UPDATE Feb. 2021: The documentary, “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel,” premieres on Netflix on Feb. 10. I was interviewed for the project. Check out the trailer below.
Read my new blog post where I discuss the new documentary and my father’s own terrifying experience at the Cecil Hotel.
ORIGINAL BLOG POST Feb. 23, 2012:
Previously, I wrote about finding my dad’s naturalization record on Ancestry.com. I also found the original certificate after sorting through my father’s belongings. Out of curiosity, I Googled the address listed as my dad’s residential address on the form. Results for the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles popped up. As I delved deeper, I discovered what a bizarre history this place has, and it also made me remember dad’s haunted hotel story.
In more modern times, the Cecil became home to serial killers, such as the “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger. Now the hotel is trying to reinvent itself by promoting its central location and affordable rates. You really should check out the reviews and photos online. Talk about bait-and-switch. The lobby is absolutely grand, pristine with gorgeous architectural details. But once you leave the lobby, things get grim (and grimy) in a hurry.
If you enjoy reading hotel horror stories, just Google it. Some politely refer to it as a “transient hotel” and others call it an outright dump. This gentleman has an excellent description of his stay there, entitled “A Dump with a Future.”
The Cecil Hotel also served as inspiration for the “Hotel” installment of American Horror Story.
In a nutshell, the Cecil Hotel has never had a sterling reputation, even when it was known as the Hotel Cecil during my dad’s tenure there in the mid-1960’s. In 1962, a woman committed suicide by jumping from a room at the Cecil, also killing a pedestrian that she landed on below. Goldie Osgood, known as the “pigeon lady of Pershing Square” was choked to death in a room there in 1964. The case was never solved.
Which leads right into my dad’s haunted hotel experience. Every time he told the story, I could feel the fear come off of him in waves, even after so much time had passed. He claims he went to sleep that night in his room at the Cecil, only to awaken to the feeling that he was being smothered and choked. He was bathed in a cold sweat and couldn’t move or call for help. He felt a heavy presence weighing down on his chest, and what felt like hands around his throat, but he could not see anyone. He literally thought he was going to die in that room. Finally, he was able to move. He bolted out of the room and ran downstairs to the front desk. After he gasped for breath, he told the hotel clerk what had happened. The clerk said nonchalantly that someone had been murdered in that room. Dad was able to get his room changed, as he made it clear he would never sleep another moment in that room.
Did Dad have a supernatural experience in that room? Was it the room the pigeon lady was murdered in just the year before? I’ll never know, but it does make for one hell of a story.
If you have your own experience at the Cecil Hotel, I’d love to hear about it. Many have reached out and shared their accounts. Feel free to share your story in the comments section.
105 responses to “Dad’s stay at the haunted Cecil Hotel”
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I stayed at Cecil Hotel in April 2011 and decided today to do more searching on whether it was haunted. My journey started with a long flight from the UK but surprisingly I felt pretty refreshed although I had done that journey on a few occasions and usually felt wiped out. I arrived at the hotel and the lobby area seemed fine but once I reached my floor the atmosphere changed completely. I felt completely ill at ease once I entered my room. It wasn’t the shabbiness or the downtown area but just the feeling and coldness I felt. I left the room after about 45 minutes because I really did not want to be there. I was booked in for two nights. The first night I hardly slept despite my body clock being 8 hours different to LA. On the Saturday night I went to the room as late as possible. I was laying there, trying to sleep and wishing the morning would hurry up so I could get to Thousand Oaks to get picked up from my sister at 11.00. As I lay there I heard what I thought was rustling, like someone going through a plastic bag, I felt very cold and I then felt what appeared to be a weight on top of me and something around my throat. I honestly was very scared and stayed awake until 6 in the morning when I checked out. My sister was surprised when I called her from Denny’s saying I was there, three hours earlier. This room not only effected my mobile (it stopped working when I arrived at the hotel and started to work again once I got to my sisters but I have put this down to a bad signal) but it really did effect me and it took a few days to get over the experience. Yes it was a shabby hotel, loud, a bad area but I would have coped pretty well with these factors alone. Is it Haunted, I can only report what happened to me and I had no information on this hotel before I arrived other than a reservation based on a picture of the lobby posted on the internet.
