The Cecil Hotel; Ghoul Central?

If you are an American Horror Story fan as I am you will love the season called AHS: Hotel.  It takes place in the fictitious hotel called the Hotel Cortez in Los Angeles. The story is based on the real Cecil Hotel recently rebranded as Stay on Main, located at 640 S. Main in downtown L.A.  For $70 a night you can experience a notorious hotel with a history of suicide and murder. The Hotel was opened as a budget hotel for businessmen in 1927, and by the 1950’s was a transient hotel. It was 14 floors and 600 guest rooms, and now is considered a historic site.  It reopened, renamed in 2013, and today they call themselves the hippest boutique hotel and hostel in downtown L.A. and claim to be youthful, high-styled and high-tech.

Richard Ramirez, the infamous serial killer known as “Nightstalker” lived in the Cecil hotel in 1984 and 1985. His home invasion atrocities first terrorized Los Angeles, and then San Francisco. The crime spree resulted in burglary, rape and murder. He used a variety of weapons; hammers, handguns, tire irons, a machete, and knives. He was eventually convicted of 13 counts of murder, 5 attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries, and sentenced to death row.  He died of B cell lymphoma in 2013. Ramirez had fans (fanatics as I call them) that wrote and visited him, including freelance magazine editor Doreen Lioy. She eventually married Ramirez.  That is another story for another time.  He lived on the top floor of the Cecil hotel in his $14 a night room while he went on his murderous rampages. Richard Schave who conducts tours of the hotel said Ramirez dumped his bloody clothes in the dumpster as he went in the back door of the hotel after a night of mayhem.(1)

Another famous serial killer who lived at the then seedy hotel was Jack Unterweger. The Austrian was credited with the murders of prostitutes in several countries.  He was convicted of a murder at 18, sentenced to prison where he became an author. Other authors and European intellectuals lobbied for his release. He became a journalist upon his release, and continued to commit murder in Europe and the U.S.  Makes you wonder about the intellectuals…At least it makes me wonder…He stayed at the Cecil hotel in 1991 for 5 weeks during which he murdered 3 prostitutes he picked up on Seventh Street. It was believed he was paying homage to Richard Ramirez when he murdered them with their own bra straps.

The Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Short is alleged in at least one book to have hung out at the Cecil and drank at the bar next door before she disappeared in 1947. Cultural historians Kim Cooper and Richard Schave of Esotouric say it is just a rumor. The Cecil hotel was used as inspiration in for a short story called The Shabby Hotel by Raymond Chandler 1935. In the story Chandler used the name Metropole, but it was the Cecil.

There is a list of crimes that are attributed to the hotel. In 1962 Pauline Otten jumped out a window. She not only committed suicide but landed on a pedestrian, killing him instantly.  Goldie Osgood (called the Pershing Square pigeon lady) was raped and strangled in 1964. The Peter J. Pitchess Detention Center, is a minimum security detention center, and was at one time fondly called the Wayside Drunk Farm.  An escaped inmate was recaptured at the hotel in 1995. The latest infamous guest was one Canadian tourist by the name of Elisa Lam. Her corpse was discovered after 19 days in the water supply of the Cecil Hotel.  There is some eerie footage of Lam before she disappeared using the elevator in the hotel. The greater mystery is how she got on the roof and in the water tank. It only adds to the ghoulish history of the Cecil Hotel.(2)

This Hotel is a paranormal investigators’ dream. When you are in L.A. and want to use your intuition or empathic ability visit, or stay at the Cecil. I will. Energy imprints on these places, I have experienced it at the San Carlos in Phoenix, another hotel with a past. As far as T.V. goes, I love the AHS: Hotel.  Kathy Bates, Sara Paulson and Lady Gaga make this show ghoulish, exciting and frightening at the same time.


Cecil Hotel

  1. Ryall, Jenni, Before the ghost photo: The disturbing, gruesome past of the Cecil Hotel,,
  2. Hamilton, Denise, Serial Killer Central, LAObserved,

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