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The Dark Past Of The Cecil Hotel Where At Least 16 People Have Died

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The Dark Past Of The Cecil Hotel Where At Least 16 People Have Died

A Los Angeles hotel which has become notorious for being the setting of at least 16 deaths since opening its doors in the 1920s is set to be the focus of a new Netflix true crime docu-series.

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True crime documentary Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel takes the strange disappearance and death of Canadian student Elisa Lam as the starting point for an investigation into the Cecil Hotel's murky past.

In the trailer for the new Netflix doc, a voiceover can be heard saying that the hotel has been dubbed 'Hotel Death', while former manager Amy Price recalls being asked: "Is there a room here that maybe somebody hasn't died in?"

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She adds: "I never got used to that."

The hotel, which opened in 1927, was rebranded as the Stay on Main back in 2011, but it's still often referred to by its original name thanks to its notorious past.

Credit: Flickr/vagueonthehow
Credit: Flickr/vagueonthehow

In the 1930s alone, a total of six people reportedly killed themselves, before a teenage mum threw her newborn baby out of the window in 1944 - having not realised she was pregnant before giving birth to a boy in the bathroom, tossing the infant onto the door of the building next door.

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She was charged with murder but found not guilty by reason of insanity.

A 22-year-old woman called Elizabeth Short, who had the nickname of the 'Black Dahlia', was allegedly seen having a drink at the Cecil Hotel just days before her gruesome - and unresolved - murder in 1947, although many dispute this claim.

Short's body had been found beside a sidewalk in a vacant lot in a suburb of southern LA, having been mutilated, with gashes carved into her face to extend her smile. Her killer was never identified.

Elizabeth Short was allegedly seen drinking at the Cecil Hotel days before she was murdered. Credit: LAPD
Elizabeth Short was allegedly seen drinking at the Cecil Hotel days before she was murdered. Credit: LAPD
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Two decades later, retired telephone operator Goldie Osgood was found in her room at the hotel in 1964, having been raped, strangled and fatally stabbed. Again, the crime remains unsolved.

Two of the hotel's most famous former guests were Richard Ramirez - who was known as 'The Night Stalker' - and Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger.

Ramirez, who killed 13 people in California during the mid-1980s, lived in a room on the hotel's 14th floor before he was caught - with tour guide Richard Schave telling CNN that while staying at the hotel, Ramirez had dumped bloody clothes in the dumpster before re-entering through the back entrance.

Richard Ramirez. Credit: Netflix
Richard Ramirez. Credit: Netflix
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Unterweger, meanwhile, is thought to have killed three sex workers in LA while staying at the hotel in 1991. It's believed he chose the Cecil as his temporary residence on purpose, with Schave saying it was 'in homage to Ramirez'.

In the trailer for the Netflix documentary, one woman explains: "Throughout its history, the Hotel Cecil has always had a dark persona.

"This is a place where serial killers let their hair down, like Richard Ramirez, who had come back covered in blood, and no one's got a problem with that."

At the end of the trailer, someone else says the hotel is 'hiding something', while someone else adds: "Bad things keep happening here, over and over again."

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Credit: Netflix
Credit: Netflix

Director Joe Berlinger said he's always felt 'fascinated' by Elisa Lam's case, and wanted to explore the role the location had played in her death.

He explained: "As a true crime documentarian, I was fascinated in 2013 when the elevator video of Elisa Lam went viral and legions of amateur detectives used the internet to try to solve the mystery of what happened to her, a 21-year-old Canadian tourist on her first trip to Los Angeles.

Credit: Cecil Hotel
Credit: Cecil Hotel

"So, when journalist Josh Dean, who is also a producer on the project, brought us his research into this case, we realised there was as an opportunity to do something different by not just telling the story of Elisa's disappearance, but to create a series that explores a particular location's role in encouraging or abetting crime - or the perception thereof.

"My past projects have leaned into individual crimes and criminals, but I have never explored the role a particular location has played in creating an environment in which multiple crimes seemingly take place over and over again.

"The fact that Elisa disappeared in a location that has a multi-decade history of crimes is what made her case fascinating to me."

Featured Image Credit: Netflix

Topics: Entertainment, TV and Film, True Crime, Netflix

Jess Hardiman
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