Thanks for sharing your experience at the hotel, it sounds similar to my dad’s story.
I never went to this hotel but going to LA all the time I looked at it numerous times but ALWAYS got a feeling of not wanting to go there simply because it appears to me haunted. I just now found out after the girl was found in the water tank what the history holds after looking it up and THANK GOD I never went.
Wow, amazing story, thanks for sharing!
This is so odd…. The exact same experience happened to my auntie when she stayed at the Cecil Hotel a couple of years back.
She awoke to the sound of someone rustling her bags and then felt what she described as bodyweight just lie on top of her and crush her. She said help and it went away. Odd
Hi. My name is Ama MacDonald and I’m a documentary filmmaker living in Los Angeles. I’m currently producing a film about the Cecil hotel. I read your chilling story about your stay there an was hoping to follow up with you? Thank you very much!
It was actually my father who stayed there in the mid-1960s, but I’d be happy to provide you with an account of my father’s experience there.
I would love to help you on this project if you need it. This hotel fascinates me.
Ama, I’m writing a book about Elisa Lam – let’s talk.
Hi! Great to hear from you. You’re book sounds like it’ll be really interesting. I’m happy to help anyway I can. The one thing that I would mention is that securing first hand accounts about her life and death will be hard. Her family and friends were burned by the sensationalized way her story was betrayed and the residents who were there have since melted back into LA’s homeless population. Please feel free to call anytime. I’m excited to hear about the approach to the story that you plan to take. Ama: 323.376.4342
I came across this website after looking up info on the Cecil (after watching AHS). Any updates on your film? I would love to see it.
I will never go to that Hotel
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Oh my god I know this is so weird but I can’t help leaving a comment here, thanks for writing your dad’s story. Actually I was looking at information about this hotel because of the recently missing Canadian female Elisa… And her behavior in the elevator is so bizarre. Poor girl… I am praying for her… And I am happy that your dad left there!
Thanks. I had not heard about this missing woman case. The video in the elevator of the hotel is unsettling. I hope she is found safe!
i still think she has been threatened by a person not a ghost or something .Hope she’ll be safe ，but she has been disappeared for two weeks .南无阿弥陀佛…
Actually me too… I am trying to find a reasonable explanation for all of these, but I don’t think I’ll ever stay there alone if I ever travel there.
Sorry to say, they found the tourist deceased yesterday in the hotel water tank. Very sad, something odd does seem to have happened. I truly feel she may have tapped into the negative energy of that hotel with her awkward behavior. May she rest in peace. I personally have been in many of downtown LAs hotels and buildings and there is something eerie about hotels, most of them are haunted and you can feel it when you walk in.
I stayed in a hotel just like that in Casablanca in late 1990’s, it had been a hotel frequented by the old H’wood stars like Cary Grant in 1940’s and 1950’s. The piano Cary played was still there.
One of the ladies in the hotel with us [we were touring Spain, Portugal and Morrocco at the time] stated she experienced bad vibes in her room.
We learned later the hotel had been used by spies from the allied and axis powers throughout WW II and that the room this lady slept in may have been the site of a suspicious death from that era.
As HAMLET once said – There are more things in heaven and hell Horatio, etc etc…………….!!!!
Going back to debate on the Hotel Cecil, let us remember how many people have stayed at hotel without any problems occurring at all, more than those who have had problems I may add ………..
They found her dead in the water tank
Guests of the Cecil of LA are asked to seek medical attention right away!! I feel sad for the girl but just as sorry for the other guests.
alone or not, I will stay away from that hotel as far as I can
Was just checking out all these comments and that place sounds pretty creepy! Also I just saw on the news about Elisa Lam and apparently they found her body today inside a water tower on the roof of the Hotel Cecil…very unfortunate and sad news 😦
as of Feb 18th another murder at the CECIL. Vancouver woman found in the water tank on the roof killed.
