The haunted Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, California, opened its doors in 1927, and since then has been home to suicides, murders and strange happenings, so much so that some think the building itself is possessed. Its guest list boasts a number of guests who never had the opportunity to check out, a handful of killers and a few wildcards.

We’re going to be covering the timeline of the Cecil Hotel from its inception in 1927 to 1990. In part one we’re covering:

  • The countless unexplained suicides at Hotel Cecil
  • The rumoured residence of Richard Ramirez

If you’re looking for the stories from 1990 to present day, check out part two.

Listen to the episode

Note: This podcast was recorded under the name “The Haunted True Crime Podcast” which later became The Lady Dicks Podcast. So pardon the name change. We assure you that the real Lady Dicks are standing up!

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Visiting Haunted Cecil Hotel

The Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles is no longer called the Cecil, it’s now known as Stay on Main. Even with the updated brand, the reviews on this bad boy are still pretty bad. Not only that, but you can rarely find room information online.

While the Lady Dicks are super into taking risks, even with dicey hotels because you only live once this might be one you want to skip. That said, you can take a peek at it if you happen to be in Los Angeles. It’s located at 640 S Main St. Just maybe don’t drink the water.

If you’re going to be visiting Los Angeles anyway, you might want to check out these other haunted places in the area:

Ready to book your trip to Los Angeles?

The Timeline of the Haunted Cecil Hotel

The Cecil Hotel, also known as Hotel Cecil or simply The Cecil, is located at 640 Main Street, Los Angeles, California—on 7th and Main. But what was dreamed to be a hotel of luxury for business travellers and tourists, actually turned out to be an average two-star hotel with a grim history. With a beautiful, unique and classic look, the hotel built in the 1920s has been open for almost 100 years and has had a sorted and tragic past

The Beginning

In 1924, construction on the Cecil Hotel was started. Hotelier William Banks Hanner’s dream was to build a destination for business travellers and tourists. The hotel was designed by Loy Lester Smith in the Beaux-Arts style, and cost $1 million to complete.

It boasted an opulent marble lobby with stained-glass windows, potted palms and alabaster statuary. His goal was to build a destination for business travellers and tourists to Los Angeles, and that dream became a reality in 1927 when the hotel opened its doors.

Hanner had invested confidently in the enterprise, knowing that several similar hotels had been established elsewhere downtown, but within five years of its opening, the country sank into the Great Depression. 

The area that the hotel occupied became known as Skid Row. Increasingly populated by transients, as many as 10,000 homeless people lived within a four-mile radius.

1930s

The 1930s brought on the first wave of tragedies for the hotel, with a number of tragic and somewhat mysterious deaths. 

1931: The first suicide on the book at the Hotel Cecil appears to have occurred on November 19, 1931. W.K. Norton, a 46-year-old resident of Manhattan Beach, was found dead after ingesting poison capsules, a number of which police said were found in his vest pocket. He had been dead for only a few hours when he was found by a hotel maid. Norton had checked into the Cecil under the name “James Willys from Chicago” a week earlier.

1932: Just under two years later in September 1932, hotel maid Carrie Brown found Benjamin Dodich dead in his room. Dodich had shot himself in the head leaving no suicide note to explain why the seemingly healthy 25-year-old killed himself.

1933: Sometime during 1933, a young truck driver ended up being caught between his truck and the hotel and was fatally crushed against the Cecil’s wall. Unfortunately, due to what is said to be poor record-keeping, his name has been lost.

1934: In late July of 1934, Louis D. Borden, 53-year-old former Army Medical Corps Sgt., was found dead in his room. It appears that he had slashed his throat with a razor. Next to his body was a suicide note, along with a few “farewell notes.” He cited poor health for the reason for his suicide, and in one of the notes requested that “Mrs. Edna Hasoner of P.O. Box 664 Edmonds, Wash., ‘sole beneficiary of the little that I leave’ be notified.”

