The Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles hides a history of murder and mystery. Now, a new investigation uncovers the hotel’s darkest secrets.
The Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles hides a history of murder and mystery. Now, a new investigation uncovers the hotel’s darkest secrets.

Chilling detail we missed in hotel death

Beyond stained glass windows, Doric columns and marble walls of the Cecil Hotel lies a history of murder and mystery.

Since it opened nearly a century ago the hotel has been home to two serial killers, witnessed numerous suicides and gained a reputation as a den of vice.

And the hotel, nicknamed "Los Angeles' most deadly" even inspired Season 5 of Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story.

That, though, wasn't what brought the Cecil to international attention.

Eight years ago the disappearance of a 21-year-old female tourist behind its doors became a global mystery.

The Cecil Hotel has an elegant lobby that belies its troubled history
The Cecil Hotel has an elegant lobby that belies its troubled history

Now, a new Netflix series will reveal the truth behind the disappearance of Canadian student Elisa Lam at the infamous Los Angeles building.

Could it be connected to the hotel's dark past?

Disturbing CCTV of missing student and her invisible attacker

Bizarre footage of what was believed to be the last ride of Elisa's life in the hotel's lift went viral when it was released in February 2013.

The young Canadian is seen gesticulating to someone as she ducks and dives from landing to lift and back again.

Two weeks after going missing her naked body was found in the water tanks on the roof of the 15 storey building.

Numerous theories have been shared on internet forums about how she came to such a grisly end.

Murder, malevolent spirits, government conspiracies, suicide and illegal drugs have all been put forward as explanations.

Canadian student Elisa Lam’s last known movements were caught on the hotel’s CCTV in 2013
Canadian student Elisa Lam’s last known movements were caught on the hotel’s CCTV in 2013

A place where addicts, killers, and chancers felt right at home

Now a new Netflix series called Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel has delved into Lam's death - and the history of the place where she died.

When university student Elisa booked her stay at the Cecil Hotel eight years ago she didn't realise that it was in a place where drug addicts, killers and sex workers felt right at home.

The 700 room hotel used to be visited by Hollywood stars and producers because it was the first in the city to welcome Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

But it later became home to a much more unsavoury clientele.

Surveillance cameras caught Elisa behaving strangely in the hotel lift
Surveillance cameras caught Elisa behaving strangely in the hotel lift

Among the killers to have lived in the LA hotel were serial killer Richard Ramirez, who was known as the Nightstalker.

Kim Cooper, who conducts tours of the hotel and area, told The Sun: "The Nightstalker didn't prey on people here, he just hung out because he fit in."

Constructed in 1924 for a million dollars the hotel was designed for businessmen visiting California's boom town.

But when the Great Depression hit in the following decade its customers were down on their luck.

Gradually the Skid Row area in which the huge hotel nestles became a byword for poverty.

Those people who couldn't afford the hotel's rates slept in bushes and on nearby pavements, while those who had the cash sometimes used its room for a life of vice.

Californian serial killer Richard Ramirez lived at the Cecil Hotel during his murder spree
Californian serial killer Richard Ramirez lived at the Cecil Hotel during his murder spree

Kim, who conducts a true crime tour with husband Richard Schave called Hotel Horrors & Main Street Vice, says: "At the Cecil there would be pensioners, single people, drug and alcohol users. It was just where poor people lived."

Killer who left cups of blood by his victims

Those forced to sleep on the streets fell prey to the Skid Row slasher Vaughn Greenwood between 1964 and 1974, who left cups of blood and rings of salt around some of his 11 victims.

The next known killer to haunt The Cecil was The Nightstalker, who murdered at least 14 people and was known for the disturbing brutality he used against his victims.

A self-described Satanist, Ramirez would often leave Satanic symbols at the scenes of his horrific crimes.

He lived on the top floor of the hotel in 1985 and dumped his bloody clothes in its rubbish bins.

Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger checked into the hotel in 1991 in what Kim believes was an act of 'homage' to Ramirez.

Known as the "prison poet", Unterweger was hailed for his writing while serving a sentence for killing an 18-year-old sex worker. On his release, he went on to kill at least 11 more women across Europe and the US.

