A Fortune Magazine “Most Anticipated Books of 2020” Selection
A Goodreads Featured Release for February 2020
A Los Angeles hotel with a haunting history. A missing young woman. A disturbing video followed by a shocking discovery. A cold-case mystery that has become an internet phenomenon—and for one determined journalist, a life-changing quest toward uncomfortable truths.
Twenty-one-year-old Vancouver student Elisa Lam was last heard from on January 31, 2013, after she checked into downtown L.A.’s Cecil Hotel—a 600-room building with a nine-decade history of scandal and tragedy. The next day, Elisa vanished. A search of the hotel yielded nothing. More than a week later, complaints by guests of foul-smelling tap water led to a grim discovery: Elisa’s nude body floating in a rooftop water tank, in an area extremely difficult to access without setting off alarms. The only apparent clue was a disturbing surveillance video of Elisa, uploaded to YouTube in hopes of public assistance.
As the eerie elevator video went viral, so did the questions of its tens of millions of viewers. Was Elisa’s death caused by murder, suicide, or paranormal activity? Was it connected to the Cecil’s sinister reputation? And in that video, what accounted for Elisa’s strange behavior? With the help of web sleuths and investigators from around the world, journalist Jake Anderson set out to uncover the facts behind a death that had become a macabre internet meme, as well as a magnet for conspiracy theorists.
In poring through Elisa’s revealing online journals and social-media posts, Anderson realized he shared more in common with the young woman than he imagined. His search for justice and truth became a personal journey, a dangerous descent into one of America's quiet epidemics. Along the way, he exposed a botched investigation and previously unreported disclosures from inside sources who suggest there may have been a corporate conspiracy and a police cover-up. In Gone at Midnight, Anderson chronicles eye-opening discoveries about who Elisa Lam really was and what—or whom—she was running from, and presents shocking new evidence that may re-open one of the most chilling and obsessively followed true crime cases of the century.
“Outstanding…true crime buffs won’t want to miss this gripping search for the truth.”
—Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW
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About the Author
Jake Anderson is a writer, filmmaker, investigative journalist, activist, and digital publisher. He runs the popular website The Ghost Diaries and is a contributing journalist for The Anti Media and multiple alternative media outlets. He has been a featured guest on Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis, Spaced Out, Nocturnal Frequency, West of the Rockies, and Common Ground. Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, he’s a graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz and currently lives near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Find more of his work at TheGhostDiaries.com, where he analyzes cold cases and unexplained mysteries. Follow him on twitter @OverTheMoonSF.
Table of Contents
Author's Note ix
Part 1 Discovery 1
Chapter 1 Missing 3
Chapter 2 Found 18
Chapter 3 The Investigation Begins 25
Chapter 4 Rise of the Websleuths 39
Chapter 5 The West Coast Tour 54
Chapter 6 City of Demons 69
Chapter 7 Further Down the Rabbit Hole 80
Chapter 8 The "Suicide Hotel" 89
Chapter 9 The 14th Floor 103
Chapter 10 The Autopsy 114
Part 2 Serotonin and Synchronicity 121
Chapter 11 The Art of the Meltdown 123
Chapter 12 David and Yinna Lam vs. the Cecil Hotel 140
Chapter 13 Friends and Enemies of Occam's Razor 149
Chapter 14 Inbound Train 162
Chapter 15 A World with Evil 172
Chapter 16 Dark Synchronicity 185
Chapter 17 The Last Bookstore 195
Chapter 18 Return to the Cecil 206
Part 3 Coverup 231
Chapter 19 Revisiting the Cause of Death 233
Chapter 20 Whoever Chases Monsters 247
Chapter 21 Inside Job 254
Chapter 22 A Missing Element and A Bombshell 264
Chapter 23 What Happened to Elisa Lam? 287
Source Notes 327
About the Author 351
A fascinating convergence of ideas and narrative threads
boring to the extreme
I read everything I could find on this case years ago. It was intriguing and had quite a few unanswered questions. They were investigated and answered. This book repeats all of this over and over and nothing is new. The book is jumbled and can't stay on the timeline. I wish he had focused on her mental illness. aspect a bit more.