1937: Grace E. Margo tragically fell from a ninth story window of the haunted Cecil Hotel in March 1937. Her fall was broken by telephone wires that wrapped around her, entangled around her body and ripped from their poles on her decent. Grace died later at the now-demolished Georgia Street Receiving Hospital. Police were unable to determine if her death was a suicide, accident or otherwise, but the trajectory of her body indicated that she had either taken a running leap or been pushed. According to reports, her companion 26-year-old sailor MW Madison of the USS Virginia was sleeping at the time and could give no explanation as to her fall. 

1938: Cecil guest Roy Thompson had been staying at the hotel for several weeks prior to January of 1938, when he jumped from the top floor. The 35-year-old man was found on the skylight of the neighbouring building, indicating that he took a good running start before leaping off the building. He left no note behind, and the distance of where he ended up lead some to believe that he had a supernatural helping hand so-to-speak to carry him the extra distance.

1939: To round off the 1930s, in May of 1939, Navy officer Erwin C. Neblett, 39, of the USS Wright was found dead in his room. It was alleged that Neblett was upset about being called to duty, and unable to handle the pressure of heading into combat he ingested poison resulting in his tragic death.

1940s

1940: A few months later 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. Though we were unable to confirm this, it was said that Neblett and Scieger stayed in the same room.

The year 1940 also saw the first regular Los Angeles AA meetings begin to be held at the Cecil Hotel. Unfortunately, a change of management in 1941, which included extensive improvements, could not save the Cecil from the coming dark future.

1944: 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 labour. 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. 

1947: Elizabeth Short, also known as the Black Dahlia was also last seen alive at the Cecil. She went missing on January 9 and was found on the 15 of January 1947. Her body was cut in half at her midsection, she was tortured, naked and left in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. Her body was drained of blood and posed. Short’s murder is still one of the oldest unsolved mysteries in Los Angeles – and we aren’t sharing a lot of it here because we fully intend on giving it a full episode of its own… so hit that subscribe button right now!

Also in 1947, Robert Smith, of Long Beach, California, 35, died after jumping (or falling) from one of Cecil’s seventh-floor windows. This happened towards the end of the year in November.

1950s

The 1950s and 60s saw the hotel gain the reputation of being a suicide hotspot, which considering the amount of them we’re about to talk about, make sense.

1954: On October 22, 1954, San Francisco stationery firm employee Helen Gurnee, 55, jumped from the window of room 704 and landed on top of Cecil’s marquee. Hundreds of spectators gathered as firefighters used a ladder to retrieve her body. Authorities identified her from cards in her purse. One week prior, she had registered at the hotel under the name “Margaret Brown” of Denver. Later that day, the police were called to the Philharmonic Auditorium where a man who had witnessed the suicide had become hysterical due to the event.

1960s

1962: 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, and 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.

That same year 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 left the room prior to her jump. When she jumped, 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.

1964: On June 4, 1964, a hotel worker who was distributing telephone books discovered “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood, long-time resident of the Cecil and retired telephone operator, dead in her room. Her autopsy showed that she had  been beaten, stabbed, strangled, sexually assaulted and choked with a rag, and her room was ransacked. Her body was found next to the Los Angeles Dodgers cap she always wore and a paper sack full of birdseed. Osgood was well known and well liked, and had earned her nickname because she fed birds in nearby Pershing Square. 

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. 

Friends said they talked to her merely minutes before her death. And the next day, her friends came together in Pershing Square to express their grief. Jean Rosenstein, a retired nurse, told a reporter: “We were all her friends, all of us here at the square. I was just standing here this morning, thinking about what had happened, when somebody suggested we get some flowers. No one has much money around here, but all of a sudden everyone started giving me what they could. We just wanted her to know we remembered.”

Osgood’s murder remains unsolved, but it is speculated it was connected to 2 other women murdered around the same area. One was stabbed to death on may 16, 1964. The other had similar interest as Osgood, often fed pigeons in MacArthur Park, she was also stabbed to death on April 29, 1964. Unfortunately we could not find any other information attached to those cases.

1970s

The 1970s brought on more suicides for the hotel, along with a rooftop sniper. 

