No wonder it took me so long to get to this week’s Real Life Creepy Place, because it’s so creepy even I didn’t dare research it after 6 PM. And what’s creepy about it isn’t just some questionable rumors of hauntings and other supernatural happenings recorded by impressionable people. The Cecil Hotel has had a bad vibe and an unsavory reputation since the 1930’s, and incredibly violent and creepy things continued to happen there until recently. It’s been shut down and turned into a whole new hotel… whether the strange curse of this place will persist remains to be seen.
The Cecil Hotel has been built in 1929, in an area of Los Angeles that was once reputable but had gone downhill. Soon, the place was a dive frequented by prostitutes and drug users.
And, apparently, serial killers, registered sex offenders, and other pleasant folk.
In the eighties, Richard Ramirez, aka The Night Stalker, aka that guy the guitarist from Marilyn Manson got his last name from, lived in the hotel while he committed several of his murders. (Dressed all in black, he’d sneak into his victims’ homes, then torture them to death before killing them in gruesome ways. Good night.) And if you think, hah, so a serial killer lived on the fourteenth (really thirteenth) floor of the place, so what, can happen to anyone… in 1991, a gentleman by the name of Jack Unterweger rented a room on the same floor. What made him stand out from the other hotel guests was that he was already a convicted serial killer who had murdered several prostitutes by strangling them with their own bras. Then, because the judicial system works so well, he was released. (I kid you not. Look it up.) They made him promise not to strangle any more hookers with their bras, I guess, and let him go free.
He took advantage of the fact that the Cecil Hotel was close to the unofficial “red light” district at the time to lure more women into his room by the fire escape. And then, shockingly, he strangled them with their own bras and dumped the bodies. Bet you didn’t see that coming.
But more recently, an absolutely baffling, gruesome, and creepy death took place at the hotel, which might have been the final straw leading to it being shut down for good. In 2013, Elisa Lam, a twenty-one-year-old student from Canada, went missing. All efforts to locate her were useless, until about a month later, some hotel residents complained about the tap water that ran black and foul-smelling. Hotel staff investigated… and found Lam’s body decomposing in the water tank.
(Did I just put you off traveling for life? Oops.)
To this day, no one knows how the hell she got up there, climbed into the tank, and closed the lid behind her–even though her death was ruled either accidental drowning or suicide. The only clue anyone has to what happened before she died is a video from the hotel elevator of Lam acting… incredibly strange and unnatural. I won’t post it here–you can find it in two clicks online. Sorry, it just gives me the willies.
Theories included a mental breakdown, murder at the hands of one of the hotel’s residents (which isn’t impossible, given that the hotel rented apartments (on the fourteenth floor, coincidentally) to registered sex offenders, who liked it for the cheap rent), and even government conspiracies. And after you read enough about the case, you’ll realize you kind of don’t really want to know.
What’s the lesson in all this? Check Yelp… always check Yelp. And a quick Google search of the “historic”, “luxurious”, and suspiciously cheap hotel you’re about to book doesn’t hurt. I’m assuming asking the receptionist casually, “any serial killers reside here?” won’t give you the best results.