Graveyard Shift
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Convincing Theories That Might Explain What Happened To Elisa Lam

Updated February 25, 2021 1.2m views12 items

The death of Elisa Lam continues to mystify everyone who hears the circumstances surrounding the tragedy. The 21-year-old student was traveling the West Coast alone and staying in the infamous Cecil Hotel when she went missing in 2013. The initial search of the hotel turned up nothing except elevator footage of Lam behaving erratically and seemingly speaking to someone off screen.

About three weeks later, hotel guests began to complain of discolored and foul-tasting water and low water pressure. An inspection of the rooftop water tank led to the discovery of Elisa Lam’s body. How she could have gotten into the water tank without setting off the alarm or how she lifted the heavy lid and sealed herself inside has been a lingering question for many, especially considering the added state she appeared to be in in the security camera footage. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning, but the evidence is inconclusive, leaving many still asking, what happened to Elisa Lam?

For every logical explanation one proposes, another unsolvable issue arises to contradict it. While there are websites and forum threads dedicated to Elisa Lam theories, no one answer has proven itself entirely probable, and no explanation ties up all the loose ends. This list contains some of the most widespread Elisa Lam explanations, spine-chilling scenarios, and downright crazy theories.

  • She Committed Suicide

    Those who have read through her blog can vouch for the fact that Lam suffered from depression and was documenting her inner turmoil. 

    Police found no evidence to suggest she killed herself and even if she did, that doesn’t explain the events leading up to her death or how she got into the water tank. Especially when she could have just jumped from the hotel roof or from a window.

  • She Accidentally Drowned

    Many feel bipolar disorder was to blame for Lam's death. Some though not all forms of bipolar disorder can cause hallucinations if not treated. Some speculate Lam had a manic episode, thought someone was pursuing her, and accidently drowned while trying to hide in the water tank (never mind how she got into the water tank).

    The biggest problem with this theory is that her medication for bipolar disorder was in her system, according to the coroner’s report, so her illness was not being left untreated during her travels. She had been prescribed four different drugs to manage her mental health conditions and the drugs were still found in her system, even after close to three weeks in a water tank.

  • She Was Tripping On Drugs

    According to police, the only things in Elisa’s system were her regular prescription medications for bipolar disorder. However, the elevator footage clearly looks as if she’s hallucinating, and considering how much time passed before her body was found, it’s possible any other drugs she was on might have passed through her system or been destroyed by decay. Or she could have been on some kind of hallucinatory drug that she wasn’t even tested for. Self-described "body language experts" have concluded that her odd behavior on the security camera footage may be consistent with someone using narcotics. (These same experts analyzed her movements and felt Lam was not afraid of whomever she was talking to off camera. In fact, they say she is behaving like she is attracted to that person, being playful and coquettish.)

    This theory has her strange behavior covered, but it still doesn’t explain how she got on the roof unnoticed or had the strength to get the tank open and then closed behind her.

  • She Was Killed By A 'Creeper'

    One of Elisa's blog posts apparently complained of some "creeper" while staying at the hotel. It's entirely possible that some guy was stalking her and whether on purpose or not, was responsible for her death and tried to hide her body.

    Lam was found naked, yet her clothes were thrown in with her and her phone was missing. There was evidence of anal bleeding; however, it was blamed on her body decomposing in the water tank. It's unclear if she was given a rape kit or if it was ever processed, and she was not tested for common date rape drugs.