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83 - The Cecil Hotel, LA California. (What happened to Elisa Lam?)

Ep. 83

Cecil hotel/ Stay On Main Hotel

Welcome my friends to the first episode of 2021! We hope you all enjoyed our last episode of 2020, we did! We hope you all made it to the new year safe and sound. We're alive and well and we're going to take a much needed vacation. Where are we headed you may ask? Well we are going to head to sunny Los Angeles! Hopefully you passengers hang on and come with! Los Angeles, the city of angels, and tons of weird people and rich movie types that are better than we… Fuck em. We're not headed there for a tour of stars' homes, we're not headed there to further Jeff's acting career with casting couch auctions in some seedy office with a casting couch, no my friends were heading specifically to 640 south main street l.a. california! What sits at that address you may be wondering. Well it's none other than The Cecil hotel, aka The hotel Cecil, aka The Cecil, aka The stay On Main Hotel, aka whatever the fuck the next name is gonna be. That's right, the famous, or maybe infamous Cecil hotel. If this sounds familiar but you can't quite place it, well get to what's most recently made this place famous in a bit. But first buckle up cus here we go!

The Cecil was built in 1924 by hotelier William Banks Hanner with partners Charles L. Dix and Robert H. Schops. It was supposed to be a destination hotel for international businessmen and social elites. Designed by Loy Lester Smith in the Beaux Arts style, and constructed by W. W. Paden[7] the hotel cost $1.5 million to complete and boasted an opulent marble lobby with stained-glass windows, potted palms, and alabaster statuary. The three hoteliers invested about $2.5 million knowing several other similar hotels had been constructed and opened in the area. They had the utmost confidence in their venture. Unfortunately for them, only a few years after opening the hotel disaster would strike. Not only would it strike the three hoteliers, but the nation as a whole. The country was plunged into the great depression. The Great Depression started in the United States after a major fall in stock prices that began around September 4, 1929, and became worldwide news with the stock market crash of October 29, 1929, (known as Black Tuesday). Between 1929 and 1932, worldwide gross domestic product (GDP) fell by an estimated 15%. By comparison, worldwide GDP fell by less than 1% from 2008 to 2009 during the Great Recession.[4] Some economies started to recover by the mid-1930s. However, in many countries, the negative effects of the Great Depression lasted until the beginning of World War II.

The Great Depression had devastating effects in both rich and poor countries. Personal income, tax revenue, profits and prices dropped, while international trade fell by more than 50%. Unemployment in the U.S. rose to 23% and in some countries rose as high as 33%

While this was happening the Hotel hung on as best it could to it's roots of being a destination for wealthy socialites, unfortunately those were heard to come by at that point. As the depression wore on, the area around the hotel became the infamous Skid Row. Now we're not talking the Sebastian bach fronted band that had so many great jams back in the day. To give you an idea of the area that the hotel was in and had to deal with while trying to keep clientele, here's a brief history:

At the end of the 19th century, a number of residential hotels opened in the area as it became home to a transient population of seasonal laborers.[13] By the 1930s, Skid Row was home to as many as 10,000 homeless people, alcoholics, and others on the margins of society.[12] It supported saloons, residential hotels, and social services, which drew people from the populations they served to congregate in the area.[14]

In June 1947, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) chief Clemence B. Horrall ordered what he called a "blockade raid" of the whole Skid Row area. Over 350 people were arrested. Assistant Chief Joseph Reed, who claimed that "at least 50 percent of all the crime in Los Angeles originates in the Skid Row area," stated that there had been no "strong arm robberies" on Skid Row as late as one week after the raid. Long time residents, however, were skeptical that the changes would last.[15]

In 1956, the city of Los Angeles was in the midst of a program to "rehabilitate" Skid Row[16] through the clearance of decaying buildings.[17] The program was presented to property owners in the area as an economy measure. Gilbert Morris, then superintendent of building, said that at that point the provision of free social services to the approximately one square mile of Skid Row cost the city over $5 million per year as opposed to the city average of $110,000 per square mile annually.[16] The city used administrative hearings to compel the destruction of nuisance properties at the expense of the owner. By July 1960, the clearance program was said to be 87% complete in the Skid Row area.[17] With increased building codes during the '60s, owners of residential hotels found demolition to be more cost-effective than adhering to repairs. The total number of these buildings is estimated to have dropped from 15,000 to 7,500 over the following decade.[18] Many residents of the area found themselves homeless with the loss of half of the affordable housing provided by hotels.[18]

