The Suicides, Serial Killers and Secrets of Cecil Hotel


Although the gilded letters that spell Cecil Hotel hint at the Los Angeles landmark’s luxurious upper class beginnings, its fourteen floors and seven hundred rooms have been the residence of two serial killers, the setting of numerous macabre, bloody murders and other inexplicable events. In its eighty-nine years, the hotel’s murderous inhabitants, alleged paranormal sightings, nexus of suicides, and panoply of unexplained deaths gave co-producer of American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy, inspiration for the latest season of the sinister show and the hotel its menacing reputation.

The Suicides
Four years after the hotel’s opening, death made its premier appearance within hotel walls. In 1931, forty-six year old W. K. Norton checked into a room and wasted no time in swallowing a fatal amount of pills. He was the first of many to commit suicide inside Hotel Cecil and to contribute to its nickname, “The Suicide”.
The most famous was the tragic and implausible tale of Pauline Otton. Following an argument with her estranged husband, she threw herself from a 9th story window. In an unfortunate coincidence, sixty-five year old George Gianinni had just happened to be passing by and was directly in Otton’s path. His body might have hindered the severity of her crash, however both were killed instantly. Pauline was the first of three hotel guests who chose to end their stay and their life by way of their room’s window.

The Criminal Occupants
During serial killer Richard Ramirez’ fatal reign over Los Angeles, the top floor of the Cecil Hotel was his home. The Night Stalker, as he was known prior to his 1995 arrest, killed thirteen women between 1984 and 1985, using the hotel’s back-alley dumpster to jettison blood-soaked clothes.
In 1991, a Ramirez copycat killer, Johann Unterweger, checked in and killed three women during his stay.
Another name in the guestbook was Jeffery Thomas Paley. The former mental patient had purchased a rifle at a nearby shop and with it, climbed to Cecil’s roof and fired fifteen rounds at the street below. No one was injured in the 1976 incident and his motives are still unclear.

The Unexplained
Goldie Osgood was a retired telephone operator who frequented Pershing Square to feed the birds, earning her the nickname “Pigeon Goldie” and a reputation of benevolence. She was a kindly, well-liked woman, but someone must have missed the appeal, as was found robbed, raped, strangled, and stabbed in her room on June 4, 1964. The identity of her murderer and any possible motive behind the crime remains a mystery.
In 2013, Canadian woman, Elisa Lam, became the most recent guest to exit the hotel in a body bag. Disappearing shortly after checking in, the 21 year old’s body was not found until nearly a month later after complaints of black, noxious water prompted hotel staff to investigate the roof-top water tank Her body was discovered floating inside by Santiago Lopez, a hotel maintenance employee.
Several eerie details of the case remain without explanation and make it even more unsettling. Her blog continued to update for months after her death and her phone was never found. Better known is the surveillance tape of Lam in the hotel elevator shortly before her disappearance. Among other strange and erratic behaviors, she appears to be acting as if she if hiding from someone off camera. She almost seems to be inebriated, however the autopsy showed no traces of drugs or alcohol.

The LAPD ruled her death accidental, but between the arguments that the lid of the water tank would have been too heavy for her to lift and the hotel’s history of grotesquerie, many find this highly implausible. Theories range from murder to the paranormal and still three years later, the enigma of Elisa Lam is still being discussed.

In a recent attempt to dispel the hotel’s bloody, unflattering reputation, its name was changed to the Stay on Main, but a change in title cannot remove the indelible (blood) stains that smear the hotel’s past. Think you could brave to spend a night? Head to Los Angeles’ favourite tourist, paranormal enthusiast, and serial killer hot spot to decide for yourself if the edifice is more historic hotel or slaughterhouse.