List of deaths and violence at the Cecil Hotel

Numerous incidents of deaths and violence have occurred at Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles throughout its history.[a] Originally opened as a middle-class hotel on December 20, 1924,[2] in Downtown Los Angeles, it eventually became a budget hotel, hostel, and rooming house. Its reputation is due to at least 16 sudden or unexplained deaths that have occurred in or around the hotel.[3]

In 2011, the hotel's name was changed to "Stay on Main" in an effort to distance the establishment from its past.[4][5]


Date Accused supposed Accused age Victim(s) Victim(s) Age all years Type Method Details
January 22, 1927 Percy Ormond Cook 52 Suicide Gunshot to the head On the evening, Cook shot himself in the head while inside his hotel room after failing to reunite with his wife and child. Although the Times reported that he was rushed to the Receiving Hospital with a slim chance of survival, death records reveal that he died that same evening.[5]
November 19, 1931 W. K. Norton 46 Suicide Ingested poison Manhattan Beach resident W. K. Norton 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.[6]
September 1932 Benjamin Dodich 25 Suicide Gunshot to the head A maid found Dodich dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He did not leave a suicide note.[6]
July 1934 Sgt. Louis D. Borden 53 Suicide Slit throat In late July, former Army Medical Corps Sgt. Borden 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.[6]
March 1937 Grace E. Magro Death Fell from building 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.[6]
January 1938 Roy Thompson 35 Death Fell from building United States Marine Corps fireman Thompson 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.[6]
May 1939 Erwin C. Neblett 39 Death Ingested poison Navy officer Neblett was found dead in his room after ingesting poison.[6]
January 1940 Dorothy Seger 45 Death Ingested poison Teacher Seger 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. Her death is listed at Jan 12, 1940 from[6]
September 1944 Dorothy Jean Purcell 19 Purcell's un-named newborn son 0 Murder (acquitted due to insanity) Newborn discarded from window Purcell 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 labour. 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 testified that she was "mentally confused" at the time of the incident. In January 1945, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity.[6]
November 1947 Robert Smith 35 Death Fell from building Smith died after jumping from one of Cecil's seventh-floor windows.[6]
October 22, 1954 Helen Gurnee 55 Death Fell from building San Francisco stationery firm employee Gurnee 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."[6]
February 11, 1962 Julia Frances Moore 50 Death Fell from building Moore jumped from the window of her eighth-floor room and landed in a second-storey 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.[6]
October 12, 1962 Pauline Otton
George Gianinni
Suicide Fell from building Otton 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, Gianinni, 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.[6]
June 4, 1964 Jacques B. Ehlinger 29 "Pigeon Goldie" Osgood 65 Murder (acquitted) Stabbed, beaten, and raped A hotel worker discovered 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 Ehlinger 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.[6]
December 20, 1975 "Alison Lowell" Approx. 23 Death Fell from building 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 under the name "Alison Lowell" and was staying in room 327.[7][8]
September 1, 1992 Approx. 20-30 Death Fell from building The body of an African American man was found in the alley behind the Cecil. Police said he had either fallen, jumped, or been pushed from the hotel's 15th floor. The 20-to-30-year-old male has never been identified.[9][10]
February 19, 2013 Elisa Lam 21 Death Unknown (?) The naked[11] body of Lam, a 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."[12] 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.[13] 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.[14] Authorities later ruled Lam's death as an accidental drowning.
June 13, 2015 28 Death Suspected to have fallen from the building

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.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Besides direct deaths and violence at least two serial killers, Richard Ramirez and Jack Unterweger have stayed at the hotel, and murder victim Elizabeth Short (better known as "the Black Dahlia") was found near by, and has sometimes become associated with the hotel and its history.[1]


  1. ^ Henry, Grace (February 11, 2021). "Cecil Hotel history: What Netflix documentary doesn't tell you about Los Angeles accommodation". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 2021-02-11. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2021-02-10. Retrieved 2021-02-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "The Vanishing at The Cecil Hotel': Gruesome history of hotel where the mysterious death of Elisa Lam took place". The Independent. 10 February 2021. Archived from the original on 11 February 2021. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  4. ^ Murtaugh, Taysha (2017-10-13). "The Creepy History of Los Angeles' Cecil Hotel". Country Living. Archived from the original on 2019-10-25. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
  5. ^ a b "Los Angeles – Cecil Hotel Deaths". Archived from the original on February 10, 2021. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Bartlett, James T. (2016). Gourmet Ghosts 2: More Ghosts, Murders, Suicides and L.A. Weirdness. City Ghost Guides. ISBN 9780997582901.
  7. ^ "1365UFCA – Unidentified Female". The Doe Network. Archived from the original on 2019-10-25. Retrieved 2019-10-25.
  8. ^ "Case Number 1975-15414". Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner. Archived from the original on 2020-10-28. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
  9. ^ "Case Number=1992-08017". Archived from the original on November 1, 2020. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  10. ^ "707UMCA – Unidentified Male". Archived from the original on October 20, 2020. Retrieved February 11, 2021.
  11. ^ "Body Found Inside Water Tank Atop Hotel Identified As Missing Canadian Tourist". CBS Los Angeles. 2013-02-19. Archived from the original on 2016-09-08. Retrieved 2014-11-17.
  12. ^ Pamer, Melissa; Lopez, Lolita (2013-02-20). "Body Found in Water Tank at Hotel is Missing Canadian Tourist: LAPD". NBC 4 Southern California.
  13. ^ Welch, William M. (2013-06-21). "Elisa Lam's death ruled accidental". USA Today. Archived from the original on 2017-09-24. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  14. ^ Nair, Drishya (2013-06-21). "Elisa Lam Death: Canadian Tourist's death an accident, rules LA coroner's office". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 2017-09-24. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  15. ^ Holland, Gale (2015-06-13). "Death outside skid row hotel is under investigation as possible suicide". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2019-10-25. Retrieved 2019-10-24.

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