In 2013 Elisa Lam was a 21-year-old student who checked into a seedy ominous hotel in Los Angeles, a hotel with a history of violence, suicides and death, and she never checked out. What followed was probably the most bizarre investigation, one in which Elisa Lam in her death has been elevated to cult-like status. After Elisa went missing and police were notified there was a search of the hotel. They could not find her. It was as if she had just up and vanished. A week later when tenants and guests began to complain about the odor and color of the tap water in their sinks, and someone went onto the roof to look into the water tanks, they discovered to their horror Elisa's naked body floating with her clothes beside her. And this is truly when the mystery begins and still remains unsolved. How did she get there? The book, Gone at Midnight chronicles Elisa Lam's movements as best as can be done both by eyewitness and social media posts, the history of the Cecil Hotel, where she stayed and was found dead, a hotel where not one, but two serial killers stayed, an odd video which was mysteriously posted of Elisa in an elevator at the hotel which may be her last movements just before her disappearance (a video which you can see on YouTube) and if you are going to read the book I suggest you view; many conspiracy theories, law enforcement suppression of evidence and lastly how mental illness may have played a role. Up to today, although the coroner finally ruled the death accidental, only after he first ruled it as inconclusive, there are more questions than answers as to what happened to Elisa and how she ended up in a water tank on a roof even though the roof had been searched by police and dog sniffers a week prior to finding her. Author Jake Anderson became obsessed with the case (and still is) after seeing the initial elevator video which shows Elisa's odd behavior. Was she being followed or was she having some sort of manic episode? Anderson then found out the tape seems to have time missing from it. Why? He then began looking at Lam's on-line social media presence which was abundant. And stopped abruptly two days before her death. He seems to find evidence of police/corporate conspiracy at the Cecil Hotel as well as evidence suppression. With no official from the police department or the hotel willing to talk to him about anything, Anderson begins looking on the internet at website conspiracy sites and finds a plethora of information, some real and some outlandish. He then must sift through the reality versus the imagined. Gone at Midnight, although a true story, reads like a psychological horror novel. Anderson meticulously takes the reader through the evidence, or lack of, the witnesses, some whom have disappeared, and the emotional mental journey Elisa Lam seemed to be on at the time of her death. Will there ever be any type of resolution as to what really happened to Elisa Lam? If Jake Anderson has his way there most certainly will.
Elisa Lam’s death and the mysterious circumstances surrounding it have always held my interest. When I saw there was a book coming out that dove into the events of her death, I knew I had to read it. Dare I hope that this book contains the answers that we all have about her death? I dove right in and tore through this book because I had to find out. While the book didn’t contain all of the answers I was looking for, I definitely gained a lot of new insight into Elisa Lam’s death that I didn’t know previously. The Content: For the most part, the content was good. There was a lot of information that I hadn’t known and I found myself fascinated by some of the revelations the author revealed. I really liked that he included a lot of information about mental illness and thought that it was wonderful that he was such an advocate for people suffering from it. There were parts of the book that just didn’t resonate with me and started to get a little out there. A lot of the stuff about conspiracy theories and some of the theories that people came up with were so far-fetched and I just thought too much time was spent talking about them. The Flow: It was a little bit scattered and I felt like there was too much jumping from one subject to the next. However, I read this book fairly quickly and felt most of the information was concise and to the point. There were some areas that became a bit long-winded and I don’t think added to the overall quality of the book. The Writing: The writing was okay. I think the author spent a little too much time talking about himself and his emotional connection to the story. A small blurb would have been okay, but I’m really here for information about Elisa Lam. As I said before, his writing was a little scattered. I think this would have been executed much better if the content had been a little more structured. *Thank you to NetGalley and Citadel Press for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review*