List of deaths and violence at the Cecil Hotel
This is a list of deaths, violence and other suspicious activity associated with the Cecil Hotel. The Cecil Hotel was a budget hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, opened in 1927. Since 1931, it has gained a reputation for suicides and other violent deaths. Its name was changed to "Stay on Main" in an effort to distance the hotel from its tragic past.
Timeline of murders and murderers
The Cecil has been connected with several well-known murders:
- Elizabeth Short, a murder victim dubbed by the media "the Black Dahlia", is one of Los Angeles' best known for the most well known death in Cecil. She was found in the middle of an empty street cut in half, with cuts on her face from the corners of her mouth to her ears. The case remains unsolved. She was reportedly seen at the Cecil's bar in the days shortly before her murder in January 1947. However, this information remains heavily disputed.
- The Cecil was the reported residence for serial killers Richard Ramirez in 1985 and Jack Unterweger in 1991.
Timeline of suicides and other deaths
- On November 19, 1931, Manhattan Beach resident W. K. Norton, 46, was found dead in his room after ingesting poison capsules. A week prior, he had checked into the Cecil under the name "James Willys" from Chicago. Norton's death appears to be the earliest known suicide at the hotel.
- In September 1932, a maid found Benjamin Dodich, 25, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He did not leave a suicide note.
- In late July 1934, former Army Medical Corps Sgt. Louis D. Borden, 53, was found dead in his room at the Cecil. He had slashed his throat with a razor. Borden left several notes, one of which cited poor health as the reason for his suicide.
- In March 1937, Grace E. Magro fell from a ninth-story window. Her fall was broken by telephone wires which were wrapped around her body. She later died at the now-demolished Georgia Street Receiving Hospital. Police were unable to determine whether Magro's death was the result of an accident or suicide.
- In January 1938, United States Marine Corps fireman Roy Thompson, 35, jumped from Cecil's top floor and was found on the skylight of a neighboring building. He had been staying at the Cecil for several weeks.
- In May 1939, Navy officer Erwin C. Neblett, 39, was found dead in his room after ingesting poison.
- In January 1940, teacher Dorothy Sceiger, 45, ingested poison while staying at the Cecil and was reported by the Los Angeles Times to be "near death." No further reports were published about her condition.
- In September 1944, Dorothy Jean Purcell, 19, was sharing a room at the Cecil with her boyfriend, shoe salesman Ben Levine, 38. Purcell, who had apparently been unaware that she was pregnant, went into labor. She later testified that she did not want to disrupt the sleeping Levine, so she went to the bathroom where she gave birth to a baby boy. Thinking the baby was dead, she threw him out of the window, and he landed on the roof of an adjacent building. Purcell was charged with murder. Three psychiatrists (then known as "alienists") testified that she was "mentally confused" at the time of the incident. In January 1945, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
- In November 1947, Robert Smith, 35, died after jumping from one of Cecil's seventh-floor windows.
- On October 22, 1954, San Francisco stationery firm employee Helen Gurnee, 55, jumped from the window of her seventh-floor room and landed on top of Cecil's marquee. One week prior, she had registered at the hotel under the name "Margaret Brown."
- On February 11, 1962, Julia Frances Moore, 50, jumped from the window of her eighth-floor room and landed in a second-story interior light well. She did not leave a suicide note. Among her possessions were a bus ticket from St. Louis, 59 cents in change, and an Illinois bank book showing a balance of $1,800.
- On October 12, 1962, Pauline Otton, 27, jumped from the window of her ninth-floor room after an argument with her estranged husband Dewey. He had left the room prior to Otton's suicide. Otton landed on a pedestrian, George Gianinni, 65, killing them both instantly. As there were no witnesses, police initially thought Otton and Gianinni committed suicide together. However, it was soon determined that Gianinni had his hands in his pockets at the time of his death, and he was still wearing shoes. Had he jumped, his shoes would have likely fallen off during the fall or upon impact, and his hands would not have been in his pockets.
- On June 4, 1964, a hotel worker discovered "Pigeon Goldie" Osgood, a retired telephone operator, dead in her room. She had been raped, stabbed, and beaten, and her room was ransacked. Osgood was well known around the area and had earned her nickname because she fed birds in nearby Pershing Square. Near her body was the Los Angeles Dodgers cap she always wore and a paper sack full of birdseed. Hours after her murder, Jacques B. Ehlinger, 29, was seen walking through Pershing Square in bloodstained clothing. He was arrested and charged with Osgood's murder but was later cleared of the crime. The murder remains unsolved.
- On December 20, 1975, a still-unidentified woman, approximately 23 years old, jumped from her twelfth-floor window onto the Cecil's second-floor roof. She had registered at the hotel on December 16 under the name "Alison Lowell" and was staying in room 327.
- On September 1, 1992, a man was found deceased in the alley behind the Cecil. Authorities believe the decedent either fell from, jumped from, or was pushed from the hotel's fifteenth floor. At the time of his death, the decedent was five feet, nine inches tall and weighed around 185 pounds. He was wearing blue sweatpants and a black sweatshirt over a gray t-shirt. The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office placed the decedent's age at twenty to thirty-two years. The decedent's true identity has never been established.
- On February 19, 2013, the naked body of Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old Canadian student, was found inside one of the water supply tanks on the hotel roof. She had gone missing almost three weeks earlier, on January 31, 2013. Her decomposing body was discovered by a maintenance worker in one of the rooftop water tanks, after guests had complained about low water pressure and water that "tasted funny." Authorities later ruled Lam's death as an accidental drowning. Video surveillance footage taken from inside an elevator shortly before her disappearance showed her acting strangely, pressing multiple elevator buttons, hiding in the corner of the elevator, and waving her arms wildly, causing widespread speculation about the cause of her death. After the elevator video was released, many theories arose about Lam's death. She was reported to have had bipolar disorder, for which she was prescribed various medications, which could have contributed to her death as well as her strange behavior in the elevator. However, rumors persist that she died as a result of playing "the elevator game," a paranormal urban legend that claims to take the player to another dimension.
- On June 13, 2015, the body of a 28-year-old man was found outside the hotel. Some conjectured he may have committed suicide by jumping from the hotel, although a spokesperson for the county coroner informed the Los Angeles Times that the cause of death had not been determined.
Thus, it would appear that there have been at least sixteen deaths at the Cecil resulting from non-natural causes, as a result of suicide, accident, or murder. This excludes the 1940 case of Dorothy Sceiger, who was reported to be in a critical condition after ingesting poison at the hotel. There were no further reports as to whether she died as a result.
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