1970s through present Edit

Skid Row was established by city officials in 1976 as an unofficial "containment zone", where shelters and services for homeless people would be tolerated.[19]

During the 1970s, two Catholic Workers — Catherine Morris, a former nun, and her husband, Jeff Dietrich — founded the "Hippie Kitchen" in the back of a van. Over forty years later, in March 2019, aged 84 and 72, they remained active in their work feeding Skid Row residents.[20]

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, many veterans of the Vietnam War found themselves drawn to Skid Row, due to the services and missions already in place there, and feeling outcast from other areas. Like those after World War II, many of them ended up on the streets. It was around this time that the demographics of Skid Row shifted from predominantly white and elderly to those here today

Now that only takes us through the 70s but we can tell you, it didn't get any better after that. The reason we went through a small history of Skid Row is to show how the area had changed and the type of people that inhabited the area. The reason to show this will become evident…. Right… about… Now!

By the 50s the hotel had become a place known to house transients and drug dealers and many unsavory types. This would lead to a history of murder, suicide and other tragedy. That would ultimately lead to takes of the hotel being haunted. The hotel would more recently become the location of a story that would capture the attention of the world due to its strangeness. So without further ado let's get into the craziness!

Murders and murderers at the Cecil:

One of several noteworthy guests of the hotel was Elizabeth Short, who you may know as the “Black Dahlia” after her 1947 murder in Los Angeles.

She reportedly stayed at the hotel just before her mutilation, which remains unsolved. What connection her death may have had to the Cecil is not known, but what is known is that she was found on a street not far away on the morning of January 15 with her mouth carved ear to ear and her body cut in two. Some people say that this sorry of Short staying or being seen at the hotel are untrue but we like to think there's a connection, however we cannot confirm nor deny the validity of this claim and there is much conflicting reporting on this. There are some reports of sorry saying at a nearby hotel and just doing into the Cecil bar from time to time.

Next up a confirmed and also unsolved murder at the Cecil. Georgina "pigeon" Goldie Osgood. On June 4th a 79 year old retired telemarketer named Goldie Osgood was found in her hotel room dead. The autopsy showed that she was beaten, stabbed and choked with a rag. Her hotel room was ransacked. Friends say they talked her merely minutes before her death.

She was known for feeding pigeons at a nearby park and that’s how she earned her nickname “Pigeon Goldie”. She was staying at the Cecil hotel, where she was very liked and was a long time residence.

Not much information can be found about her death. Only that a man named Jacques B. Ehlinger was arrested a few hours after her body was found. He had been seen walking in the same area Ms. Osgood would feed pigeons. He was covered in blood, but was later released due to lack of evidence.

Several serial killers have called the Cecil home as well. Chief among them… good ol Richard Ramirez, the fucking Night Stalker. Now if you're listening to this podcast and you don't know who Ramirez is, we question why you're here! But as a refresher:

Ramirez was a Satanist and a particularly awful human, even for a serial killer: He seemed to have no M.O. except to be as sadistic as possible.

His victims — men, women, children — were chosen randomly and killed in a variety of ways, with whatever weapon was handy, often after a sexual assault. Most reports suggest that he influenced as a teenager by his cousin Mike, a Green Beret who bragged of committing horrific acts in Vietnam, and who later shot his wife to death in front of Ramirez.

The Night Stalker was ultimately caught after a rape victim who’d been left alive got a look at his getaway car, a stolen Toyota that was found abandoned and connected to Ramirez by a single fingerprint. Once they had a suspect, police broadcast his name and face widely and Ramirez was recognized and beaten by a mob in East Los Angeles.

He was convicted in 1989 of 13 counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries, and sentenced to death. To which he said: “No big deal. Death always comes with the territory. I’ll see you in Disneyland.”

Ramirez spent the next 23 years on Death Row at San Quentin, but died of Lymphoma in 2013. He was 53.

“The Cecil and the Alexandria and the Twin Rosslyn hotels just become these giant coral reefs of the worst people in the world,” says Richard Schave, who runs Esotouric bus tours with his partner Kim Cooper, and makes the Cecil a featured stop on the “Hotel Horrors and Main Street Vice” package. “By 1990, the LAPD won’t go into [t hese places]. It was like, ‘If we’re called we’ll go in. But we’re not patrolling.’”

That’s how a guy like the Night Stalker could operate there. Ramirez would return to the Cecil after a killing and ditch his blood-soaked clothes in the dumpsters out back, then walk into the hotel either naked or maybe in his underwear, none of which would have raised an eyebrow since the Cecil in the 1980s, as Schave put t, “was total, unmitigated chaos.”

