[WW] Cecil Hotel and Elisa Lam

I debated about writing on this particular subject because it is still recent and raw but I feel that this is a good opportunity to see what type of lessons we may learn from something that hits so close to home.

*Disclaimer: This post was not meant to speak ill of Elisa Lam or her families. For that reason, I will not to disclose pictures of Elisa or her family members, although they are available on other websites.*

For anyone who hasn't been following the story, Elisa Lam, a 21 year old UBC student, had gone missing since the beginning of February. Her last known location was the hotel she was staying at in Los Angeles. The reason why this is such a big deal? Because, yesterday, a young female's body was found in a water tank above the hotel where Lam was last seen. Although there is no positive ID (according to my forensics class, this mean they don't have any characteristic that would uniquely link the body to Elisa Lam) on whether the body belongs to Lam, I feel this topic can serve as a valuable lesson and a nice jump-off point for people if they are interested in following this case.

[*UPDATE* I wrote this entry early yesterday and the investigators had not confirmed the identity of the body, but breaking news shows the LAPD have identified that the body found in the water tank above Cecil Hotel is Elisa Lam. My deepest condolences to Elisa's family and may they find closure despite this tragic incident. R.I.P. Elisa Lam. Read more here.]

I decided to research Cecil Hotel, where Elisa was staying at and the place where she was last seen.
A quick Google search of Cecil Hotel showed that it was a popular destination to stay at when travelling in Los Angeles because of its cheap lodging fees through Expedia and TripAdvisor. Now, I assume, the hotel is popular for all the wrong reasons. The hotel is more of a hostel, in which most patrons had to share a communal bathroom. Reviews from 2012 up to the present have stated, "you get what you pay for", elaborating that the accomodations were filthy and service was unfriendly. I was looking for indications that the hotel was situated in an unsafe location, but many had said that the area had been cleaned up and they had felt safe during their stay. So imagine my interest when this website covered the dark history of Cecil Hotel!

The history of past serial killers and ghosts at the Cecil Hotel truly does not sit well with any viewer following the Elisa Lam case. Another website (here) touches upon the known patrons who have died on the grounds of Cecil Hotel. After the video of Elisa Lam's last known appearance surfaced on the internet of Lam acting strangely in an elevator, it is not surprising that viewers would think the worst. Some speculated that there were ghosts occupying the elevator that stopped the doors from closing or that Lam was trying to lose someone who had followed her into the hotel. Some were quick to say that Lam was under the influence of a hallucinogen. Some lighter-hearted folk believed she was merely being playful with someone she knew. Whatever the reason, I feel as if the investigators involved are withholding information from the public and it will be interesting to see how everything pans out.

Many questions arose from Elisa Lam's situation. Why was she travelling alone? Why was she staying in Los Angeles? Why did she stay at Cecil Hotel despite the many negative reviews on the internet? I feel as if we will never know the entire story, but that is not the point of this blog entry. Despite all these personal factors we will never know and perhaps never understand, there are a few things we can learn from this incident. This is not some fool-proof method to stay safe because there are people who care not for the lives of others, but we should nevertheless do our part to educate ourselves and those we love.
I understand that many young people want to travel and some may not have the necessary funds to do so, but I stress that is of the utmost importance to always do your research. Whenever travelling, be it alone or with friends, one must always know what type of situation they are getting themselves into. A quick search over Google showed that Cecil Hotel, although cheap, had a dark history and was in a  "recovering environment". One might say that it is all in the past and that they don't believe in ghosts, but take it from one blogger who refused to stay at the "hotel" for even one night (read his blog entry here).
Also, according to reviews on hotel websites, Cecil Hotel is a frequented hotel for those who book accommodations last minute. I think it is plain stupid to go somewhere with no prior planning of where you're going and where you're staying. Sure, you can slap me on the back for lacking spontaneity, but you shouldn't be sacrificing your safety for fun. The world is not what it was before. I don't even mean "you'll get it" in any criminal sense either, because there are just a lot of things that you need to be prepared for, such as loss of accommodation (the people in Hong Kong travelling in China would love to tell you about that one) or any type of emergency. I don't mean to put a dapper on things, but it seems ludicrous for people to not think about the possibily of these things happening while on vacation!

I hope this article sparks some interest in viewers to follow this case. I feel that, out of this incident, we can learn from those involved and just be a little more aware. I sincerely hope that Elisa Lam is found and returns home safely, but only time will tell how this story will continue.

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