If you, like many others, have binge-watched Netflix's new documentary series The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, you might be wondering who killed Elisa Lam. Or rather, what.
This article contains graphic content that might not be suitable for some readers.
The series follows the mysterious death of a 21-year-old Canadian woman during her stay at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. If you have yet to watch it, pause reading this article now and come back when you're done. Spoilers lie ahead.
Lam travelled to L.A. from Vancouver in 2013 and stayed at Stay On Main, a part of the Cecil Hotel, in a particularly unsafe part of downtown L.A.
Days into her stay, she went missing. After an extensive investigation, it was determined that she had never left the hotel. A video of her behaving very strangely in an elevator sparked much curiosity online.
Finally, the young woman's body was found in one of the water tanks on the building's roof. Everyone from the LAPD to internet sleuths dove into the possibility of foul play or murder. Though, the coroner's report proved different.
After investigating all possibilities of how Elisa may have ended up in the tank, the evidence appears to point to her mental health.
Elisa Lam's Bipolar Disorder
Elisa Lam was extremely active on her Tumblr account, Nouvelle-Nouveau, posting multiple times a day.
From her account, we learn that she loved Harry Potter and adored the Great Gatsby. We can also see that she may have been having a really hard time.
The docuseries explains that Lam lived with bipolar disorder. Many of the young student's posts on Tumblr allude to her struggles with mental health.
"I slept the past 3 days away," she wrote in one post. "I wish i could put part of my brain into a taped shut box and shove it to the back of my closet for the night," she said in another.
Lam even spoke of suicidal thoughts, writing "Today has been one of those blah days full of apathy. Really dangerous too; I can see myself feeling suicidal and it always scares me when I start feeling suicidal."
In the documentary, investigators note that Lam was prescribed at least four medications.
Elisa Lam Toxicology Report
Throughout the series, we hear from the coroner, Dr. Jason Tovar.
When Elisa Lam's toxicology report finally comes in, it apparently reveals that she was not drunk, nor did she have any illegal drugs in her system.
What was in her system was her four prescription medications for her bipolar disorder. They were at such low levels that Dr. Tovar believed “she was undertaking her medications.”
Among her belongings left in her hotel room were her pills. Each bottle was fuller than it would have been, had she been taking them as prescribed.
Elisa Lam's Behaviour
Nearing the end of the series we begin to understand more about the young woman's concerning behaviour leading up to her death.
She had apparently gone to a live audience filming of a TV show in L.A. She was asked to leave after writing a "rambling letter" and demanding that it be given to the host. The security guards deemed her to be a danger to other audience members.
She had also been moved from her dorm-style room to a single room at Stay On Main because she was writing notes like "get out" and "go home" and placing them on the beds of other women in her room. She had also locked them out and demanded a password before letting them in.
Finally, she went down to the lobby and shouted "I'm crazy but so is L.A."
The Cecil Hotel's former general manager said that, unfortunately, this type of behaviour was not abnormal around there as they are an affordable place to stay in the middle of an area that's overrun with drugs and crime.
Delusions & Bipolar Disorder
Investigators eventually deemed Elisa's death to be accidental and the result of an episode of psychosis on account of undertaking her medication.
According to MedicalNewsToday, individuals with bipolar disorder can experience extreme shifts in mood or energy levels. The disorder can manifest in many ways and can be different for every person.
While psychosis is not experienced by everyone with bipolar disorder, it can happen and trigger symptoms like hallucinations, delusions, confusion and lack of self-awareness.
In the series, one of the investigators notes that Elisa Lam's sister said that Elisa had experienced episodes before and that erratic behaviour wasn't uncommon for her.
While the death was deemed accidental, many internet sleuths still believe she was killed or that some sort of foul play was involved.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of harming themselves, please reach out to a trusted peer, parent or health care professional. You can also contact a local helpline which is available 24-hours a day to talk. Or click here, for additional support resources.
If you need immediate assistance please call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest hospital.
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