After all, that dumpster probably contained far worse things, and it wouldn’t have been weird to see a half-naked man wandering around a hotel renowned for vice and where the police rarely ventured. Drug dealers worked openly inside. The bodies of overdosed residents could linger in the hall for days. “No one wanted to be the person who called the cops,” Schave says.

Another serial killer was known to live at the Cecil. In 1991, six years after Ramirez was caught and sentenced to death, a 41-year-old Austrian journalist named Jack Unterweger checked into the Cecil while he worked on a story about crime in L.A. for an Austrian magazine. Unterweger used his reporting work to secure ride-alongs with LAPD vice cops and those trips were revealed as scouting missions when it was later discovered that Unterweger was also a serial killer with a penchant for strangling prostitutes. It is suspected (but was never proven) that he chose the Cecil because of its connection to Ramirez.

When Austrian police connected the strangulation deaths of three L.A. sex workers with a series of six unsolved murders back home — all of them prostitutes who’d been sexually assaulted and strangled with their own bras, using a distinct ligature — Unterweger fled and was arrested in Miami in February of 1992. Unterweger, it turns out, had started abusing prostitutes in his youth, and at age 24 he was convicted of strangling an 18-year-old German woman with her own bra, and sentenced to life in prison.

Behind bars, Unterweger had been a model inmate, publishing poems, plays, and an autobiography that became a movie and his popularity made him a cause célèbre in the European arts community, which began to lobby passionately for his release. In 1990, after serving 15 years, Unterweger was granted parole, and almost overnight became a popular TV host and journalist. Within a year, he was in California, killing women again.

In June 1994, an Austrian court convicted Unterweger of 11 murders and sentenced him to life with no chance of parole. That night, he killed himself in his cell — with a poetic twist. “He tied the ligature,” Schave said. “The signature ligature by which he killed all the prostitutes in Los Angeles and Vienna. That was his confession.”

So those are murders and murderers connected and possibly connected to the Cecil. But the tragedy doesn't end there. There are many other crazy deaths from the Cecil. Mostly all suicides. During the Great Depression. Tens of thousands of Americans took their own lives during the late 1930s, creating the highest-recorded level ever—more than 150 per one million annually in 1937 and 1938, and In the 30s the Cecil had its share of suicides.

In 1931, a guest, W.K. Norton, 46, was found dead in his room after eating poison capsules. A week prior, he had checked into the Cecil under the name "James Willys" from Chicago. This seems to be the earliest case of suicide at the Cecil. The following year, 25-year-old Benjamin Dodich was found by a maid in a room, dead by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. In 1934, former Army Medical Corps sergeant Louis D. Borden was found with his throat slashed—he had written several notes about suicide while in the room including one that cited poor health as a reason for the suicide.

In 1937, the body of Grace E. Magro was discovered wrapped in the telephone wires around the hotel. She later died at the now-demolished Georgia Street Receiving Hospital. Police were unable to determine whether Magro's death was the result of an accident or suicide. A year later, the body of 35-year-old US Marine Roy Thompson was found on the skylight of a nearby building after he also jumped from his room. He had been staying at the hotel for several weeks. In 1939, Navy officer Erwin C. Neblett was found dead after ingesting poison; he was 39 years old.

Moving past the thirties we find more craziness and fuckery.

In January 1940, teacher Dorothy Sceiger, 45, ingested poison while staying at the Cecil and was reported by the Los Angeles Times to be "near death." No further reports were published about her condition.

In 1944, one of the youngest victims at Cecil Hotel had their life taken from them. Dorothy Jean Purcell, 19 years old, was staying as a guest at the hotel when she threw her newborn son from a window. Purcell did not know she was pregnant and woke in the middle of the night with stomach pains when she was sleeping next to her partner, 38-year-old shoe salesman Ben Levine. Not wanting to wake Levine, she went to the bathroom and delivered the baby herself.

Purcell believed the boy was dead, and that’s when she got rid of the body from a great height. The lifeless baby was found on a roof adjacent to the building. Purcell was arrested, but after psychologists determined she was “mentally confused,” she was eventually found not guilty by reason of insanity.

In November 1947, Robert Smith, 35, died after jumping from one of Cecil's seventh-floor windows.

On October 22, 1954, San Francisco stationery firm employee Helen Gurnee, 55, jumped from the window of her seventh-floor room and landed on top of Cecil's marquee. One week prior, she had registered at the hotel under the name "Margaret Brown."

