The Dark History Behind The Creepy Hotel At The Heart Of Netflix's Crime Scene

The Cecil Hotel has been the site of more than a dozen murders, suicides, and suspected paranormal events.

An aerial view of the Cecil Hotel via Netflix's press site

Though Netflix's new docuseries Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel centers around Elisa Lam's mysterious 2013 death at Los Angeles' Cecil Hotel, she's far from the only person who has died there: the Cecil has been the site of more than a dozen murders, suicides, and suspected paranormal events over the last century. "While the Elisa Lam case is the driving force that takes viewers from episode to episode throughout this season, we wanted to expand our focus and tell the story of the Cecil Hotel to not only give historical context, but to help viewers understand how such a tragedy, and others like it, could have occurred," Crime Scene director Joe Berlinger recently explained to Entertainment Tonight. Content warning: This post contains discussion of suicide that some may find triggering.

According to Berlinger, the Cecil "was a jewel in L.A. when it was built in 1924" but has since become notorious for all the mayhem that has occurred there. A few years after the hotel opened, a woman was taken to the hospital after wandering around the halls for three days, apparently having attempted to poison herself. Later, an elderly man on the verge of death was picked up at the Cecil after drinking poisoned liquor that had killed three other men. The first of many documented suicides at the hotel happened in 1931 when a 46-year-old guest named W.K. Norton reportedly ingested poison capsules. And in 1944, 19-year-old Cecil guest Dorothy Jean Purcell — unaware that she was pregnant — gave birth to baby boy in the bathroom before throwing him out of a window. The baby was later found on an adjacent building's roof. Purcell pleaded insanity, avoiding murder charges.

Since then, so many suicides have happened at the Cecil that by the 1960s, longterm residents had begun referring to it as "The Suicide." And the death has not been contained within the hotel's walls. Pauline Otton died after leaping from a 9th floor window in 1962, killing a 65-year-old pedestrian who'd been walking by the Cecil in the process. Almost three decades earlier, a 25-year-old man also died when a large truck drove into the hotel, pinning him against the wall.

On top of that, there have been reports of ghost sightings at the Cecil, and it's been linked to several notorious serial killers. Elizabeth Short, the actress later dubbed "the Black Dahlia," was allegedly spotted at the hotel's bar just days before her 1947 murder, and Richard Ramirez (aka The Night Stalker) and Johann "Jack" Unterweger both stayed there at various points (Ramirez in 1985 and Unterweger in 1991).

The property was officially rebranded as The Stay on Main in 2011 and is now in the midst of another revamp, but suffice it to say the Cecil has rightfully earned its nickname as the "Hotel of Horror."

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. You can also reach out to the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386, or to your local suicide crisis center.