Kim says: "He found out that truckers picked up prostitutes as the produce yards while going out on a drive around with the LAPD.

"He represents himself as being there as a journalist."

Desperate souls who took their own lives

Retired telephone operator 'Pigeon' Goldie Osgood, was raped and strangled in her room in 1964.

Kim says: "No one has ever been held responsible for the crime."

Elisa (centre) was a university student who was close to her family
Elisa (centre) was a university student who was close to her family

It was more likely, though, that the guests would kill themselves rather than others.

As an end-of-the-line joint, there are many tales of residents leaping to their demise from its windows.

One, Pauline Otton, 27, landed on George Gianinni, 65, in 1962 who was walking on the busy pavement below, killing both of them.

Police called on a daily basis

In 2007 the hotel underwent a significant overhaul in an attempt to lend it a boutique appearance.

But under local laws many of the rooms had to be kept as long term stays for low income tenants - and by the time Elisa Lam checked in, it was still a troubled place.

Amy Price, who was manager at the time of Elisa's stay in 2013, said: "While I worked there, there were thousands of 911 calls.

"When the maintenance manager gave me a tour he would say 'suicide in this room,' 'guest died there.'

"You just never knew what was going to happen on any given day."

So when Elisa started acting strangely towards the three girls she was sharing a room with, Amy didn't think too much about it.

Instead, she asked Elisa, who didn't know any of the women, to take up a room of her own.

On the day she was due to check out the backpacker went missing.

 

Because Elisa would ring home to her parents in Vancouver every day, the police took her disappearance seriously.

They had a team of 18 detectives, including sniffer dogs, search from room to room.

When nothing turned up the police released a video clip of Elisa's last sighting in the hope that someone would come forward with information.

The footage, which showed her gesticulating wildly and hiding in the corners of the lift, went viral.

Was death copycat of a horror movie - or inspired by metal musician?

That interest grew when Elisa's body was found floating face up in the water tank on February 19 2013.

Web sleuths came up with a series of theories.

One was that it was a copycat murder of the Jennifer Connelly and Tim Roth horror film Dark Water.

In the 2005 movie discoloured water comes out of hotel taps and a little girl falls into the water tank on the top of the building.

The vanishing of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel caught the world’s attention.
The vanishing of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel caught the world’s attention.

There was also speculation that Elisa's death was linked to an outbreak of Tuberculosis (TB) in Skid Row at that time.

Lam-Elisa is the name for a type of TB test and she studied at Columbia University where there is a tuberculosis research centre.

Various internet commentators cried "Government conspiracy".

Another much discussed theory was that death metal musician Morbid was behind it, because he'd stayed at the hotel and his lyrics included a girl dying in water.

But Morbid, real name Pablo Vergara, said: "I was in Mexico recording my album at the time she went missing.

"I received death threats every day. There was no escape. I tried to take my life and I woke up in a psychiatric hospital."

Others suspected evil spirits because Elisa had been seen talking to someone who wasn't visible.

Guests pictured checking out of the Cecil Hotel after police discovered the body of Elisa Lam in 2013. Picture: AP Photo/Reed Saxon).
Guests pictured checking out of the Cecil Hotel after police discovered the body of Elisa Lam in 2013. Picture: AP Photo/Reed Saxon).

Kim, who accepts the hotel has 'unusual energy', has a more down to earth theory.

She explains: "I think she was in the throes of a delusion.

"If she turned out of the bookstore where she was last seen and went right she would have hit two large pharmacies and would have run into people selling prescription pills.

"One of the things she might have sought out is ambien. The eyes of users are open, but they are in a dream state."

The pathologist found no illegal drugs in Elisa's blood stream or signs of violence.

Instead the coroner ruled that her death was the result of an accident, connected to her bipolar disorder.

In the past Elisa had experienced visions as part of her mental health issues and had once been hospitalised.

Amy concludes: "What happened to Elisa was terrible, but it wasn't because of the hotel."

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel starts on Netflix on February 10.

This article originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission

Originally published as Chilling detail we missed in hotel death