Cecil Hotel regains interest after new Netflix docu-series

Photo courtesy of Jim Winstead, Flickr


Netflix’s newest true crime docuseries is “Crime Scene: Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel,” and it is one of their best yet. The four-episode series follows the disappearance of 21-year-old Elisa Lam in 2013. She was staying at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles when she went missing and was later found in the water tank on the roof of the hotel.

The story itself is haunting and tragic: a young woman traveling to broaden her horizons chooses to stay in a cheap hotel with a dark history. The Cecil has been home to at least 16 deaths and was at one point home to prolific serial killer Richard Ramirez, also known as the Night Stalker.

Through interviews with police who worked the case, the manager of the Cecil Hotel, internet sleuths and more, the series not only covers the case’s most intimate details, but also provides a look at Lam’s life and the impact that her disappearance left on the world. To this day people across the Internet are looking for any missed information that might lead to a conclusion about Lam’s death.

The case of Lam’s death is still unsolved. In the later episodes, the series explores theories about her disappearance and untimely death, which get more conspiracy-like as time goes on. Investigators of the case looked into possibilities of Lam committing suicide and later considered possible foul play.

One piece of evidence that sleuths repeatedly looked at was the last evidence of Lam alive: a four-minute video of her in the elevator of the Cecil, acting strangely. Some theorize there is someone unseen outside the elevator, while others go so far as to be convinced that Lam was possessed by some dark spirit of the hotel.

Theories even range into the possibility of Lam being a government spy responsible for the tuberculosis outbreak that occurred in and around the hotel in the weeks after her body was discovered.

If anything can be credited to this series, it is its thoroughness. Investigators from the case share every step of their search for Lam and the evidence they have, while web sleuths share every possible conspiracy that might lead to the solving of this cold case.

While Netflix’s documentaries can sometimes be repeats of ones already done, this one felt like the best compound of information on the disappearance of Elisa Lam yet. The series drew me in and shocked me, to my own surprise as someone who has read and heard about this case several times. If true crime is your field of interest, this is a must-watch.

5/5 stars