1975: On December 16, 1975, an unidentified woman using the name “Alison Lowell” arrived in Los Angeles from Bakersfield, California, and checked into a room of the Hotel Cecil a few minutes after noon. A few days later on December 20, she either fell or jumped to her death from her twelfth-floor window and landed on the second-floor roof. She is still unidentified today, and we read she is Los Angeles County Coroner’s Case # 7515414. She is also in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System as NamUs UP # 4457.

1976: On December 1, 1976, Jeffrey Thomas Paley took up temporary residence on the 12th floor of the Cecil with his rifle. The former mental patient fired between 12 and 15 shots in an attempt to make what he claimed was a statement regarding gun laws, no one was hit.

“I never intended to shoot anyone,” he said as he was taken into custody. He said he had wanted to demonstrate how simple it was for anyone (even a former mental patient) to purchase a gun and become a sniper. According to what he told the police, Paley purchased the rifle for $63 from a Hollywood gun shop after filling out a form that “nobody checks up on.”

Prior to his spree, he called the LA times and told a clerk that he possessed a rifle and was going to sit atop one of the hotels along Broadway and shoot. The Times clerk informed the police of the call but until a Bank of America employee was nearly hit that the police identified the hotel as the Cecil. He was apprehended and charged with assault with intent to commit murder. 

1980s

Though the 1980s didn’t bring on any crazy deaths, they did allegedly bring two very unfortunate, less than savoury guests: convicted serial killer Richard Ramirez and murderer Robert Sullivan.

Nasty Guest: Richard Ramirez, The Original Night Stalker

It is suspected, though admittedly only an unconfirmed rumour, that Richard Ramirez, also known as the Night Stalker, was a guest at Hotel Cecil during the 1980s. If you are familiar with the story, you will note that Ramirez was an active serial killer from 1984 to 1985 in California. For those of you avid true crime fans that are familiar with the Night Stalker story, we’re going to have to ask for a little latitude – this episode is, of course, not about Ramirez, but we will give a brief overview of his crimes for those less familiar. That means that while we are going to spend a little time talking about him, this isn’t going to be an in-depth story on him… so we apologize if we miss some of the more interesting details.

Ramirez was a regular on skid row, but a clerk of Hotel Cecil who claims to have spoken with him, confirmed that he stayed at the hotel for a few weeks amid his killing spree. At the age of 24 in April of 1985, Ramirez committed his first murder in San Francisco, and he continued to kill until August of 1985 when he was arrested. The majority of his murders took place in Los Angeles, California.

One of the things that makes Ramirez interesting is that he killed men, women and children – the youngest allegedly 9 (though he was not convicted in a court of law) and the oldest 79 – in a variety of ways, often with whatever was “handy” at the time and typically after he sexually assaulted them. 

To give you an idea of the Night Stalker’s reign of terror here is the list of his known crimes:

