By Anna Collins
22nd February 2021
The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel has everybody completely gripped, and it’s one of those things that keeps you up at night because of its disturbing story.
If you’ve seen the video – you’ll have witnessed the strange behaviour of Lam in the lift the night before she died and probably wondered what was going on. The Police released a CCTV video to try and help in the missing case of Elisa Lam, which was filmed inside one of the Cecil Hotel lifts.
There is so much more to this case than meets the eye. Here are things you didn’t know and some of the theories about what happened that night.
The CCTV footage has been tampered with
In the video Elisa is behaving extremely unusually, she appears agitated, jumping in and out of the lift, and the elevator doors don’t close for several minutes. Then, she disappears out of shot.
So, of course, footage like this caused widespread speculation. The footage went viral and people from all over had their own theory on what was happening. Many people, believed that the CCTV footage had been tampered with. In the video, it looks as though Lam is hiding on several occasions – but we can’t see what or who from, or whether she isn’t even hiding at all.
The footage itself is very blurry which leaves most of the video obscured at times. Some people think this is to cover up the image of somebody else, who Lam appears to be frightened of. They believe the footage has been tampered with to alter the evidence.
(Image Source/ YouTube.com)
Not only is the footage blurred, but there are also time discrepancies. From around 2.30 minutes into the CCTV footage, Elisa disappears from our sight. But the footage continues to roll. When people have investigated closely and zoomed into the time mark, they believe 53 seconds of footage had been wiped.
And, people also believe that certain parts of the footage have been slowed down in order to edit other parts of the video out. At around 2:57, the doors of the escalator jump quite suddenly which has caused this theory to be believed further. So, with the blurry parts of the footage and the strange occurrences with the time – lots of people have suggested that either the hotel have tampered with the footage themselves to try and disguise any suspicious occurrences that would add fuel to their already damaged reputation. Or, others believe it is the police department trying to cover it up.
She is believed to be murdered
Death such peculiar circumstances is bound to arise suspicion, particularly when the case Is so highly publicised. This case was known all around the world, which leads to millions of people all having their own opinions and take on what really happened. Many people did not believe the verdict or the autopsy results and they instead believed Elisa Lam had been murdered.
(Image Source/ People.com)
Because of the strange circumstances that surrounded her death, it naturally left people to question whether there was something suspicious about it. And, many thought it was.
Plus, the information that Elisa Lam was found naked, along with the CCT footage led pole to believe that somebody else was involved. Still, to this day many people do not accept that Elisa Lam’s death was accidental.
The lid on the water tank was closed
So, if the case wasn’t already confusing enough – there is also a piece of evidence that makes the whole version of events seem even more strange. As we know, her body was found at the top of the hotel in the water tank. Her body was tragically found dead, floating in the water.
What seemed confusing is how she had got in there. And, the lid on the water tank was closed. As people have pointed out, this would have been extremely hard for her to have closed the lid herself once she was already in the tank.
(Image Source/ E-Online)
Considering the distance between the water and the lid, and how heavy the lid was, it raised people’s suspicions.
To answer this, the hotel maintenance worker who found Elisa’s body inside the water tank claimed the hatch had actually been open when he’d found it, and that he had closed it once he had discovered her body.
The autopsy kept being delayed
For such a highly publicised death with such huge media attention, the wait for the autopsy results was even more highly anticipated. You’d have thought with the case being under such great speculation that the autopsy result would be prioritised to not be delayed.
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But, it took four months for the release of the autopsy results to be released by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s, and there were repeated delays. Finally, after the four months – the report stated that the death was accidental and that there was no evidence of physical trauma. This report, however, was not widely accepted. Many people thought that the whole thing was too suspicious, including the fact that the autopsy took 4 months to declare it accidental.
There had been hundreds of deaths at this hotel
This hotel’s reputation precedes itself – and for the worst reason of all. The Cecil is renowned worldwide for its association with untimely deaths. Unfortunately, death may occasionally occur at hotels because life can be unpredictable and tragically sometimes people do die unexpectedly.
