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 is 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 has since been changed to "Stay on Main" in an effort to distance itself from its tragic past.
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, Norton 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, Marine 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 Sceiger's condition.
- In September 1944, Dorothy Jean Purcell, 19, was sharing a room at the Cecil with shoe salesman Ben Levine, 38. Purcell, who had apparently been unaware that she was pregnant, went into labor. Purcell later testified that she did not want to disrupt a sleeping Levine, so she went to the bathroom where she gave birth to a baby boy. Thinking the baby was dead, Purcell threw him out of the window where he landed on the roof of an adjacent building. Purcell was charged with murder. Three psychiatrists (then known as "alienists") testified that Purcell 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. Moore 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. Dewey 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.
- 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, the area in which Osgood fed birds, in bloodstained clothing. He was arrested and charged with Osgood's murder, but was later cleared of the crime. Osgood's murder remains unsolved.
- On December 20, 1975, a still unidentified woman jumped from her twelfth-floor window onto the Cecil's second-floor roof. She had registered at the hotel on December 16.
- 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. Lam 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 Lam 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 made public, many theories arose about Lam's death. Lam 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.
- On June 13, 2015, the body of a 28-year-old male was found outside the hotel. Some conjectured he may have committed suicide by jumping from the hotel, though 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: either 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 is no further reportage as to whether she died as a result.
The Cecil has also been connected with several well-known murders:
Elizabeth Short, a murder victim dubbed by the media as "the Black Dahlia", is one of Los Angeles' best known unsolved murders. Short was reportedly seen at the Cecil's bar in the days shortly before her murder in January 1947. However, this information remains disputed.
- "James T. Bartlett, "Gourmet Ghosts 2: More Ghosts, Murders, Suicides and L.A. Weirdness", 2016. Research sourced from Los Angeles Times newspaper archives.
- "Hot Case 1419". The Doe Network.
- "Body Found Inside Water Tank Atop Hotel Identified As Missing Canadian Tourist". CBS Los Angeles. February 19, 2013. Retrieved November 17, 2014.
- "'We thought the water tasted funny': Los Angeles hotel guests drank and bathed in water from tank where dead Canadian tourist decomposed for two weeks". Daily Mail UK. February 20, 2013.
- Melissa Pamer and Lolita Lopez (20 February 2013). "Body Found in Water Tank at Hotel is Missing Canadian Tourist: LAPD". NBC 4 Southern California.
- William M. Welch (2013-06-21). "Elisa Lam's death ruled accidental". USA Today.
- Nair, Drishya (June 21, 2013). "Elisa Lam Death: Canadian Tourist's death an accident, rules LA coroner's office". International Business Times.
- Gale Holland, Los Angeles Times, 13 June 2015.
- lmharnisch (29 January 2014). "Black Dahlia and the Cecil Hotel — Another Good Story Ruined".
- Duke, Alan (22 February 2013). "Hotel with corpse in water tank has notorious past". CNN. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
- Hamilton, Denise (2007-12-10). "Serial Killer Central - Native Intelligence". Laobserved.com. Retrieved 2014-05-15.