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Spooky Facts About The Cecil Hotel, Hollywood’s Most Notorious Locale

Mathew Burke

Sitting in the midst of the exciting streets of Los Angeles is a small, unassuming hotel that some people out there would probably like to avoid at all costs—the infamous Cecil Hotel. For practically all of its history, many things have gone seriously wrong inside this building. From spooky tragedies to unexplained mysteries, here are disturbing facts about the one and only Cecil Hotel.


1. It Shouldn’t Have Been Anything Special

For a hotel that would go on to be the site of such dark events, the Cecil’s origins are surprisingly innocent. There’s no record of any haunted burial sites that they built it on or anything like that. As boring as it sounds, three hoteliers simply invested some money and built the hotel in Los Angeles in 1924. it was an ordinary business venture, but since then, it’s morphed into a monster.

2. It Had Its Positive Moments

For a long time, people traveling on low budgets have picked the hotel. However, the original owners intended for it to be an upscale spot. They wanted to cater to fashionable tourists and business people passing through town. During the early days of the Hollywood film industry, and again in the 1940s, the hotel did actually briefly flourish as exactly that kind of a destination. But that would prove to be the exception, not the rule…

3. The Era Hit It Hard

Despite these brief moments of success, hard times quickly fell on the Cecil Hotel. The Great Depression hit just a few years after the establishment opened, and this greatly impacted its business. As well, many other similar hotels opened up around the same time, taking some of the Cecil’s market share along with them. But this was only the beginning of its troubles…

4. It’s In A Rough Neighborhood

For virtually all of the hotel’s history, the neighborhood that surrounds it has been one of Los Angeles’ most dangerous areas. Known as “Skid Row,” the neighborhood is a hotbed of questionable activity and danger.

5. It Hosts Some Interesting Characters

Over the decades, the hotel has consistently been home to ahem, interesting clientele. Some of the types who have frequented it include dealers, squatters from the surrounding area, and sex workers. Suffice to say, the hotel has not always housed the types of people its owners originally had in mind…

6. The First Tragedy Struck

There are likely many dark things that occurred within the halls of the Cecil Hotel in the first years after it opened—but the first incident on record is utterly tragic. It was the mysterious passing of 52-year-old Percy Ormond Cook in January of 1927. That day, Cook had been in some kind of a dispute with his wife and child.

When he did not succeed at reconciling with them, he shot himself in the head in his hotel room.  He died from his injuries later that night—becoming the first on a long list of the Cecil’s casualties.

7. Then Came Another Tragedy

Following Cook’s tragic death in 1927, things at the hotel were quiet for years—but they picked up quickly again. In November of 1931, a man using the pseudonym “James Willys” checked into the Cecil. He claimed to be from Chicago. In reality, he was an LA-area local named W.K. Norton. A week later, he consumed a handful of poisonous capsules in his room, taking his own life. That’s two, and bad luck comes in threes…

8. Make That Two In One Year

Less than a year after the Norton tragedy, the Cecil’s dark forces struck again. A guest by the name of Benjamin Dodich shot himself in the head, and a horrified hotel maid stumbled upon his body soon after. Eerily, Dodich did not leave behind a note indicating why he took his own life—leaving many to wonder who the heck he was, and what really prompted his tragic decision.

9. There’s A Story Behind The Weird Sign

The hotel’s famous sign is still up on the side of the building. The sign refers to “Low Daily Rates,” but it appears as if someone had scratched out the letters “MON” before the word “daily.” Management had originally advertised their “monthly” rates, but I guess they realized that not many people seemed interested in staying for that long.

So, they scratched the word “monthly” off the sign, but left the remnants of it visible even all these years later—adding to the unmistakably odd and creepy character of the building.

10. It Got A Makeover

The hotel’s management and staff have made serious efforts to renovate and rebrand the hotel in recent years. Since 2011, they have started using the name “Stay on Main” at times instead of the Cecil Hotel, particularly when advertising the youth hostel business. The new name is an intentional effort to distance the current hotel from its less than positive history.

11. Some People Stay There By Accident

The hotel’s youth hostel business has done a lot of good for the establishment, but there’s only one problem with it—since the hostel is marketed under a different name, many guests are shocked when they arrive and discover that they have unwittingly booked themselves to stay inside the famous haunted hotel. That’s gotta be an awkward moment!

12. It Had A Brush With History

With so many of its own problems, you’d think that the Cecil Hotel would want to stay as far away as possible from other mysteries, right? Well, turns out not so much! In 1947, the case of Elizabeth Short became one of the most publicized tragedies in Hollywood history when her body turned up in a local park completely mutilated and mistreated.