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But – this hotel (The Cecil as it was then known), has (apparently) had hundreds of deaths. Understandably, many people think that is more than an unfortunate coincidence, and that something is definitely. Amy Price, who was a worker at the hotel from 2007 to 2017, claimed she saw 80 deaths in her time working there. That is 80 deaths in her 10 years at that same hotel. Something doesn’t sound right.
People suspected Pablo Vergara
Of course, when there is so much media attention brought to a case it means that people start playing the role of detective and trying to come up with their own version of events and their own conspiracy theories. Some of these theories were really farfetched. Online conspiracists started to accuse somebody of Elisa’s death.
(Image Source/ Ney York Film Academy)
These amateur detectives had found their own culprit – Pablo Vergara AKA ‘Morbid’, the leader of a heavy metal band. This is because Pablo had uploaded a video of himself inside a room at the Cecil Hotel a couple of days after her body had been found. In the video, the lyrics reference a woman drowning in water. Of course, people jumped onto these connections and believed it was too much of a coincidence. Pablo had nothing to do with the death had actually been in Mexico at the time.
It drove Morbid to attempt to take his own life
People started to seriously accuse Pablo and started harassing him online, believing he was a murderer. It became so bad and the harassment became so intense that he actually released a video on YouTube to proclaim his innocence and explain that he had been in Mexico at the time of Elisa’s death, recording for his new album.
(Image Source/ Flipboard.com)
After making these connections between his music video people seriously accused him of murdering Elisa Lam. Years later he revealed how much the accusations had affected him. As a result of the abuse, he received and the daily death threats he incurred, he had tried to take his own life because he could no longer bear it. He woke up in a psychiatric hospital.
Lam suffered from mental health issues
Elisa Lam was known to have suffered from various mental health disorders, she had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and also depression. She had suffered from these conditions for a long time and these had been diagnosed years before her trip. With this knowledge, many people believe that this explains her unusual behaviour.
(Image Source/ Pinterest.com)
The 21-year-old Lam, also had a Tumblr blog. It was called Nouvelle-Nouveau, and it had been searched by the police for clues to her death. On her blog, she had shared the quote ‘No matter how much I feel, I’m not going to let it out… If my heart starts going crazy, I’m not gonna tell everyone in the world about it. It doesn’t help anything. It just makes everyone’s life worse.’
There were many odd coincidences
This case is full of strange coincidences. It is these coincidences that fuelled the suspicion around the case. Another strange occurrence was that the postcode of the last place she had been seen by anybody before her death, was also the exact same postcode that she was buried.
(Image Source/ Pinterest.com)
The Last Bookstore in LA was where she had last been seen before she went missing. Its postcode is V5G 4S2. When this code is entered into Google Maps, V5G 4S2 is also the exact spot where Elisa Lam later went on to be buried. This is certainly a strange coincidence but of course, online amateur detectives thought that this was somehow evidence of the suspicious conditions of Elisa Lam’s death.
Her death has similarities to a film
Online theorists pointed out the similarities between the horror film Dark Water and the case of Elisa Lam. In the film, the body of a girl is found in the water tank in the roof of the hotel. In the film, she is found because the guests start complaining about the water.
(Image Source/ MarieClaire.com)
This is exactly the same as how Elisa’s body was found. And, what’s more – they pointed out the girl’s name which was Cecilia. Which is pretty similar to the name of the hotel in this case – Cecil. Some people considered this more than sheer coincidence – they believed that Elisa’s death was actually a copycat of the film. But this is most likely another farfetched conspiracy that people came up with.
People thought Lam was a biological weapon
Speaking of farfetched, here speculation really takes it to another level. The online community that was investigating the death of Elisa had noticed that there was an outbreak of tuberculosis in Skid Row. Skid Row was what an area just a few blocks from the Cecil Hotel had been named. So, this outbreak was nearby to the hotel.
(Image Source/ PopBuzz.com)
When they looked further into this, they found that the test for the specific strain of tuberculosis that was present in the area at the time was named the LAM-ELISA (standing for Lipoarabinomannan (LAM) Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). Because of the similarities in names, the conspiracists jumped to the conclusion that Elisa Lam may have been some sort of biological weapon. It was thought that she may have killed because she had found out too much. Autopsy results did not find any signs of tuberculosis. So yes, this one was a pretty wild theory.
