The history of the Cecil Hotel is so dark and gory that some say all 600 rooms are cursed

Are you brave enough to spend the night?

The Cecil Hotel  is one of LA’s most famous hotels, thanks in part to its dark history. Home to murderers, maniacs, and ghosts, some say the Cecil is anything but your average hotel, they say it’s cursed. 

"During its early years, it enjoyed great success as a tourist destination and as a residence for middle class Angelinos.  However, by the 1930s this would rapidly change as the Cecil became known as a budget hotel for traveling salesmen and other transients. Series co-creator Ryan Murphy had said in numerous press conferences that the Cecil Hotel was the main source of inspiration for this season of American Horror Story, specifically the recent strange case of Elisa Lam, as well as the hotel’s lengthy history of brutal murders, crimes, and strange occurrences." - Blumhouse

In 1985 the Cecil was home to not only infamous serial killer Richard Ramirez, but fellow killer Jack Unterweger as well. Over the years it’s also been the sight of a string of strange deaths, most recently that of Elisa Lam. 


21-year-old Elisa’s body was found in February 2013, two weeks after her death, when the hotel patrons and staff began complaining that the water had begun to taste and look strange. Her body had been unknowingly decomposing inside the rooftop water tanks for two full weeks. 

An investigation led police to a very strange hotel security video. The video shows Elisa entering the elevator alone, stopping to press the buttons on the panel. After several failed attempts at working the buttons, she exits the elevator and appears to have a conversation with someone who isn’t there. She then walks away, and moments later the elevator doors shut. Authorities believe that after this video was recorded, Elisa gained access to the water tank and drowned.

The rooftop area of the hotel is protected by an alarm and considerably difficult for someone to gain access to, let alone climb inside and close the lid. Even weirder is that an autopsy of Elisa’s body found no drugs or alcohol in her system at all.

Elisa is only one of the many bizarre deaths at The Cecil. In 62, Pauline Otton jumped from her ninth-floor room, killing George Gianinni when her body landed on him. The unsolved murder of Goldie Osgood, aka the Pigeon woman. She was found robbed, strangled, raped, and stabbed inside her seventh floor room, long before Richard Ramirez stayed at the hotel.

Ramirez, aka The Night Stalker, became infamous when he terrorized LA from 1984-85, killing 13 women, all of which he did while staying in the top floor of the Cecil. According to tour guides he would dump his bloody clothes in the dumpsters out back after a night of killing. 


Jack Unterweger, a Ramirez copycat killer, murdered three prostitutes while staying at the Cecil, which many believe he chose as a nod to the Night Stalker himself. 

In 1991, serial killer Johann Unterweger (a twisted serial killer homage to Ramirez) also used the Cecil as a home base. Unterweger was an Austrian visiting Los Angeles under the guise of a true-crime writer researching prostitute killings in the United States. Unbeknownst to his employers, Johann had already killed seven prostitutes before coming to America. Johann used the LAPD as unwitting accomplices, as they took him on ride-alongs through LA’s red light district. Later, Johann would return to these same spots to seek out his victims, and then return to his residence at the Cecil. -  Blumhouse

In recent years the hotel has become a hot spot for paranormal enthusiasts (both Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures have featured the building on TV) who believe the building is haunted by the spirits of the countless people who have met their end in the building. Many believe the building itself is actually cursed. 

" On January 15, 1947 a nude female body was found in a field on south Norton Avenue between coliseum and West 39th Street.  The body had been cut in half at the waist and exsanguinated (drained of blood). The corners of her mouth had been slashed all they way to her ears. She also had multiple cuts to her thighs and breasts.  With no name to put to the body the press gave her a moniker taken from a popular film noir of the time. She would be known as the Black Dahlia until later being identified as Elizabeth Short. One rumor surrounding this infamous killing was that the Hotel Cecil was the last place anyone ever saw Short alive. (I’m not too sure if this rumor will enter into this season of AHS considering the Black Dahlia already made an appearance in the first season of the series.)" -  Blumhouse

Stay on Main

The Cecil Hotel recently tried to rid itself of its dark and gory past by changing its name to the Stay on Main, but unfortunately no name chance is going to wash away the blood-soaked past of one of America’s most cursed and haunted hotels. If you’re thinking about spending the night you might want to bring some holy water, and hope that you make it through the night. 

Featured image credit: Open Plaques, Flickr

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This was originally written for Roadtrippers, a great resource for anyone interested in travel.
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