Netflix’s Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel takes a deep dive in the tragic disappearance of Elisa Lam. The new true crime docuseries follows 21-year-old Lam, a college student from Vancouver, who vanished on January 31, 2013 during her stay at the infamous Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. After hotel guests complained about odd-tasting water, her naked body was found submerged in the hotel’s rooftop water tank. Prior to her demise, the property already had a reputation for suicides, serial killers including the Night Stalker, and murders earning it the nickname “hotel death.”
In addition to interviews with detectives, hotel employees, and even online sleuths, the documentary sets the scene with excerpts from Lam’s Tumblr blog, titled Nouvelle-Nouveau. The posts give insight into Lam’s personality and state of mind leading up to her disappearance and death.
“[Lam’s] story is an integral part of the Cecil Hotel’s history,” director Joe Berlinger (FYI: He also created The Ted Bundy Tapes) told TV Insider. “I didn’t want to invent dialogue or create speculative situations, so everything she says via voiceover in the show comes directly from her online posts.”
Those same posts and Lam’s Tumblr blog is still active today. You can scroll through her prolific site, with some days garnering 80+ photos and comments. The Tumblr opens up a somber window into Lam’s psyche prior to her final days.
Lam announced her Los Angeles arrival on Jan. 29, 2013.
She described the Cecil Hotel: “I have arrived in Laland…
and there is a monstrosity of a building next to the place I’m staying
when I say monstrosity mind you I’m saying as in gaudy
but then again it was built in 1928 hence the art deco theme so yes it IS classy but then since it’s LA it went on crack
Fairly certain this is where Baz Lurhmann needs to film the Great Gatsby.”
“The longer I live, the further I am thrust into my conviction that beauty lies in the empty. As hard as we may try to feel complete, that emptiness is ever there, staring us in the face. The persistence of this void, its undeniable stubbornness, goes some way to persuade me that God willed it to be there – because he saw it to be beautiful. Nothingness is silence, peace and promise, and because atoms are predominantly made of vacuum, we too are predominantly empty. Perhaps God was intent on making nothing, and had to make do with us, the weed that grew between.”
Lam was last seen alive in surveillance footage from the Cecil Hotel’s elevator.
It seems Lam had a love/hate relationship with Tumblr.
On Jan. 13, 2013 she posted: “Tumblr is pretty cool because no matter what you choose to blog about (whether it be jokes, a fandom, fashion, or something else) someone out there will always explicitly hate you for it with mad intensity.”
She opened up about her mental health and depression in multiple posts.
Tagged with “#bit of an emotional wreck atm,” she wrote on Jan. 9, 2013:
“I’m in such a state that the tiniest things are setting me off
and making me snap at people out of frustration
I’m just trying to speak English to them
and it’s as though they think I’m speaking Hungarian
It’s upsetting to find out that if you care enough for a person and see them in need,
they don’t want your help and they get angry if you do help.
Having depression seems to mean that you’ve lost the ability to even help someone else in trouble.
I don’t want to end up bitter and resentful and angry at everyone.
Why do we think we know everything when you’re just 14? Why do you stop growing when you turn 25?
Tumblr, why have you made me notice every single miniscule detail and therefore so much more judgmental?”
Lam shared a chilling Frida Kahlo quote on Jan. 4, 2013.
Frida wrote, “I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to return,” a few days before her death in 1954. Lam shared it on Tumblr the same year she also perished.
Lam lamented her loneliness in heartbreaking posts.
On Jan. 3, 2013 she wrote: “I think I’m having that delayed breakup meltdown. Rough days
It’s sunk in how lonely I am
and why people go out on the weekends to clubs, to the lit up downtown buildings, to clubs with loud music, and to drink drink drink drink
just so for a moment you can feel less lonely
I don’t get why we can’t just be enough for ourselves. That question…we’re just half a person until we meet our counterparts. Until then we have to walk around in this state of longing and thinking oh he’s out there or something like that.
I think in December I just did that. I talked to anyone and everyone hoping for a person I can depend on. But no one wants to have someone else’s problems thrust upon them and be expected to hold them up. I get why; we’re selfish people, we have our own issues to deal with how could you possibly take on someone else’s. When you’ve left high school and you’re busy trying to become ‘accomplished’ what time do you have except for shallow infrequent bursts of conversation with an acquaintance.
It seems we make our packs so early in life and after that we build up defenses so no outsiders can get in.
I just want a friend. No I want more, I want a group of friends.”
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