She hadn’t been taking her medication
As we know, Lam suffered from multiple mental health disorders, for which she was prescribed medical help. She had four different medications to treat her bipolar disorder and depression. But it turns out that she hadn’t been taking them properly. In her room, investigators found her medicine, which had not been being taken regularly or in the correct doses.
(Image Source/ AllThat’sInteresting)
Plus, in the autopsy results her medication was traceable but not in the strengths It should have been. The toxicology reports stated that the levels of prescription medication were notably low. These two pieces of evidence supported the fact that Eliza had not been keeping up with her medication properly and so her conditions were going untreated.
She may have been hallucinating
So, back to the question of her actions in the CCTV footage of the lift. One of the main things that were picked up on is the fact that she was visibly gesturing, as though in conversation with someone. Due to the knowledge that she wasn’t treating her Bipolar correctly at the time, some people have concluded that she could have been experiencing hallucinations from the disorder, which is an effect of Bipolar.
And, as her levels of medication were low, her bipolar could have been uncrontrolled at the time and so she may have been experiencing an episode. Some believe that when she is gesturing in the footage, she is actually hallucinating, therefore she could well be having a conversation with someone that appeared to her, to be there.
She was not drunk or on drugs
One of the first assumptions, when people saw the footage, was that she must have been drunk or she must have been experiencing the effects of drugs she must have taken. But it was neither of these things.
(Image Source/ Distractify.com)
The toxicology reports concluded there were no illegal drugs in her system when she died. Nor, was she drunk at the time either. Again, this was a theory that had to be dismissed once the reports had been released.
She didn’t have her glasses on
Elisa did not have her glasses on her when we see her in the CCTV footage. Which, many believe accounts for her unusual behaviour and her gestures. And, in the footage, we can see her look closely at the buttons, which if we apply this knowledge it could be because she has to inspect the buttons closely so that she can see what she is doing.
(Image Source/ Blogspot.com)
She then presses a button again as though she is not sure whether she had pressed it correctly. Still, it wouldn’t account for some of her other behaviour such as running in and out of the lift and hiding. People also think this theory could explain that she fell into the water tank because she did not see it properly.
She was leaving notes on people’s beds
We already know that Elisa had displayed some strange behaviour, as we have seen in the CCTV. But hotel workers have also confirmed that a few days before she disappeared, she was acting peculiarly and that she had started to display some erratic behaviour during the early days of her stay.
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Initially, she was allocated a room along with another young woman. But she ended up being moved to a separate room because of her behaviour. She had started leaving odd notes on the beds of some of the other guests. People suggested that this was a sign that the state of Elisa’s mental health was deteriorating.
She was naked
There have been multiple attempts to try and explain why Elisa was found naked as it was one of the issues of the case which made it even more confusing. Many, assume that someone else was involved and that Elisa was sexually assaulted before she was murdered.
(Image Source/ IBTimes.com)
Another explanation however, that would fit with the autopsy result of an accidental death is that she took off her own clothes. The reason (people speculated) that she would have done this is because of her poor mental health. People have suggested that if she didn’t know what she was doing she somehow took her clothes off in her conclusion.
Perhaps she was hyperthermic
Another suggestion for why she may have been found naked is that perhaps she had been experiencing hypothermia. Again, this theory fits with the conclusion that her death was accidental. According to this theory, if she had fallen in the tank and become trapped, her body temperature would have begun to cool down.
(Image Source/ vocal.media.com)
Lam must have been in the water for a long time and so her body temperature will have dropped dangerously low. When hypothermia kicks in, it is known to cause a false sensation that your body is heating up. So, if she experienced this, she may have removed her own clothes to try and cool down.
Detective Wallace thinks she drowned
Detective Wallace was the lead detective on the case. Despite the huge speculation that surrounded the case he fully believes that Elisa Lam accidentally drowned. His theory is that due to her declining mental state, she found her way onto the roof of the hotel and got into the tank of water.