The media and public now know her as the “Black Dahlia,” and the authorities still have not solved her case to this day. According to widespread rumors, the last place that anyone saw Short was in the lobby of the Cecil Hotel. Onlookers reported seeing her have a drink.

13. They Dispute That Story

However, despite the widespread rumor that the Black Dahlia took her last drink in the Cecil Hotel shortly before losing her life, it may not actually be true. The LAPD’s records in regards to the case indicate that Short’s last known location was actually a different hotel. People spotted her there two nights earlier than her “rendez-vous” at the Cecil.

The only known source for claiming she had ever been at the Cecil was a Los Angeles Times column from almost 50 years later. I guess we’ll just have to add this to the list of the Cecil’s mysteries.

14. Some Of The Victims Left Very Odd Notes

Another very weird incident took place at the hotel in 1934. A 53-year-old Army Medical Corps Sergeant by the name of Louis D. Borden slit his own throat in his hotel room and went into an unresponsive state when staff found his body later. Bizarrely, he left a note citing “bad health” as his reason for choosing to take his own life.

15. Someone Fell Out The Window

As creepy enough as people frequently taking their own lives at the hotel was, things reached a whole new level in 1937. In March of that year, a woman named Grace Magro fell from her hotel room window. On the way down, she became wrapped up in telephone wire from the neighboring poles.

16. No One Knows The True Reason

There are many questions when it comes to Grace Magro’s fall. It is still unclear whether she jumped intentionally or whether she fell out the window by accident. Even the authorities who investigated the incident at the time did not manage to come to any definite conclusions. Regardless, the era of people falling off the building had begun, and there was no going back…

17. Someone Else Jumped Shortly After

As weird as it seems, tragedies at the Cecil often seem to come in pairs. Less than a year after the Magro tragedy, another hotel guest met his demise after falling from the window on the hotel’s top floor. This guest, Roy Thompson, had actually been staying at the hotel for several weeks before the incident, so nothing indicated that he checked in with the intention of taking his own life.

18. They Often Need To Call For Help

So just what is daily life like at a spooky place like the Cecil? Well, if its employees’ opinions are any indication, things are…well, spooky! The hotel’s former manager, Amy Price, once said that there are no fewer than one to three emergency calls to 9-1-1 made every single day from the establishment. In total, she estimates that her staff has called the authorities more than a thousand times during her time working there.

19. Things Could Be Even Worse Than We Think

Although most reports are only aware of roughly 16 sudden passings to have taken place at the Cecil over the years, the actual number might be much, much higher—as there may be many incidents that the public never hears about. According to former manager Amy Price, at least eighty guests died while staying at the hotel just within the time she worked there!

20.  A Very Bad Man Lived There

The Cecil Hotel has a knack for always being involved whenever something fishy is taking place. In addition to being home to countless victims who died under mysterious circumstances, it was also home to Richard Ramirez—the notorious and vicious serial killer known as the “Night Stalker,” who lived in the hotel during the era in which he committed his most horrific acts.

21. He Was Extremely Conspicuous

The Night Stalker didn’t just live in the Cecil—he made his presence well-known. Before anyone realized what he was truly up to, the Cecil’s guests already knew Ramirez as their weird neighbor who always walked around the building barefoot and in his underwear. I guess because there were so many crazy things going on at the hotel, none of them batted an eye or became suspicious—even when the underwear he pranced around in was drenched in bloodstains.

22. Another Very Bad Man Moved In

If you thought that the Night Stalker was the only serial killer to ever reside at the Cecil Hotel, you should have known better by now! In the 1990s, international bad guy Jack Unterweger moved into the hotel for a while. After previously serving time in Austria for taking someone’s life, he came to Los Angeles to write a report on the city’s red-light district.

Somehow, he instead ended up going on a violent rampage against the people he had come to write about, and he took several of their lives in the process.

23. The Youngest Victim Was Less Than A Day Old

In one of the weirdest cases ever to emerge from the Cecil, a woman threw her newborn baby out the window to its demise just minutes after giving birth in her hotel bathroom. Her boyfriend, who didn’t even know she was pregnant, slept peacefully in the room while this all went down, unaware of any of it.

24. The Mom Had One Wild Excuse

The woman who threw her newborn baby out the window of her hotel room did not face any punishment for what she did, as the court ruled her to be insane and therefore not morally responsible for her own actions. When asked why she did it, she claimed that she thought the baby was already deceased.

