Graveyard Shift

12 Terrible And Creepy Things That Have Happened At The Cecil Hotel 

Cat McAuliffe
Updated February 28, 2020 730k views 12 items

The Cecil Hotel has been the site of so many gruesome suicides, grisly murders, and unexplained deaths that it inspired Ryan Murphy to set the fifth season of American Horror Story in the creepy hotel. In addition to the number of guests who have passed while visiting the Cecil, at least two serial killers have stayed at this notorious hotel during their sprees, making it the kind of place where you just might sleep next door to a slayer. However, it wasn't until the LAPD released a disturbing video of a young woman who was later found dead on the roof of the hotel that the Cecil reached a level of infamy that required the owner to change the name to Stay on Main.

Regardless of its name, this hotel is definitely the sort of place where you might check-in, but you never check-out.

The Night Stalker Lived At The Cecil While He Was Killing His Victims
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Photo:  San Quentin State Prison/Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use

Richard Ramirez, a serial killer and rapist known as the Night Stalker, terrorized Los Angeles and San Francisco from June 1984 to August 1985, murdering at least 14 victims and injuring dozens more in little over a year. A practicing Satanist, Ramirez brutally killed using a variety of weapons to take the lives of his victims.

During the time Ramirez was breaking into homes in and around LA and assaulting, murdering, raping, and robbing the occupants, he was a guest at the Cecil Hotel. According to some sources, Ramirez paid just $14 a night to stay for 14 days, presumably while he commited his unspeakable acts of violence.

By the time he was apprehended, Ramirez had finished his stay at the famed hotel, but his connection to the Cecil lives on.

Elisa Lam's Dead Body Was Found In The Hotel’s Water Supply
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Video: YouTube

In January 2013, Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old Canadian tourist who was staying at the Cecil Hotel, went missing. Nearly three weeks passed before the young woman’s nude body was found floating in a water tank on the building’s roof. Disturbingly, a maintenance worker discovered Lam’s corpse because he was investigating complaints from guests at the hotel who had reported poor water pressure; others stated the water had a strange smell, color, and taste. 

Following the recovery of the young woman’s remains, the LAPD released video footage from the hotel that showed Lam behaving strangely prior to her disappearance, leading some people to suspect foul play, drugs, or even supernatural activity. However, a toxicology report determined that no illicit substances were in Lam's system. The 21-year-old died of drowning, and it is thought that Lam, who was being treated for depression and bipolar disorder prior to her passing, may have experienced mental health issues that caused her to crawl inside the tank and accidentally drown. However, no one knows how Lam gained access to the rooftop water tank, which is behind a locked door and a series of fire escapes. Only three days into her time at the Cecil, where she had been staying in a hostel-style room, Lam's roommates complained about her odd behavior and the hotel moved Lam to a private room.

An Austrian Serial Killer Stayed At The Cecil While He Killed Women In California
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Johann “Jack” Unterweger, an Austrian journalist and author who had been released from prison after murdering a teenage girl when he was a young man, stayed at the Cecil Hotel in 1991 while he was researching a story about crime in Los Angeles. Unbeknownst to authorities in Austria or the United States, following his parole from prison, Unterweger killed a number of women in Europe, and during his visit to California, he murdered three sex workers while he was a guest at the Cecil. 

Unterweger, a popular writer who had once served as a shining example of the power of rehabilitation, was eventually arrested and convicted of killing at least nine victims, including the three women he murdered while visiting Los Angeles. Unterweger was sentenced to life in a psychiatric prison, but he hanged himself in his cell the night he received his sentence.

A Woman Threw Her Newborn Out The Window Of Her Hotel Room
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Photo:  ZhengZhou/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

In September 1944, 19-year-old Dorothy Jean Purcell was awakened by severe stomach pains while staying at the Cecil Hotel with Ben Levine. Careful not to wake Levine, who was sleeping in the bed beside her, Purcell went to the bathroom and, to her surprise, gave birth to a baby boy. The teenage mother was completely shocked, having no idea that she had been pregnant. 

After Purcell delivered the infant, completely alone and unaided, she thought the child was stillborn, and tossed the boy's body out of the window. The newborn landed on the roof of a neighboring building where it was later discovered. An autopsy revealed the baby had been born alive. Purcell was charged with homicide, but a jury found her not guilty by reason of insanity and she was sent to a hospital for psychiatric treatment.