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He thinks that at the time the pool of water in the tank was most likely full. But as people used the water the levels of water in the tank sank. Meaning, she could no longer get out. He believes she dies this way because she could no longer escape. His theory and the reports mean that this is the most likely version of events.
She was found when guests found the water turning colour
Eliza was not found until 19 days after she went missing, despite the number of people looking for her.
The only reason her body was found is when guests complained about the water, which led to a maintenance worker going to look in the tanks. People had started to notice that something was wrong with the water.
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In turn, this led to the investigation of the water tanks by the maintenance man who found her body
Guests had noticed that their water had changed a strange colour, and that it tasted odd. Guests were moved out of the hotel and were given accommodation elsewhere. And, so the worker found Lam’s body after 19 whole days.
The hotel is now a cultural monument
The hotel had become widely known all around for its reputation with murder, suicide, and serial killers. It’s also an impressive building and is famous for its Beaux Arts architecture due to its unsual structure and building. Unfortunately, as we know, the hotel is not remmebered for its architecture.
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In this case – what goes on inside its doors has given it it’s infamous name even more than because of its architectural prevalence. In 2017 the Los Angeles City Council deemed The Cecil Hotel a cultural monument. Even without this acknowledgment, it will forever be known for its association with strange deaths.
The hotel is closed today
It’s no surprise that considering its history, the hotel is not open today. After its long line of association with death, the case of Elisa Lam was the final incident that led to the hotel’s rebranding. The Cecil was renamed as the Stay on Main hotel. This was an attempt to try and leave behind all of its negative associations. In 2007 the hotel was sold for $26 million and a section of it was refurbished and named the Stay on Main Hotel.
(Image Source/ The Travel Leaf)
The Stay on Main may have a rename, but it still shared parts of The Cecil including two of the lifts. In 2014 hotelier Richard Born bought the property for $30 million and it continued to stay open. But, in 2017 the building was shut so that it could undergo a complete renovation which would include a gym, lounge, and rooftop pool being added in.
Some people think she was having fun in the lift
There are a few people out there that came to their own conclusion regarding what happened in the lift. So, whilst some people think it was a bipolar episode, and some believe it was because she hadn’t got her glasses with her, others think she was simply messing around having fun.
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Because of the way she is gesturing animatedly and running to and from the lift, they think she was actually being playful. They have pointed to her demeanour and body language as their evidence, as they do not think she displayed signs of being distressed or frantic. Therefore, they have concluded that she was okay at this point.
She’d been taking pictures for Instagram
Prior to entering the lift, it is believed that she had actually gone to the hotel roof to take pictures for her Instagram. She is known to have loved admiring different skylines and so she is believed to have been admiring the view and taking pictures for her following.
(Image Source/ Blumhouse.com)
This would have meant that she already knew how to get up to the hotel roof. Which, as we know she ended up on the roof of the hotel, would make sense. And, she may have discovered the fire exit whilst exploring which would’ve explained how she’d become to be near the tanks. Then, after taking pictures on the rooftop, she had entered the lift.
The doors are designed to stay open
There was a lot of speculation around the CCTV footage due to the doors of the lift staying open for a long time, even after she exits the lift. This was what sparked some of the confusion and led people to believe it had been tampered with. But it turns out that the doors are designed to stay open for a significant time.
(Image Source/ Blogspot.com)
This is because people using the lifts may be carrying luggage or moving furniture and so they need to be open for a long enough amount of time without the doors closing on them. In the footage, the doors seem to confuse Elisa and she seems to try and trigger them into shutting. But it seems it is not a fault or tampering of the footage, it is actually done by design.
People suspect paranormal activity
From the many rumours surrounding the hotel – this one has stuck. Many people are convinced that the hotel is haunted. The hotel has such a bad reputation with untimely death that people believe it must be linked to paranormal activity. It’s no wonder that after so many tragedies in one hotel, people have begun to suspect it is haunted.
(Image Source/ Blogspot.com)
Episodes of the horror podcast NoSleep and the paranormal reality show Ghost Adventures were filmed at The Cecil as it is a building that attracts major attention. The podcast wanted to see whether the rumours about the hotel were true. In the two-hour instalment of Ghost Adventures, it investigated the death of Elisa Lam.