They found the body of the woman on the roof water tank..horrible
I feel creepy after reading your article and other’s comments.The news said there’s a Chinese born in Canada girl named elisa was killed which makes this hotel more creepy.
May her rest in peace.I hope the police can check carefully and give us a scientific expaination.
The hotel deserves the background of a terrified movie!
It would be a good setting for a horror movie. The film “Dark Water” (a Japanese horror movie remade with Jennifer Connelly) is about an eerie apartment building and water tanks are involved.
That’s the first thing that came to mind when I read the story of Elisa. How terrifying…Chilling and tragic,
THIS SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME. http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2013/03/updated-elisa-lam-mystery-all-the-hidden-stuff-you-didnt-see-2582918.html
very creepy. I never heard of this hotel until the Elisa Lam case and now I’m chilled to the bone. Horror !
I was reading through some forums and got here, I saw some snapshots of the video posted by others, showing that towards the end of the video, the girl’s limbs were bent is an unnatural way, like…literally in one of the shots, she was standing on a foot that was bent 90 degrees which in theory should have been a broken foot…like what you see in zombie films…damn…
OMG really? I need to look again…thx for sharing.
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I was browsing through this hotel and cecil case and find your web. The news did not put a full footage of what heppened in the lift. If you interested, you can google from examiner.com with the hotel and her name and you can have a look. A bit crippy for me to view the 4 mins video alone, lift does not close at all during the whole event and only resume to normal once she have left. By the time I think she is already possessed…
Oh my gosh Oscar! I totally noticed that too! I was just telling my friend about it before I found this blog. I agree, I think she was possessed. I think I was once possessed at the LA Stock Exchange building while having drinks and if it is like my experience, I had no recollection of anything while I was possessed. They say alcohol makes it easy for spirits to take over your body and I know believe that. The LA Stock Exchange also has a long history and many suicides occurrred there during the Stock Crash in the 1920’s, but that is another story…
Alcohol can be a spirit ………
The door never closed because there’s a hold-door button, still creepy though
It is terrible, the missing canadian woman, was found on the top of hotel’s water tank
OMG!! I looked at the case about the canadian missing woman and found this article. That’s horrible:(
Holiman> yeah? Give me the link of the video of the girl’s snapshots.
SAD TO SAY SHE WAS FOUND DEAD INSIDE THE WATER TANK…CREEPY..=((
I thinks that some event can’t be explained by science. Just like the Lam’s event, I hope that some scientists can explain those creppy phenomenon that happen in the hotel or all those things are due to Ghost?
The online reso system says the Celcic is “sold out” until March 1st probably police investigation….then $65 a night availability…….not much for LA……who owns this hotel?? Corporate or family?….
Family but the city won’t let them take it from a partial SRO to a regular hotel. They still have a portion of the building that has long term residents and with that can bring the shady side of the area.
See this full video: http://www.examiner.com/video/elisa-lam-elevator-at-the-cecil-hotel … base on Chinese view point on this girl altitude, she has high chance or probability is cause by ghost. Unless there is a hidden murder in the building for quite long time ago. … In the video, obviously she feel some strong atmosphere surround the hotel, so she leave her hotel try to take lift away, she click all the button of all floors because she scare someone follow her, but weird that the lift never close the door. Once she step outside the lift she try to make some action just to protect herself maybe she try make the thing (Or ghost come out) because she donno what follow her (the atmosphere). Strange again after she left, the lift door close and go to each floor. Base on kimjoy24 and maca story, high chance Elisa is haunted by ghost. But again it also possible is killed by hidden murder who live inside the building many years.
They just found another dead body at the Hotel Cecil. They have the footage of a very frightened looking woman and then..she disappeared. it popped up on my facebook page. Didn’t Elizabeth Short (the black dahlia) stay there or was let off there to make a phone call the night she disappeared?
That was the Hotel Biltmore in downtown Hollywood.
Dis you noticed that a girl was killed and put in à watertank at the roof of the hotel thuis month? Her dead body was found after guests of the hotel claimed about the smell, color and taste of the water.
Jass Savage May share the link ? Thanks
Jass Savage I would like the link also. Thanks.
