Cecil Hotel: The True Story Of Murder And Hauntings Inside LA’s Most Infamous Hotel

Published October 12, 2017
Updated May 9, 2019
Published October 12, 2017
Updated May 9, 2019

From the Black Dahlia to Elisa Lam, the Cecil Hotel had a reputation as one of Los Angeles' most haunted buildings thanks to its many deaths.

Cecil Hotel

Getty ImagesThe original sign on the side of the Cecil Hotel.

Nestled within the busy streets of Downtown Los Angeles lies one of the most infamous buildings in horror history: the Cecil Hotel.

Since opening its doors in 1927, the Cecil Hotel has been plagued with unfortunate and mysterious circumstances. Over 16 different deaths by non-natural occurrences and unexplained paranormal events have taken place at the hotel over the years. On top of that, it has played host to some of America’s most notorious villains.

The Cecil was built in 1924, by hotelier William Banks Hanner. It was supposed to be a destination hotel for international businessmen and social elite. Hanner spared no expense on the Art Deco style design, eventually spending over $1 million on a marble lobby, stained-glass windows, imported palm trees and an alabaster statuary.

However, just two years after the Cecil Hotel opened, the world was thrown into the Great Depression. The area surrounding the Cecil Hotel soon fell into disrepair, becoming an area known as Skid Row. The once beautiful hotel soon gained a reputation as a meeting place for junkies, runaways, and criminals.

Due to the high number of unexplained deaths, rumors started surfacing that the hotel was haunted. To add to the rumors, the hotel acted as a temporary home for some of the grisliest murderers in American history.

Today, the Cecil Hotel bears the unofficial title of “the most haunted hotel in Los Angeles.”

In 1985, Richard Ramirez, known as the “Night Stalker” lived in a room on the top floor of the hotel during his horrific killing spree. According to reports, he chose the hotel because of its reputation as being “total, unmitigated chaos.”

Ramirez would allegedly return from a murder, leave his bloody clothes in the dumpster out back, and walk half naked back to his hotel room. In a place where drug deals happened in the open, and overdosed junkies lay undisturbed in the hallways for days, he would easily have gone unnoticed.

In 1991, Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger also called the hotel home. Rumor has it that he chose the hotel because of its connection to Ramirez.

Richard Ramirez And Jack Unterweger

Wikimeda Commons/Getty ImagesRichard Ramirez (right) and Jack Unterweger (left), two of the hotel’s most notorious guests

Another noted guest was Elizabeth Short, who came to be known as the Black Dahlia. She reportedly stayed at the hotel just before her infamous, and gruesome murder.

On top of the murderous clientele, the hotel also was the site of more than a few unexplained deaths.

The first mysterious death occurred on November 19, 1931, when a nationwide manhunt came to a screeching halt after the man in question was found dead in his hotel room. It later came out that he died after taking poison capsules. His body had been in his room for over a week when it was found.

In 1944, thirteen years and six deaths later, a 19-year-old woman threw her newborn baby out the window, claiming she didn’t know she was pregnant and thought the baby had been stillborn. Three deaths later, in 1964, a woman was found stabbed and strangled in her room, which showed signs of being ransacked. No one was ever convicted of the crime.

One of the most mysterious crimes ever to take place at the Cecil Hotel happened in 2013.

Black Dahlia And Elisa Lam

Wikimedia Commons
Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia victim (left) and Elisa Lam.

Canadian college student Elisa Lam was found inside the water tank on the roof of the hotel three weeks after she had gone missing. Her corpse was found naked in the water tank after hotel guests had complained of bad water pressure, and a “funny taste” to the water. Though authorities ruled her death as an accidental drowning, critics believed otherwise.

Before her death, surveillance cameras caught Lam acting strangely in an elevator, at times appearing to yell at someone out of view, as well as attempting to hide from someone. She also pressed multiple elevator buttons and waved her arms erratically.

After the video surfaced publicly, many people began to believe that the rumors of the hotel being haunted might be true. Horror aficionados began drawing parallels between the Black Dahlia murder and Lam’s murder, pointing out that both women were in their twenties, traveling alone from L.A. to San Diego, last seen at the Cecil Hotel, and were missing for several days before their bodies were found.

Cecil Hotel Exterior

Wikimedia Commons Cecil Hotel exterior

Though the last body was found at the hotel in 2015 — a man who reportedly committed suicide — the ghost stories and rumors still swirl. The hotel even served as the all-too-true inspiration for a recent season of American Horror Story.

The hotel has since been rebranded as the “Stay on Main” hotel. Though it still bears the original Hotel Cecil sign on its facade, and the original, and somewhat creepy, interior.

After this look at the Cecil Hotel, check out Columbia’s most haunted hotel. Then, read about the most haunted sites around the world.

Katie Serena
Katie Serena is a New York City-based writer and a staff writer at All That's Interesting.