The series is made by the creator of The Ted Bundy Tapes
It seems that the creator of the series is no stranger to a tragedy and a crime series. The creator of this series The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel is actually the same person who also created the series, the Ted Bundy Tapes.
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Both series have been extremely popular hits on Netflix and have caused quite a stir. He is an experienced series creator particularly when it comes to documentaries of a serious and sensitive nature.
He has also created the Netflix series Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich and the Paradise Lost trilogy.
Elizabeth Short was murdered here
Elizabeth Short was another young woman who stayed at the hotel. Tragically, while she was staying at the hotel she was brutally murdered. Her notorious murder was highly publicised due to the extreme grotesqueness of it and the fact that it remains unsolved.
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In 1947, Elizabeth Short (an aspiring actress) who was more commonly known in the media as the Black Dahlia, was said to have been seen drinking at the Cecil bar the night before her death. On 15 January 1947 her body was found in an empty car park. It was naked, posed, and had been completely mutilated and drained of all of its blood. So of course, this tragic event soon became associated with The Cecil Hotel.
Richard Ramirez stayed at The Cecil
Another of the hotel’s most infamous connections was to Richard Ramirez. You may better know him as The Night Stalker – and if you know his name, you’ll know he was a notorious killer who murdered innocent people.
(Image Source/ Rolling Stone)
Ramirez murdered several people of all ages and he haunted L.A for years. If you’re wondering why he is linked to the hotel – it is actually somewhere that he stayed for a few weeks whilst he committed his monstrous crimes. Of course, once this was publicised, The Cecil also became linked as a hotel that housed the Night Stalker.
Goldie Osgood was murdered at the hotel
Goldie Osgood has also become known as the Pigeon Lady of Pershing Square. She was raped and murdered in her room at The Cecil. On the 4th of June, 1964, a worker who was distributing telephone books to the hotel rooms discovered her body.
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She had died after being strangled with a hand towel, and she had also been sexually assaulted and beaten up. A 29-year-old man called Jacques B. Ehlinger was arrested for her murder after being spotted wearing bloody clothes shortly after the murder had occurred. But he was later released without charge and so the killer has never been persecuted to this day.
There were multiple suicides at the hotel
In 1932 a member of the cleaning staff found Benjamin Dodich (25 years old) after he had taken his own life in his room. In 1934 Army Medical Corps Sgt. (age 53) also took his own life at The Cecil. In 1962 Julia Frances Moore (50) jumped from her room on floor 8.
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1938 – a man named Roy Thompson jumped from the window, in 1944, a woman gave birth in the bathroom of her room at The Cecil hotel and tragically threw her baby from the window. She was found not guilty on the grounds of insanity. In 1962, a young woman called Pauline Otton jumped from the 9th-floor window after a fight with her husband, she landed on a pedestrian, George Gianinni, and they die instantly. In 1957 an unidentified lady also took her life at The Cecil.
Serial killers Jack Unterweger
A journalist names Jack Unterweger arrived in LA, supposedly to investigate the city’s sex industry. In fact, he was a sadistic killer who was looking for his next victims. He even got the help of the local police who took him on patrol in the red-light district.
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It turns out he had actually committed numerous murders in Austria, and now he was in L. A to do the same. In 1991 he killed three prostitutes, he sexually assaulted them and beat them up before killing them. Each woman he murdered followed a pattern, where he would strangle the women with their own bra and tie it in a knot. This knot was the same for his 11 victims. The killer chose to stay at the Cecil Hotel as a tribute to Richard Rodriguez.
She repeatedly used quotes about life
‘You’re always haunted by the idea you’re wasting your life’. This was Lam’s most frequently liked and used quote. It is a quote from the novelist Chuck Palahniuk. She used the quote as an epigraph for her blog.
(Image Source/ quotefancy.com)
But, after two years after Lam had started blogging, she announced that she would be abandoning it and replacing it with a Tumblr account. She used this quote again on her Tumblr. Aside from this content mostly consisted of fashion photos, quotes and a few posts written by Lam.
