It's no secret that macabre fame surrounds the Cecil Hotel.
The historic location in Downtown Los Angeles was the site of Elisa Lam's tragic death, which is the subject of Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel, part of the best true crime on Netflix lineup. That's but one of many unfortunate scenarios to happen on the property.
The hotel, which opened in 1924, has an incredibly morbid history, becoming prolific for its numerous murders, suicides and mysterious accidents that have occurred onsite. Now, some believe it is responsible for inexplicable paranormal activity.
Despite the frightening history and the current potential dangers, there are still plenty of people who are curious if they can book an overnight stay, especially after the true crime doc began streaming in 2021.
If you're curious to dig into some dark territory, read on.
What happened at the Cecil Hotel?
Following Netflix's deep dive into one of the building's tragedies, everyone's asking "What really happened to Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel?"
For those who are unfamiliar with the story, allow us to recap: Lam, a 21-year-old Canadian student, disappeared at the hotel during her stay there in 2013. While searching for Elisa, the Los Angeles Police Department released CCTV footage of her in the hotel's elevator exhibiting bizarre behavior, peering around the doors and apparently speaking to someone—rather conveniently out of sight—before running out into the hallway. Nineteen days later, her naked body was found in a water tank on the roof of the hotel. This discovery came after guests had complained of foul-tasting water.
Elisa's death was eventually ruled an accident, with mentions of her having bipolar disorder, but that hasn't dampened the conspiracy theories. In some ways, it's hardly surprising when you deep dive into the hotel's dark history, and how many murders were committed at the Cecil Hotel.
In 2014, the site rebranded itself as the boutique hostel Stay on Main, but it's done little to temper the fascination around it. The space has remained known as "the most haunted hotel in LA." And yet, there are travelers willing to spend the night in the notorious location.
Is the Cecil Hotel still open?
Ah, the famous question: can you stay at the Cecil Hotel? Well, the answer's complicated.
In 2007, the hotel was sold for $26 million and a section of it was refurbished and renamed the Stay On Main Hotel. The other part of the building remained rented out to long-term tenants from the surrounding Skid Row area.
In 2014, hotelier Richard Born bought the property for $30 million and it continued to remain open. However, in 2017 the building was shut down in order to undergo a complete renovation to add a gym, lounge and rooftop pool. The same year, it was named a historic-cultural monument by the Los Angeles City Council.
Work on the hotel was completed at the end of 2021 to include affordable housing options, approximately 600 units. Kevin De Leon, La City Council member, announced that the renovations for the housing section were complete.
Allegedlly, the renovations were also set to include around 299 hotel rooms, as part of Born's plan to transition the space into a boutique hotel. The roof, where Elisa's body was found, is reportedly set to be converted into a recreational space for the guests who book a visit.
However, updates on the building's status are hard to come by. Considering the hotel's website doesn't exist, it's kind of a mystery as to how you can stay the night—and if Hotel on Main has since expanded from affordable housing options to include overnight guests.
Those who remain curious did some digging. The hotel's Yelp (opens in new tab) page has reported the building as "closed," and Google will redirect users to other local spots in Los Angeles, but Stay on Main's Agoda (opens in new tab) page was up and running at the time of publication.
Since news about the hotel is so inaccessible, you'd assume that—and its past—would deter visitors, but those with a taste for true crime stories are continually drawn to the infamous location, even to this day.
How many people have died at the Cecil Hotel?
It has been widely reported that 16 people, including Elisa Lam, have died at the Cecil Hotel since its opening, a shocking figure considering the deaths have either been sudden or shrouded in mystery.
And, if that wasn't enough, there's also the inexplicable case of the Night Stalker at the Cecil Hotel to contend with. Robert "The Night Stalker" Ramirez reportedly stayed there during the height of his murder spree, leaving his bloodied clothes in the parking lot and running up to his room via the fire escape.
The Cecil Hotel on film
It has been widely reported that the Cecil Hotel has served as an inspiration for much of the TV and film world. Most notably, the uncanny resemblance of Hotel Cortez in American Horror Story: Hotel. Let's not forget about the 2021 episode of Ghost Adventures, where the crew went on lockdown inside the space.
Our advice? Seek other travel options if you find yourself in the L.A. area.
Fiona Embleton is a multi-award-winning beauty editor who has tested over 10,000 products in her 10 years + of writing and shooting beauty stories. For the past four years, she was the Senior Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, having previously worked in the role of Beauty Editor at both Stylist and Cosmopolitan. She has recently gone freelance and alongside My Imperfect Life, she has written for titles including ELLE UK, ELLE Canada, Buro 247, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Vogue Scandinavia, and ES Magazine. Beauty journalism allowed her to marry up her first-class degree in English Literature and Language (she’s a stickler for grammar and a self-confessed ingredients geek) with a passion for make-up and skincare, photography, and catwalk trends. She loves jumping on the latest internet-breaking beauty news, dissecting the best red carpet looks, and having the crème de la crème of dermatologists, make-up artists, and hairstylists on speed dial so she can tap them for the best advice. She’s a discerning beauty shopper and knows it can be confusing trying to navigate what’s hype and what really works. So if she really likes something, you can trust that she has reached that opinion by vetting it against everything else she’s ever tried. Her career highs? Interviewing Cate Blanchett and winning a Jasmine Award for the deeply personal feature Cancer Stole My Mother’s Scent.
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