Netflix's new true-crime series Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel looks into the mysterious case of Elisa Lam – one of the most talked about cases in the last decade.
The four-part documentary series delves deep into the unexplained circumstances that led to the disappearance of Lam, a 21-year-old student from Canada who disappeared from the notorious downtown Los Angeles hotel in 2013 after being seen in a strange elevator video that captured her final moments before her disappearance.
Although Lam's dead body was eventually found in a water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel, conspiracy theorists have been coming up with their own theories about what could have happened to her and what led to her tragic death.
While there are numerous theories that were floated by social media users, one that gained in popularity was the assertion that Lam was a test subject for some kind of tuberculosis (TB) drug.
What is the Tuberculosis Conspiracy Theory?
The theory can be traced back to a Reddit post five years ago that stated:
"After she was found, a huge outbreak of a unique drug-resistant TB occurred in the same area of her disappearance. How do you diagnose TB? With a LAM-ELISA test."
The Reddit page links to a website called Ghost Theory, which highlights the similarities between Lam's name and the name of the TB test - The LAM-ELISA test, which stands for Lipoarabinomannan (LAM) Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA). The theory suggests that Lam's bizarre behavior in the elevator was a result of side effects she was experiencing after taking the anti-TB medication.
The page also included links to a Los Angeles Times article about a tuberculosis outbreak in LA's Skid Row, which is about half a block away from Hotel Cecil, around the time of Lam's death. The theory is addressed in the Netflix documentary, in which the hotel manager said guests were required to get tested at the hotel because of the outbreak.
While some conspiracy theorists claimed Lam may have killed for knowing too much, others alleged that Lam was used as a biological weapon of sorts to cull the homeless population of Skid Row and was silenced because she either knew too much or planned to expose whoever sent her. The fact that Lam's University of British Columbia has a reputable tuberculosis research center further extended support to the claim.
How did Elisa Lam Die?
Although the conspiracy theory tries to establish a link between Lam and the fatal disease, Lam's post-mortem results suggest otherwise. Her official cause of death was ruled as accidental drowning with bipolar disorder playing a contributing role. There was no evidence of foul play or suicide.
Lam had traces of some of her prescription drugs in her system but her toxicology report noted that she likely had not taken her prescribed antipsychotic medication, leading authorities and medical experts to conclude that Lam may have suffered from a psychotic episode and hid in the water tank from someone or something she hallucinated to be chasing her.
If Elisa had stopped taking her medication, this could explain her strange behaviour in the elevator CCTV footage of her. Many believed she was having a mental episode, pressing all the buttons, making erratic hand gestures, running her hands through her hair and counting on her fingers. Watch the video below: