by Andrew Arnett

Plenty has been said and written about the Cecil Hotel and for good reason — the place is an incomparable vortex of malignant evil. In its day, this Los Angeles hotel has been home to several serial killers, and within its walls, host to a litany of gruesome murders and suicides. Residents who were passed over by the grim reaper fared little better, as their lives were often afflicted by poverty, addiction, prostitution and hopelessness. Little surprise then that one of the most baffling deaths of the 21st century took place at the Cecil, or rather, on top of the Cecil, for it was in a water tank on the hotel’s rooftop where the drowned body of Elisa Lam was found after it went missing weeks earlier. Though ruled an “accident,” Lam’s death was so uncanny and laden with such weirdness that subsequent explanations for her demise have ventured into realms of the paranormal and even, overtones of government conspiracies.

But what does this all have to do with Aleister Crowley? Wicked as he may have professed himself to be, Crowley had been, after all, dead, many decades before Lam found herself entombed inside a watery grave. The case might not have anything to do with Crowley at all and yet, as we’ve explored through various articles, Crowley has been found to be a key player in many latter-day paranormal/occult phenomena. Indeed, there is evidence which suggests the same holds true for the mystery behind Elisa Lam’s death. But let us begin by returning to the scene of the crime.

Death By Drowning

On February 19, 2013, maintenance workers discovered the dead body of a woman inside a water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Initially, they had gone up to the roof to investigate the building’s water supply after guests complained about discoloration, bad taste and a foul odor coming from their tap water. The water was indeed tainted. A dead body had been steeping in it for over two weeks. This was the source of the water supplied to guest rooms, as well as the hotel kitchen and a coffee shop. The LAPD then drained the tank and cut it open to extract the body inside.

What they found was the naked body of Elisa Lam, bloated, greenish and decomposing. Her clothes were floating next to her, coated with a “sand-like particulate.” An autopsy report claimed that Lam died by accidental drowning, with bipolar disorder as a possible contributing factor. There was no evidence of sexual or physical assault. Toxicology showed traces of prescription meds consistent with the ones found in her belongings, as well as a small amount of alcohol.



Lam, aged 21 at the time of her disappearance, was a Canadian student attending the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She was the daughter of Hong Kong emigrants who owned a restaurant outside Vancouver. On holiday, Lam was visiting California, traveling alone by Amtrak bus. She arrived in Los Angeles on January 26 and subsequently checked into the Cecil Hotel. When communication with her parents abruptly ended, police were notified and began investigating her disappearance. The LAPD released a video from the last day she had been seen, taken by a hotel security camera.

In the video, Lam is shown behaving erratically, gesticulating wildly and acting like someone, or something, is chasing after her. She presses all the buttons but the elevator does not respond. She peers down the hallway, she hides behind the door. The footage is undoubtedly spooky as hell. The video subsequently went viral on the internet and spawned numerous conspiracy theories.

Social media and news aggregates like reddit discussed all aspects of Lam’s death in long threads, pouring over minutia and examining every frame of surveillance tape for clues. The general assumption from the available evidence was that Lam’s death was somehow correlated with bipolar disorder, of which she was prescribed a number of drugs to regulate. Some symptoms of bipolar disorder, though not all, may cause hallucinations.

Perhaps Lam, it has been assumed, suffered a psychotic break, went paranoid, then climbed up to the roof, crawled onto a tall water tank, lifted the heavy lid, kicked away the ladder then drowned in the water whilst hiding from her imagined pursuer. Others argue that this generally accepted version of her death does not hold water, being that her prescribed medication was found in her blood stream, thus keeping her relatively sane.

The popular conception is that Lam fell victim to some form of foul play, at the hands of a psychopath, rapist, or denizen of the underworld, and there is certainly plenty of reason to entertain this notion. The hotel, as it were, is located in LA’s Skid Row — not exactly the garden spot of the universe. Since the Great Depression, Skid Row has been notoriously crime ridden and more recently, the situation has been exacerbated by increasing homelessness and reports that LA hospitals are dumping psychiatric patients on the streets.

