The Cecil Hotel, located in Los Angeles, California – is renowned for having an infamous history – full of violence, death and other salacious activity. Now called ‘Stay on the Main’, the hotel appears to be gradually improving its public image. Yet there is no escaping its dark past. In this article, we take a look at the history of the hotel, including some of its dark moments that have led to it becoming a place of general intrigue and phenomena.
The Cecil was constructed in 1924, in line with the vision of hotelier William Banks Hanner. The hotel cost $1M to build – equivalent to around $4M in 2018. The Cecil was meant to be a desirable location for both tourists and businessmen to visit. The hotel would open in 1927, but was affected by the nationwide Great Depression a couple years later. The Cecil would claw back business in the subsequent years, but it would prove to be just a short-term reprieve for the hotel.
In the late 1940s, Downtown Los Angeles became known as ‘Skid Row’, thus hurting the reputation of the Cecil. With the area deemed to be dangerous, bookings declined. The area’s designation as ‘Skid Row’ coincided with an increase in violence both in and around the hotel premises. Drug activity, prostitution and adultery were all commonplace. The hotel also became known as the ‘Suicide Hotel’, due to a range of suicides taking place within the hotel.
There were also countless deaths at the hotel, while others went missing after being seen at the hotel. Unsolved murders became the norm. Several notorious criminals stayed at the hotel, including the infamous ‘Night Stalker’ Richard Ramirez. It is believed part of his killing spree coincided with his stay at the hotel. These various affairs dogged the reputation of the hotel. The hotel has had a slew of owners in the 21st Century, with significant renovations taking place. It is now known as the ‘Stay on the Main’ hotel.
After being out of mainstream news for several years, the hotel returned to the forefront of public interest in 2013, due to the mysterious case of Canadian student Elisa Lam. Lam was staying at the Cecil, when CCTV footage captured her erratic behaviour within the hotel. While she died at the hotel, the exact circumstances behind her death are still unknown. Her body was discovered in a water supply cistern on the hotel roof – but there is little indication as to how she could have got there in the first instance. There are many, many unanswered questions relating to her death. You can see the video below, though viewer discretion is advised.
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The Cecil appears to be leading a lower profile in the modern era. In 2017, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve the hotel being designated as a historic-cultural monument. This was due to how it is representative of the typical early 20th Century American hotel, and due to its significance in terms of architecture. There is no doubting the checkered history of the Cecil. It looks, thankfully, as if the hotel is improving, but its past will always be remembered.