Netflix’s true crime docuseries Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel focuses on the mysterious death of Elisa Lam.


The 21-year-old Canadian student’s body was found in a water tank on top of the LA-based hotel on 19th February 2013, weeks after she went missing on 1st February.

The series also explores the chilling history of the Cecil Hotel, which saw suicides, unexplained deaths and other mysterious events.

From Elisa Lam's death to the case of Dorothy Jean Purcell, read on for everything you need to know about the incidents that have taken place at the hotel or nearby, serial killers who stayed there and whether it's still open today.

What happened in the Cecil Hotel? History explained

Elisa Lam's death

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The most recent of mysterious deaths to take place at the Cecil Hotel is the disappearance and then death of 21-year-old student Elisa Lam, which is the focus of Netflix's docuseries.

Three weeks after she was reported missing, Elisa Lam was discovered dead in a water tank on the roof of the hotel.

A CCTV video of Elisa shortly before her disappearance went viral on social media. The Elisa Lam video was shared by the police in hopes of gathering evidence.

There are various Elisa Lam theories surrounding the mysterious case, and in June 2013, officials said she had died by “accidental drowning”.

Cecil Hotel
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The Night Stalker Richard Ramirez stayed at the Cecil Hotel

Richard Ramirez - aka The Night Stalker - is known to have stayed at the hotel during his killing spree.

He lived in a room on the top floor of the hotel and paid $14 (£10.12) a night to stay there.

According to reports, Ramirez would throw his bloody clothing into the dumpster of the hotel, and then walk into the lobby either naked or just in his underwear.

Richard Ramirez The Night Stalker
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There were a number of mysterious incidents

The first known suicide took place at the hotel in 1931. A man named W. K. Norton from Manhattan was discovered dead in his room after ingesting poison capsules.

He had checked into the hotel a week before under the name “James Willys".

One thing that has been noted about many of the suicides which took place at the hotel is people checking in under false names. Many guests who died in this way have been unidentifiable after their deaths, with some still unknown today.

Dorothy Jean Purcell's case

In 1944, 19-year-old Dorothy Jean Purcell checked into the hotel with her 38-year-old boyfriend Ben Levine. According to reports, Dorothy was unaware she was pregnant and one evening when she went to the toilet she gave birth to a baby boy.

Believing her baby was dead, Dorothy then threw the new-born out of the window. She was arrested for murder and at her trial was found guilty by reason of insanity.

Pauline Otton's suicide led to a second death

One of the most infamous suicides is that of Pauline Otton's as it led to the death of a passer-by. In 1962, Pauline jumped out of a window following an argument with her husband.

She landed on a 65-year-old man named George Gianinni, who happened to walking by at the time.

It was initially thought that the duo had jumped together, however, evidence concluded that George had his hands in his pockets and shoes on, so Pauline must have landed on him.

Elizabeth Short - The Black Dahlia Murder

Elizabeth Short The Cecil Hotel
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Elizabeth Short's unsolved murder is the first known killing associated with Cecil Hotel.

In 1947, her body was discovered in two pieces in a nearby park to the accommodation.

Her death remains unsolved to this day, although there have been many suspects and people who claimed to have killed her.

Elizabeth was given the nickname “Black Dahlia” by the media as her death and murder continues to be spoken about, particularly in pop culture. Recently, it was referenced in an episode of American Horror Story.

The murder of “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood

This was another unsolved murder to take place at The Cecil Hotel. In 1964 “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood - a local resident - was discovered dead in her room.

One man named Jacques B. Ehlinger was arrested for her murder because he was seen in the area after wearing bloody clothing, however, he was later released and not charged with her murder.

The Cecil Hotel
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Jack Unterweger (serial killer) also stayed at the Cecil Hotel

The Cecil Hotel later became the residence of another serial killer - this time Austrian killer Jack Unterweger who murdered between 12 and 15 people.

He was sentenced to life in prison in 1976 for killing an 18-year-old girl. However, a 1985 petition began to have him pardoned, and eventually he was released in 1990.

A year later, he stayed at the Cecil Hotel which he's said to have chosen because of its connection to Ramirez.

Police discovered Unterweger had murdered eight women in Europe who were all killed with their own bras.

Unterweger was eventually caught and charged with 11 murders, including the three that took place in LA.

On the night he was sentenced, Unterweger died by suicide.

Where is Cecil Hotel?

The Cecil Hotel

The Cecil Hotel was built in 1920s by Robert H. Schops in Downtown Los Angeles.

With 700 rooms, a marble lobby, palm trees and stained glass windows, the hotel was built with great ambition, however, five years later when the Great Depression started things took a different turn and the hotel started to be known as a meeting place for sex workers and criminals.

In 2011, the hotel was renamed the Stay on Main hotel. Four years later, in 2015, a man's body was found who reportedly died by suicide.

The Cecil Hotel was renamed the Stay on Main hotel

Is Cecil Hotel still open? Can you stay there?

No, Cecil Hotel is not still open.

In 2016, it was announced that the hotel would have a $100 million renovation, although there's been no update on when or if there will be a reopening. It has been reported that the space is being turned into apartments.

The hotel is said to be the inspiration for season five of American Horror Story: Hotel.

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is available to stream on Netflix. Sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

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