The Mystery Of The Cecil Hotel

There many famous hotels in the world, but the Cecil Hotel is famous for all the wrong reasons.

The Cecil was constructed in 1927 at the cost of $1 million by hotelier William Banks Hanner. it was designed by Loy Lester Smith in the Beaux Arts style, it boasted a luxurious marble lobby with stained-glass windows, potted palms and alabaster statuary.

Unfortunately within five years of its opening, the United States sank into the Great Depression. This turned Main Street (where the hotel is built) into something of a skid row area and forcing The Cecil to become a budget hotel.

In November 1931, a 46-year-old man from Manhattan Beach, W.K. Norton, was reported missing, but not long after he disappeared from his home, he was found dead in a room at the Cecil by a maid. Apparently, Norton had checked into the hotel under an alias and committed suicide by ingesting capsules filled with poison. More poison capsules were found in his vest pocket. He had checked into the hotel as James Willys of Chicago. While North was the first person to kill himself while staying at the Cecil, he certainly wasn’t the last.

In 1932, another maid named Carrie Brown found the body of 25-year-old Benjamin Dodich. He had shot himself in the head the previous evening. In July 1934, 53-year-old former Army Medical Corps sergeant Louis D. Borden slit his own throat with a razor in his room at the Cecil Hotel. He had left several suicide notes behind for loved ones; In them, he said he took his own life due to poor health.

In March 1937, 25-year old Grace E. Magro jumped, fell or was pushed from a window in the hotel from the ninth floor. Instead of hitting the sidewalk below, the young woman landed on the the wires connecting the telephone poles next to the hotel, and her body became entangled. She later died in the hospital from her injuries.

News reports stated, “telephone wires, ripped from poles in her decent, were entangled about her body.”. Her companion, M.W. Madison, a 26-year-old sailor of the U.S.S. Virginia was in the room at the time of the incident. He told investigators he was sleeping when it occurred and knew of no reason why she would commit suicide. The police were unable to determine if the young woman’s death was an accident or a suicide.

The January of the following year, a marine fireman named Roy Thompson, who had been residing at the Cecil for several weeks, was found dead in the skylight of the building next door having apparently jumped from his room. In May of 1939, 39-year-old sailor, Erwin C. Neblett of the U.S.S. Wright committed suicide in his room by ingesting poison. The following year in January, 45-year-old teacher Dorothy Sceiger attempted suicide in the same way at the hotel and was found barely clinging to life; The papers never reported on whether she had lived or died.

In September 1944, 19-year-old mother Dorthy Jean Purcell threw her newborn son out a window at the Cecil Hotel. The body was found on top of the building next door. Allegedly, Ms. Prucell was unaware she was pregnant. The young mother claimed she and her 38-year-old boyfriend, shoe salesman Ben Levine, were sleeping.

She awoke with stomach pains and went to the restroom where she delivered the child herself. Dorothy stated she had believed the child was dead and threw it out the window to dispose of the body. She was charged with homicide but was found to be not guilty by reason of insanity, she was sent to a hospital for psychiatric treatment.

In November of 1947, 35-year-old Robert Smith of Long Beach jumped or fell from a window on the 7th floor of the hotel. On October 22, 1954, 55-year-old Helen C. Gurnee jumped from her window in room 704 of the Cecil Hotel. Pedestrians witnessed her body land on the hotel’s marquis. Hundreds of spectators gathered as firefighters used a ladder to retrieve her body. Later, the police were called to the Philharmonic Auditorium where a man who had witnessed the suicide had become hysterical due to the event. Ms. Gurnee had checked into the hotel one week before as Margaret Brown of Denver.

On February 11, 1962, 50-year-old Julia Frances Moore leaped from her room on the 8th floor and landed in an interior light well on the 2nd floor of the Cecil. In her room, she left a bus ticket from St. Louis, fifty-nine cents and a bank book from Illinois with a balance of $1,800. On October 12, 1962, 27-year old Pauline Otton was arguing with her estranged husband, Dewey, in their room on the 9th floor of the Cecil Hotel.

Dewey went out for dinner, leaving Pauline alone. She jumped from the window, landing on George Gianinni (aged 65). Initially, police believed the two had formed a suicide pact and leaped together. However, Mr. Gianinni’s hands were still in his pockets and his shoes were on his feet; If he had fallen nine stories, the fall would have ripped his shoes off.