25. Even The Outside Isn’t Safe

In an extremely creepy and horrifying incident, even by the Cecil Hotel’s standards, a woman named Pauline Otton jumped to her demise from the window in her room after a fight with her husband in 1962—but something unexpected happened. Her body landed on an innocent passerby, inadvertently ending his life along with her own.

26. Even Well-Liked People Are Targeted

In one of the most violent incidents in the hotel’s history, someone physically took advantage of a woman nicknamed “Pigeon Goldie” before taking her life. A lot of people in the area knew and respected Pigeon Goldie. She got her nickname because people frequently saw her feeding the birds at a local park. Sadly, law enforcement ultimately dropped the charges against the man responsible for her demise.

27. Even Remaining Anonymous Can’t Help These Guests

In 1975, a young woman staying on the hotel’s 12th floor abruptly jumped out of her window and died upon hitting the ground. To this day, her identity still remains unknown. Authorities have never been able to track down who she was or why she was there. All we know is that she checked into the hotel under the pseudonym “Allison Lowell” just a few days earlier.

28. History Repeated Itself

As always, one weird incident leads to another when the Cecil is involved. In 1992, passersby discovered the body of a young man lying on the ground in an alley behind the hotel. Investigators believe that he must have either fallen or jumped from the 15th floor. To this day, no one has been able to identify who this unfortunate fellow actually was or how he ended up there.

29. It’s A Pretty Fancy Building

For a hotel that has spent most of its history hosting such sketchy people, its design is actually pretty fancy and elaborate. Its designers imbued its look with fashionable Art Deco and Beaux-Arts styles, and they decorated its lobby with fancy marble and stained glass windows. If you didn’t know any better, you might think you were entering a luxury hotel when looking at the layout!

30. It Got The Hollywood Treatment

You know you’re a fascinating place when a TV show bases an entire season on you! That’s exactly what happened to the Cecil when the FX horror anthology series American Horror Story devoted its entire fifth season to a setting that they based loosely on the hotel we all know and love. The little building has sure come a long way!

31. The City Considers It An Important Place

If you were wondering how the City of Los Angeles feels about this particular hotel’s questionable history, you got your answer a few years ago—in 2017, LA officially designated the Cecil as a landmark of cultural and historical significance to the city. Now, with that designation, you have to assume that a lot of new tourists and adventure-seekers will hear about it and stop by to check it out.

32. It Made A Surprise Appearance

Long before the Cecil Hotel became a widely-recognized location of interest, the building actually found its way into a music video by the popular rock band U2! Way back in 1987, the group performed an entire live concert from the roof of the building next door, and a crew filmed the whole thing for a promotional video.

As a result, the spooky hotel is now unwittingly seen in the background of the video for the song “Where the Streets Have No Name”—a video with almost 50 million views on YouTube.

33. It Has A New Group Of Clientele

Part of the hotel now operates as a youth hostel, where young guests can stay in a casual environment for just a negligible fee each night. Rooms in this part of the building start at just $21 a night. That’s not a bad deal, unless you factor in the fact that you might not make it out alive! I guess it’s up to you to decide whether or not to include this stop on your next road trip.

34. A High Profile Case Took Place There

Even though the Cecil has been the source of mystery after mystery for nine decades, awareness of it and interest in its bizarre history sparked to new levels following the 2013 case of Elisa Lam. Lam was a 21-year-old Canadian student who stayed at the Cecil while visiting Los Angeles. She went missing during her stay, until someone finally found her body three weeks later, inside the water tank on the hotel’s rooftop.

35. Something Gross Helped Find Her

After three weeks as a missing person, the way in which authorities finally found the whereabouts of Lam’s body was truly shocking and gruesome. Hotel guests had started complaining that their tap water didn’t taste right and that it was coming out of the sinks and showers with a brownish hue. This led investigators to search the water tank, where they tragically discovered Lam’s remains locked inside.

36. She Acted Really Weird That Night

There are many weird aspects of Lam’s case, but perhaps no detail is weirder than the surveillance camera footage that showed her strange behavior on the night she disappeared. The footage shows Lam standing outside the hotel elevator, repeatedly pressing elevator buttons, waving her arms around frantically, and hiding in the corner of the elevator before running back into the hallway.

37. Her Thoughts Are Online

One of many spooky factors in the Lam case was the discovery of the fact that the young woman ran multiple online blogs at the time of her passing—some of which had creepy and cryptic-sounding posts on them. For example, the epigraph on her Tumblr blog states: “You’re always haunted by the idea you’re wasting your life.”

No one ever took this blog down, and you can still view it online to this day.

