There are a ton of famous hotels all around the world, right? From the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai that comes built onto its own island to The Plaza in New York that has been the inspiration for many great productions over the years – it seems as though some hotels are bound to stand the test of time. In fact, they can be such a huge attraction that Las Vegas is filled with some of the grandest and most intricate designs that bring hotels to life in a whole new way. Now, they are far more than just somewhere to stay. That’s right; these buildings are an experience not to be missed. While some love to build themselves an incredible reputation for their architecture or their incredible rooms on offer, there is a hotel with plenty of history that has made its name in the history books for all the wrong reasons. The Cecil Hotel has an aura surrounding the bricks that is just waiting to tell the years of tales from inside the rooms. If only the walls could talk, eh? There certainly would be plenty to talk about when beginning to unravel the unsolved crimes of time. It appears as though murder and mysteries are almost attracted to this incredible stamp in time…
Behind the bricks
Hotel Cecil first opened its doors back in 1924 as the owner, William Banks Hanner, had grand plans for the area. The hotel is nestled into the busy downtown area of Los Angeles, but it was set to change the city. Hanner hoped to attract social elites and businessmen to the area and spared to expense to make his dreams come true. In the end, Hanner spent $1 million creating the 700-room Cecil Hotel that was complete with palm trees, stained-glass windows, an opulent staircase, and a marble lobby.
The falling economy
Although Hanner hoped to change the area of Los Angeles into a grand stretch of the city, things didn’t go to plan. Just two years after the hotel opened its doors, America was gripped by the Great Depression. Los Angeles was at the center of it all, and no one was safe – including the Cecil Hotel. The area surrounding the hotel soon became known as Skid Row thanks to the thousands of homeless people who were forced onto the streets.
A new reputation
The once luxurious and beautiful Hotel Cecil was falling apart. All of the money that Hanner had spent to create the ultimate treat away from the bustling city had all been wasted as the hotel became a cheap place for all kinds of people to stay. The hallways were soon filled with criminals, runaways, and people with drug addictions. That was just the beginning. Running with the wrong crowd meant the hotel now had a reputation for being a place filled with death and violence.
The first of many
The 1930s was a major turning point for the hotel – and not in the right ways. Hotel Cecil was plagued by suicides with people checking into rooms only to never make it out again. In 1931, W.K. Norton was just 46 years old when he checked into his room, and it’s believed that his death was the first suicide at Hotel Cecil. Norton checked in under the name “James Willys” before he took poison capsules and ended his life in his room.
A few years later, in 1934, another gruesome suicide engulfed the local area. Sergeant Louis D. Borden checked into Hotel Cecil before making his way to his room, where he quickly ended his life. Borden slashed his own throat using a razor blade. He left plenty of notes behind, including one that said he wanted to end his life thanks to poor health. Less than four years after Borden’s death, a Marine named Roy Thompson jumped from the roof of the hotel and was found on top of the skylight of the neighboring building.
Death gone wrong
In 1937, Grace E. Magro was another woman that took her life at Hotel Cecil. She was 25 years old when she checked into her room, but things didn’t go to plan. Grace ended up getting tangled in the wires underneath her window and was left hanging above the sidewalk instead. Paramedics managed to free her and rushed Grace to the hospital, where she eventually lost her life. No one could ever explain Grace’s death. Some believed it was a suicide while others think that she was murdered. Her companion in the room claims to have slept through the entire thing.
A new decade wasn’t a new start; it just paved the way for even more grizzly deaths. 19-year-old Dorothy Jean Purcell was a guest at the hotel in 1944. The teen was staying with her boyfriend, 38-year-old Ben Levine when she woke up in the night. Apparently, Dorothy had severe stomach pains, but she didn’t want to disturb a sleeping Ben. She decided to head to the bathroom where, to her surprise, she gave birth to a baby boy. Dorothy supposedly had no idea that she was pregnant, let alone that she was about to give birth.
A lengthy trial
Dorothy reportedly believed that her baby had been stillborn, so she decided to throw the body out the window onto the roof of a neighboring building. Tragically, it was later discovered that the baby was alive when he landed on the roof. Dorothy was arrested and charged with murder. However, three psychiatrists determined that Dorothy was not guilty due to insanity. In the end, she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment and spared time behind bars.
The years continued to pass, and more and more people continued to end their lives at the hotel. One of the many on the list was middle-aged Helen Gurnee. In 1954, Helen checked into her room using a fake name. She had been there for around a week when Helen decided to end it all. She jumped from the window of her room, but things went wrong rather than hitting the sidewalk, Helen actually landed on the marquee of the hotel. The sight was enough to scar many of the other guests.
Two in one
One death proves that it’s not even safe to walk by Hotel Cecil. Pauline Otten was 27 years old and had been arguing with her husband, Dewey, before she took her life. Dewey left the room when Pauline decided to take her life. She jumped from the ninth-floor window and fell 90 feet to her death. Tragically. Pauline also ended someone else’s life in the process, and the death initially caused a lot of confusion for officers.
The wrong place
It turned out that George Gianni also lost his life. He was 65 years old, and many believed that George and Pauline and ended their lives together. That was until they looked closer at the evidence. George was still wearing his shoes. If he had jumped from above, they would have probably fallen off before he hit the floor. He also had his hands in his pockets. In the end, the police discovered that George had merely been walking past when Pauline landed on him and instantly ended both of their lives.
A vicious murder
Goldie Osgood, better known as Pigeon Goldie, was another to lose her life at the hotel with plenty of history, but this time it was for a different reason. Pigeon earned her nickname thanks to her love of feeding the pigeons in Los Angeles. She was known to many. Tragically, she was raped, beaten, and murdered in her room in 1964. Hours later, a 29-year-old was arrested for her murder, but he was later cleared. No one ever learned who really murdered Pigeon all those years ago.
