Tag Archives: cecil hotel

My father’s Cecil Hotel experience haunted him for life

I’ve previously shared on this blog my father’s terrifying experience at the Cecil Hotel back in the 1960s. Over the years, documentary filmmakers have reached out to me, interested in learning more. Last year, I was interviewed for a documentary that premieres Feb. 10 on Netflix. It is called, “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel.”

The documentary focuses on the mysterious death of Canadian tourist Elisa Lam, who was found dead in a water tank atop the Cecil Hotel in 2013. While authorities ruled the death an accidental drowning, there are many questions surrounding her death, amplified by the notorious reputation of the hotel. The four-part series covers many of the high-profile crimes that have taken place at the Cecil.

For those interested in the possible supernatural influence at the Cecil, I’m sharing my father’s terrifying experience. My father lived at the Cecil in 1965. He was a young, single immigrant from Northern Ireland who needed affordable accommodations near his workplace. He had been staying at the Cecil for some time with no unusual incidents to report until one night, he woke up to the sensation that someone was smothering him. He described it as a heavy pressure weighing down on his chest and throat, as if someone was sitting atop him. He gasped for breath and tried to fight back, but it felt like his entire body was paralyzed by an invisible but strong presence. Then as soon as it began, the feeling dissipated. My father ran downstairs to the night clerk, and explained what had happened. The clerk said, nonchalantly, that someone had been murdered in my dad’s room.

Dad’s naturalization certificate with the Cecil Hotel listed as his address.

My dad changed rooms and did not experience anything unusual during the rest of his stay.

But the experience haunted my father for the rest of his life. Decades later, my father would be visibly shaken when retelling the story of what happened in that room at the Cecil Hotel. He would break out into a sweat, and his hands would shake. My mother would caution him to stop telling the story if it upset him so much, but Dad felt compelled to go on, even while clutching his heart. 

My dad survived the Nazis bombing his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland as a child. He recounted having to run to the bomb shelter in the middle of the night with less fear than he told the story about that night at the Cecil Hotel. 

The logical, rational side of me can dismiss my father’s experience at the Cecil as just a nightmare. He was prone to nightmares, very bad ones in which I remember him moaning and crying out in fear. But the thing about his nightmares is that they were always the classic “someone chasing me” scenario. Never did he have a nightmare that in any way resembled his experience at the Cecil. 

There’s no way for me to know if my father had an encounter with an evil presence that haunts the Cecil Hotel or not, but I do know that whatever my father experienced, it felt very real to him.

Read more: Dad’s stay at the haunted Cecil Hotel

When my father stayed at the Cecil, he likely wasn’t aware of its disturbing history. About a dozen suicides had been recorded at the hotel by the mid-1960s, including several women. Pauline Otten, 27, committed suicide in 1962 by jumping out of a window at the Cecil. In a tragic twist, she killed a pedestrian on impact. Just a year before my father’s stay, Goldie Osgood, a retiree known as “Pigeon Goldie” and the “Pigeon Lady of Pershing Square,” was raped and murdered in her room. The coroner said Osgood had been choked to death with a hand towel. The case was never solved, though an initial arrest was made. This Medium post offers a good overview of the deaths associated with the Cecil Hotel.

Unfortunately, the Cecil’s reputation only grew worse. In subsequent decades, it has been home to at least two serial killers, including the infamous Night Stalker. Lam’s mysterious death garnered worldwide interest and once again put the Cecil in the spotlight. The hotel tried to rebrand itself as Stay on Main for a few years and is undergoing yet another transformation but still attracts much attention from paranormal enthusiasts.

The hotel’s sinister history inspired a season of American Horror Story.

If you have interest in the history of the Cecil Hotel and the Elisa Lam case, I encourage you to watch this new documentary and let me know what you think. Many of you have reached out to me over the years to offer your own experiences when visiting the Cecil Hotel and I appreciate your comments.

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Mom and Dad split up?

Well, here’s something about my parents that I never knew before. Mom and I were discussing the strange case of the Canadian tourist found dead at the Cecil Hotel and Mom mentioned that Dad was staying there when they dated. She said she would take the bus from her apartment to the Cecil Hotel to meet Dad. Then they would take another bus to the race track or wherever they were going on their date. They had to take a bus because Dad did not have a car. At the time, he did not even know hw to drive.

Dad was a handsome devil!

Dad was a handsome devil!

And it was Dad’s lack of wheels of all things that caused them to break up a few times. Mom came from that era and culture where you looked at a guy’s shiny set of wheels before you checked out the guy himself. Mom told me they got in a few tiffs that would cause them to take a break from each other for a few weeks at a time. Guess it’s a good thing that Dad got his best buddy to teach him how to drive.

But Mom admitted that she was the one that caved in and would call up Dad when they were on hiatus. Dad would ask why Mom was calling him and Mom would say to find out why Dad hadn’t called her. 🙂

Eventually, Dad obtained his license and a car and Mom’s heart. (Not necessarily in that order.)

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The Cecil Hotel back in the news

UPDATE FEB. 2020: 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 on my father’s terrifying experience at the Cecil Hotel.

UPDATE JUNE 2013: News sources are reporting that the death of Elisa Lam has been ruled accidental with bipolar disease being a “significant condition.” This ruling still does not answer the main question on most people’s minds, which is how Elisa Lam ended up on the roof of the hotel (a reportedly secure area only accessible to staff) and how she ended up in the water tank where it has been ruled she accidentally drowned. If no foul play was involved, was there negligence in security by the hotel? Did Elisa Lam have a mental health crisis? So far the police haven’t indicated that the hotel has done anything wrong. It appears we may never really know what caused Elisa Lam to end up on the roof where she tragically died.

My previous post about my father’s encounter with a ghost at the Cecil Hotel started receiving a lot of hits this past week. I soon realized there was a news report of a missing college student named Elisa Lam from Canada and her last known whereabouts were at the Cecil Hotel (also referred to as Hotel Cecil). Furthermore, there is video of her acting strangely in the elevator of the hotel.

Photo: Crow's Nest postcards, ebay.com

A retro image of the Cecil Hotel. Photo: Crow’s Nest postcards, ebay.com

I hoped, along with everyone else, that there would be a happy ending to this story. But whether it is curse or merely coincidence, the Cecil Hotel is now the scene of another tragic death. Over the coming days, perhaps we will learn more about how Elisa Lam, 21, ended up dead in one of the hotel’s water tanks located on the roof. My condolences go out to her family and friends.

Right or wrong, the Cecil Hotel has earned quite the garish reputation over the years. The hotel has seen strange deaths over the years and served as a temporary home to serial killer Richard Ramirez. My father’s frightening experience in a room at the Cecil Hotel shook him up every time he retold the story. Of course, there have been thousands of uneventful stays at this hotel as well. I’m an open-minded skeptic when it comes to buildings with bad atmospheres.

I know Dad would have followed this case closely and would have been very saddened by the unfortunate outcome.

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Dad’s stay at the haunted Cecil Hotel

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:

Dad naturalization record

Dad’s naturalization certificate.

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.

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