Wonderful Wednesday: Homicide Hotel

Best place in L.A. to rent a room and get murdered: Cecil Hotel


On February 19, 2013 the body of missing Canadian tourist Elisa Lam was found in a water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel in downtown L.A. Maintenance workers discovered the body after being called to investigate complaints of low water pressure. The death was eventually ruled accidental with bipolar disorder playing a significant role. It was the latest blemish on the storied reputation of this infamous L.A. landmark.

Built in 1927 as a hotel for visiting businessmen, the Cecil fell on hard times during the Great Depression and was later passed over by its intended guests for nicer lodgings. It was eventually converted into Single Room Occupancy housing and became a dwelling of the transient and nearly homeless.

Night Stalker Richard Ramirez called the Cecil home for a few months in the 1985, where he rented a room on the 14th floor. for $14 a night, and dumped his bloody clothes in the hotel’s dumpster after nights of hard work. In 1991, perhaps as an homage to Ramirez, convicted Austrian murderer Jack Unterweger stayed in the Cecil while under contract to write about crime in Los Angeles. He committed the journalistic mistake of becoming the story when he used the hotel as a base of operations for murdering several prostitutes. In 1964, Goldie Osgood, the Pigeon Lady of Pershing Square, was found raped and strangled to death in her room.

Some residents don’t wait to be murdered at the Cecil and take matters into their own hands. Among the people who committed suicide by jumping to their deaths from the windows of the Cecil is Pauline Otten, who jumped to her death in 1962. She also killed the unlucky pedestrian on whom she landed.

Most of the hotel remains SRO, but in 2007 three floors were converted back to hotel use by new owners in an attempt to take advantage of the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles. The notorious dead girl in the water tank was the last thing the owners needed.

Update: Here is elevator surveillance footage of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel right before she went missing. Warning: this is really creepy stuff.



  1. thatmrgguy

    Kind of reminds me of a place I used to call home back in the day…the Claremont Hotel in Decatur, a suburb of Atlanta, Ga. Back in it’s heyday, it used to be quite the hotel. But when I lived there briefly in the early eighties, it was a haven for druggies and drunks, or as they were sometimes called, transients. We even had a former Miss Georgia living there…never was sure if she was drunk or just off mentally.

    You could go into your room at night, hit the light switch and watch the ceiling turn from black/brown to white as the roaches scurried for cover.

    • Chandler's Ghost

      We have a few of these downtown. The Alexandria is another one. Developers want to make them into high class joints but they can’t kick the old residents out due to tenancy laws.

      The Cecil seems like the kind of place you’d move into if you wanted to drop out of society for a while and write a book. Or have an overdose.