March 3, 2021

The last viral mystery of the Cecil hotel


Facade of the Hotel Cecil in Los Angeles.

Facade of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles.

The mysterious disappearance of the young Canadian Elisa Lam It was the last episode in the black legend of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. The enormous repercussion it had has given rise to a new true crime documentary miniseries by Netflix. Four episodes make up Crime Scene: Disappearance at Cecil Hotel, title that makes us suppose that in the future we will have new installments to analyze other events. Elisa Lam’s case became a viral phenomenon as a result of the police, asking for citizen collaboration, to make public an enigmatic video captured by the security cameras of the establishment that showed the last time the victim was seen alive. It was not known where he was, but he never left there. His strange behavior sparked all kinds of speculation on the net. The video reached in a very short time a whopping figure of 25 million views all over the world. The documentary itself is responsible for reminding us that at that time (we were in 2013) the word viral did not have the connotations that it has today. The enigma brought together all the elements to enthrall thousands of people. The problem is that then reality comes and that fantastic theory that we had ridden in our heads knocks us down.

Eight years have passed since those haunting images shook the world. More than enough time for someone to come and make a documentary about what happened and separate the chaff from the grain. Possibly, many even ignore what was the outcome of this mystery, so it is better to be surprised by the twists that the plot takes until it reaches where the filmmakers wanted to go and that there are no spoilers. The black legend of the establishment and the gruesome facts that its walls have seen since its inauguration in 1927 are nothing more than context. The real goal of this series is the amateur cyberresearchers. If the documentary from the beginning had put all the cards on the table, knowing what is already known, the thing would not have given so much. There are precisely those who have reproached him for putting suspense before truth. An unfair criticism because with that play what is intended is to put before our eyes how easy it is to get carried away by the conspiracy theories. The important thing is not to show what happened, but to show the phenomenon around the sadly disappeared young woman. There were those influencers thirsty for clicks that walked selfie stick in hand through the last places that Elisa traveled hoping to find a ghost or something like that, while they burst out laughing.

The stage gave a lot of play. The Hotel Cecil story inspired Ryan Murphy for the fourth season of American horror story. Yes, that of Lady Gaga. On that occasion, his approach was much more interesting than the result. After a few promising first episodes, the season lost steam everywhere and in the end ended up being one of the worst of the series. Perhaps one of the problems was that he swerved a lot and over-braked in his histrionics, taking away the fascinating history of the hotel and turning into an absurd vampire story. Or I know what it was. The Cecil Hotel was inaugurated in 1927 in the heart of Los Angeles. Two years later came the crisis of 1929 and it would not take long to cement its legend. A huge mazacote with more than 700 rooms, which would end up becoming a refuge for a whole series of marginal beings. People who were murdered in their own room to be robbed, suicides of desperate individuals and guests who were real psychokillers. The hotel closed its doors in 2017 after its sale to a New York real estate developer and which is undergoing an in-depth renovation of the facilities to break with its dark past.

Returning to the documentary, the mystery surrounding what happened to Emily Lam fed the internet troll, that territory where the experts “cuñaos” roam freely. Those who today are series critics, tomorrow experts in pandemics and in the past in criminology. Despite the fact that the hotel has been closed for years, I recommend a walk through the reviews that still appear on the Internet today where the jokes towards its black legend continue to proliferate. The disappearance and death of Elisa Lam posed a challenge for cyber researchers. The young woman left a diary in Tumblr whose entries were as analyzed as the aforementioned video. Even after his death, new posts continued to appear, scheduled messages or some hacker funny? The click culture rewards those who get the eye-catching headline and encourage them to enter the page. It doesn’t matter that it has something to do with the truth. Conspiracy theories were not long in coming. Every day some strange coincidence could be found in the case of the young woman’s disappearance. Even the networks found an alleged culprit. A person who was lynched by the media, although in the end everything turned out to be a hoax like that of the Whatsapp that from time to time comes to our phones alerting us to the presence of a van that has tried to take a child from a school. It is quite a poem to see in the documentary the face of one of those amateur researchers having to swallow some of the things they said. Some even seem devastated to discover that in this case there was no murderer. As if that doesn’t make what happened to Elisa any less tragic. Perhaps the truth was what gave fewer clicks to your pages. It was enough to listen to the family to find out what was really behind the case, instead of looking for strange coincidences.

For those interested in what the series raises, there are two other documentaries more on Netflix that are closely related to it. The theses of Disappearance at the Hotel Cecil are very similar to those raised a year ago Do not touch cats. The most veteran Internet user knows that there is no more abject being for social networks thane the animal abuser. The appearance on the Internet of a video in which the brutal and cruel murder of kittens appears mobilizes the Internet community. Citizens seeking Justice and trying to analyze the disgusting images in search of clues that allow them to find the murderer. What they do not know is that, with their investigation, they are following the crumbs that the criminal has been leaving them to reach him. At each of its animaladas, the public indignation grows. There are more who are looking for you, without knowing that they are precisely giving their target the notoriety they seek. It’s time to take the leap to stop killing kittens and start doing it with real people. The murderer has achieved the large audience he was looking for to continue interpreting his particular and macabre film. They have given him what he wanted and possibly if his captors had not given him the fame he sought, perhaps his assassination plans would have remained a mere fantasy and his victim would still be alive.

The third Netflix documentary series related to the subject is The Night Stalke: Hunting a Serial Killer, although it is below the previous two. It deals with the investigation of the crimes of one of the illustrious guests of the Hotel Cecil, Edgar Ramirez. Although, yes, the hotel does not appear. The night stalker was a serial killer who during the 80s kept the city of Los Angeles in suspense. He went into the houses of his victims and shot them dead. There was no logical pattern to their goals. It did not matter the race or age, some of them were raped, others not. Nor did they need to be alone to receive his visit. If her husband was with them, he had all the ballots to be killed too. The main sources of the documentary are the interviews with the two policemen who carried out the investigation. They almost seem like a couple out of those 80s cops movies: the veteran investigator and the new kid of Mexican origin who came to Homicide and who was ignored, but with fairly clear ideas on how to hunt down the murderer. The documentary shows us how the investigators came to put together the pieces of the puzzle that formed different crimes and without any apparent connection to each other. Panic broke out in the country when it was revealed that those deaths were caused by the same person. A race against time began to identify the murderer in which each day without results could mean another death. Perhaps it is missing a bit to go a little deeper into Ramírez’s motivations and the narration is somewhat flat.

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