There’s always a market out there for disturbing true crime stories, and Netflix of all streamers knows this quite well. It’s not hard to believe, then, that they would debut a new four-part docuseries about the infamous Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, and the most famous of all its deaths: the mysterious passing of Elisa Lam. Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel will apparently explore many of the theories surrounding Lam’s fate, from the mundane to the fantastical. The series premieres on Feb. 10, 2021, with its first trailer below.
The Cecil Hotel itself was originally built as a luxury hotel, but it fell into disrepair and disrepute during the urban decay of L.A., as it sits on the edge of the city’s notorious Skid Row neighborhood. Subsequently, its history often has become associated with suicide, death and crime. In fact, at different points in its history the hotel housed multiple active serial killers, including “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez.
It’s the story of Lam, though, that has long captured the imagination of the internet in particular. A Canadian college student and the daughter of Chinese immigrants, Lam was an intelligent young woman who traveled to California for a solo vacation. She kept close contact with family during early parts of the trip, but then went missing after checking into the Cecil Hotel. After a subsequent search, L.A. police released a mysterious video taken in a Cecil Hotel elevator, which seemed to show Lam hiding in the elevator from an unseen person or presence, acting strangely and waving her arms in a bizarre manner. That was the last known footage of Lam, whose body was discovered weeks later in one of the hotel’s rooftop water tanks. There was no sign of violence or drug intoxication present—just one of many mysteries pertaining how she met her fate.
Explanations for the Elisa Lam mystery have subsequently become a popular pastime for internet sleuths, many of whom pointed to the woman’s history of bipolar disorder and the possibility that she was experiencing a psychotic episode. Still others have tried to force a supernatural twist on the proceedings, theorizing that the ghosts or demons of the evil Cecil Hotel played their own part. It will be interesting to see how much the Netflix documentary decides to play up these more sensationalist elements.
Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel premieres on Feb. 10, 2021. Check out the spooky first trailer below.