Such a coincident that they’re both ” Eliza “.
Namo Amitabha! Namo Amitabha! Namo Amitabha!
What your father likely experienced was a phenomenon called sleep paralysis. Normally during REM sleep our bodies become paralyzed so that we don’t act out our dreams. Sometimes we can come out of REM sleep before the paralyzation wears off and for several seconds (and rarely minutes or even hours) we may be fully conscious but unable to move. This is a terrifying experience but it happens more than you’d think but is well known and explains many ghost and alien abduction stories.
Yes, it definitely could have been that. He suffered from nightmares where he felt like he couldn’t move.
Just to weigh in on the sleep paralysis issue. I have experienced this several times and it is very scary. What I find more strange is that it has usually occurred when I was staying someplace that had either been rumored to be haunted, or where I was getting a feeling that something wasn’t right about where I was staying. For example – I inexplicably felt uncomfortable, the place had weird energy, or I felt like someone was watching me in the room. I tend to be very intuitive and get can even pick up on things before they happen. Just my two cents.
Just because there is a medical term for what he experienced, doesn’t mean when it happened to him AT THAT HOTEL, it was not ghost related.
I have never experienced it but know enough of people I can trust who have had experience with spirits at the wrong place and the wrong time to believe some of these aren’t “sleep paralysis”…
Honestly people don’t want to acknowledge this but too bad, there are things modern Science can’t explain. Back in 2006 I did have a close encounter when a group of people with some “special power” were trying to GENTLY communicate with a bad spirit that’s hiding inside a woman, trying to ask the bad spirit to leave her alone. The woman was suffering (possessed) because the spirit had been bugging her, she acted different etc and her family knew something was not right. I did see the woman’s face changed as the combined “special power” went from the group of people (in a circle) into her (via touch) and the bad spirit was fighting and “negotiating” with the “special power” before everyone saw some dark light came out of the woman’s body and went up in the air and disappeared… The room turned cold for a moment during the “negotiation” (one of the person in the group was talking, inviting it to leave and the woman’s facial expression and all the scary sound made when her mouth opened extra wide etc was how the spirit “answered”) and became normal later. Guess the bad spirit had left cause the woman felt much better after. Don’t think the bad spirit went into any or us in the room.
I don’t know what’s the rest of the story but it was creepy as hell to be there, period. I was not on drug or alcohol. I don’t think the part where changes in skin tone (from grey to blue to pink) and light that came out of her body can be lighting effect etc as it was just a simple room with chairs and simple ceiling light, nothing else. All I can think of now is, I hope she is fine and no longer suffer from this. And, WOW.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I know I will never know what really happened to my father that night, but I am open-minded and welcome scientific and paranormal perspectives.
Unfortunately, anecdotes are not sufficiently persuasive — and they’re certainly not a substitute for science. Yes, science can’t explain everything, but that’s no reason to jump to supernatural conclusions. That’s what’s known as an appeal to ignorance. Science is the best methodology humankind has devised to honestly arrive at the truth — and it works… it produces replicable results. Also, it’s self-correcting.
It’s very sad to hear that in your story, the woman did not have any people around her who truly cared enough about her well-being to get her the psychiatric care she probably required (provided she wasn’t play-acting to meet everyone’s expectations). Possession is an antiquated and unenlightened concept, with no basis in fact. It sounds like communal reinforcement and self-deception allowed everyone present that day to see exactly what they expected to see. Just like the tragic story of Anneliese Michel.
I’ll leave you with the wise words of the late, great Richard Feynman: “Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
I agree that we shouldn’t jump to the supernatural conclusions before all the results and tests are done. BUT, without experiencing any kinds of demonic attack, ghost infestation, negative energy, demonic activity, and possession, you should not jump to the conclusions that those are psychiatric problems. Sometimes the so called rational explanations from Scientists are so farfetched.
Bullshit! Maybe your dad just had a very bad dream…
As I said previously, my father had a history of very vivid, violent nightmares.
