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America’s Unsolved Mystery of Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles

Edit 2018: Stay on Main hotel is currently under reconstruction again, so it’s not currently possible to stay there.

Los Angeles, travel planning and unexpected uncomfortable situations are few of my favourite things. They all managed to complement each other during my last trip to USA. This trip made me learn about one of the most bizarre and chilling stories I’ve ever heard – till this day unsolved death in of Elise Lam, a Canadian girl found in the water tank of the “Cecil Hotel” or currently “Stay on Main”.

During the week in LA I decided to find hotels in 3 different areas and spend few night in each so that I could explore around without renting a car and having to spend a lot of time in traffic. My first area of choice was Downtown LA. Seemed like a good idea at the moment.

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How did we end up in the mystery filled Cecil Hotel?

I googled some hotels in the area and landed on the one that seemed very cool, called “Stay on Main”. I was instantly impressed with the building itself and photos from the lobby. It reminded me of America in the 50s from the good old movies. It looked like to be in an easily accessible location, also very affordable price and waffles & maple syrup for breakfast. That’s the deal for me. I read some reviews on booking.com about the place. Some of them did say that it’s a bit sketchy area to walk outside at night but I didn’t pay too much attention it as these kind of statements tend to be exaggerated.

This time it turned out they were very, very underrated!

After booking the “Stay on Main” I started to read what kind of fun things could I do and see in LA. I  stumbled upon one article with top unusual sights to see in the city. It was promising more extreme experiences and feelings.

One of the sights on a list was the hotel “Cecil”, a tall american style building from the 50s with a reputation of hosting famous serial killers and keeping many unsolved tragedies in it’s walls.

First thing I thought reading it was how uneasy it would be to stay in such a hotel but it’s probably not a working hotel anymore. However as a tourist object it’s something extraordinary to see.

Few moments later my face changed….

The article had a picture of the hotel in the article and it suddenly looked somehow familiar to me. I wasn’t sure where have I seen it before until I read that the hotel that holds many murders over the past 100 years has recently rebranded and changed it’s name from “Cecil” to “Stay on Main”. And then it hit me! I know it because I’m going to be staying there soon!!!

After this realisation I didn’t want to know much more details until I’m out of that place. Otherwise it just might get too scary. Unintentionally I had placed myself in a real horror movie. It’s no surprise that Ryan Murphy made the 2015 season of “American Horror Story” based on the events happening in this hotel.

Why is CECIL HOTEL / STAY ON MAIN called a murder hotel?

The history of Cecil Hotel or Stay on Main hotel is related to drug addicts, serial killers, “accidental” slips from very high windows and even ghost stories. Many of the cities greatest unsolved murders have happened here. The Cecil Hotel has a dark legacy dating all the way back to the Great Depression.

“Unintentionally I had placed myself in a real horror movie.”

The Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, convicted of 13 murders, five attempted murders, 11 sexual assaults and 14 burglaries committed in 1985, lived in the Cecil at the time of his spree.

Ramirez is the reason Austrian journalist Jack Unterweger took a room at the Cecil in 1991, while researching law enforcement and prostitution. A police ride-along gave him ideas of where to look for victims, and Unterweger killed three before he left Los Angeles to continue a bloody spree. These are only a few of the stories.

The latest unsolved Cecil Hotel’s mystery of Elisa Lam

As scary as it sounds, it’s all in the long past now. Except for the recent 2013 viral case – the death of Elisa Lam. Her story brings the creepiness of Cecil Hotel to a whole new level.

A body of  Canadian – Chinese tourist 21-year-old Elisa Lam was discovered in a water tank at the hotel rooftop after guests complained of foul-smelling black water coming from their taps. It had been there for 19 days since the girl stayed in the hotel and mystically disappeared.

Cecil Hotel Elevator security footage was released from the night she disappeared, showing Elisa alone in the elevator, acting erratically, alternately hiding in the corner of the elevator and dashing in and out.

At one point, she gesticulated as if addressing an unseen figure. She spent several minutes in the elevator that didn’t even move. Then she stepped out and was never seen again.

“It’s no surprise that Ryan Murphy made the 2015 season of “American Horror Story” based on the events happening in this hotel.”

Some would suggest that the girl was under influence of drugs, however her toxicology report was clean and wouldn’t explain her behaviour. There was also no sign of trauma to suggest that she was murdered. So how is it possible that she got into the water tank?

The roof isn’t accessible to guests and if the roof door is opened, an alarm sounds that alerts the front desk. And even if she did somehow get onto the roof, how did she get inside the tank?

The hatch is huge, so she would have had to open it up, climb inside, then pull down the massive hatch with her inside. These questions were never answered.

These questions raised the discussion of paranormal presence in the hotel. That wouldn’t even be surprising after such a long history of tragedies happening there.

How is it staying at Cecil Hotel now?

