In a new documentary series, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, Netflix will dive deep into the 2013 case of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel.
The four-part docuseries will “deconstruct” the events behind Lam’s disappearance with interviews with the hotel employees, guests and investigators, under Joe Berlinger’s (The Ted Bundy Tapes) direction and production.
The case of Lam, a Vancouver native and a tourist at the Downtown Los Angeles hotel, gripped the public due to the strange circumstances surrounding it. She disappeared in late January 2013 and by mid-February, the authorities released the last-known CCTV footage of Lam (dated February 1) taken inside the hotel elevator as she exhibited some strange behavior. During the investigation, guests at the Cecil Hotel began complaining about low water pressure and even its bizarre black color and taste. Lam’s body was then found in one of the water tanks of the hotel, and the coroner’s report stated accidental drowning as the cause of death and her bipolar disorder as a factor. However, many have questioned how Lam gained access to the staff-only rooftop and even managed to get inside the water tank by herself.
“As a true crime documentarian, I was fascinated in 2013 when the elevator video of Elisa Lam went viral and legions of amateur detectives used the internet to try to solve the mystery of what happened to her, a 21-year-old Canadian tourist on her first trip to Los Angeles,” Berlinger said in a statement. “So, when journalist Josh Dean, who is also a producer on the project, brought us his research into this case, we realized there was as an opportunity to do something different by not just telling the story of Elisa’s disappearance, but to create a series that explores a particular location’s role in encouraging or abetting crime — or the perception thereof.”
The Cecil Hotel is notorious for being the location of deaths, violence and even rest stops for serial killers like Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger. The Vanishing will also deal with other stories and the history of the hotel in addition to Lam’s death.
“My past projects have leaned into individual crimes and criminals, but I have never explored the role a particular location has played in creating an environment in which multiple crimes seemingly take place over and over again,” Berlinger added. “The fact that Elisa disappeared in a location that has a multi-decade history of crimes is what made her case fascinating to me.”
Crime Scene will not end with Elisa’s story, either. Berlinger assured true crime fans that there will be more seasons of Crime Scene that will explore other locations and cases: “We will explore a particular location and the social forces that contribute to its criminal history, while also looking at specific crimes within that context.”
Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel premieres February 10 on Netflix.