On February 11, 1962, Julia Frances Moore, 50, jumped from the window of her eighth-floor room. We found the newspaper clipping announcing her death, it reads as follows:

"A woman leaped to her death from an eighth-floor window of the Cecil Hotel, 640 S Main St., early Sunday morning, her body landing on a second-floor roof in the light well of the building.

Police identified her from a hotel registration card and papers in her purse as Julia Frances Moore, about 50.

Det. Sgt. Paul LePage said the woman, who left no notes, had registered at the hotel on Wednesday. Her purse and a small over night bag were found in the room.

Although the purse contained only 59 cents, a bank book showed she had nearly c $1,800(around $15,000 today) in a Springfield (II.) bank.

Sgt. LePage said he also found a bus ticket stub in dicating she had come here from St. Louis. Other papers I containing two home ad dresses in St. Louis were also found.

The officer said he would contact St. Louis police in a an effort to locate the woman's relatives."

Also in 1962, October to be exact, another strange death occurred. On October 12, two bodies were found dead on the sidewalk in front of the hotel. One of the bodies was that of Pauline Otton. She was staying on the 9th floor of the hotel. She was 27 years old and had just had an argument with her estranged husband Dewey. The other body was not that of Dewey. It was the body of 65 year old George Gianinni. Initially police suspected the pair jumped together. After some investigation however there found that Ol George has his haha on his pockets and his shoes were still on. They said that if he had jumped his shoes would have fallen off during the fall or when he landed, also who jumps with their hands in their pockets? Well turns out that after her argument Pauline decided it wasn't worth living any more and jumped from the window of her room on the 9th floor. George however was just walking by the hotel about to have the worst, and last, day off his life. Pauline jumped and landed on George as he strolled by killing him.

Talk about your bad luck, no wonder some people think the place is cursed.

On December 20, 1975, a still-unidentified woman, approximately 23 years old, jumped from her twelfth-floor window onto the Cecil's second-floor roof. She had registered at the hotel on December 16 under the name "Alison Lowell" and was staying in room 327.

On September 1, 1992, a man was found deceased in the alley behind the Cecil. Authorities believe the decedent either fell from, jumped from, or was pushed from the hotel's fifteenth floor. At the time of his death, the decedent was five feet, nine inches tall and weighed around 185 pounds. He was wearing blue sweatpants and a black sweatshirt over a gray t-shirt. The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office placed the decedent's age at twenty to thirty-two years. The decedent's true identity has never been established.

On June 13, 2015, the body of a 28-year-old man was found outside the hotel. Some conjectured he may have committed suicide by jumping from the hotel, although a spokesperson for the county coroner informed the Los Angeles Times that the cause of death had not been determined.

Now in between those last two there was another incident. This incident is probably the most well known one. Thanks to the internet the incident spread fast and there is tons of discussion and speculation about what really happened. The official cause of death was listed as accidental drowning although most people don't by that. If you haven't figured it out already we are talking about the death of Elisa Lam. Wwe could probably do an entire episode on this story so we'll just give you the basics and maybe hit the story a little harder in a bonus for our patreon.

On Jan. 26, 2013, Elisa Lam arrived in LA. She had just come by Amtrak train from San Diego and was headed to Santa Cruz as part of her solo trip around the West Coast. The trip was supposed to be a getaway from her studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where she was originally from.

Her family had been wary of her traveling by herself but the young student was determined to go at it alone. As a compromise, Lam made sure to check in with her parents every day of the trip to let them know that she was safe.

That’s why it struck her parents as unusual when they didn’t hear from their daughter on Jan. 31, the day she was scheduled to check out of her LA hotel, the Cecil. The Lams eventually contacted the Los Angeles Police Department. The police searched the premises of the Cecil but couldn’t find her.

Police soon released surveillance footage taken from the cameras at the Cecil Hotel on their website. This is where things took a turn into the truly bizarre.

The hotel video showed Elisa Lam in one of its elevators on the date of her disappearance acting rather strangely. In the pixelated footage, Lam can be seen stepping into the elevator and pushing all the floor buttons. She steps in and out of the elevator, poking her head out sideways toward the hotel’s hallways in between. She peers out of the elevator another few times before stepping out of the elevator entirely. The last minutes of the video show Lam standing by the left side of the door, moving her hands in random gestures. Nobody else was captured on the video, except Lam.

On Feb. 19, two weeks after the video was published by authorities, maintenance worker Santiago Lopez found Elisa Lam’s dead body floating in one of the hotel water tanks. Lopez made the discovery after responding to complaints from hotel patrons about low water pressure and a weird taste coming from the tap water.

