Saturday, 3 January 2015

Elisa Lam and the real curse of the Hotel Cecil.

Earlier this year (whoops, last year now!) I wrote a piece for Doubtful News regarding a travel article about the Warren's occult museum in Connecticut. Whilst wildly inaccurate and embarrassingly written by someone who seemed to have not visited the museum, it could hardly be deemed offensive. Unfortunately, while it shares the same tone of tasteless sensationalism, the same can not be said for this article published on the Road Trippers blog, 30/12/14, in the "offbeat" section.


The article concerns the history of the Cecil Hotel L.A, and poses the question: are all of the 600 rooms cursed? While much is made of the stays of serial killers Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterwege (which I'll address shortly), and a few other unpleasant incidents, the main focus of the piece is the death Elisa Lam, a 21 Canadian student, in early 2013.

Elisa Lam

Here is what the Road tripper article tell's us about Lam
and the tragic circumstances surrounding her death.    
"21-year-old Elisa’s body was found in February 2013, two weeks after her death, when the hotel patrons and staff began complaining that the water had begun to taste and look strange. Her body had been unknowingly decomposing inside the rooftop                                                         water tanks for two full weeks."
We hit our first piece of bullshit here and its a considerable one. The water had began to "look" strange? Even if Lam's body had deteriorated extremely quickly its unlikely that any released material would alter the appearance of the water, given the volume contained in the tank, the hotel has four cisterns on its roof that are each about 10 feet tall, 4.5 feet wide and hold at least 1,000 gallons of water pumped directly from local supplies.

Unsurprisingly I can find no references for this claim. It seems the author has added this detail in a vain attempt to add to make a gruesome idea of a body decomposing in drinking even more horrific.

As for the "taste" of the water being "odd" this claim can be found in a few sources, mostly in testimony from residents after the fact. This smacks of ad-hoc rationalization to me.  Backing this up is the fact that tests conducted in the tank and the hotel post-discovery by Los Angeles County Department of Public Health showed no significant increase in bacterial activity and a lack of harmful bacteria. This is likely due to the fact that rooftop water tanks contain sanitizing agents such as chlorine, this coupled with the fact all this occurred in winter, with the cold weather limiting bacterial growth. A "Do Not Drink" order was issued, but this was likely a precaution until further testing could be carried out.

The actual reason that the water tank was investigated was the fact that several tenants had made complaints about low water pressure, it had nothing to due with odd tastes or appearance.

I'm sure like me you can see the dreaded hand of sensationalism creeping in here. Low water pressure just isn't quite gruesome enough is it? So we get the unlikely addition of an odd taste and outright ridiculous notion of an unusual appearance. This trend continues with the inclusion of surveillance  footage of Lam acting strangely in a hotel elevator:


Road Tripper say of this:
"Authorities believe that after this video was recorded, Elisa gained access to the water tank and drowned."
My my. that's a stunning piece of detection there, that occurred BEFORE Lam became trapped in the water tank did it? I'd say that is a FUCKING GIVEN wouldn't you? But how long before? Was it the same day even? For some reason the clock counter is obscured so we can't exactly be sure.

Grab you tinfoil hat, occult-conspiracy website the vigilant citizen, is prepared to go further and state what Road tripper only eludes too:

"...elevator surveillance tape that recorded Elisa’s behavior only a few moments before she lost her life... Right after the events of the video, Elisa apparently gained access to the rooftop of the hotel, climbed to its water tank and, somehow, ended up drowning in it."
Obviously this is nothing more than pure speculation. There is, that I can find, no official comment regarding the video and the timing of it in relationship to the time of Lam's drowning. I doubt that such precision could even be achieved. 

Both the vigilant citizen and Road tripper make a great deal of the fact that Lam appears to be terrified and fleeing something, and later gesticulating and talking to some unseen individual, obviously this eludes to the possibility of something supernatural.. 

This is further enforced by both sites gleefully declaring that Lam's autopsy showed no trace of alcohol or drugs in her system, therefore these things cannot be responsible for her strange behavior that day. 

OK, but there is one other possibility isn't there, and we've been through this many times, when you hear the sound of hoofs, don't immediately assume zebras. Surely mental illness could be a factor here also?

Sure enough Lam had a history of Bipolar disorder.

Let me do a bit of speculation myself here; Lam was a young lady who had been on holiday for five days, away from her usual support system and possibly without her medication. Experiencing a rough patch, she has no-one to turn to, and her behavior becomes increasingly erratic leading to her tragic death.

 If we ask ourselves why no-one saw this and helped, consider the hotel's proximity to LA's skid row, and its extreme "budget" accommodation. The current management acknowledge that the hotel has a problem with drug and alcohol abuse, with even drug dealers taken up residence for months at a time. Could the result of this ultimately be that Lam's unusual behavior was just chalked up, incorrectly, to these factors? 

 The serial killer connection

OK, so two serial killers, one extremely famous, both had stays at the Cecil Hotel, during this period both committed several murders. Is the road tripper article implying that it was the "curse" of the hotel that drew in these murderers, somehow caused their actions. In the case of Richard Ramirez that seems to be the case:
"Ramirez, aka The Night Stalker, became infamous when he terrorized LA from 1984-85, killing 13 women, all of which he did while staying in the top floor of the Cecil"
The tin foil hat brigade at LA observed this time, have this to say about Ramirez, apparently it all links together in sum numerology bollocks:
"1985, when rates were as low as $14 a night, Richard Ramirez lived in a 14th floor room of the Cecil while killing 14 people. (Occult numerology, anyone?)"
Wait! Road trippers say 13 murders not 14. Ramirez did commit 14 murders (that we know of) why not mention one? Because it doesn't fit the narrative they are trying to establish. See Ramirez's first murder in April 1984 was likely not to have been committed while he was staying at the Cecil, the reason being even through details are sketchy at best Ramirez is said to have stayed at the hotel sporadically for a period of months in 1985. His crimes predate his stay at the hotel, therefore Ramirez didn't stay because of its diabolical influence, he stayed because it was cheap and he could pass virtually unnoticed.

But did Ramirez somehow cause "the curse" did some essence of his pass into the building. Its almost certainly one of Jack Unterweger's reasons for staying there. But again it wasn't any supernatural force, Unterweger was seeking the media sensation that was "the night stalker", perhaps also in the belief that some essence of evil lingered there. It also didn't hurt that Unterweger intended to murder prostitutes, and the proximity to skid row provided a steady supply.

So what about all the other "strange occurrences", the suicides and murders! Look at what we've learned about the hotel thus far, its proximity to skid row, its persistent low rate of accommodation and the kind problems the people staying there commonly had. Would we not be more surprised if nothing terrible ever occurred there. That would persuade me of a supernatural intervention, not the contrary.

While literally hundreds of pages and sites speculate on the supernatural curse of the Cecil, they over look the real curse; the prevalent all encompassing depravity some sections of our society are forced to live in, and the terrible ends they, and others they encounter, tend to meet.

But why do articles like this, focusing on Elisa Lam, make me particularly angry? We are talking about the tragic death of a young woman with her whole future ahead of her. A woman struggling with mental illness, alone and scared at the time of her death. Leaving a family behind her with a grief of a magnitude unknown by anyone who has not lost a child. Her name shouldn't be trotted out for the sake of pretty sensationalism.  To add credence to some bullshit story. Elisa Lam is not an "offbeat" story you tap out as you consider what fun you'll have at the New Year's eve party.