The Cecil Hotel, otherwise known as ‘Hotel death’ was based in Downtown LA and became notoriously acknowledged as dozen’s of mysterious deaths and disappearances took place. On the 10th February, Netflix released a true crime documentary about the Cecil hotel, a place that inspired other series such as ‘American Horror Story’. “Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel” investigates the real-life venue that housed serial killers and centered many murder investigations.
History of The Cecil Hotel
The haunting venue opened its doors in 1927 by hotelier, William Banks Hanner. The 700-room hotel was equipped with stained-glass windows, palm trees, a marble lobby and a truly gorgeous staircase… totalling $1 million.
Only two years after the hotel’s grand opening, the world faced The Great Depression. This resulted in the surrounding area facing homelessness, drug abuse and violence, a huge downfall for the hotel.
In the 1930s alone, there were at least six reports of suicides at the hotel, ranging from poison ingestions to throat-slitting. It was a huge concern for the future of the hotel.
In the decades that followed, it became obvious that these concerns would only grow. The nature of these deaths became more violent, more intended and more mysterious…
One of the most well-known deaths at the Cecil hotel was that of Elizabeth Short. The murder victim was regarded by the media as ‘the Black Dahlia’. The then 22-year old was a Hollywood hopeful. She earned her name by the media due to her rumored tendancy for sheer black clothing and for the Blue Dahlia movie out at that time.
A mere few days before her murder, she was reportedly seen drinking at the Cecil’s bar. On the 15th January 1947, she was then found by a mother taking her child for a walk around the Los Angeles neighbourhood. It was a gruesome sight: her naked body lay on an empty grass lot, cut cleanly in half at the waist. As well as the extreme mutilation, she also suffered cuts on the body and face, one being described as stretching from the corners of her mouth to her ears. Despite the extensiveness of the gore, no blood was found at the scene, suggesting that she had been killed elsewhere before being left at this site.
The case is still open and unresolved.
Goldie Osgood was a well-known figure around the Los Angeles area, she earned the nickname of “Pigeon Oldie” due to her long-time feeding of the birds in nearby Pershing Square. She was a retired telephone operator and long-term resident of the Cecil hotel, in which she was very liked. Friends say that they spoke to her only minutes before her murder.
On the 4th June, 1964, a hotel worker of Cecil discovered Osgood’s body, dead in her room. Her room had been completely turned over; she had been raped, beaten and then stabbed. Close to her body, the Los Angeles Dodgers cap that she was always known to wear, and a paper sack of birdseed were found.
Jacques B Ehlinger, 29, was found a few hours after her murder, walking through Pershing Square in bloodstained clothing. He was then arrested and charged with Goldie Osgood’s murder, but was later cleared of these charges.
The case still remains unsolved.
The Night Stalker
Hotel death also seemed to be appropriate name in regards to it’s VIP’s. Richard Ramirez, otherwise known as The Night Stalker, was said to have stayed at the Cecil hotel for a few weeks during his violent murder streak throughout the 1980s.
Ramirez was an American serial killer, burglar, and rapist, who murdered at least 13 people in California from 1984-1985.
Ramirez, the night-stalker, was a self-proclaimed Satanist, shockingly showing a drawing of a pentagram on the palm of his hand during the court case for his murder spree. He spread intense fear across the state of California during the time of his killings due to the huge diversity of his victims, he didn’t mind who was next. He sexually assaulted children, murdered widows and butchered couples.
Due to the notably dark history of The Cecil Hotel and its surrounding areas, it was largely speculated that Ramirez may have stayed at this hotel to blend in. The crime rate was already high with prostitution and drug abuse seeming somewhat regular.
He was convicted with the death penalty but died with natural causes during his time in prison.
This was another serial killer that opted for a stay at Hotel death. Austrian born, Unterweger, was unlike killers such as Richard Ramirez as he only happened to be in Los Angeles by chance. He visited the United States in the early 1990s, and was believed to have murdered three prostitutes within the Los Angeles area.
In 1974, Unteweger was jailed in Austria for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, Margaret Schafar. The murder saw Margaret strangled to death with her own bra. He was then sentenced to life in prison. However, throughout his time in prison, he became known as the perfect candidate for reform, writing an autobiography: Purgatory or the Trip to Jail – Report of a Guilty Man. Within his time in prison, he gained much support which inevitably lead to an early release after serving his mandatory fifteen years in jail.
After his release, he went on to murder another 10 women, identifiable due to the re-used method of strangulation with personal garments.
Three victims were found within the Los Angeles area during Unterweger’s stay at the Cecil hotel. Police later caught up with him in Miami. Following this, he was sent back to Austria for a life sentence in prison. During this sentence, he then took his own life by hanging, using the same knots that were used to kill his victims.
Elisa Lam was a 21-year-old, Canadian student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She was last reportedly seen at the Cecil hotel on the 31st January 2013, over the next coming weeks, she was referred to as a missing-person with people searching desperately.
Lam was partaking in a solo-trip around the West coast of America when she went missing. Her parents, naturally fuelled with worry, only agreed to let her on the solo-trip in the agreement that they would call each other and check in every day.
She was scheduled to leave the Cecil hotel on January 31st and when she didn’t call, the Lam’s grew in apprehension and they called the police.
CCTV footage was released from the day of her disappearance, the last known sighting of Eliza Lam. This footage to this day continues to baffle investigators.
Two weeks after the video was released, Lam’s body was found. She was discovered, floating at the top of one of the hotel’s water tanks, surrounded by the clothes in which she was last seen.
The case still remains unsolved.
Much like the past of the Cecil hotel, we don’t know what the future holds. It is a place of mystery, intrigue and genuine confusion. It is now suggested that a guy called Simon Baron is taking over the building and plans to alter the focus, aiming for it to be viewed as a multi-use facility. Typically, these types of venues exist for a range of uses; retail, hotel, office space, residential living.
It is suspected that construction within the building will finalise in the Autumn of 2021. Will Baron be able to develop a new outlook? Will he provide a new positive asset to Los Angeles? Or, will the dark history of its past prevail?