The Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles was once a luxury palace for travelers to the city of dreams. But as you will see it became a place of nightmares.
The Cecil was a monument to the sumptuous architecture of the 1920s. It fit neatly among the other opulent hotels that dotted the landscape at the time. In later years the building would become notorious not for its rich interior, but for its terrifying influence on the people who stayed there.
Pillar of Wealth
Built by hotelier William Banks Hanner in 1924 for $1 million, The Cecil was a popular destination for two decades after it opened. Its glory days were short-lived however thanks to a declining stock market and the stronghold of urban blight that would eventually invade a once-bustling Main Street.
The area was deemed Skid Row in the 1940s. In the years that followed The Cecil’s reputation became one of horror and tragedy.
Lots of people who checked into the hotel apparently had no intention of leaving properly through the lobby. Throughout the years, many guests jumped from their windows, ended their lives with pills or slit their own throats.
The hotel was nicknamed “The Suicide.”
Even innocent bystanders weren’t immune to the hotel’s destruction. In 1962, 27-year-old Pauline Otton leaped to her death from the ninth floor and fell on a 65-year-old pedestrian named George Gianni, killing him.
In 1975 “Alison Lowell” signed the registry then jumped to her death from the 12th floor. Authorities discovered she had used an alias at check-in and never did discover her true identity.
A Grisly History
Suicide wasn’t the only disturbing cause of death for some at the Cecil. There are remarkable reports of unsettling events involving murder and violence.
In 1944 a nineteen-year-old girl named Dorothy Purcell threw her newborn child out of one of the hotel’s windows.
Twenty years later a hotel staff member would find the body of “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood who had been raped, stabbed and beaten by Jacques Ehlinger.
Aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, notoriously known as The Black Dahlia, is believed to have had a drink in the hotel’s bar in the days leading up her gruesome murder.
Serial Killers Board at the Cecil
Serial killers also took to the Cecil for refuge. In the 80s California was terrorized by Richard Ramirez also known as the Night Stalker.
Ramirez, living in the hotel at the time, would throw his bloody clothes into the hotel trash after his nightly killing sprees.
Another killer named Johann “Jack” Unterweger was a journalist from Austria who came to Los Angeles on assignment. During his time at the Cecil, he would go on a murder binge, killing three prostitutes.
The Death of Elisa Lam
Then there’s Elsa Lam. She has become an internet phenomenon mostly because her final moments were caught on camera.
She was on a west coast holiday which she documented via her blog.
When she stopped calling her family to check-in everyday, they got worried and contacted police. The search was on with only some footage from the hotel’s elevator CCTV camera to go by.
The clip taken on January 31, 2013, shows Lam acting erratically, using hand gestures as if speaking to an invisible presence and pushing elevator buttons only to step back out into the lobby acting scared and agitated.
Police were at a loss until hotel residents complained that the water in the building tasted funny and had uneven pressure. On February 9, staff members made their way to the building’s water tower to investigate.
They found Lam’s decomposing body floating in the basin, they were bewildered at how she got there. The door to the rooftop triggered an alarm if opened and that never happened. Also, the cistern was latched from the outside.
An autopsy concluded that Lam had died accidentally with mental illness as the reason for her strange behavior.
Ghost On a Ledge
You’d think with so much death and destruction the building would be a hotbed of ghosts and the supernatural. Youngster Koston Alderete may have caught one.
A picture taken of one of the windows at the Cecil reportedly shows a ghost standing on the ledge.
The Cecil was re-named “Stay on Main” in 2011. Thanks to architect Loy Lester Smith’s design and its place in local history The Cecil is a historical landmark.
Although the rooms have been renovated and the lobby given a new life, what remains within its hallways is an eerie history that can never be erased.
You can read more about The Cecil HERE.