Elisa Lam's Tumblr From Netflix's Crime Scene Is Still Archived Online
Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old student from Vancouver, was on a solo trip up the West Coast when she vanished on January 31, 2013 during her stay at the Stay on Main, a hostel within the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Nearly a month went by without a trace of the young tourist, who had left all of her belongings in her hotel room. But after the hotel fielded multiple complaints about water pressure, Elisa’s body was discovered on February 19 in one of the hotel’s water tanks. Her tragic death was ruled as an accidental drowning, with bipolar disorder as a significant factor.
The Cecil already had a dark reputation as the temporary home of serial killers and site of many deaths since its 1927 opening. That, coupled with the viral nature of the last known footage of Elisa Lam alive, in which she appears panicked in a hotel elevator, inspired a legion of conspiracy-minded web sleuths to dig deeper into the case. The new Netflix docuseries Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel dives into the infamous hotel’s reputation and history through the lens of Elisa Lam’s 2013 case. In it, a network of individuals related to the case—from historians, hotel staff, and investigators, to web sleuths and suspects—are interviewed about that time. But the most striking first-hand account comes from Elisa Lam herself—her old blog posts are used in the documentary to narrate and explore her state of mind at the time.
During the 2013 investigation, Elisa Lam’s public Tumblr, Nouvelle-Nouveau, offered officers clues about her mental state and travels within Los Angeles in the days leading up to her disappearance. The accessibility of the blog also fueled online communities of amateur sleuths’ obsession with her case, and pored over it looking for clues about potential murderers. But her Tumblr is used in Crime Scene as a window into her travels, her mind, and her mental health prior to her death. It offers the documentary a unique, heartbreaking first-person perspective. “I didn’t want to invent dialogue or create speculative situations, so everything she says via voiceover in the show comes directly from her online posts,” producer Joe Berlinger told TV Insider.
Her archived blog is still online today. The Tumblr, which she actively used as a writing outlet, is a somber look at Lam's psyche before she died. There are chilling entries, such as a reposted Frida Kahlo quote, which reads "I hope the exit is joyful—and I hope never to return,” that Lam shared on January 4, 2013, just weeks before her disappearance. In her blog posts, many of which are read in the docuseries, Lam lamented poetically and thoughtfully on loneliness and depression, often posting and reposting hundreds of notes in a day.
Crime Scene does not purport to solve the mystery of how Elisa Lam got up to the Cecil’s locked roof and into the water tank. It instead reframes the case, which has often been thought of as a paranormal horror story at the haunted Cecil Hotel, as a heart wrenching tragedy about a young woman’s struggles with mental health.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.