Elisa Lam

Elisa is pictured on the left

Elisa Lam
Birthday: 04/30/1991
Disappearance/Death: Jan-Feb 2013 (exact date unknown)

Question 1: What happened to cause the death of Elisa Lam?

Row One
Knight of Pentacles – The Hermit (reversed) – Page of Swords
Card pulled for the Knight of Pentacles: Justice
Card pulled for the Page of Swords: Queen of Pentacles (r)
Card pulled for the Queen of Pentacles (r): 3 of Swords reversed

Row Two
9 of Wands (reversed) – Knight of Wands (reversed) – 8 of Wands
Card pulled for the Knight of Wands (r): 2 of Swords

Row Three
8 of Cups (reversed) – Judgement (reversed) – Strength (reversed)

Elisa Lam – Traditional Manga tarot

Disclaimer: Tarot readings should not be taken as absolute claims that something did or did not happen. I only report the meaning of the cards, their relationships and the meaning in the context of those relationships, as well as intuitions I have based entirely on the cards presented in the reading. When/if I say that something happened, in any part of a reading description, I mean that is what I am interpreting from the cards, their positions, and other related factors.


The following is an extremely basic summary of what happened to Elisa. The situation is much more complicated and detailed. However, I wanted to give a brief background on what happened for anyone seeking a rudimentary refresher.

Elisa Lam was 21 years old when she traveled to California from her home in Canada in January of 2013. She had planned a trip that appeared to include several cities. On January 26th, Elisa arrived in Los Angeles and stayed at the Cecil Hotel. She was in the habit of updating social media periodically to provide some details about her trip. She also kept in contact with her family.

However, she stopped reaching out to her family at the end of January and her parents filed a missing persons report with the LAPD. They traveled to the United States to assist with finding their daughter.

Elisa was nowhere to be found until February 19th, when a hotel maintenance worker checked the large water tanks located on the roof of the hotel because guests were complaining about problems with the water pressure. He reportedly saw Elisa’s body inside one of the tanks and alerted management.

Elisa’s cause of death was noted as an accidental drowning and her diagnosis of bipolar disorder was cited as a contributor. No explanations or information were given about why or how she ended up in the water tank. She had no illegal substances in her system, nor did it appear she had been drinking. Medications consistent with those she had brought on the trip – and was prescribed – were found in her system.

The Reading:

Before you read this, please remember that I have no way to know what happened for certain. Don’t take any of the information described in the readings as fact until or unless details are proven.

The reading for Elisa begins with the Knight of Pentacles. Typically, the first card I pull in a reading reflects the attitudes or energy of the person I am reading on. There are exceptions sometimes. When representative of people, court cards reflect an energy that is correlated with an age range and gender. However, the person represented can really be any age or any gender. The intent of court cards is to mirror the energy or attributes they are projecting. The Knight of Pentacles represents a person that gives off youthful energy and is grounded. It also comes up in readings when a person is slowly working toward accomplishing something and is waiting patiently to make progress as they plug along. This card presents Elisa and her mindset when the situation causing her death began to unfold.

I pulled the Justice card in relation to the Knight card. It’s positioning in relation to the Knight card tells me that person is seeking justice. The person – Elisa in this case – has and is waiting patiently for justice to happen. She is looking for accountability. The cards presented this information up front as a way to clue me in that a person, or people, are responsible for her death and they have not been held accountable for it.

The Hermit reversed is the second card in the row and shows me someone who has or is experiencing isolation. The energy is that of someone who has been reclusive but seeks to break out of those patterns so they may socialize and make meaningful connections. The card is consistent with what is known about Elisa taking a trip to the United States and expressing a desire to have a good experience. However, it tells me that a specific goal of the trip was to come out of isolation and meet people.

The Page of Swords represents a youthful energy and is associated with someone who is full of energy and very communicative. This person articulates themselves well and they enjoy having passionate conversations or debates. The energy and attributes seem consistent with how some people reported Elisa’s behavior close to the time of her death – such as the owner of a bookstore who described her as friendly and talkative, asking a lot of questions and engaging in conversations with a lot of different people. The Hermit reversed showed us someone who was trying to get back out there and become an active part of society. The Page is the execution of those efforts in terms of the approach taken.

Pages can also represent messages that are coming or have been received – depending on the type of reading and the placement of the card. If applied here, the Page could also refer to the way in which Elisa was communicating with others – such as through the sending of a text, call, email, or letter. It would refer to a quick method (Swords is a faster moving energy) and so a verbal type of message – where the person blurts out something they probably should not say– is possible here. If that’s the case, this happened in such a way that it impacted the person in the Queen of Pentacles reversed card, and they were not happy about it.

I pulled the Queen of Pentacles reversed as the card associated with the Page of Swords. Though the card’s imagery depicts a female, court cards can represent any gender so it could go either way. It denotes some kind of direct relationship or interaction between the person in the Page position and the one in the Queen position and has come up because it pertains to the question I asked. The Queen of Pentacles upright has a lot of positive attributes. In its reversed position, though, it shows a negative and difficult person. The person usually has a good sense for business, but in a reversed position it shows them as making decisions based on greed and selfishness. In the upright position, it comes up for people who typically make a good living and support themselves. However, in the reversed position it can mean a person who is spending money foolishly, making bad investments, or living off another person’s wealth. This is someone looking out for themselves and possibly their career, since material and financial matters are a high priority for them.

