for its championing of lunatic fringe theories, “The LAPD put out the video, because her Facebook pictures didn’t look like her. It wasn’t her. Look up Look at the Illuminati card Eliza. Her FB page was started by military.”



LA authorities ruled in June 2013 that Elisa Lam’s death was accidental and that she was “probably bi-polar”. That being said, some questions remain unanswered. How did Elisa, who was obviously not in her right mind, end up in the hotel’s water tank, an area that is difficult to access? Here’s a video showing the water tank area.



As the reporter states in the video, the rooftop area is protected by an alarm system and the water tank is difficult to reach. How did Elisa reach that area? Also, how did she close the water tank lid?

As is usually the case for strange deaths, authorities have been incredibly secretive and non-transparent during this investigation. What truly happened here? Why are there so many strange coincidences? Why was Elisa Lam acting so strange in the elevator? Was there a ritualistic aspect to this death? Why is the Cecil Hotel a hotbed for these kinds of stories? Is there some paranormal stuff going on there involving dark entities? The mystery appears to be whole and authorities do not seem to be wanting to probe further.



A YouTube user recently claimed that the Elisa Lam CCTV footage had been slowed down and possibly edited. He makes a case that the tape was tampered with and that we have not yet seen the full extent of Elisa Lam’s final video appearance.



Obviously, more investigation would have to be conducted to confirm whether or not the video was actually slowed down and edited. The timestamp jump certainly does seem suspicious. But then again, everything in a conspiracy theory must, by definition, seem suspicious.




Netti · 3 weeks ago
its clearly ritual murder. God save us all from this evil.

Kathleen · 3 weeks ago
Habitual, grave sin opens one to the influence of the demonic.

The influence of the demonic is not limited to green pea soup spitting full possession. There are various degrees and types of diabolical influence.

Influence or infestation of these various types can impact entire families, over multiple generations, or buildings.

Lafite · 3 weeks ago
First of all, she pushed all floor buttons for the ghosts. As to the elevator door remaining open, it’s because there were too many ghosts in the elevator leading to the door not closing because it was overloaded, and her being squeezed to a corner of the elevator proves this point. Hopping and gesticulating by the door was her discussing the situation with the ghosts, asking some of the ghosts to get out of the elevator to reduce the weight. From this we can see, there will always be things that man’s science is unable to explain, or there really is another dimension. This is purely one’s point of view, if you don’t like it, don’t read it.

Patricia · 3 weeks ago
I don’t know as I saw the elevator and the I sworn I saw the devil.if you look well and if you could see his horns inside the elevator its so weird that girl .something somebody possessed that girl’s body.

Skegeeace · 3 weeks ago
Totally unnerving. Perhaps she was a ritual sacrifice infected with TB and dumped into the water tanks to contaminate others. Surely, it would spread all over the place- especially among the poor with their low-immunity from malnutrition and lack of access to health care/vaccination. (Skid Row is traditionally home to the poor, right?) And her NAME…being the reverse of the name of the TB testing kits?! If that’s true, I definitely smell satan worshipers. They do lots of things in reverse for their black magick rituals.

People, your only defense is Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit. If you’re not under their protection, then you’re susceptible to evil attacks. Some aren’t that extreme, but this one clearly was.

Kim · 3 weeks ago
The way she moved her hands reminded me of the way my bearded dragon “waves” her arms. Same wrist-down, flat palm, fingers-up shape. That was the first thing I thought of. I don’t think that is relevant at all, but it startled me how much she resembled a reptile with those movements.

Jordan · 3 weeks ago
When she pressed all the buttons, she obviously hit the “Door Hold” button as well. She doesn’t have her glasses on. Come on people…

Dylan Barrett · 3 weeks ago
I wonder if the hotel staff are in on it, the fact that it seems as if the person doing security could see her on camera and probably hear her and held the doors for staff to get there…. the staff knew not to walk in front of the cameras….. there is no mention of why she was there or who she was with….. or why no one mentioned the taste or colour of the water on the news report….. if her clothes were off were they piled on the ground, thrown about the roof, missing entirely…. I wonder if some of the other deaths were of people who found out that staff might be running some secret underground stuff to keep them in business…. I woman staying there hears a lady scream finds out staff are helping elitist people commit ritualistic murders…. lady gets thrown out the window……. the whole thing is written up by crooked cops and payed off coroners as a suicide….. Elisa Lam was probably drugged and prepped for a ritualistic murder till she escaped and staff needed to keep things under control without getting caught……..

