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Cecil Hotel history: What Netflix documentary doesn't tell you about Los Angeles accommodation

Here's everything the Netflix documentary didn't get to tell you about Cecil Hotel's history.

The Cecil Hotel
Published: Thursday, 11th February 2021 at 4:22 pm

Netflix's new documentary Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel aims to shed light on the mysterious death of 21-year-old Canadian student Elisa Lam.


On February 19th, 2013, Elisa's body was found in a water tank on top of the LA-based hotel, weeks after she went missing on February 1st.

However, Elisa's death isn't the first and only mysterious occurrence at Cecil Hotel, with the hotel known for its long and grim history of a murders, suicides and unexplained events.

Those who watched Netflix's Night Stalker may have already noticed that Richard Ramirez stayed there while on his killing spree, and in the opening scene of Crime Scene, an image of Ramirez is shown.

There were also many other incidents at the hotel the documentary doesn't talk about.

Here's everything you need to know about the hotel featured in the Netflix series, including all the incidents that have taken place here or nearby, serial killers who stayed there and whether it's still open today.

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?

The answer to both of these questions is no.

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.

Cecil Hotel's history: What the Netflix doc doesn't tell you

Elisa Lam's death

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 new 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
Getty Images

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
Getty Images

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
Getty Images

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
Getty Images

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.


Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is available to stream on Netflix. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide


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