Lam contacted her parents every day before she died
Before Lam’s death, she had contacted her parents every single day whilst she was travelling. She clearly had a close relationship with her parents and she would give them daily updates about her whereabouts and what she had been up to. Lam was just 21, travelling on her own for the first time whilst her parents were living in British Columbia.
(Image Source/ allthat’sinteresting.com)
So, just one day after Lam had gone missing, her parents immediately knew something was up. After being contacted daily they suddenly had no contact with their daughter and so they knew something was wrong. They notified the police just a day later. Tragically, it was 19 days before they found out what happened to their daughter.
Police weren’t allowed to search every room
The hotel was searched during Lam’s case, her room especially was thoroughly searched. And, the police searched the hotel as a whole to the extent that they were legally allowed to. But they were not allowed in every room. Sergeant Rudy Lopez stated that they could only have searched the whole building if they had probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed.
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As they did not, the police weren’t granted the powers to search the whole hotel. However, they did of course search Lam’s room and they also had dogs that searched throughout the building, including the rooftop. But the dogs never managed to pick up Lam’s scent. They did however find evidence in Lam’s room that helped create a better picture of what exactly had happened.
She’d been seen by one other person that day
On the day that Lam went missing, she had only been seen by one other person. Katie Orphan is a manager of a nearby book shop called The Last Bookstore, and she was the last person to see Lam alive. She had spoken with her and had described her at the time as being very lively and being very friendly.
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She said Lam was really outgoing and had come across as jovial. They had talked about what book she would get and had discussed whether the book she had decided on getting would be too heavy to carry around with her as she travelled. From this conversation, Lam appeared to be okay and in good spirits. In fact, it was the last time she was seen again by anybody.
The access to the hotel’s roof are locked
One question that arose many times during Lam’s case was how she had got into the roof with the water tanks, and that surely it had been locked. It turns out it had been locked and the roof is actually locked at all times. And, there is an alarm so that if anybody trespasses through it will set it off.
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But the fire escape route does lead directly to the roof and it has no locked doors or alarms. So, if Lam had explored the area, she may have found this route. As she was thought to be at the roof earlier in the day, she perhaps found the fire escape route then. This is why she gained access to the water tanks.
A Tumblr post was released after her death
Fans were left disturbed when Lam’s Tumblr updated, after her death. Unsurprisingly it caused a stir when the post came up on Tumblr. The first assumptions were that her account had been hacked and that that was the explanation as to how another post could possibly be on Lam’s account.
(Image Source/ Amyscrypt.com)
But, as users of Tumblr may know, there is a setting on Tumblr where you can have posts lined up that will automatically publish. This means that if you are busy or forget you can still upload regularly. This is what happened in the case of Lam and her account, so after she had dies her account setting was still set to release Tumblr posts.
The Bringing was based on the case
Just a little over a year after the death of Lam, two brothers called Brandon and Phillip Murphy sold a horror script named The Bringing. It uses the investigation of Lam as a backstory to their fictional horror movie that involves the investigation into a detective’s slowly deteriorating sanity.
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They used Lam and what happened at The Cecil hotel as the premise of their plot. As you’d expect, this was met with widespread criticism. There’s no denying that this decision was in poor taste, so soon after Lam’s death, using the horrific tragedy of her death as a basis for their story and as a way to make money.
Her death was used in horror films
In a similar fashion, Lam’s case was incorporated into the plot of the 2018 horror film called Followed. The film uses the CCTV footage of Yam in the lift. But, instead of the body being found in the roof it is found in the basement. In the film, the behaviour is explained as ‘the Korean elevator game’ in which pressing different buttons awakens the spirits of different people who had previously died at the hotel.
(Image Source/ imbd.com)
In 2019, the studio ACKK, creators of the video game YIIK: A Postmodern RPG. It references Lam’s death as inspiration for the game and says that her suffering was influential in the creation of the game. The developers faced criticism for using Lam’s death in an exploitive way. Many people also criticised it as corporations use the tragic death of a young woman suffering from mental health issues in a way to make money.