The Three of Swords reversed suggests that a conflict that occurred was, for the most part, resolved – at least in the mind of one of the people involved. Sometimes the card comes up when someone else is holding a grudge where they pretended to move on from something but really still had negative thoughts about it. There are times when the imagery conveys additional meaning. There are three swords shown as penetrating a single heart. Cards that I will be discussing momentarily suggest there were two other people, besides Elisa, involved in this situation. Three total people tied directly to the above-mentioned conflict.

The Nine of Wands reversed is a card that comes up when a person feels like they have no energy left in them to argue or fight a battle. Basically, if applied to Elisa and her situation, it means that whatever conflict she experienced wore her down to the point where was no longer putting up an active defense. Sometimes, a second dynamic with this card is a situation where someone stops actively contributing to a conflict or problem because they are afraid of the consequences that might happen if they address it directly. I don’t know if the Nine of Wands reversed is connected to the first conflict or if there was a second that occurred.

The next card is the Knight of Wands reversed and its positioning suggests it was the other person – or another person – involved. A person meeting this description is one that is behaving in a manner that is reckless and arrogant. Such a person may feel untouchable and thus behave in ways that a lot of people wouldn’t – simply for fear of the consequences. The Knight of Wands reversed is not worried about consequences. They act before they think, and they are impatient. It is possible that whatever the conflict felt settled between the people depicted by the Page and Queen, but not so much by this person who represents the Knight. They might have still felt wronged so to speak. The energy associated with them is on the younger side (someone behaving like an older teenager or someone in their twenties, for instance). The person could be older, but if so, they were behaving in a way that is more consistent with a person lacking maturity. There’s a sense of entitlement here.

The Two of Swords, in relation to the above Knight card, places Elisa in a position where she felt stuck in the middle of something. She probably knew the situation was not good or right in terms of its progression, but she could have also been in denial about the seriousness of her predicament. Events had not yet turned in such a way to suggest she had something to fear. The Two of Swords can represent someone who needs to make a difficult decision (Elisa), but they are hesitant to do it without spending a lot more time thinking about it. The person doesn’t want to make the decision yet. They want to think about it and consider the ramifications. The problem is that the card can also hint at information or circumstances the person in question does not know about – information that would absolutely change their reaction to a situation or problem.

The Eight of Wands card shows me things from that then on moved quickly. It is a card with energy that typically feels positive to the person the cards are communicating information about. Think of it as forces coming together toward a common goal, or the universe aligning in just such a way as to allow events to unfold in a specific manner. However, its relationship to the Two of Swords tells me that things were not quite as they appeared, and the rapid pace of the events worked against Elisa. A decision needed to be made fast, on Elisa’s end, to avoid a bad outcome – and that’s assuming avoidance was even a possibility to begin with. It might not have been.

The cards show progressive and quick escalation with the above card. The Eight of Cups reversed shows me that Elisa was in a situation she needed to get out of, but for whatever reason either couldn’t or hesitated. The card can mean that the person in question is experiencing confusion about what they should do. That kind of desperate confusion can motivate people to do things they ordinarily wouldn’t and so I can’t rule out the possibility that she went to the roof on her own accord to hide from one or more people – and situation – mentioned above. It’s entirely possible she got into the water tank because she didn’t realize the danger of it or thought it was the only place she could truly hide. The reading just is not clear on this aspect.

Whatever she did or didn’t do, in relation to all of this, the Judgement card in the reversed position shows me someone who regretted their decision (or indecision) and felt a sense of almost self-hatred for not fixing or getting out of a situation. The card takes the concept of self-doubt, and one’s tendency to judge their own behaviors or choices harshly and applies them to the individual the reading is focused on. Major arcana cards usually reflect significant aspects or influences associated with the reading, and they hint at the lack of control people sometimes have in their lives. The card conveys the idea to me that forces that were out of Elisa’s control, but she blamed herself for it all anyway.

The last card in the reading is Strength reversed. It points to a time of intense fear and worry when paired with other cards here. Whatever happened with the conflict and/or people described above, the situation did not end well because Elisa couldn’t or didn’t extricate herself from it. It supports the possibility that she hid, or tried to hide, because it shows someone as losing their sense of inner strength or their ability to take back control of the situation. She also could have simply been cornered in such a way sealed her fate. Again, I cannot tell from these cards exactly how that aspect of the situation played out.

What is frustrating about this reading is that while it shows at least one major conflict, and likely two or more other people involved in it, it does not provide a comfortably clear explanation for her death – except to show she didn’t casually or randomly fall into the tank. Nothing in the reading points to suicide either. The reading does convey the sense that others were involved in some direct way and that conflict between them set the wheels of all this in motion. Whatever happened, Elisa does not feel the people involved were held to account for it. There is still a need or desire for Justice – as shown early on.

Those are my interpretations and opinions only. I hope that somehow the answers about what really happened become known.


If you would like me to do a reading about a missing person, please contact me at tarotofthemissing@gmail.com. Readings for missing persons are always free of charge. I also provide fee-based personal readings that don’t pertain to missing people (including readings via email, phone, or video). Contact me to learn more.