The Cecil Hotel

A Real Place, with Real Nightmares

Photo Credit: Rob Fee [Crave Online]

When it comes to hotels, most of them are name brand. You see the same old signs for Windgate and the Marriot, with their offers of free breakfast and complimentary hot tub hours. There aren't many privately owned hotels left in this world, singular industry slowly becoming dominated by larger chains. 

In a way, the history of a place can change with the popularity of the establishment. This is the unfortunate case when it comes to the Cecil Hotel, which is located in Los Angeles California, along with a large strip of different restaurants and privately owned businesses. 

When it comes to the Cecil, many people book a room knowing exactly what happened there. From paranormal investigators and thrill seekers alike, the hotel is a popular destination to test your luck. But it wasn't always that way—it's been working up a reputation for centuries. 

Hotel Cecil was first established by William Banks Hanner in the 1940s for only one million dollars. He was set on making the place elegant with its large stained glass windows and deep mahogany atmosphere, but by today's standards, the place looks outdated and eerie.  

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Magazine

Like any hotel there were ups and downs as the Great Depression tore through the United States at a rapid speed. The hotel suffered when the area around its standing location became known as skid row, a place for the homeless to collect at every corner while crime and violence skyrocketed. 

With the decline of the market and the worsening of surrounding area's the Cecil Hotel became a hot spot for suicide and different forms of violence. With close to 20 incidents of odd activity on the grounds of the large stone building, the public began to take notice. 

List of Incidents on the Premises:

  1. "James Willy's" - James had checked into the hotel a week prior to being found dead in his suite due to the ingestion of poisonous capsules on November 19, 1931. This was the first death recorded for the hotel. 
  2. Benjamin Doditch - According to multiple articles, a maid found Doditch with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He didn't appear to leave a note or explanation. This death was almost a year apart from James' death. 
  3. Sargent Louis D. Borden - Borden had died via razor to the throat, he had left several notes about the reason why he had committed suicide, poor health being one of the main causes. No one knows why he chose The Cecil for his final resting place. 
  4. Grace E. Margo - This death was considered to be unwarranted, Grace having fallen from a ninth-story window before hitting telephone poles and getting wrapped in the wires. Police couldn't determine if this was suicide or an accident. 
  5. Pigeon Goldie - On June 4, 1964 the retired telephone worker was found in her hotel room assaulted and beaten to death. This was considered one of the first murders on hotel grounds. The murder was never solved. 

[Disclaimer: There are a lot more that I didn't cover, but most were due to overdoses and jumping from high windows. You can find more here.] 

The Cecil didn't gain national attention until the 2013 discovery of Elisa Lam, who was found naked in the hotel's water tanks located on the roof of the large building. 

Photo Credits: Scribol.com

Elisa was only 21 years old when residents of the hotel started to complain about discolored drinking water. Only then did the maintenance team head up to the roof to check the tanks. They found Elise floating dead with her belongings floating around her. 

The LAPD released video footage of Elisa in the hotel a few days before her body was found. It contained the young woman behaving erratically in The Cecil's elevator. She appeared to be talking to someone while the elevator itself seemed to malfunction, the doors not closing [you can find the full video footage here]. 

There are many theories surrounding Elisa's death, even though it was ruled as an accident by the coroner's office after four weeks of investigation. People continue to question how she got access to a staff-controlled area, and how one girl could pull open a large water tank. 

People have called upon the similarities in different pop culture events along with the creation of a vaccine called LAM-ELISA that the young journalist may have had a hand in exposing. The general public has even gone as far as identifying the buttons smashed in the elevator to bible verses that all reference water. 

Photo Credit: Roger Ebert

The Cecil hotel has been a hot subject in recent cultural events with the popular anthology series American Horror Story basing a whole season off of the creepy happenings of the hotel. It was the fifth season in the long-running series, the episodes glorifying vampires while keeping that same dark "stuck in time" sensation that the real Cecil provides. 

Unfortunately, if you would like to visit the hotel today, you'll have to live through literature and television adaptions. The Cecil is officially closed for much-needed renovations, a reopening date never being specified.

For now, check out these Google Reviews of people who recently took the time to stay there:  

  •  "This repulsive building hungers for people to come to it to pry upon their minds in the night. The staff knows the dark history yet refuses to ever comment on deaths of innocents that went unsolved. As far as I'm concerned the place is evil and a beacon for evil and negativity. The staff refuses to allow camera-work and will remove anyone from the building who tries, proof they are hiding secrets they want no evidence of it uncovered. It is strange considering its possibility at an interesting history which could attract tourists but instead, they pretend they can sweep it under the rug. The disrespect for what has happened there as they try to hide it is repulsive. The building needs serious help by spiritual professionals and to allow new people to stay here in its current state and to mask it like it's a brand new great place to be, is sick. Remember Elisa and remember that these people want it covered up. Also, the safety must be terrible considering they had three cameras with security footage and had no method of locating her because they are idiots that don't set up what is needed for hotel safety and surveillance. Love and light to anyone who goes there and is bogged by the location's energy. Please get the help needed for this location before inviting people in further for the love of Pete, your building is energetically messed up hardcore, it ain't no myth." - Cait Ann
  • "They should have made this a murder mystery destination hotel. Return it to its glory in the 1920s/1930s. Then, charge an arm and a leg to re-enact a murder mystery, either one of the real murders at the Cecil, or others. Get actors to act it out, have guests be the investigators, and charge a fortune. But now we have lost another great example of the art-deco styling." - Melody Lema 
  • "Hello...McBride? This is where Elisa Lam was found in the water tank! Look it up. It took the "hotel" three weeks before they told guests that they were drinking corpse water. I also wanted to add that I'm a bit skeptical on some of these three, four and five-star reviews. The hotel is on L.A.'s Skid Row and the lobby is full of homeless people a lot of times. Add to that, the fact that L.A. is in the middle of a Hep A outbreak (Just don't stay here)! Either the guests that stay here have never stayed in a nice hotel before in a nice area, or, they're ok with staying in a dump." - S.S.A
  • "Myself and two friends stayed here awhile back. the service was around the clock. They even stand at the end of your bed and watch you sleep. The tap water is more like flat cola but still delightful in a cup of tea—only if you add a few more sugars than you usually would. The hotel runs its own activities such as hide and seek with the room furniture and you would sometimes wake up in other rooms. overall a rather good experience." - James Tirebuck
  • "I stayed at this hotel in March with a friend, and immediately when we walked in the doors we felt uncomfortable. Sure, the staff was nice and all, but the rooms were super small and the bathrooms are outside in the hallway. My friend and I felt a presence as soon as we got to our floor and just weren't too sure about it. After being in the room for about 20 minutes we decided that the feeling we were having was too much to bear. I called a friend to let us stay at their place and we immediately checked out without even requesting a refund. Now, it is September and I have found out that Stay On Main, or more commonly known as Cecil Hotel, is infamous for its murders and suicides that have occurred there. I have also found that the American Horror Story: Hotel season was inspired by this eerie place. I would NOT recommend anyone stay there without knowing what they're getting into." - Tommy Hoen

I suppose if any of you want to take your chances and make a visit to The Hotel Cecil, the only thing I can say is bring your courage and maybe a portable fan. 

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The Cecil Hotel