On February 19, 2013, the body of Chinese-Canadian tourist Elisa Lam was recovered from a hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, where she had been a guest since January 26. She was last seen alive on January 31 and was reported missing by her parents on February 1. Her body was discovered by a hotel maintenance worker investigating complaints of flooding and low water pressure.
On February 14 when the Los Angeles Police Department released security camera footage of her behaving erratically in a hotel elevator on the day she was last seen alive. The video went viral on social media like Youtube and Facebook. Readers interested in the case can have a look at the footage if searched up. Autopsy performed on February 24 was inconclusive in determining the manner of Lam's death, the Los Angeles County Coroner's office subsequently ruled the death an accident with bipolar disorder being a significant contributing factor.There was an unusual similarity between Lam's death and the 2002 horror film Dark Water. The case has since been referenced in international popular culture and been the subject of several creative works.
Hotel staff who saw Lam that day said she was alone. Outside the hotel, Katie Orphan, manager of The Last Bookstore, was the only person who recalled seeing her that day. "She was outgoing, very lively, very friendly" while getting gifts to take home to her family, Orphan told CNN. "[She was] talking about what book she was getting and whether or not what she was getting would be too heavy for her to carry around as she travelled," Orphan added.
The investigation had determined how Lam died, but did not initially offer an explanation as to how she got into the tank in the first place. Doors and stairs that access the hotel's roof are locked, with only staff having the passcodes and keys, and any attempt to force them would supposedly have triggered an alarm.
The hotel's fire escape could have allowed her to bypass those security measures; her scent trail was lost near a window that connected to it. A video posted to the Internet after Lam's death showed that the hotel's roof was easily accessible via the fire escape and that two of the lids of the water tanks were open.
Apart from the question of how she got on the roof, others asked if she could have gotten into the tank by herself. All four tanks were 4-by-8-foot (1.2 by 2.4 m) cylinders propped up on concrete blocks;there was no fixed access to them and hotel workers had to use a ladder to look at the water. They were protected by heavy lids that would be difficult to replace from within.
The hotel employee who found the body said that the lid was open at the time, removing the issue of how she could have closed the lid from inside. Police dogs that searched through the hotel for Lam, even on the roof, shortly after her disappearance was noted, did not find any trace of her.
Theories arose pertaining to the elevator video. Some of them argued that she was attempting to hide from a pursuer, perhaps someone ultimately responsible for her death. Some proponents of the theory that she was under the influence of illicit drugs are not dissuaded by their absence from the toxicology screen, suggesting that they might have broken down during the period of time her body decomposed in the tank or that she might have taken rare cocktails of such drugs that a normal screen would not detect. The very low level of her prescription drugs in her system, and the number of pills left in her prescription bottle, suggested she was under-medicating or had recently stopped taking her medication for bipolar disorder, which might have led to a psychotic episode.
Since her death, her Tumblr blog was updated, presumably through Tumblr's Queue option that allows posts to automatically publish themselves when the user is away. Her phone was not found either with her body or in her hotel room. Whether the continued updates to her blog were facilitated by the theft of her phone, the work of a hacker, or through the Queue, is not known; nor is it known whether the updates are related to her death. This is what makes Elisa Lam’s death an unsolved mystery.