The hotel is looking for a fresh start from all the dark past with the rebranding from “Cecil”  to “Stay on Main”. That was one of the positive aspects that made me a bit more safe going there for 3 nights.

The building itself is so eye-catching and beautiful. The marbled lobby has a special art deco elegance, with a dazzling stained-glass skylight, potted palms and period chandeliers. Above the check-in desk there’s an old clock with its hands permanently stuck at 5.27.

Stay on Main is located right around the corner from Skid Row, so the feeling to just be out on the street in that area is not the safest at all. The area is full of homeless, drug addicts and after dark is really one of the worst places to walk around.

But arriving in the hotel lobby is so refreshing and nice. I loved the atmosphere there! The lobby and public areas doesn’t give a murdery vibe that would reflect the dark past of the hotel. Luxurious lobby area looks like a 5-star hotel with a helpful staff and many tourists all around.

The creepiness snuck in again at the moment when we had to go on the elevator. It’s the same one that’s in the video. We were going up to the 4th floor where we would be staying for the next three nights.

I suddenly got the chills in the elevator, just thinking back how someone was possibly possessed by a ghost right at this place. At that moment I promised myself not to walk alone these halls ever.

The facilities in the hotel are quite run down and doesn’t give the best impression like the lobby before. Beds were very comfortable though. We had a good sleep after a 24-hour trip flying from Europe.

Here’s how our room looked like:


Being jet-lagged I managed to wake up at very early hours. One morning I went in the hallway at 5:30 am. I was unlucky to run into a homeless guy going through the trash cans of 4th floor.

” The area is full of homeless, drug addicts and after dark is really one of the worst places to walk around.”

I assumed that hotel staff allows these homeless people in during the night. Otherwise how did he get there?

My creepy revelation after leaving Cecil Hotel

At the time of our stay at Cecil Hotel or Stay on Main, I didn’t know many details of the Elisa Lam case. I didn’t know what room she stay in. Later turned out it was for the best that I didn’t know.

“I don’t think I would have been able to sleep at all having to know this…”

Investigating more of this story, I found out that she lived in room 412 and that shocked me to my very core as we were staying in the 410. It’s only two doors down from hers. I don’t think I would have been able to sleep at all having to know this.

All together it was a very weird experience. I’m happy I had a chance to see it all in real life and find out how it is to sleep in a building with such a creepy vibe. But right now I’m happy it’s over.



  1. Elisa Lam’s old Formspring page has been resurrected-

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  3. Duuuuuude. I would be so creeped out, but I enjoyed reading this from the comfort of my desk haha! That season of AHS made me so uncomfortable, and I can just imagine how nervous I would be staying in the hotel that the season was based off of. The lobby is gorgeous, but the area definitely sounds like one to stay clear of.

  4. So creepy! I’m easily terrified. I won’t be able to stay there.

  5. omg! really sound creepy~ this is one of things i try to avoid when i stay in a hotel

  6. Oh wow I think I won’t dare to stay in that hotel though! I must agree that you are really brave though!! Interesting sharing you have staying in cecil hotel =)

  7. Very creepy. I don’t think I would have to courage to stay there. If you are into paranormal check out Savannah, GA. It is known as the most haunted city in America. It is a city built over Indian Burial grounds.

  8. What and wonderful post you have returned thanks for sharing. I have seen this type of traditional hotels but this one was quite different

  9. T”hanks for sharing this to us. Will bookmark this as reference when I travel to LA.

  10. I live in SoCal so I had a bad feeling as soon as you said downtown LA! Skid row is not exactly a tourist attraction but you sure got a good story out of the experience! I hope you visited the last bookstore and got to wander around and see the great street art!

  11. I actually read about the case of Elisa Lam not too long ago…. it just shows that we really have to do more research online before booking a stay.

  12. oh lucky you nothing happened to you. what an extraordinary experience

  13. Oh no, I’m not as brave as you, your a brace person.

  14. Wow! Now that’s kinda creepy. Unintentional horror movie. But what a story to tell! The Elisa murder case sounds really interesting. How did she get into the tank!

  15. Whenever I travel, I always look for the traditional type of hotel, but reading this, idk. haha.

  16. Oh man! This looks like straight from the horror movies

  17. Oh my gosh.. you are so brave.. i wont be able to sleep a wink and be shivering if I know the hotel I stayed in was so notorious

  18. i will creep and freak out if i was there, well the joy in it all you experienced it first hand and close and at the end it was a good experience to tell a story and you are so bravo for the courage and strength you displayed. such history and images pictured from here.

  19. Wow! So much history to this place but was totally shocked you were two doors down (or maybe the next room to her). That would have been spooky and if you had known, I could see you asking for another room 😀

  20. This was a interesting read, it got my heart pumping because I’m such a scardy cat, I don’t think I’ll ever want to stay in a hotel like that! Gives me the jeeper creepers.

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