A viral video. Online sleuths. An internet mystery. We’ve been here before, right?
We have indeed. If you watched Netflix’s Don’t F*** With Cats in 2019, then some of their new show The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel might sound familiar to you.
But this documentary series, and the story of Elisa Lam, is something very different.
Elisa was a 21-year-old Canadian student who disappeared in 2013 at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles while she was travelling across the US.
A video of Elisa, filmed in a hotel elevator before she vanished, went viral when it was released by LA police during their investigation.
The elevator doors didn’t close. She appeared to be speaking with someone unseen. Her movements were strange. She jumped in and out of the elevator. Then, she vanished.
“There’s a lot of darkness that people like to revisit, like Richard Ramirez, Jack Unterweger and of course, Elisa Lam, but I mean, it wasn’t awful to work there,” she says.
“We had a great team, we were running a business, and I enjoyed it.”
‘Humans behind the folklore’
And Joe was committed to telling the story of people like Amy, as much as he was telling Elisa’s.
“My reputation for being responsible probably helped convince Amy to talk, and I think her perspective is really essential,” he says.
“There are real human beings behind the folklore.
“These were people who were doing the best they can, with limited resources, to run a hotel as best they could in a crummy neighbourhood.”
Amy’s out of the hotel business now and is working as a jewellery designer – and also writing a book about her own experiences at the Cecil Hotel.
“I want to share my story,” she says.
“But this isn’t a horror story or anything like that. This is a story about struggle.”