The dark side of Cecil Hotel in the latest Netflix documentary

The Nerdy Me

The latest Netflix’s true-crime documentary „Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel“ deep dives into the mysterious case about the death of 21-year-old Elisa Lam back in 2013.

This latest hit documentary has been all over social media the past week with millions of viewers debating what really went down the day a young Canadian student disappeared in the Hotel Cecil.

It is a terrifying watch and probably not something we would recommend watching before going to bed, especially if you tend to overthink and have bad dreams after crime documentaries.

Credits: Mark Ralston | Getty Images

About the Hotel Cecil documentary

"Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel" is a four-part true-crime series about the mysterious death of Canadian college student and Cecil hotel guest Elisa Lam who was 21-year-old at the time of her disappearance.

Long story short, after disappearing from her room in the Los Angeles hotel in February 2013, the 21-year-old's body was found two weeks later drowned inside a water tank on the roof of the hotel.

Nearly a decade later, Lam's case still remains the unsolved case which over the time created a lot of conspiracy theories of all kinds.

Probably this is why the show's Oscar-nominated director, Joe Berlinger, decided to pick up the story of Elisa Lam and the horrible past of Hotel Cecil for his newest work.

To The Independent, Berlinger told that:

“My past projects have leaned into individual crimes and criminals but I have never explored the role a particular location has played in creating an environment in which multiple crimes seemingly take place over and over again.”

The series touch different parts of the case by interviewing the main figures of the case: the manager of the hotel at that time, the employer who found the body, the main investigators on the case, a few journalists, historians and even a few web sleuths who got addicted to solving the case.

In the end, Lam’s autopsy revealed that the young woman died from accidental drowning with her bipolar disorder playing a big part. The hard truth was that Elisa Lam was undertaking her prescription medicine which led her to an intense bipolar episode with hallucinations that could have led to her drowning in the water tank.

Credits: Robyn Beck | Getty Images

The notorious past of Hotel Cecil

But even before the case of Elisa Lam went viral, the people of Los Angeles knew the dark past of the Cecil Hotel and the hotel even got an honourable spot on some of the city’s tours.

When university student Elisa booked her stay at the Cecil Hotel, she probably did not realise what in what kind of place she was staying.

If you also have not heard about the morbid past of this infamous hotel, here is a short summary.

Back in 2013, Hollywood tour guide Richard Schave told CNN that "it's the place where serial killers stay.” And he wasn’t far off. If we look at the history of the hotel, Cecil has been home to two of the most infamous serial killers in the country - Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger.

Ramirez, also known as the "Nightstalker," was living on Cecil's top floor in a $14 a night room in 1985. Back at that time, the Cecil was filled with hundreds of short-term stayers who liked the cheapness of the rooms, so it was fairly easy for Ramirez to stay there unnoticed as he killed 13 women dumped his bloody clothes in its rubbish bins after.

Another serial killer, Jack Unterweger worked as a journalist covering Los Angeles crime for an Austrian magazine in 1991 when he moved into the Cecil. Unterweger is accused of killing three prostitutes in Los Angeles while being a guest at the Cecil Hotel.

But that’s not all. In the 1950s and 1960s, several guests killed themselves by jumping out upper-floor windows.

In 1927, the year of the hotel opening, a man called Percy Osmond Cook shot himself and died the same evening of the hotel opening. A few years later, three other men died by suicide, one with pills, one with a gun and one with a razor.

In 1937, a woman called Grace E Magro fell from a ninth-floor window. The true cause of her death – whether suicide or foul play – was never established.

In 1944, a 19-year-old woman, Dorothy Jean Purcell, gave birth to a baby on her bathroom floor. Thinking it was stillborn, she threw it out of the window instead of telling the man she was staying with. The coroner's report found the child was actually alive, and Purcell was charged with murder but found not guilty by reason of insanity.

In one of the most horrific cases, in 1964, a hotel worker called Pigeon Goldie Osgood was found dead in her room. She had been raped, beaten and stabbed, until this day the killer has never been found.

It is not hard to understand why the hotel was nicknamed "Los Angeles' most deadly" and even inspired Season 5 of Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story with Lady Gaga starring as the hotel manager.

The manager at the time of Lam’s stay in 2013, Amy Price, said, “while I worked there, there were thousands of 911 calls. When the maintenance manager gave me a tour he would say ‘suicide in this room,’ ‘guest died there.’

“You just never knew what was going to happen on any given day.”

Rebranding of the Hotel Cecil

The hotel still remains to this day, however, the former manager explains in the documentary that it went through a rebrand in 2011 as hotel-hostel Stay on Main in an effort to distance itself from the past. We are not sure if it is even possible at this time…

In 2014, the Hotel Cecil was sold for $30 million to hotelier Richard Born. It closed in 2017 for renovation and is yet to reopen, though a grand relaunch is mooted for 2021. Although I am not sure I will be staying anytime soon in that particular building.

Words: 1018 Would you stay in the rebranded Hotel Cecil?

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