Have you ever seen the popular hit show American Horror Story? If so, you’ve probably seen the season that features a hotel with a bloody history. But did you know that the hotel was based off of the Cecil Hotel (now called “Stay On Main”) in Los Angeles? That’s right! And the hotel has just as much of a horrific past as the hotel in the show.
The Cecil Hotel opened in 1927 and was a rich and beautiful hotel. Containing 600 rooms, and costing more than $1 mil, the hotel had a sadly short run of success. Shortly after opening, the US sank into the Great Depression, and the once proud and shining hotel slowly deteriorated and fewer people came to stay in the magnificent building.
In 1931, the first suicide took place. Another suicide happened in 1932, and again in 1934. In 1937, a woman fell from a window on the 9th floor, and her death was never ruled as a suicide or a murder. A multitude of suicides happened in 1938, 1939, 1940, 1947, 1954, 1962 (there were two in 1962, one of whom jumped out of a window and landed upon her estranged husband, killing them both instantly), 1975, and a possible suicide in 2015. There are a few tales however, that are far more gruesome than simply jumping from a window.
In 1944, a woman called Dorothy Jean Purcell went into labor in the Cecil. She had reportedly been unaware she was pregnant, and not wanting to wake her roommate up, she had the child in the bathroom. Operating under the idea that the child was dead, Purcell proceeded to throw the child out the window where it landed on the roof of another building. Purcell was charged with murder, although she was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.
In 1964, a woman by the name “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood was found beaten, raped and stabbed in her room inside of the Cecil. A man was arrested for her murder, but the charges were quickly dropped and he was cleared of the crime. Osgood’s murder was never solved.
In 1976, a former mental patient named Jeffrey Paley purchased a firearm and set up shop on the roof of the Cecil. He fired 15 shots down at the people below. He didn’t hit anyone, and no one was injured in the ensuing panic. After being arrested, the man claimed that he had only wanted to prove how easy it was for him to buy a gun.
It has also been reported that the Black Dahlia was seen in the Cecil Hotel several days before her death. Several serial killers stayed at the Cecil Hotel while they were still active, among these being Jack Unterweger and the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, who often stayed at the hotel. Jack Unterweger was an Austrian man who killed more than women by strangling them with their own clothing. He was arrested after the first murder, but released 15 years later for being a model prisoner. He wrote short stories, plays and poems in prison and once he was released he joined the journalism career as a minor celebrity. He was arrested again 2 years later, and the first night of his stay in prison he hung himself. Richard Ramirez, or the night stalker, chose to commit his crimes by breaking into homes and killing, raping and burgalising. At his court trial, he raised a hand with a pentagram drawn on it and yelled out “Hail Satan!” Richard Ramirez was convicted of 13 murders, 5 attempted murders, 11 counts of sexual assault and 14 burglaries.
However, there is one more death to be reported-one just as mysterious as the Black Dahlia, and one that took place in the Cecil. This is, of course, the death of Elisa Lam. Elisa Lam was a young woman taking a year off from college. She was going to spend a few weeks at the Cecil to explore Los Angeles. About a week before Lam was to leave the area, she went missing. Her family got worried when she didn’t check in as she had been doing every day since the trip began.
The hotel checked the camera for clues, and found an unsettling video of Lam entering and exiting the elevator on several different floors. When she would enter, she would press buttons in a seemingly random order. At one point, she tried to hide in the corner of the elevator and would occasionally talk to someone who did not seem to exist-or at least, didn’t show up on the camera. She would look out the elevator doors in a panic, as if expecting someone or something to jump out at her. She finally exited the elevator and didn’t come back when the doors refused to close.
Her body was found about a month after she’d gone missing, when guests complained of low water pressure and “funny tasting water”. Her corpse was found naked in an eight-foot-tall water tank located on the roof of the building. Her clothes and personal belongings were floating in the water around her. Her death was ruled accidental, and many believe that the entire episode was a result of her bipolar disorder. Still, mental illness does not explain how she may have scaled an eight foot tall tank or even gotten onto the roof in the first place.
The Cecil Hotel has been home to many deaths, and its terrible past has lead many ghost hunters and paranormal investigators to their doors. Whether or not the souls of the damned haunt the building as many believe, why is it that so many sinister happenings have taken place at the Cecil? Will these incidents finally come to an end with a new owner and a new name? Only time will tell.