38. They Conducted A Flawed Investigation

Authorities conducted a thorough investigation into Lam’s situation, but even so, people still had more questions than answers. The investigation was bound by legal restrictions, which prevented the search team from inspecting every room in the hotel for evidence. This was because they did not have “probable cause” to believe foul play was necessarily involved in what happened to the young lady.

39. It’s Unclear How She Got There

One of the biggest mysteries in the case of Elisa Lam is how the heck she ended up inside the water tank. Her body showed no signs of foul play or evidence that anyone had laid a hand on her. Yet, someone had locked the latch on the water tank shut—which Lam could not possibly have done from the inside…

40. Her Phone Vanished

Another mystery in the Lam case is what happened to the young lady’s cell phone. If she simply climbed up onto the roof and accidentally got stuck in the water tank, then why on earth did her cell phone disappear from the scene without a trace? It was nowhere in sight, on the roof or in her hotel room. To this day, nobody has ever discovered the whereabouts of the missing phone.

41. She Continued Writing From Beyond The Grave?

In a super weird twist, Lam’s blog continued to post new material for months after the young lady’s disappearance and passing. Spooky, huh? Well, as strange and shocking as this probably seemed at first, there is actually a fairly simple explanation for it. Long before her passing, Lam had used Tumblr’s scheduling feature to pre-set posts to automatically publish at certain dates and times months in advance.

I guess this is one Cecil-related mystery that has actually been solved!

42. She Struggled With Mental Illness

One fact that emerged from the Lam case is that the young lady suffered from bipolar disorder. Some feel that this mental illness may have played a role in the incident, as well as in her strange behavior outside the elevator leading up to the incident. The fact that she appeared to have undermedicated that day backs this theory up.

Overall, the toxicology reports and forensic investigations left authorities with a lot more questions than answers, so this seems to be the only logical explanation that anyone has come up.

43. Her Behavior Had Been Weird For A While

Just days before she disappeared, Lam attended a live taping for a show—and the details of that day are utterly bizarre. Apparently, Lam acted erratically while there, to the point where the studio security team had to kick her out of the building. According to some reports, she was also originally sharing a room with other girls, until she began to refuse to let them in without giving her a password.

This prompted the Cecil’s staff to move her to a different room, where she’d be by herself.

44. It’s A Truly Wild Place

A former long-term resident of the Cecil named Kenneth Givens has spoken in detail about what life at the hotel is really like, and it’s even darker than we thought. Givens has described the place as “lawless,” and indicated that people do seem to lose their lives there on a frequent basis—perhaps even more often than the times the public hears about.

45. Certain Parts Of The Building Are Worse Than Others

Interestingly enough, when it comes to the Cecil Hotel, Givens has noted that not all floors appear to be created equal. In his experience, it’s the higher floors where all of the spooky stuff seems to go on. Specifically, he considers anything above the sixth floor to be within the danger zone. So I guess if you plan on staying there, stay low to the ground!

46. There’s Been An Even More Recent Incident

Despite all the attention that the Elisa Lam case got, it is actually not the most recent tragedy to take place at the Cecil Hotel! In the summer of 2015, the body of an unidentified man appeared lying unresponsive on the ground right outside the building. It appeared as though he had intentionally jumped off the roof, though the investigation was inconclusive.

47. Everyone Wanted To Visit After Lam’s Story

You’d think that after a case as spooky as Lam’s got all that attention, people would be scared to go anywhere near the Cecil, right? Well, you’d be very wrong! The Lam case actually raised public awareness of the place’s creepy history, and the number of new reservations and visitors that the hotel received skyrocketed! Apparently, tragedy is very good for business!

48. It May Have A Ghost Problem

As if the Cecil’s regular tragedies aren’t enough, the hotel has also had run-ins with the supernatural. Within less than a year of Elisa Lam’s passing, a child took a photo that inadvertently captured what appears to be a ghost-like figure hanging from the window of a fourth-floor room. Maybe that explains everything! The hotel has been haunted this entire time!

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49. It’s Worth A Lot Of Money

I guess even with all it’s been through, people still view the Cecil Hotel as a valuable place. In 2014, the year after the passing of Elisa Lam, the owners sold the building to a new team for a whopping $30 million. Not only that, but the new management committed to a 99-year lease for the property—so this wild hotel isn’t going away any time soon!

50. Some People Actually Call It Home

Following its 2017 renovations, part of the hotel is now designated for full-time residents, in addition to the rest of the building remaining open to short-term guests. So yeah, there are people in the world right now who actually live in the Cecil Hotel. Can you imagine how crazy that must be as a pickup line? Stay safe out there, renters!

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12


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