The Horrifying History Of The Infamous Cecil Hotel

After almost a century of murders, suicides, and mysterious deaths, the Cecil Hotel just can't shake its sinister past.

July 13, 2021

Cecil Hotel

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Cecil Hotel

It’s been nearly 100 years since Los Angeles’ Cecil Hotel first opened its doors to the public, but the downtown hotel is marked by tragedy that has only escalated in recent years.

Even Zak Bagans, the host of Ghost Adventures, told TRVL, “It doesn’t get bigger or more sinister than this,” prior to the premiere of his two-hour Ghost Adventures special on discovery+ earlier this year.

You can stream full episodes of Ghost Adventures as well as the two-hour Ghost Adventures: Cecil Hotel special on discovery+.

In 2013, the Cecil Hotel gained national attention after the mysterious disappearance of Elisa Lam, a Canadian college student, was spotted behaving erratically on elevator surveillance video before vanishing. Lam’s naked body was later found in a closed water tank on the hotel’s roof. The intrigue into the ominous building was the catalyst for podcasts, documentaries, and amateur investigations into the legacy of the troubled property.

Opened in 1924, hotel’s original developers had planned for the massive Beaux Arts-style building to be a premier destination for business travelers visiting downtown L.A. But the economy succumbed to the Great Depression just five years later, and the expected influx of wealthy business travelers became a slow trickle.

Located just steps from Skid Row, the hotel became a viable housing option for the local transient population, which was estimated to already surpass 10,000 people in the 1930s.

Years of tragedy have plagued the hotel

Serial Killer Richard Ramirez lived at the Cecil Hotel for a time before his arrest in 1985. His crimes—including murder, attempted murder, sexual assault, and burglary—netted him 19 death sentences. He died of cancer in prison in 2013.

Photo by: Mug shot of Richard Ramirez [Los Angeles Police Department]

Mug shot of Richard Ramirez [Los Angeles Police Department]

The first recorded death took place a little more than two years after its opening when a man died by suicide in his room. Tragically, more deaths by suicide followed.

In the late 1960s, a retiree living in one of the residential rooms was discovered dead in her room, apparently the victim of rape, physical assault, and stabbing. Her murder was never solved.

Serial killer Richard Ramirez, who was known to frequent Skid Row, was a resident of the hotel before his capture in 1985. It is believed that Ramirez—also known as the Night Stalker and Valley Intruder—committed some of his crimes while staying at the Cecil. Ramirez had more than a dozen victims and was sentenced to 19 death sentences, though he died of cancer while incarcerated in 2013.

The Ghost Adventures Crew was the first team allowed to investigate the sinister forces at the Cecil Hotel. See the full episode on discovery+.

In 1991, an Austrian serial killer was also arrested after a stay at the hotel. Jack Unterweger was a magazine writer who was supposed to be on assignment in the red-light district. Instead, he murdered three sex workers by strangling them. Upon his arrest, hung himself.

In 2011, the hotel changed hands and attempted to rebrand as the Stay on Main but left much of its Cecil signage. The hotel was designated a “Historic-Cultural Monument” by the city of Los Angeles in 2017, and it closed the same year for renovations. The future of the troubled property is unclear.

Why Do People Think the Cecil Hotel Is Haunted?

In 2020, Zak Bagans and the Ghost Adventures crew were the first team allowed to take their cameras into the Cecil Hotel for an investigation into what makes the towering building so sinister.

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