On June 4, 1964, Goldie Osgood, long-time resident of the Cecil and retired telephone operator was found viciously murdered in her ransacked room by a hotel employee who was distributing telephone books. She had been stabbed, strangled and sexually assaulted. She was well-known in the area for feeding the birds in Pershing Square and was nicknamed “The Pidgeon Woman”.

Soon after the retiree’s brutalized corpse was discovered, officers arrested 29-year-old Jacques B. Ehlinger, a young man who had been seen walking through Pershing Square covered in blood, was an acquaintance of Osgood, and admitted to being near the hotel at the time of the murder. While he seemed like an excellent suspect for the killing, he was cleared of the crime and released. Sadly, the person responsible for Osgood’s murder has never been caught.

26-year-old Jeffrey Thomas Paley terrified guests at the Cecil and people passing by the hotel when he went up to the roof and fired several shots from a rifle on December 1, 1976. Thankfully, Paley failed to shoot anyone, and he was arrested by police shortly after the rampage began.

After he was taken into custody, Paley told the officers he hadn’t actually intended to harm anyone. According to Paley, who had spent time in a mental hospital, he purchased the gun and fired the shots to demonstrate how easy it is for someone with psychiatric issues to get their hands on a dangerous weapon and kill a large number of people.

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 13 victims in little over a year. A practicing Satanist, Ramirez brutally killed both men and women, using a variety of weapons to take the lives of his victims, including a hammer, a tire iron, handguns, knives, and a machete.

During the time Ramirez was breaking into homes in and around L.A. and assaulting, murdering, raping, and robbing the occupants, he was a guest at the Cecil Hotel. Ramirez stayed in a room on the top floor, and he paid just $14 a night for a place to return to after committing unspeakable acts of violence, often throwing his bloody clothing into the Cecil’s dumpster.

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, who had once served as a shining example of the power of rehabilitation, was eventually arrested and convicted of killing several victims, including the three women he murdered while visiting Los Angeles. Unterweger was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but he hanged himself in his cell the night he received his sentence.

On the afternoon of July 6, 1988, the body of 32-year-old nurse Teri Francis Craig was discovered by her brother in the Huntington Beach house the young woman had shared with her boyfriend, 28-year-old salesman Robert Sullivan. Craig had been brutally stabbed multiple times, and police began to suspect Sullivan was responsible for the murder when he failed to return home to the house he and the deceased woman had lived in together for seven years.

More than two months later on September 6, 1988, Sullivan was arrested at the Cecil and charged with murdering Craig, making him yet another person who sought refuge in this notoriously dark hotel.

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, colour, 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 believe she may have met with foul play. However, officials determined the 21-year-old died of drowning, and they think Lam, who was being treated for depression and bipolar disorder prior to her death, may have experienced mental health issues that caused her to crawl inside the tank and accidentally drown.

Most recently, on June 13, 2015, the body of a 28-year-old man was found outside the hotel; It is believed he was staying at the Cecil and jumped or fell from a window but no additional details were ever released. Perhaps one the most bizarre death involving the infamous hotel as that of a young truck driver who had an accident outside the hotel; He was ejected in the crash and fatally pinned between his own truck and the Cecil Hotel.

Another note to make is that In 1947 Elizabeth Short, dubbed by the media as the Black Dahlia, was rumoured to have been spotted drinking at the Cecil’s bar in the days before her notorious and, to date, unsolved murder.

In 2011 The Cecil Hotel was rebranded as Stay on Main. In 2014 the hotel was sold to New York City hotelier Richard Born for $30 million, and another New York-based firm, Simon Baron Development, acquired a 99-year ground lease on the property. Matt Baron, president of Simon Baron, said he was committed to the preservation of architecturally or historically significant components such as the hotel’s grand lobby, but that his company planned to completely redevelop the interior and fix the “hodgepodge” work that had been done in more recent years. Beyond renovating rooms, the developer also plans a rooftop pool, gym and lounge. Construction is projected to be complete by 2019.

In February 2017 the Los Angeles City Council voted to deem the Cecil a historic-cultural monument, because it is representative of an early 20th century American hotel, and because of the historic significance of its architect’s body of work.

Is The Cecil Hotel cursed or just had a run of some serious bad luck? Either way it’ll be interesting to see if things will truly change under it’s new owners, it’s certainly had a big influence on how film and television view these places (American Horror Story: Hotel for one).

This place is on my bucket list of places to visit, one day who knows. Have you ever stayed there? Let us know in the comments below.

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