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.
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.