A history of all the death and violence that has happened at the Cecil Hotel
It’s no wonder people call it ‘Hotel Death’
Since the Cecil Hotel opened its doors in 1924 it’s been filled with crime, murder and death. It was dubbed “Hotel Death” and people over the years have thought there were dark forces and spirits there which were behind everything that was happening.
The hotel is located in Skid Row, a neighbourhood in downtown Los Angeles. The complex, at 640 S. Main Street, was built by three hoteliers, William Banks Hanner, Charles L. Dix and Robert H. Schops, as a destination for business travellers and tourists. But since then, hundreds have died and murderers have checked in to stay.
New Netflix series, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel, focuses specifically on the 2013 death of Canadian student Elisa Lam there, but also touches upon some of the other cases. Hotel manager Amy Price, as interviewed in the Netflix series, says there were around 80 deaths there just during the 10-years she served. Over the years before and during her employment, people jumped from hotel windows and the hotel was home to serial killer Richard Ramirez.
But that’s just the start, here is the chilling and creepy history of all the murder, deaths and crime that has happened at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles.
1927 – Percy Ormond Cook
The first registered death at the hotel was 52-year-old Percy Ormond Cook in 1927. In January of that year he took his own life after falling out with his wife and child.
1931 – W.K Norton
Four years later there was another death. A man called James Willys checked in, and a week later was found dead in his room and identified as actually being 46-year-old W.K Norton.
1932 – Benjamin Dodich
In September of 1932 a member of the cleaning staff found 25-year-old Benjamin Dodich after he had taken his own life in his room.
1934 – Sgt. Louis D. Borden
In July of 1934 Army Medical Corps Sgt. Louis D. Borden ended his life at the Cecil. It is thought he was struggling with bad health and wanted to die. He was aged 53.
1937 – Grace E. Magro
In 1937, Grace E. Magro fell from the hotel’s ninth story window. Though she initially survived, after her fall was broken by telephone wires, she died in hospital.
1938 – Roy Thompson
In 1938 Roy Thompson, who had been a Cecil resident for a number of weeks, jumped from the top floor and was found on a neighbouring building.
1939 – Erwin C. Neblett
In May 1939, 39-year-old Navy officer Erwin C. Neblett died in his room.
1940 -Dorothy Seger
In January of 1940, teacher Dorothy Seger was staying at the Cecil Hotel when she died in her room.
In 1944 a woman gave birth in the Cecil Hotel and killed the newborn
In 1994, 19-year-old Dorothy Jean Purcell and her boyfriend, 38-year-old Ben Levine, were staying at the hotel. It has been reported that Ben had no idea his girlfriend was pregnant. She went into labour and didn’t want to wake her boyfriend who was sleeping, so went to the communal bathroom to give birth. She believed the child was stillborn and threw it out the window. It was later determined she was “mentally confused” and she was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.
1947 – Robert Smith
In November 1947 Robert Smith died after jumping from a seventh floor window, aged 35.
1954 – Helen Gurnee
In October 1954, Margaret Brown checked into the hotel. A week later she died after jumping from the seventh floor. She was later identified as actually being 55-year-old Helen Gurnee.
1962 – Julia Frances Moore
On February 11th 1962, Julia Frances Moore, aged 50, jumped from the window of her eighth-floor room.
1962 – Pauline Otton
In 1962, a young woman called Pauline Otton had been fighting with her husband, Dewey, on the ninth floor. She jumped out the window to “teach the guy a lesson”. She landed on a pedestrian, George Gianinni, and they were both instantly killed.
1964 – Goldie Osgood
In 1964, Goldie Osgood lived in the Cecil Hotel. Her nickname was “Pigeon Goldie” as she would regularly come out and feed the local pigeons. She was very well known in the area, and one day someone came into her room and attacked her in broad daylight. She was sexually assaulted and killed.
In 1975 a still unidentified woman died at the Cecil Hotel
On December 20th of 1975, a woman who was thought to be aged 23 jumped from the 12th floor. She had registered at the hotel on December 16th under the name “Alison Lowell” but her real identity still isn’t known.
Serial killer Richard Ramirez lived at the Cecil Hotel whilst he committed his crimes in 1985
One of the worst serial killers in US history, Richard Ramirez aka The Night Stalker, stayed at the Cecil during his spree. It’s described in the Netflix documentary that he would return from killing people in the middle of the night to the back alley of the hotel. He’d be “covered in blood”, remove his clothing and walk “in his bloodstained underwear” up to his room repeatedly and “no one’s got a problem with that”.
Richard Ramirez was 24 when he terrorised the streets of Los Angeles and San Francisco for just over a year before he was hunted down. He was finally convicted in 1989, charged with 13 murders, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries.
In 1991 killer Jack Unterwerger was a resident at the Cecil Hotel
In 1991, a journalist from Austria called Jack Unterweger checked in at the Cecil. He was writing a story about red light districts in Los Angeles. Skid Row, where the hotel is located, is known for being a hot spot for sex workers. Unterweger was investigating this in the area, and even went on drive-alongs with police. He would regularly engage with police and sex workers, and even had sex workers come and visit him in his room at the Cecil. He was becoming a well known face in the area, some would say a celebrity.
Unknown to everyone, Unterweger is a convicted killer and rapist in Austria. In 1974, in Austria, he was sentenced over the sexual assault and murder of a young woman. He was released in the 1990s and almost instantly in the area he was living women began going missing and being found dead. He was the main suspect in these crimes, so he fled to America. The murders stopped in Austria, and picked up in Los Angeles.
In 1992, police caught Unterweger in Miami after tracing his credit card. He was eventually extradited to Austria and, despite maintaining his innocence, he was found guilty of nine murders. Just hours after his sentence, he took his own life in his cell, aged 43.
In 1992 the body of an unidentified man was found at the Cecil Hotel
On September 1st of 1992, the body of an African American man was found in the alley behind the Cecil. Police said he had either fallen, jumped, or been pushed from the hotel’s 15th floor. He has never been identified, but is thought to have been in his 20s.
From 2007 to 2017, the hotel manager says there were at least 80 deaths at the Cecil
Amy Price was the manager of the Cecil Hotel for ten years, between 2007 and 2017. She’s interviewed in the Netflix series, and says her job was to “fix up” the troubled hotel. “I believe in the 10 years I was working there, there were about 80 deaths”, she adds.
During her time there was the death of Elisa Lam. The 21-year-old Canadian student had been a guest at the hotel and went missing on February 1st 2013 – the day she was meant to have checked out. Bizarre CCTV footage was found of her acting strangely in the lift, and nobody could find any trace of her. It wasn’t until over two weeks later that her body was found in a water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel. Her death was ruled as accidental drowning, but to this day there are a number of suspicious theories about what might have actually happened to her.
Another news story during Amy’s time as manager involved a body which was found outside the hotel in 2015. On June 13th the body of a 28-year-old man was found, and people thought he may have jumped from the hotel. However, his cause of death remains undetermined.
Since then, there have been no recorded deaths at the Cecil. But that’s only because it’s closed for renovation work.
Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.
Related stories recommended by this writer:
• Guests describe what it was like staying at the Cecil Hotel when Elisa Lam went missing
• Watch the full CCTV video of Elisa Lam in the Cecil Hotel elevator, in real time
• Elisa Lam Tumblr: Her blog is still online today and this is what it looks like
• Where is Amy Price now? The Cecil Hotel manager from the Netflix documentary