What really happened to Elisa Lam?

Elisa D’Egidio, Contributing Writer

As a criminal justice student, I have always had an interest in learning about all things “crime.” Shows such as “BuzzFeed Unsolved: True Crimes” and “Unsolved Mysteries” have always been amazing to cuddle up to and binge-watch. When I saw that Netflix had released a four-episode Netflix original docu-series “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” on Feb. 11, I was ready to grab some snacks and be glued to the edge of my seat.

According to the Netflix description, it “provides a nightmarish backdrop for the disappearance of Elisa Lam. Her final footage in an elevator triggers a virtual hunt.”

On the series, Insider said, “The notorious Cecil Hotel grows in infamy when guest Elisa Lam vanishes. From the creator of ‘The Ted Bundy Tapes,’ a dive into crime’s darkest places.”

The last seen surveillance footage of Lam shows disturbing behavior of her in an elevator, where she is seen hiding in the corner, clicking multiple floor buttons and repeatedly jumping in and out, in an effort to check if anyone is in the hallway. This behavior continues for two minutes until she is seen making bizarre hand gestures outside the elevator and walking away.

Lam’s naked body was found in the hotel’s water tank on Jan. 31, 2013, after maintenance workers responded to residents’ complaints of shadowy water and poor pressure. According to the documentary, police, police dogs and staff checked the roof and confirmed that the lid of the tank was 20 pounds and was locked and sealed with an alarm.

The show revealed that Lam was not taking her bipolar medication and was having manic episodes leading up to her disappearance.

The LA hotel was notorious for crime and violence since its opening in 1927. Known serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterwegar were also residents at the Cecil Hotel.

One of the hotel’s former residents Kenneth Givens said, “Usually, the higher floors of the Cecil, people used to get killed up in there. Once they got a guy in the room, they would rob him, beat him up, and throw him out the window. So, if you didn’t watch yourself, you might come flying out of there with no wings.”

From the show’s mixed reviews, one can assume it is because of the fact that it revolves around glamorizing conspiracies surrounding the disappearance rather than sharing facts. Focusing on the hotel’s notorious past, it lacks any new or valuable information, further exploiting the case of Lam.

Los Angeles Times said, “They infused the whodunit aspects of their central cases with dogged research, nuanced subplots and emotional attachment to the victims.”

The show includes interviews with former residents, hotel staff, LAPD detectives and many social media sluthers on the case.

Despite other recent successful Netflix documentaries, such as “Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer,” and “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, a lot of information shared was painfully repeated and the series was unnecessarily dragged out as it focuses heavily on details on Lam’s personal Tumblr and diaries.

“Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” concludes by saying that Lam’s death was ruled as an accidental drowning, although viewers are still left with many unanswered questions revolving around the heartbreaking case of Elisa Lam.