There have been 16 cases of deaths at the hotel over the years, but that doesn’t put an end to the misery. Serial killers have also checked into Hotel Cecil during their murdering sprees. Richard Ramirez, also known as the Night Stalker, once terrorized Los Angeles and the surrounding area. He killed a total of 14 known people throughout his spree. His crimes took place in the mid-1980s – the same time that Ramirez booked a room at the hotel.
Finding his base
Ramirez stayed in one of the top rooms of the hotel throughout his killing spree. It later turned out that many saw the Night Stalker after he had committed murders, but crime and violence were so common that no one was too surprised. Reports suggest that Ramirez paid just $14 a night to sleep at the hotel. When he had finished murdering a victim, he would throw his blood-stained clothes into the hotel’s dumpster. He would then walk around the hotel lobby naked or in his underpants, but the hotel was in such chaos that it seemed normal to the other guests.
Drawn to the hotel
Jack Unterweger was another serial killer who checked into the hotel with plenty of history. The Austrian journalist had previously been convicted of murdering a teenage girl. He was released and went on to murder several people across Europe – unbeknown to the authorities at the time. In the end, Jack settled in America, where he decided to stay at Hotel Cecil in 1991. Some reports suggest he was drawn to the hotel thanks to Richard Ramirez’s former stay.
Returning to his ways
Although the Great Depression was long gone, Skid Row never recovered from its slump. The street – and the hotel – were surrounded by ladies of the night. It’s said that Jack was in Los Angeles to research crime throughout the city. However, he was quickly drawn back to his old ways as Jack murdered at least three prostitutes during his stay at the hotel. One murder took place just a few minutes away from the hotel. Jack later claimed that he had even dated the receptionist at the hotel.
The reformed prisoner
Jack was supposed to be the shining example of a reformed prisoner. He was once a popular writer, and the authorities were pleased to see that he was keeping his nose out of trouble. Sadly, that was all an illusion. Jack was eventually arrested and charged with murdering nine people, including the three women he had killed while staying at Hotel Cecil. He was sentenced to a psychiatric hospital, but Jack was found hanged in his cell the night of his conviction.
The unsolved murder
It’s not just murders and suicides that have been linked to Hotel Cecil. The Black Dahlia is a crime that has baffled many for years. The gruesome details of the case are too much for many to bear. Elizabeth Short reportedly stayed at Hotel Cecil before she was murdered. She was found in a nearby street where she had been cut in two, and her mouth was cut from ear to ear. Her death was never linked to the hotel and no one was ever charged with her murder, but her potential stay at Hotel Cecil certainly got some people talking.
A foul taste
When it comes to strange deaths, it can be hard to beat the death of Elisa Lam. The Canadian student was staying at the hotel in 2013 when she went missing. A few weeks later, guests at Hotel Cecil complained the water had a funny taste and there was lousy water pressure. An investigation discovered Elisa’s naked body in the water tank. However, that’s where things got strange. The water tank was on the roof, was inaccessible to guests, and had an incredibly heavy lid. Elisa was somehow in the tank.
Looking for clues
The police launched a full investigation to uncover what really happened to Elisa, but the case never went anywhere. They eventually ruled that Elisa died due to accidental drowning and left it at that, but critics have been searching for the real answer ever since. They believe there is no way that Elisa would have been able to climb into the water tank in the first place, let alone slide the lid shut after she had got in. Things just didn’t add up for many.
Spotting the similarities
People were quick to point out the similarities between Elisa’s death and Elizabeth’s murder. The two women were both in their twenties when they lost their lives. They were also traveling from Los Angeles to San Diego when they died, were missing for several days before they were found, and were seen at Hotel Cecil before they died. The connections might sound like a bit of a stretch, but people think this could be evidence of paranormal activity at the hotel.
A ghostly apparition
So many deaths and murders within the hotel has led many to believe that Hotel Cecil is haunted. Could spirits really be hanging around a dark hotel that’s caused so much misery and heartbreak over the years? One photo sure has many people convinced. The picture was taken back in January 2014 when local resident Koston Alderete captured what appears to be someone climbing out of the fourth-floor window. People believe this could be a spirit that’s reliving their final day over and over.
It’s not just death and ghosts that have got people talking about Hotel Cecil. One man actually open-fired into the crowd back in 1976. The man in question was Jeffrey Thomas Paley. Jeffrey had bought a rifle and somehow made it onto the roof, where he began shooting at the crowd below. Many people and guests feared for their lives, but thankfully, Jeffrey didn’t hit anyone. He was eventually captured by the police and taken into custody.
Proving his point
As soon as he got to the police station, Jeffrey told the officers that he never wanted to harm anyone. Apparently, he wanted to show the world how easy it was to buy a dangerous weapon and use it to kill a huge amount of people. It was later revealed that Jeffrey had spent time at a mental hospital before he took it upon himself to prove a point. To top it off, Jeffrey had already called the LA Times to tell them about his plan and was found with hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
Rebranding the hotel
The hotel is so haunting that it has inspired a host of documentaries and productions, including ‘American Horror Story: Hotel.’ In 2011, the hotel tried to shake its past, so rebranded itself as Stay on Main. Then, in 2014, a New York investor bought the hotel for $30 million and is investing millions of dollars in rebranding the hotel and fixing years of construction work. Maybe Hotel Cecil will be able to shake its dark past one day? For now, it seems as though the dark past is here to stay.