In 2013, Elisa Lam was staying at Los Angeles' Cecil Hotel when she suddenly vanished. Her body was found two weeks later in the water tank on the roof of the hotel, and her death was eventually ruled an accidental drowning. But that hasn't stopped internet sleuths from speculating about other possible explanations for Lam's perplexing death, many of which are explored in the new Netflix docuseries Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel.
One of the wildest theories is that Lam was murdered in an attempt to replicate the events of the 2005 horror movie Dark Water. The film is an American remake of a 2002 Japanese horror movie, which is based on Koji Suzuki's short story "Floating Water." In it, a mother and daughter (named Dahlia and Cecilia) find dark water leaking from their bedroom ceiling and soon discover that the apartment above theirs has flooded and that the family who used to live there left under mysterious circumstances. Dahlia eventually finds the body of the little girl who once lived in the apartment above theirs: she'd been abandoned by her parents and drowned after accidentally falling into the building's water tower. Now, she roams the building as a vengeful ghost.
It may seem like a stretch to speculate that someone committed a murder in order to replicate the events of a random movie released almost a decade prior, but the circumstances surrounding Lam's death are eerily similar to Dark Water's plot. Not only was Lam's body also discovered in a water tank, but she was only found after hotel guests complained that the water had low pressure and an odd taste and smell — just like the very literal dark water that floods Dahlia and Cecilia's apartment in the film. In addition, the trailer for Dark Water shows multiple scenes in which the elevator buttons in the apartment complex appear to be malfunctioning, similar to the surveillance footage of Lam acting strangely in the hotel elevator that made her case go viral. The Dark Water connection isn't the only (or even most popular) theory that's emerged in the wake of Lam's death, but it's hard not to be struck by the number of peculiar similarities between the stories.
In recent years, Lam's case has overtly inspired a number of different television shows and films — most notably How to Get Away With Murder, in which a character's dead body is found in a water tank, and American Horror Story: Hotel, which is set at a hotel with a reputation similar to that of the notorious Cecil. AHS creator Ryan Murphy actually confirmed the premise of the anthology series' Hotel season was inspired by the elevator surveillance video of Lam. "There was a surveillance video that went around two years ago that showed a girl getting into an elevator in a hotel that was said to be haunted," Murphy told Entertainment Weekly in 2015. "And she was never seen again.”