According to a statement by the chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department, the tank in which Lam’s body was found had to be drained completely and then cut open from the side to remove her five-foot-four frame.

Nobody knows how Lam’s corpse — floating lifelessly next to the same clothes she wore in the surveillance video — ended up in the hotel’s water tank or who else might have been involved. Hotel staff told authorities that Lam was always seen by herself around the hotel premises.

At a nearby shop, eerily named The Last Bookstore, owner Katie Orphan was among the last to see Elisa Lam alive. Orphan remembered the college student buying books and music for her family back in Vancouver.

When the autopsy results for Lam’s case came out, it only served to ignite more questions. The toxicology report confirmed that Lam had consumed a number of medical drugs, likely to be medication for her bipolar disorder. But there were no indications of alcohol or illegal substances in her body. Soon after the toxicology report came out, amateur sleuths began poring over any information they could find in hopes of solving the mystery behind the death of Elisa Lam. One person noted that she seemed to not be taking her medicine previous to her death. It is an important finding to note given that the use of antidepressants to treat bipolar disorder can risk inducing manic side effects if done without caution. Some sleuths have understandably latched onto this detail and suggested it was a likely explanation behind Lam’s strange behavior in the elevator.

Hotel manager Amy Price’s statements in court strongly support this theory. During Lam’s stay at the Cecil Hotel, Price said that Lam was originally booked in a hostel-style shared room with others. However, complaints of “odd behavior” from Lam’s roommates forced Lam to be moved to a private room by herself.

David and Yinna Lam filed a wrongful death suit against the Cecil Hotel several months after their daughter’s death was uncovered. The Lams’ attorney stated that the hotel had a duty to “inspect and seek out hazards in the hotel that presented an unreasonable risk of danger to [Lam] and other hotel guests.”

The hotel fought back against the suit, filing a motion to dismiss it. The hotel’s lawyer argued that the hotel had no reason to think that someone would be able to get into one of their water tanks.

Based on court statements from the hotel’s maintenance staff, the hotel’s argument is not entirely far-fetched. Santiago Lopez, who was the first to find Lam’s body, described in detail how much effort he had to exert just to find her body.

Lopez said that he took the elevator to the 15th floor of the hotel before walking up the staircase to the roof. Then, he had to first turn off the rooftop alarm and climb up on the platform where the hotel’s four water tanks were located. Finally, he had to climb another ladder to get to the top of the main tank. Only after all that did he notice something unusual.

“I noticed the hatch to the main water tank was open and looked inside and saw an Asian woman lying face-up in the water approximately twelve inches from the top of the tank,” Lopez said, as reported by LAist. Lopez’s testimony suggested that it would have been difficult for Lam to make it to the top of the water tank on her own. At least, not without anyone noticing.

The hotel’s Chief Engineer Pedro Tovar also made it clear that it would be difficult for anyone to access the rooftop, where the hotel water tanks were located, without triggering the alarms. Only hotel employees would be able to deactivate the alarm properly. If it was triggered, the sound of the alarm would reach the front desk as well as the entire top two floors of the hotel.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Howard Halm ruled that the death of Elisa Lam was “unforseeable” because it had happened in an area that guests were not allowed to access, so the lawsuit was dismissed.

All of the talk of the difficulty on even getting to the water tanks, especially the fact that no alarms were triggered only fueled more conspiracies and speculation. We may never know what really happened and it's another feather in the crazy creepy cap of the Cecil!

There are stories of cold spots and shadowy figures. A news story went around a couple years ago of a ghost photograph, showing a shadowy figure outside of a window of the Cecil Hotel, looking like it was about to jump.

There are stories of people saying that they see a woman who looks like Elizabeth Short and feeling like they’re being watched in the hotel. It’s a creepy place even though there are renovations and rebranding (the Cecil Hotel was renamed the Stay on Main), but, well, it’s hard to shake the sort of stories of the Cecil. Also early in 2021 the discovery channel is kicking off it's streaming service with a new episode of everyone's favorite… Ghost Adventures… Those idiots are at it again.

The hotel and the Elisa Lam footage was the inspiration for the Hotel season of American horror story. It was also the inspiration behind the movie Barton Fink starring John Goodman and Johnathan Turturro.

The hotel can also be seen in two popular music videos. The streets have no name by U2, where the brand performs on the roof of a building next to the Cecil. And in Blink 182 video for The Rock Show. The band is shown throwing money off of a single story building next to the Cecil, which may or may not be the same building u2 played on… Probably was though.

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