When you think of Los Angeles, the first things that come to mind are probably Hollywood, palm trees, and the glitz and glamour of celebrity culture. But there’s one building in downtown LA that’s become just as famous, if not more so, for very different reasons: the Cecil Hotel.
Since its construction in 1924, the Cecil Hotel has been the site of numerous tragedies, mysterious deaths, and disturbing events. In recent years, it’s become the subject of true crime podcasts, documentaries, and even a season of American Horror Story. But what is it about the Cecil that’s made it such a notorious location? Let’s dive in and explore the history, myths, and pop culture references surrounding this infamous hotel.
A Brief History of the Cecil Hotel
The Cecil Hotel was built in the 1920s as a glamorous destination for travelers to Los Angeles. Located on the edge of the city’s bustling downtown area, the hotel boasted a grand marble lobby, stained glass windows, and a rooftop garden. But as the years went on, the area around the hotel became more and more dangerous, with the arrival of drugs, prostitution, and crime. The Cecil’s reputation began to suffer, and it became a cheap, run-down hotel where people went to escape their problems.
Over the years, the Cecil has been the site of numerous suicides, murders, and other disturbing incidents. In 1947, the body of Elizabeth Short, also known as the “Black Dahlia,” was found just a few blocks away from the hotel. Though the Cecil wasn’t directly involved in the crime, it’s often mentioned in connection with the case due to its proximity to the murder scene.
The Mysterious Deaths of the Cecil Hotel
Perhaps the most famous incidents associated with the Cecil are the mysterious deaths of several of its guests. In the 1980s, the hotel gained a reputation as a hub for serial killers and other violent criminals. Richard Ramirez, also known as the “Night Stalker,” stayed at the hotel during his killing spree in 1985, and Jack Unterweger, an Austrian journalist who murdered several women in the 1990s, also stayed there.
But it’s the deaths of Elisa Lam and the “Pigeon Lady” that have captured the public’s imagination in recent years. Elisa Lam was a Canadian student who checked into the Cecil in January 2013. She was later found dead in the hotel’s water tank, weeks after she had disappeared. The circumstances of her death remain mysterious, with many theories and conspiracies circulating online.
The “Pigeon Lady,” also known as “Skid Row Mary,” was a woman who had been living on the streets near the Cecil for many years. She was a well-known figure in the area, often feeding the pigeons and chatting with locals. In 2014, her body was found in a stairwell of the hotel. Though her death was ruled as natural causes, many people believe there’s more to the story.
Pop Culture References to the Cecil Hotel
In recent years, the Cecil has become a popular subject for true crime podcasts, documentaries, and TV shows. Such as
- American Horror Story: Hotel – The fifth season of the popular TV series American Horror Story, which aired in 2015, was inspired by the Cecil Hotel. The season is set in the Hotel Cortez, a fictional hotel in Los Angeles that is based on the Cecil.
- Dark Tourist – The Netflix documentary series Dark Tourist features an episode that takes place at the Cecil Hotel. The episode explores the hotel’s dark history and features interviews with former guests and staff members.
- Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel – This four-part true crime series premiered on Netflix in February 2021 and focuses on the mysterious disappearance of Canadian tourist Elisa Lam from the Cecil Hotel in 2013. The series also delves into the hotel’s history and its reputation as a hot spot for crime and other unusual events.
- The Night Stalker – The notorious serial killer Richard Ramirez, also known as the Night Stalker, stayed at the Cecil Hotel during his killing spree in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s. The hotel is mentioned in the Netflix docuseries The Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer, which premiered in 2021.
- Ghost Adventures – The Cecil Hotel was featured in an episode of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures in 2017. The episode investigated reports of paranormal activity at the hotel, including sightings of apparitions and strange noises.
Myths and Conspiracy Theories
With so many mysterious deaths and disturbing incidents associated with the Cecil, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of myths and conspiracy theories surrounding the hotel. Some people believe that the hotel is cursed, or that it’s built on an ancient burial ground. Others speculate that there’s a supernatural presence at the hotel, or that it’s a portal to another dimension.
One of the most popular conspiracy theories about the Cecil involves the death of Elisa Lam. Some people believe that she was the victim of foul play, while others think that she was possessed by a demon or that she was involved in some sort of government conspiracy. Despite extensive investigations into her death, the truth may never be known.