If Elisa Lam fell victim to a serial killer, it wouldn’t be the first time such a thing occurred at the budget hotel. Two of its most notorious residents were just that — serial killers. Richard Ramirez, dubbed the “Night Stalker,” committed part of his killing spree while living at the Cecil during the 1980s. This morbid streak continued when whack job Jack Unterweger picked up the mantle and strangled to death three prostitutes during his stay at the Cecil in 1991.

Conspiracy Theories

Indeed, so many of the ill-fated fell victim to violence, suicide, rapings and beatings at the Cecil that it would be impractical to list them all here, though one case stands out as particularly horrific, and that regards the murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947. She was an aspiring actress who died under such heinous and mysterious circumstances that her case is often compared to that of Elisa Lam’s.

Elizabeth Short, dubbed “the Black Dahlia,” was rumored to have frequented the Cecil Hotel and, on January 15, 1947, was found murdered in nearby Leimert Park. Her body had been mutilated, drained of blood and severed at the waist, then cleaned with gasoline. Over 150 suspects were investigated, cutting a broad swath through Los Angeles society, leading some to surmise that she was killed by a cabal consisting of members of the LAPD and Hollywood socialites, though no one was ever arrested.

In a similar fashion, conspiracy theorists have claimed that Elisa Lam was assassinated by the government for referencing, on her blog, a currently in the works Pentagon funded project between the US and South Korea to develop invisibility cloaking technology.

Another theory suggests that Elisa Lam was a guinea pig used by the government for trial of a tuberculosis test which uses the Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay, called, in short, LAM-ELISA. Surprisingly, her stay at the Cecil coincided with a TB outbreak on Skid Row, which spread through downtown Los Angeles. Also noted is that a common antibiotic used in the treatment of TB patients is Isoniazid, which has side effects consistent with abnormal behavior and confusion. This may account for her erratic behavior in the elevator though her toxicology report didn’t show any peculiar substances in her system.

Another theory, as outlandish as it may sound, has also picked up traction on the internet. It asserts that Elisa Lam fell victim to the Korean Elevator Game, wherein she traveled through a portal, via the elevator, into a parallel dimension. To play this “game,” one must use an elevator in a building at least 10 stories high, press a series of buttons, according to the given instructions, and one may find oneself in the Otherworld. Some things to note: when you reach the fifth floor, a young woman may enter the elevator. You are instructed not to speak to her or even look at her for “she is not what she seems.” Did Lam look at and talk to this so-called woman? Does this theory have no bearing on reality whatsoever? Maybe. Maybe not.

Certainly one of the most eerie aspects of this case involve the similarities between the circumstances surrounding her death and that of the horror film Dark Water, which was filmed in 2005. It stars Jennifer Connelly as Dahlia (Black Dahlia?) who moves into a rundown apartment with her daughter, named Cecelia. In the apartment, putrid water runs from the faucet and there is even a malfunctioning elevator there. Later, they discover the body of a missing girl inside of the water tank on top of the building. Sound familiar?

The Cecil Hotel Had An Evil Twin

The Cecil Hotel was built in 1924 to cater to tourists and businessmen visiting town but within 5 years of its opening the Great Depression hit and the downtown area wherein the Cecil was located was designated as Skid Row. With an influx of homeless and criminals, the hotel transformed into a low budget halfway house for the down-and-out. I was interested in knowing more, for instance, could the cursed edifice have been placed over an ancient Indian burial ground, or something equally foul?

A little research turned up something interesting — the Cecil Hotel had a double, and it was located in London. The Cecil Hotel in London was built in 1886 and torn down in 1930. Built of stone block and red brick, this was no rooming house for outcasts, it was in fact a luxury hotel accommodating corporate power and the global elite.

Named after Sir Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury and treasurer to James 1, who in fact lived on the property. The Cecils, it turns out, were the power behind the throne of Queen Elizabeth 1 and, by way of the Venetian-Carolingian-Burgundian nobility, overlords of the British empire. The hotel had its own built-in masonic hall and so, it was a favorite meeting place for many Freemason lodges in the London area, including those noted for worshiping Lucifer.

