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Netflix Original series, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, was released on Feb. 10, 2021. Instantly, the series drew true crime fans into Elisa Lam’s story and delved into the Cecil Hotel’s dark and sordid history. The prominent Los Angeles hotel has been the scene of more than one grizzly murder, dozens of suicides, and it even housed two serial killers. While most of what happened at the Cecil hotel remains undisputed, the Black Dahlia’s residency at the establishment remains heavily debated.

Who is Elisa Lam and how did she vanish from the Cecil Hotel?

Lam, a Canadian college student, went missing during a solo trip down the West Coast of the United States in January 2013. A maintenance worker discovered her body in a rooftop water tank weeks later. Officially, Authorities ruled Lam’s death an accidental drowning, but mystery has surrounded that ruling since its 2013 release. Long before Netflix picked up on the case, internet sleuths had poured over every frame of a surveillance video to figure out what really happened to Lam.

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel
Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel | Netflix 2021

The fascination is directly linked to the Cecil Hotel’s history and Lam’s behavior in a video of her shortly before her disappearance. In the video, filmed inside the hotel’s elevator, Lam moves suspiciously and erratically, pressing buttons and getting on and off the lift. Some True crime aficionados argue that Lam is trying to avoid someone, while others think a mental health issue could be at play.

Who is the Black Dahlia?

The Black Dahlia, later identified as a 22-year-old actress named Elizabeth Short, was the victim of a savage and brutal murder in the 1940s. Smart had moved from Massachusetts to California the pursue acting. She traversed California for several years before settling in LA.

Elizabeth Short in an undated headshot
Elizabeth Short | Bettmann/Getty Images

A boyfriend picked Short up at her residence on Jan. 9, 1947. She was dropped off at the Biltmore Hotel to meet her sister, who was in town visiting. Later, witnesses saw her at a cocktail lounge, and then the trail went cold. Six days later, Short’s body was found in a vacant lot in LA, mutilated.

Did the Black Dahlia stay at the Cecil hotel?

The Cecil Hotel has a truly dark history. Somewhere along the way, the story of the Black Dahlia because intertwined with it. At the time of Short’s murder, the Cecil Hotel was an often-visited landmark. The bar was pretty popular in the 1940s, and there is no reason to think Short didn’t visit the establishment at some point.

Evidence concerning the murder of American aspiring actress and murder victim Elizabeth Short (1924 - 1947), known as the 'Black Dahlia,
Evidence in the Black Dahlia murder case held by the LAPD | INTERNATIONAL NEWS PHOTO/Getty Images

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There is, however, no evidence to suggest she was there on the night of her disappearance. Nor is there evidence to suggest she had ever stayed there. There is evidence to the contrary, though. Starting in December 1946, Short was staying with a friend named Dorothy French. She was picked up on the evening of her murder from that residence and dropped off at the Biltmore Hotel. According to the BBC, from there, no one is entirely sure what happened. The Cecil Hotel’s link to the case seems to be a theory, mostly born online, that has no real connection to the famed case.