Reflecting on the Elisa Lam Case


A few months have passed since Elisa Lam’s death. For many, the news that her death was ruled accidental only aroused more questions. Punchnel’s, a magazine I frequently write for and where I originally published the first Elisa Lam piece, is celebrating their birthday by reposting their most popular pieces. I was surprised to learn that the article about the Elisa Lam case was by far the runaway for most visits and I thought I’d reflect a little on the case. While I’m glad that so many people have taken an interest in learning more about what happened, every time I think about what her last moments must have been like, it brings me chills. The creepy video that, to this day, still has no real explanation, is part of what makes the case so haunting. She wasn’t on drugs. So why the strange motions, from her acting like she’s terrified, to playful gestures, to the unusual articulations with her fingers? Then there’s her tumblr blog that details her life, her struggles with depression, her complete candor about everything. It’s eerie to think these are the last words of this woman to whom, aside from what we read on the internet, we know nothing about. On the internet, conspiracies abound, especially with all the macabre elements involved (the water going bad, the serial killers that stayed in the hotel, etc.). As much attention as the case has received in America and Canada, there was even more coverage in Asia. I added an update a while back translating a Chinese video from a tourist who actually visited the Cecil Hotel to this blog. I think seeing the camera footage and realizing how easy it was to reach the ceiling was the first time I considered the possibility that the death may have been accidental.

I know for many of my friends, they can relate to her just by fact that she’s a young woman traveling alone. They too have traveled and encountered creepy situations/people. This begs the question; did she want to go to Hotel Cecil for its sordid past, or did she just pick it because it was cheap and she didn’t know better (like the fact that it was right next to Skid Row)? Why was she traveling alone? Or was she meeting someone as many people have speculated? If she was meeting someone, wouldn’t there have been camera footage of that fact?

Do you see what I mean that every question or answer brings up many more?


All these questions I’m mentioning have been speculated upon, questioned, and respeculated upon in countless forums. What happened that night?  We’ll probably never know for sure just as we’ll never know the fates of the thousands of deaths that go unresolved every year.

If there are souls, I hope her soul is in peace. I also hope her family can find peace in the resolution as well, though from reports in the Sing Tao Daily, it seems they were disappointed.

I guess the main reason why the case still seems so haunting for me is that the simple question that began all my articles still seems unresolved: What happened to Elisa Lam?



6 thoughts on “Reflecting on the Elisa Lam Case

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