To ‘JustinOlson’ – the same can be said of science or more correctly – science-believing people/ (what I call as ) “prude” scientist – those who are the exact opposite of those people whom you called ignorant. ‘kimjoy24’ herself said that she’s opened to BOTH the scientific AND the paranormal explanations. So to those who are on the “berightallthetimeandONLYexplanationworthbelievingin” scientific group –
well, you are NOT all that,OK?!
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I did some research of my own. Check out the things I found out about it! Including, its name..Cecil..which means sixth (number of satan/man) http://vineoflife.net/2013/02/27/curious-to-creepy-cdc-to-dispatch-medical-team-to-los-angeles-to-investiage-tb-outbreak-as-fears-spread/
I’m actually trying to find out the name of the original owner in the 20’s and the names of the people who bought it in 2007. I also found this interesting piece http://www.sfgenealogy.com/sf/1924b/sfb24a19.htm
呃…很明显 林可儿的电梯没有合上是因为她自己按了电梯的按钮 怪异的举动 可能是吃了某种药物产生幻觉 相信谜底会解开的 期待洛杉矶警方会有所作为——来自中国的网友
[From blog adminstrator: A rough online English translation]
“…Lin Keer the elevator has not closed very much obviously is because she pressed the button strange action of elevator possibly to take some medicine to have the illusion to believe anticipation Los Angeles Police that the truth can untie will be potential achievement – netizen from China”
I was in L A the weekend of Feb 15th for a Zumba Instructor’s conference. I stayed at the Figueroa Hotel but my friend stayed at the Cecil. When she and I met up the next morning after her first night at the Cecil she told me she didn’t feel safe and didn’t sleep at all. We tried to find her another hotel but everything in the area was booked. I broke the news to her about the women found in the water tank when we returned home the week of Feb 18th. My friend became physically ill and came down with flu like symptoms within days. I feel for the young woman and all the guests of the Cecil who were affected by this traggedy.
Your dad has sleep paralysis at the hotel. Things like anxiety and stress can cause it.
Autopsy report –
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There are a couple of sites which document some of EL’s postings/writings-
I had stayed at the Cecil for 3 days/nights (2 of them in the Room Richard Ramirez used during his prolific killing spree). I stayed there to try and
capture paranormal events and communication with spirits/entities that might be there. I am now working on editing my first episode for my youtube channel where I will feature the strange experiences captured. Search out “My Haunted Diary” chanel on youtube.. hope to have part 1 up within a month. – James
thanks for sharing, look forward to seeing it
I’ll post a link when I get it posted on youtube. I really enjoyed your article here about your Dad’s paranormal experience at the Cecil way back when I was a little tot. The Pigeon Lady’s room was on the 7th floor. I forgot the room number but have it written somewhere. I know I went to the room door when I stayed there.
Here is the video I posted on youtube, part 1 or a series from My Haunted Diary at the Cecil Hotel. Check it out:
Thanks, look forward to watching this.
Really fascinating stuff James, sounds like you picked up quite a bit of activity there. Thanks for posting.
Thanks Joy for the feedback.
Yes.. strange stuff going on in that place. There will be several more
episodes in the upcoming months as well.
Here is Episode Part 2 I posted on youtube, My Haunted Diary at the Cecil Hotel. Check it out: https://youtu.be/wvqbnEO9N3k
Thanks for the heads up James.
WHAT WAS THE ROOM NUMBER?!?! I am staying in the cecil hotel and just learning about the history right now.
Unfortunately, I don’t know the room number.
Check out some of her Tumblr posts, documented here-
There’s a four part paranormal investigation this last year ,by James Garcia, at the Cecil Hotel, now called Stay on Main.
“My Haunted Diary” (You Tube)
A three day investigation under a very difficult situation. The management does not allow the use of any cameras or filming in the hotel.
The voice of Elisa Lam does come through and it seems she is giving information about her death. There was a lot of paranormal activity.
I don’t doubt any of the stories your father told you. The Cecil Hotel is definitely haunted!
Thanks, James actually reached out previously to let me know about his project. Fascinating stuff.
Check out this coincidence-
Thank you for sharing, this is interesting. Had not heard about this angle before.
