Graveyard Shift 12 Theories That Might Explain What Happened to Elisa Lam  

Lyra Radford
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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.

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She Was Murdered By A Hotel Employee


She Was Murdered By A Hotel Em... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 12 Theories That Might Explain What Happened to Elisa Lam
Photo: via YouTube

There’s no conclusive evidence that Elisa was murdered, but there’s nothing to prove she wasn’t, either. The Cecil Hotel has attracted serial killers before, what’s to say there wasn’t one working there during Elisa’s stay? Someone who knew she was traveling alone and had access to her room. Someone who had keys to the roof and the alarm code. Someone who knew where to stand in order to stay off camera and had access to all the footage, perhaps doctoring it later.

As far as Lam's reason for pushing a bunch of buttons, young travelers are often encouraged to do that in situations to throw off their attacker. If the elevator is hitting multiple floors, the theory is goes, the attacker won't know which one their victim is on.

Her Death Was Inspired By The Movie "Dark Water"


Her Death Was Inspired By The ... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 12 Theories That Might Explain What Happened to Elisa Lam
Photo: Buena Vista Pictures

Elisa Lam’s death is so eerily similar to the horror movie Dark Water (released in 2005), that it almost seems as if it were by design. A case of life imitating art, perhaps? Elisa Lam’s death could have been caused by someone trying to emulate a Hollywood film.

Not only did the film depict residents of an old (haunted) building complaining of foul-tasting, dark water coming from their taps, but the cause in both instances was a girl decomposing in the water tank on the roof. If that weren’t a creepy enough connection, the film’s main characters are a mother named Dahlia and her daughter Cecilia (like the Black Dahlia and the Cecil Hotel). There are also elevator malfunctions, and young Cecilia can be seen talking to thin air in the elevator, because her "imaginary friend" is there.

She Was Assassinated Over A Government Project


She Was Assassinated Over A Go... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 12 Theories That Might Explain What Happened to Elisa Lam
Photo: via YouTube

With a case as unsettling as this, it’s no surprise conspiracy theorists have stepped up to share their bizarre version of events. Apparently, Elisa posted online about a Pentagon funded, invisibility cloaking project right before she died. This project has been in the works for the United States and South Korea for some time now. Many have speculated the government or even a private company may have ordered her assassination for interfering or over-sharing. Perhaps her strange behavior in the elevator wasn’t so strange - we just couldn’t see her invisible cloak-wearing assailant.  

She Was A Tuberculosis Drug Test Subject


She Was A Tuberculosis Drug Te... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list 12 Theories That Might Explain What Happened to Elisa Lam
Photo: via YouTube

As it turns out, the timeframe during which Elisa Lam was staying at the Cecil coincided with a severe tuberculosis outbreak on Skid Row and in most of the downtown area surrounding the hotel. The strange part is the TB test being used in the area was the Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay, called the LAM-ELISA for short. Also, Isoniazid is the most commonly used antibiotic for TB patients and its side effects include confusion and abnormal behavior. Lam's toxicology screening didn’t find anything strange in her system, but many conspiracy theories think the drug test results were forged or altered in some way because of all the delays in the report's release.

There are those who also think Elisa Lam never existed and this case was fabricated to distract from an intentional, government-sponsored TB outbreak and testing. This would ensure anyone who tries to research the test LAM-ELISA will only be met with a flood of information on Elisa Lam.