Tag Archives: haunted

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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Dad buys a haunted TV

I’ve written before about how Dad relied on the guys at work for car advice. He also ended up with several “great deals” on what Mom and I politely referred to as junk. Dad was a bit of a chump when someone at work was looking to sell an item and gave Dad a slick sales pitch he couldn’t refuse. This is how we ended with the “haunted” television.

Our former TV had gone on the blitz but Dad, being a cheapskate, decided to look for a deal. (And I mean that in a loving way. Clark Howard would have approved of Dad’s penny-pinching ways.) He mentioned it to the guys at work, and sure enough, someone had a “gently used” TV to sell Dad. It was working just fine, Dad was told, they only wanted to get rid of it because they were getting a new set. I don’t remember how much Dad paid for it. Not much, but a penny was more than it was worth.

I remember how proud Dad was when he lugged the big behemoth into the house. We plugged it in and everything seemed to be working fine. This was before remote controls were standard with television sets, so we turned the dial and the local channels appeared, some with more static than others. We were used to flipping around the rabbit ears like magicians to get the best image. (That’s right, we didn’t have cable, either. I never saw any cable TV channels until I was in college.)

By this point, Dad was bragging about how good of a deal it was and how we had been wrong to doubt him. We were all sitting on the couch, and all of a sudden, the television’s volume, which had been turned down to low, leaped to blaring at maximum force. I covered ears while my parents ran over to the TV. The volume knob was useless, as the TV continued to play at top volume. Finally, one of them turned the power off. Blessed silence returned to our house. My mom and I exchanged knowing glances and then waited for Dad to respond.

“It’s probably just a little glitch, it will work itself out,” Dad tried to reassure us.

But the TV, which we started referring to as “haunted,” continued to have its volume fits. It was especially a problem late at night, as I would be trying to sleep and my parents were night owls. We all probably lost a few pounds running to the TV to turn it off when it started blaring randomly. I believe it was a few months before we finally wore down Dad’s stubborn streak and convinced him to buy a new TV and kick this lemon to the curb.

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Filed under Memories