Syrus · 3 weeks ago
Last time a lightning bolt struck one of the Illuminati’s messengers while he was en route with their world domination plans, which were immediately found by the local authorities and that directly led to the group’s official dissolution. I wonder what more it could take this time to really shut the Cabal down. I don’t like these people.

aggelos · 3 weeks ago
Drowning is also used in ritual sacrifices, ie whitney houston…

Yaz · 3 weeks ago
I’m surprised that everyone has failed to see the most creepy part of the entire video!!!

2:57: the elevator door closes (and seems to work fine)
3:13: the elevator opens on a DIFFERENT FLOOR!!!, the wallpaper is different!

It seems like perhaps “something” in the elevator perhaps went UP a few floors, to possibly complete the sacrifice!!
Notice that it took almost 20 seconds, which means that the elevator either went far down or far up. It most probably is far up. I bet that if the elevator had gone down it would be at the reception floor – not likely after an incident like that. It was going UP!

And also, no one had pressed the elevator button, since no person was present on the other floor. That means that something inside the elevator pressed on something, perhaps what floor “something” wanted to get to.

Is it just me or is there a dark entity in the center of the entire video??

max · 3 weeks ago
I’m sorry but I am far more disturbed that people were drinking cadaver juice for weeks than the actually mystery of her death. That is vile.




p.s. Hey. So tomorrow there’s a test shoot just outside Paris of a few scenes from the ARTE TV series project I’m creating with Zac and Gisele Vienne, but what I don’t yet know is how early I’ll be heading out there, so I’ll use the commenting arena at some point today to let you know if I’ll be able to do the p.s. in the morning. ** David Ehrenstein, Thanks for the links. ** Bill, Hi. Ah, health and alertness first. Don’t know ‘The Field Guide to Evil’, but I’m intrigued. PGL’s US distributor is handling ‘Knife + Heart’ so I’ll see if I can wrangle a screener. It wasn’t much liked by people I know here, but, possibly apropos the French vs. American discussion yesterday, people on your side of the pond seem to be digging it. Huh. I’ll find out. Thanks, pal. ** _Black_Acrylic, Right? And, at the same time, actually physically possible and plausible. Oh, for multi-billion disposable dollars. There has been coverage here of the Women’s World Cup, yes, although not so much that I’ve been caught up with it. Coverage of the French Open was thoroughly dominating the sports airwaves until yesterday. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Allen is still very popular here. His last film was a big critical hit and did well, and when the #metoo effect on him is brought up in convo here, it’s almost always spoken of as hysteria-based and an injustice in his case. That question about the drop off in quality re: Herzog’s fiction films is a golden question. The plunge was steep. I read an interview or two with him where he said that the misery of making ‘Fitzcarraldo’ made him want to change his approach to filmmaking, i.e. make the process easier. That doesn’t seem like a whole answer, but maybe that decision broke his spell. There’s no question that the TV project would be less difficult if we had producers who actually understood and supported what we’re doing rather than seeing us as “artists” who need to be contained and trained to deliver the product they think the TV channel wants, yes. Especially when the fact is that ARTE has thus far been much more open to our ideas and approach than our producers have been. Whether there are TV producers who are artist supporters a la Zac’s and my wonderful film producer, is a good question though. ** Jeff J, Hey there, Jeff! Happy to hear your US stride has been rediscovered, hopefully with a slight, at least, French accent? Cool you got ‘Mobile’. So great. The TV script: We had a table reading over the weekend to help determine the timings so we can start cutting the episodes down to -60 minutes. At least two of them are way too long as it stands. When we get the report on that back, we’ll edit. Then it needs to be translated into French, and then we’ll submit that version along with the test shoot footage to ARTE, probably in September, which hopefully will be our last step prior to getting a concrete green light. Gisele is rehearsing and working on the Walser play with the two actresses. In the next couple of weeks, Zac and I will be brought in to see where the play currently is and start devising the ‘secret play’ that will be happening simultaneously with the actual Walser play. I still have no idea what that means or what she wants, so we’ll see. Zac and I are very happy with the French release. Considering it was a small release with no conventional promotion at all, we’re doing very well. Mostly fantastic press, three full weeks in Paris theatres, which was a big surprise, and it’ll still be playing in theaters around the country for another few weeks. So, pretty great for a strange film like PGL. Yes, I’d love to Skype. I’m around mostly. Let’s sort it out. ** Misanthrope, Well, you know I agree re: theme park pro-life, although a few of those proposed rides seem like great ideas that would been impossible given reality’s makeup. I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve recently gotten back in touch with this guy, Lee, who was my best friend from 9th grade to post-university, and who I hadn’t had any contact with since until we reconnected about a year ago. Now we Skype about once a month, and it’s so great both to have that shared history and to still have the bond and shared interests we used to. And he was friends with George Miles, and it’s meaningful to still know someone who knew George. Anyway, we’re always triggering memories of those days that one or the other of us had totally forgotten, which is super interesting. Like an ongoing reunion without the depressing parts. ** Okay. Someone asked me to restore this post about the strange case of Elisa Lam that a blog reader made for here years ago, and there it is. I might see you tomorrow — watch the comments — and the blog definitely will see you no matter what.


