Everyone from hardcore internet sleuths to true crime junkies have been riveted by the Elisa Lam case since the Los Angeles Police Department released the now-infamous surveillance video of her acting strangely in the elevator of the Cecil Hotel. Not even an official cause of death from the coroner (it was ruled accidental, but we won’t tell you more) has done much to tamp down interest in the young Canadian woman’s disturbing disappearance and subsequent death.
Now, the recent Netflix seriesCrime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel has reignited interest in the 8-year-old case. Over the course of four episodes, viewers are taken through various theories surrounding the case, with particular interest paid to her movements throughout the Cecil during her stay. Despite competing theories about her manner of death, there’s no disputing that Lam ended up on the roof of the Skid Row hotel, which has led countless would-be detectives to flock there, wandering its halls and trying to recreate the steps Elisa may have taken that night. Thinking of doing the same? It’s a bit more complicated than you might think.
Can visitors still check in at the Cecil Hotel?
As the documentary shows, even before Elisa’s visit in 2013, the Cecil Hotel was trying to clean up its image, which had taken quite a turn from its opulent beginnings. The grand lobby may have remained, but as the area surrounding it became more downtrodden, so too, did Cecil. The ’80s and ’90s, in particular, seemed an especially dark period for the Cecil, with two serial killers — Night Stalker Richard Ramirez and Austria’s Jack Unterweger — staying for a time. In a 2007 effort to clean up the hotel’s reputation, Marie Claire reports new ownership essentially split the property in two, with one half remaining the Cecil Hotel and serving as shelter for long-term residents and the other being rebranded as Stay On Main, a boutique hotel for visitors.
Stay On Main is what Elisa would have booked for her West Coast trip from her home in Vancouver, B.C. We don’t know if she was aware of the hotel’s seedy reputation or even that the two properties shared elevators, a sometimes dicey situation for a place blocks from Skid Row. It was in one of these elevators that Elisa’s disturbing video was captured, leading amateur investigators to seek it out. The Netflix doc shows curious visitors testing the elevator’s buttons (as Elisa did in the video) and trying to gain access to the roof. If you’re tempted too, you should know that you likely won’t find much evidence of the place Elisa stayed in 2013.
Is it possible to book Elisa Lam's room at the Cecil?
According to Newsweek, you’re going to have to wait to book that trip. The hotel is not currently open because a developer is converting much of the space into micro-units that will be available to those who want to rent the single-room occupancy (SRO) spaces. But the spirit of the Cecil won’t be entirely erased since some floors will remain open to future hotel guests (just as when Lam booked her stay).
The building was granted landmark status in 2017, and while the outside is expected to remain much the same, the interior may be quite different, per LAist. There’s currently no public timetable for when either the hotel or SROs will open to hosting guests, so hold off on your trip to L.A. until we know more. In the meantime, those longing to connect with Elisa can still read her thoughts on Tumblr, which was featured prominently in the Netflix series and remains available online. For the foreseeable future at least, that’s as close as any of us will get to walking in Elisa Lam’s footsteps.
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