  • On June 28, 1984, Ramirez slashed 79-year-old Jennie Vincow throat in, Glassell Park, San Diego. He sexually assaulted her, murdered her then burglarized her home.
  • Nine months later on March 17, 1985, Ramirez killed Dayle Okazaki, 34 in the city of Rosemead, in Los Angeles County. He attacked Maria Hernandez, 20, but she managed to escape, he then turned to Dayle her roommate who was ultimately shot to death. That same night in Monterey Park, also in Los Angeles County, Ramirez drug Tsai-Lian Yu (Veronica) from her car and shot her.
  • Ten days later on March 27, Ramirez stabbed and mutilated Maxine, 44, and her husband Vincent Zazzara Whittier, 64. Ramirez first shot her husband, then brutally assaulted and stabbed to death Maxine.
  • Again in Monterey Park, Ramirez shot to death and robbed 66-year-old Bill Doi.
  • On the night of May 29, 1985, Ramirez drove a stolen Mercedes-Benz to Monrovia and stopped at the house of Mabel “Ma” Bell, 83, and her sister Florence “Nettie” Lang, 81. He used a hammer from the kitchen, he bludgeoned and bound Lang (who was described as an “invalid”)in her bedroom, then bound and bludgeoned Bell before using an electrical cord to shock the woman. After raping Lang, he used Mabel Bell’s lipstick to draw a pentagram on her thigh, as well as on the walls of both bedrooms. The women were found two days later on June 1, both alive but comatose; Bell later died of her injuries.
  • The next day on May 30, 1985, Ramirez sexually assaulted and raped Carol Kyle, 41, in Burbank. He snuck into their home, and at gunpoint, he bound Kyle and her 11-year-old son with handcuffs and ransacked the house. He released Kyle to show him where the valuables were before repeatedly sexually assaulting her. He fled the scene after retrieving her son from the closet and binding the two together again with the handcuffs.
  • On the night of July 2, 1985, he randomly selected the house of Mary Louise Cannon, 75. He found her asleep in her bedroom and bludgeoned her into unconsciousness with a lamp, then repeatedly stabbed her using a 10-inch butcher knife from her kitchen. She was found dead.
  • Three days later on July 5, 1985, Ramirez broke into a home in Sierra Madre and bludgeoned 16-year-old Whitney Bennett with a tire iron as she slept in her bedroom. Ramirez attempted to strangle the girl with a telephone cord. He was startled to see sparks emanate from the cord, and when his victim began to breathe, he fled the house believing that Jesus Christ had intervened and saved her. She survived the savage beating, which required 478 stitches.
  • Ramirez struck twice again on July 7, first beating to death Joyce Lucille Nelson, 61, in Monterey Park. Then sexually assaulting, raping and burglarizing Sophie Dickman, 63, in Monterey Park.
  • Then on July 20th he murdered 3. He shot both Max, 68, and Lela Kneiding, 66, in Glendale. Along with Chainarong Khovananth, 32, who was shot to death in Sun Valley. His wife and son were both sexually assaulted.
  • His final murder was that of Elyas Abowath, 35, August 8, 1985 in Diamond Bar. He shot her while she slept, raped her and burglarized her home. 

It is suggested that he was influenced as a teen to kill by his cousin Mike. Mike was a Green Beret who bragged of his time in Vietnam, and he shot his wife in front of Ramirez.

Ramirez was caught after one of his victims who he’d left alive got a look at his getaway car, a stolen Toyota. It was later found abandoned, and connected to Ramirez by a single fingerprint. Once he was suspected, police broadcast his face and name widely. He was recognized in East Los Angeles and beaten by a mob.

In 1989, Ramirez was convicted on 13 counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder, 11 sexual assaults, and 14 burglaries, and sentenced to death. At his sentencing he said: “No big deal. Death always comes with the territory. I’ll see you in Disneyland.”

In 2009, he was connected to the assault and murder of 9 year old Mei (Linda) Leung in 1984. Her body was found “partially-nude, hanging by a blouse from a water spigot in the basement of her apartment building where she lived with her family” on April 10. He was never charged.

He spent 23 years on Death Row at San Quentin, but died of Lymphoma in 2013 at the age of 53.

1988: Ramirez wasn’t the only killer to stay at the Cecil in the 80s. On the afternoon of July 6, 1988, the body of 32-year-old nurse Teri Francis Craig was found in a rented, ranch-style home in Huntington Beach where she had lived with Sullivan for the previous 7 years. She had been brutally stabbed multiple times and police began to suspect her 28-year-old salesman boyfriend when he failed to return home. Robert Sullivan was arrested in the Cecil Hotel two months later on September 6, 1988. 

Fun Fact: On March 27, 1987, the band U2 performed an impromptu live concert on the rooftop of a one-storey building on the corner of 7th and Main in Downtown Los Angeles, next door to the Cecil Hotel. The performance, with the hotel featuring as a backdrop, was filmed and commercially released as a music video for the release of the band’s song “Where the Streets Have No Name.”

Looking for the rest of the story? Check out part two of the haunted Cecil Hotel story.

Did you love this episode? Check these other gems out:


The Lady Dicks did not just magically come up with this information themselves, they, in fact, did research beyond Wikipedia (thanks jerky iTunes reviewer for your one-star comment), and here are those sources:

The Lady Dicks Podcast was created by Tae H. The Lady Dicks are Andrea C., Nikki K. and Tae H. This episode was researched by Andrea, Nikki and Tae, and was produced, written and edited by Tae.


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