Everyone loves a good crime documentary, and Crime Scene: The Vanishing at Cecil Hotel is definitely one to watch. The new Netflix documentary came out on the 10th of February and has since been the topic of every meme online. If you haven’t watched it yet, you might be wondering what The Cecil Hotel is, and why the documentary is doing so well… Alternatively, if you have seen it, you might be wondering if anything else has happened there. Well we’re here to tell you about all the horrors of The Cecil Hotel that Netflix didn’t show.
What is The Cecil Hotel?
The Cecil Hotel is a multistory hotel in Los Angeles. Construction began on it in 1924, when hoteliers William Banks Hanner, Charles L Dix and Robert H Schops came together. The construction cost $1.5 million (which is the equivalent of over $15 million today), and despite the Great Depression hitting America hard, the hotel did well throughout its first years, until the end of the 1940s. At which point, it began to decline.
The area around the hotel became known as Skid Row, which it is often still called today, and was home to ten thousand homeless people. The Cecil Hotel continued to push through the decline, and in 2007 was purchased by new owners, and partly refurbished. In 2011, it was rebranded as Stay On Main, and in 2014 it was sold on once more. The current owners have a 99-year lease on the hotel, and are currently in the process of a complete refurbish (aside from elements of the building which are architecturally important, like the stylish reception). This is supposed to finish this year, with the hotel opening its doors once more.
What’s the documentary about?
Warning! This section will contain spoilers!
The 4 part Netflix documentary, directed by Joe Berlinger who created the Ted Bundy masterpiece starring Zac Efron, is a 4 part series following the vanishing of Canadian student Elisa Lam. Lam visited the hotel in 2013, and then subsequently went missing. CCTV footage from the hotel shows her acting peculiarly in the lift at the hotel, communicating and hiding from seemingly nobody, entering and leaving the lift, pressing all the buttons. This went viral shortly after the news of her vanishing arose, with people creating all sorts on theories as to her whereabouts.
The documentary explores these theories, and looks into the process LAPD went through to solve the crime. Eventually, after hotel guests reported odd tasting and coloured water, Elisa’s body was found in the water tanks on the roof of the hotel. Her death was ruled accidental, largely attributed to her bipolar disorder.
What else has happened at The Cecil Hotel?
Elisa’s death is definitely one of the most notorious deaths linked to The Cecil House, made creepier by the CCTV footage and all the thoeires people came up with at the time. But it is by no means the only death, or crime, linked to the hotel. In fact, in 2007, The Cecil got nicknamed The Suicide by 2 residents. This nickname stuck for many years! According to RoomSpook, a site which tallies deaths in hotels, The Cecil has had at least 12 suicides within its walls.
We’ve created a timeline of all the creepy crimes that have unfolded within the infamous Cecil Hotel. Be warned – this is not for the light hearted!
22nd January 1927
The same year that the hotel opened, a 52-year-old man called Percy Ormond Cook died within the hotel. He reportedly shot himself due to a dispute at home with his wife and children.
19th November 1931
A 46-year-old man, W K Norton, ingested poison capsules whilst in his room at The Cecil Hotel.
Benjamin Dodich, 25, shot himself in his hotel room. He left no note.
Sergeant Louis d Borden, 53, cut his throat in his room. He left a series of notes to explain his death. One of his reasons was poor health.
Grace E. Magro fell from a 9th story window. Her fall was broken by telephone wires, but she later died in hospital.
Roy Thompson, 39, jumped from the top floor of The Cecil Hotel, and was found on the skylight on a neighbouring building.
Erwin C Neblett, 39, was a Navy officer who was found in his room after ingesting poison.
Teacher Dorothy Seger, 45, ingested poison whilst in the hotel.
Dorothy Jean Purcell, 19, was trialled and later acquitted for murder. Whilst staying at The Cecil Hotel with her boyfriend Ben Levine, 38, she had gone into labour. Unaware that she was pregnant and not wanting to wake her partner, she gave birth in the bathroom. Believing the child was dead, she threw the newborn out of the window. Purcell was charged with murder, but after 3 psych evaluations labelled her ‘mentally confused’ she was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Robert Smith, 35, jumped from a window on the seventh story of the hotel.
22nd October 1954
Helen Gurnee, registered at the hotel under ‘Margaret Brown’, jumped from the window of her room after staying at the hotel for a week.
11th February 1962
Julia Frances Moore, 50, jumped from the window of her room. She left no note, and police found a bus ticket from St. Louis, change, and a bank book showing a balance of $1,800 in her possessions.
12th October 1962
After an argument with her estranged husband, Pauline Otten, 27, jumped from the window of her hotel room. She landed on a pedestrian – George Gianinni, 65. Police originally thought the pair had jumped together, but after finding George’s shoes were still on and his hands were in his pockets, the truth was figured out.
4th June 1964
“Pidgeon Goldie” Osgood was found dead in her hotel room by a member of staff. She had been assaulted, stabbed, beaten, and her room had been ransacked. A 29-year-old Jacques B. Ehlinger was arrested for the murder, but was later cleared. Osgood’s death has never been solved.
20th December 1975
A woman staying in the hotel under the alias “Alison Lowell” jumped from her window.
During the 1980s, infamous serial killer Richard Ramirez – or The Nightstalker – stayed at the hotel for a few weeks. It is likely that some of his murders took place during his stay.
Serial killer Jack Untweger stayed in the hotel in 1991, and whilst there he killed 3 LA-based sex workers.
31st Jan 2013
Elisa Lam stayed at The Cecil Hotel in early 2013. To find out more about her bizarre vanishing, check out the new Netflix documentary!
Can you stay at The Hotel Cecil?
For adrenaline addicts and ghost hunters, staying at The Cecil may be a dream! But unfortunately, whilst the refurb is going on, the hotel is closed to the public. However, the project is due to end in October 2021. At which point you can stay, but with new additions like a gym and brand new decor – it may be a bit pricey!