I am a Paranormal Investigator and I plan on Investigating the Cecil /Stay On Main sometime soon. I will hopefully gather Video and Audio Evidence and if enough Conclusive Evidence is Collected I plan on using this Evidence as a Paranormal TV Show Pilot.Thank all of You for Your Facts and Comments!
Thanks for letting us know about your project, keep us posted.
I was in Los Angeles in 2013. I stayed at the Stay on Main on the 14th floor. I am not sure whether it was the infamous room 1402 but it could have been. I woke up one night seeing dark shadows all over the room. I felt my throat tighten and I could not move. After about 30 minutes I grabbed my phone and started sending SOS calls from my phone. to my Facebook contacts. Many responded immediately prayer confirmations. It eventually stopped and I never experienced it again. I assumed over the years I had some kind of really bad dream or Psychic break, A week ago..I came across the show Terror at the Cecil hotel and I recognized as the same hotel I stayed in and on the same floor. WOW i am so amazed that I experienced that
Frightening experience, thanks for sharing.
This story is so much better than that Discovery show about Cecil. That one was staggeringly terrible! I actually started watching it with interest, wanting to find out how they’ll deal with Ramirez’s stay in the hotel, and the second Unterweger appeared, I thought “Oh, it’s going to combine the two killers’ stories – all right, let’s see…”
Instead, the show idiotically treated Unterweger as a narrator and tried to make the fact that he was a killer a surprise! Seriously… 40 minutes in, it was supposed to be a twist, even though Unterweger is introduced by his real name in the beginning! It’s like opening a film with Ted Bundy, showing his life and the murders in the background, and then, two hours later, “revealing” that Bundy is the killer and expecting someone to be surprised by that! Everyone knows Bundy, everyone knows Ramirez, everyone knows Unterweger! The awful ID show didn’t even mention that Unterweger was a pardoned murderer with the notorious freedom campaign behind him, akin to Mailer’s campaign to free Jack Henry Abbott. Oh, and I really “loved” it when the German-speaking Unterweger spoke like an American… and pronounced his name in a torturous American manner instead of the proper way! Eugh.
And those Ramirez scenes… groan! Ramirez getting spotted by a random woman while disposing of clothes…. Ramirez getting caught in the middle of the night!
One of the most idiotic, ineptly made, horribly un-researched, amateurishly written, badly directed “documentaries” I’ve ever seen. It seemed as if it was made by a dork barely fit to write Twilight fanfic on Tumblr.
I wasn’t thrilled with the approach either. I tend to prefer straight documentaries versus the “docudrama” style of this production.
I have always been a massive sceptic of things supernatural, until I stayed at an old pub in Banbury UK. I had the same experience of something rubbed my leg and then pinned me to the bed. This happened twice in the same night and it was terrifying. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before or after and I found out afterwards that the pub was supposedly haunted. I would absolutely hate to go to that hotel, although the stories and the history of it fascinate me.
Thanks for sharing your story.
Thanks for starting this thread, interesting read 🙂
My Haunted Diary (You Tube)
Episodes (1-4) Cecil Hotel
Real paranormal investigations.
A friend of mine and I stayed there for a couple of days in May 1973 on our way to our permanent base assignment in the Mojave Desert. I believe we had a room on the 11th floor. Spent a couple of days sight seeing LA. Nothing unusual, just an old hotel conveniently located near the bus station.
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Motel Mulberry in Manhattan is also another hot spot. I am a retired special agent and stayed at Hotel Mulberry for an early morning meeting the following morning. After pulling into the parking garage on the same block shortly after 9pm, I must say when I stepped out of the garage on my way to the hotel, there was a heavy dread in the atmosphere. I also felt like I was being watched at some point. I scurried into the hotel and although the lobby was decorated in bright red colors for the Chinese New Year celebration, it was very heavy inside as well. I only slept 2 hours (if not less). I was up most of the night feeling like many spirits were watching me like a specimen. I had images of people dressed in dirty Victorian era clothing looking sickly. I know I’ve had extra “senses” but this was WAY off the charts!