One aspiring magician of note living at the Cecil Hotel in 1898 was Aleister Crowley. It was during his stay there at the Cecil that Crowley was introduced to George Cecil Jones who was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Through Jones, Crowley was introduced to ‘The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage’ and the discipline of practical magic.

The Poem “Jephthah” And More Bizarre Coincidences

On November 18 of that year, Crowley, still at the Cecil Hotel, was initiated into the Outer Order of the Golden Dawn by its prestigious leader, Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers. Crowley, always a prolific writer, penned some interesting poetry during his stay at the Cecil, including one in particular that is pertinent to our discussion.

The poem Jephthah, written during his stay at the Cecil, has been cited by conspiracy theorists as somehow foreshadowing Elisa Lam. The poem tells of Jephthah, a Judge of Israel, who ended up burning his daughter as a sacrifice. The daughters name, coincidently, was Seila, which also works as an anagram for Elisa.

The poem is as follows:


“Let my lamp, at midnight hour,
Be seen in some high lonely Tower,
Where I may oft outwatch the Bear,
With thrice-great Hermes, or unsphear
The spirit of Plato, to unfold
What Worlds, or what vast Regions hold
The immortal mind that hath forsook
Her mansion in the fleshy nook;
And of those Daemons that are found
In fire, air, flood, or under ground,
Whose power hath a true consent
With Planet, or with Element.
Some time let Gorgeous Tragedy
In Sceptr’d Pall come sweeping by.”
“Il Penseroso.”

This brings us to Lam, Elisa’s last name, which just so happens to be the same name as the gray alien type entity which Crowley encountered when he allegedly opened an interdimensional portal while performing the Amalantrah workings in 1918. This last connection may truly be a stretch though, for in Chinese culture, Lam is a common name. Nonetheless, the sheer multitude of relevant synchronicity occurring in this case is odd indeed.

Cecil Hotel Update

The case of Elisa Lam is quite disturbing on countless levels and, like the proverbial onion, the more layers you peel away, the more layers present themselves. The paper trail, as it were, can only take you so far, and often leads to a dead end. It behooves one to check out the scene of the crime, firsthand, and since I’m often in the LA area, I decided to pay a personal visit to the Cecil Hotel. Maybe I would bump into a ghost there who’d give me a lead to what really was going on.

I didn’t run into any ghosts at the Cecil and in fact, the Cecil Hotel is no more. Not in name or management, at least, for all that had changed a number of years back. It had been rebranded as Stay On the Main, an affordable boutique hotel for thrifty hipsters. But even that doesn’t exist anymore. The building is now shuddered for a complete overhaul, and the new owners have high hopes for the hotel, and the downtown area in general, which has seen a renaissance in recent years.

Really, I was hoping to get inside, maybe run the spirit box or even, play the elevator game. But I could only peer through the front door, watching the renovation taking place inside. Maybe it was best this way. Reading the Yelp reviews, it certainly sounded like the Cecil was a true house of horrors, catering to bed bugs and killers alike. One reviewer wrote:

“Upon the elevator doors opening it was a totally different world. You can immediately see the shared bathrooms (gross) and everything is sterile smelling like a horror movie kill room. As we make our trip down the hall things get scarier, the paints peeling and there are people SCREAMING at one another. It was then that I concluded that one of us might get shot while we slept. The room was, at the juncture, exactly what we expected. Dirty, tiny, thin walls, about a foot around the bed. Our room DID have a bathroom which was a nice surprise but honestly it didn’t make a bit of difference, because we were living a goddamn nightmare.”

There’s little doubt that the Cecil is cursed, maybe from the start through bad Feng Shui or a negative vortex. Certainly, the angry ghosts that have accumulated there over time are haunting the property, maybe even taking possession of people, forcing them to do uncanny things. Who knows? It’s all about location, location, location, and the Cecil is a high traffic area for the weird. It is, after all, located on the corner of Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits.


Resolved: Elisa Lam (long, link heavy) from UnresolvedMysteries

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