  1. David Ehrenstein

    I find all cable TV “Ghost Adventure” shows to be totally phony. Not that I don’t believe in the Paranormal. I had an experience with a poltergeist any years ago in a friend’s apartment in the Alphabets in New York.

    Elisa Lam looks like a pretty straightforward suicide to me

    • viennesewaltz

      If it was a suicide, how did she gain access to the water tank and how did she close the lid after her? And why was she behaving so strangely in the video?

  2. Tosh Berman

    Oddly enough, I talked to Elisa Lam early evening on the night of her passing. I was shopping at The Last Bookstore in their vinyl section, and there was no one there except me, a fellow, and her. As I was looking at records, she was trying her best to start up a conversation. Right off the bat, she struck me as a disturbed person. It wasn’t her appearance, but the way she was looking at record covers, and asking really annoying questions to me and this other stranger. She was choosing stuff like a Miles Davis album and maybe a Herb Albert record and asking which one was the better album. She was obviously choosing records in a random manner. We didn’t exchange names or anything of that sort, and I disappeared into the bookstore part of the store.

    I totally forgot about the interaction I had with her, and it wasn’t until some months later when I saw a close-up photo of her I recognize her as Elisa Lam. I have heard about her strange death and was intrigued but in a very superficial manner. When I realized that I saw her on the night of her death, I decided to call the police and let them know I talked to her. At the time, one of the employees at The Last Bookstore said to the media that she was acting normal. I felt totally the opposite about Ms. Lam and thought she was bi-polar or off her meds. So, yes, I think she did commit suicide or if she was killed that night that could have been a possibility, just that she had an intense need to communicate with someone, even total strangers. To this day, I feel my encounters with her as bizarre, just due to the timing of her death, but also sad that something like this happened to this young woman.

  3. Jaye

    Elisa’s old Formspring page has been archived –

  4. DC

    Hi all. FYI, I will be doing the p.s. tomorrow. xo

  5. Steve Erickson

    Here’s my review of THE DEAD DON’T DIE:

    The “Cold Case Detective” video about Lam seems pretty convincing to me, but there are things it can’t answer – for instance, it’s still possible that she ran into a menacing person who took advantage of her mental instability and this had something to do with her odd behavior in the elevator, at the very least.

  6. _Black_Acrylic

    I just joined Netflix especially to watch Rocco, a documentary about the porn star Rocco Siffredi that follows him behind the scenes and discusses his storied life and career. He’s a remarkable person and the star of a couple of Catherine Breillat films too, someone whose presence could easily have landed him a career in film away from all the adult work. The Rocco documentary is a pretty great hour long film trapped inside something twice that length. It does provide insight into someone who’s at the very top of their particular game.

  7. Brendan Lott

    I live right around the corner from the Cecil Hotel. It is a very creepy place. I can’t walk by it without thinking about Elisa. Whatever happened to her, it’s tragic. She obviously needed someone to help her, either because she was having a psychotic break or someone was after her. The neighborhood is still oddly gothic and old and full of strange characters.

  8. Misanthrope

    Dennis, That’s super neat about you reconnecting with that friend. There are a few I’d like to reconnect with, but alas, not a one is on FB, which makes it hard. But yes, it was great to see a lot of these people.

    Unfortunately, some of those old memories…weren’t my brightest moments. For example, I’m talking to this girl Becky. She asked me if I was drinking anything. I told her, “No, I don’t drink. I can’t handle it. I get crazy.” She pauses, and then goes, “Remember when you threw that grill in Sarah Wilhelm’s pool?” Thanks, Becky!

    We did laugh about it. There were a few of those moments throughout the night, but all in all, it was a really good time.

  9. Bill

    I vaguely remember this, but have forgotten how creepy the whole thing was. Last time I was in LA, I stayed a couple blocks from the Cecil, but didn’t make the connection. Next time…

    Dennis, if you do end up watching The Field Guide to Evil (talk about corny titles), do remember to fast-forward.

    In case you haven’t heard, we’re having an incredible heat wave here. It’s been hotter than LA! Hopefully we’ll get some fog before the packed cultural event calendar this weekend. I’ll probably go to the new Chinese film Long Day’s Journey Into Night tomorrow; have you seen it?


  10. Bob Fiddaman

    Evidence could point to psychosis caused by the four prescription drugs she was taking, all of which carry suicide and akathisia warnings.

  11. Rj

    She was strangled by somebody to the left of the camera

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