Haunted houses are usually something we reserve for the month of October, but at one LA hotel, their entire history is haunted. From the time it was built in 1924 until today, the Cecil Hotel in LA has had nothing but bad luck. Luckily for us, though, that means we get a pretty crazy story out of it.
Bad luck from the beginning
Right from the get-go, the hotel, which should have been a grand and opulent place of luxury for all its guests, had problems. In 1924, William Banks Hanner spent $1 million (the equivalent of $13 million today) building the hotel with stained-glass windows, a marble lobby, and other opulent decorations.
Unfortunately, the Great Depression hit hard, and the hotel never took off the way it was supposed to. But that was just the beginning of its problems.
The hotel had its first suicide early-on, in 1931. The first also seemed to be the most obvious, with the body of W.K. Norton being found near a pile of poison capsules. Sad, but straightforward. Not all the other suicides were nearly as obvious.
In 1937, for example, the fourth person to die in the hotel was a certain Grace Magro, who fell from a 9th story window tangled in telephone wires. Police never determined whether her death was an accident, a suicide, or something more sinister. Another death occurred when a woman panicked after giving birth to her baby and threw the child out a window in 1944.
One woman in 1947 was seen having a drink at the Cecil Hotel bar just days before she was murdered. Another guest of the Cecil Hotel was Richard Ramirez— though he was better known as the Night Stalker.
Ramirez was a serial killer, going on a spree lasting a year and a half and killing 38 people from 1984-1985, and while in LA he stayed at the Cecil Hotel, sometimes disposing of evidence at the hotel itself.
Inspired, not retired
Another serial killer stayed at the hotel, too: convicted Austrian killer Jack Unterweger. After serving jail time, he convinced the authorities he had reformed and was released, traveling to America to work as a journalist covering murders of sex workers (the very crime he was convicted for).
It turns out he wasn’t reformed at all. He checked into the Cecil Hotel to cover a story in LA and proceeded to murder three sex workers. The police caught him, and he was arrested and once again sentenced to jail. Most experts believe he went to the Cecil Hotel specifically because of the Night Stalker, following in his hero’s footsteps.
Creepy water tank drowning
One of the creepiest stories from the Cecil Hotel happened in 2013. A woman named Elisa Lam was found dead, floating naked in one of the water tanks on the hotel’s roof. Her case was ruled a suicide, but there are some pretty creepy elements to her story.
With no staff key found on her body, there was no way she should have been able to access the roof. And the security camera footage from the elevator tells an even more chilling tale. In the video, she runs into the elevator and hides, pressing multiple buttons, but the doors do not close. She continually looks into the hallway, like she’s looking for someone, and at one point stands up and looks like she’s talking to someone in the hall— but there’s no one there. One thing’s for sure: the haunted Cecil Hotel has been giving us creepy stories for nearly a century, and will probably give us many more.