I have had the travel bug for the last 5 years of my life and i have managed to see some amazing sights and sounds. From the glitz and neon lights of Hong Kong to the wonderful Croatian Coast. From the stunning mountains of Queenstown to the turquoise waters of Honolulu. I have never been shy in venturing to unexplored territory, whether with others or riding solo, i never give up on an opportunity to stay somewhere new.
You see this time last year i was planning a holiday to the Mainland United States. To be honest it has never been so high up on my list because when i travel, i want a culture shock. My mind tells me that the USA is like Australia but on steroids, sure its a preconceived notion based on little evidence but such are the wonders of a peculiar mind.
Last November i decided, it was finally time to pay visit to the United States of America. My first stop was to be Los Angeles. WAS is the keyword here seeming it never manifested and the reason is perfectly justified in my own mind, yet then again so is eating raw lemon with salt justified in my own mind. I had already planned the date of my travel to Los Angeles, i had intended on staying there a few days before beginning a road trip and this adventure was going to likely be a solo one.
I was literally only seconds away from booking my ticket before i decided to look at some accommodation i may stay at whilst i am there. Scrolling through the hotel booking pages i looked for discount tickets because when travelling Solo budget is usually the way to go. I found a hotel that had a wonderful 52% off per night. It was 3 stars and located in Los Angeles. Demographically i know nothing about Los Angeles, even Geographically i have no idea what is where and my mind does not comprehend the potential size of this city.
Yet i was happy to click away and take this steal of a deal. The Hotel was called “The Cecil” Hotel and it sounded classy enough and the select few high definition photos looks quite decent. Yet i consider myself a smart traveler, i knew how hotels work, they always make things look flashy and you likely will arrive disappointed. So i decided to check out a few cheeky reviews before clicking on that BOOK button.
This decision to check reviews of the Cecil hotel was the page turner in my fate to avoid Los Angeles. It was the step that made me turn back and run far far away from this city of mystery. What i was about to read shocked me. “The Cecil” hotel has a very rich history, so rich that recently the hotel has decided to change its name to “wash its hands clean” from its many unsavoury stories. The Hotel is now called “Stay On Main”, sure you can change the name but you could never…NEVER delete this history of this hotel.
First of all is the location, this hotel pretty much smack bang faces a place called “Skid Row”. Now if you’ve ever played any of the recent Grand Theft Auto games and hung around the roughest hood, it’d give you a rough idea of where this hotel is located. Yet its odd location was the least of my worries after i kept reading article after article about this spooky hotel.
Serial Killers actively chose this hotel as their “home stay” in between their murder sprees due to its close proximity and easy access to easy drugs and easy targets such as prostitutes. Not to mention the Cecil in the 1980’s was an extremely affordable hotel, so much so that people often remained there long term. Richard Ramirez, also known as the “Night Stalker” was a serial killer that called the Cecil home in the mid 1980’s. The Satanist burgled, raped and killed his way through the most troubled spots of Los Angeles and quietly made his way back to his lair, the “Cecil”. He got away with this sick cycle 13 times (Yes, he killed 13 people!).
Then came the case in 1991 of Austrian citizen Jack Unterweger who stayed in the hotel for 5 weeks and slaughtered three prostitutes in the Cecil hotel. He stayed there for $30 a night and was left undetected to continue his murdering spree. These horrific scenes had occurred in this Los Angeles Hotel after he had already been jailed and released in his native Austria for a similar string of murders.
The Hotel itself was also a hotbed for many suicides from the 1950’s onward. Yet the particular case that not only caught my eye but raised the hairs on the back of the neck was the 2013 death of Canadian student Elisa Lam at the Cecil hotel premises. In January 2013 the bright and bubbly Elisa decided to embark on a solo journey through the West Coast of the United States, much like what i had initially wanted to do once visiting the mainland.
Yet her journey was cut short, under very mysterious circumstances. It all begins with video footage of the Cecil Hotel elevators and the footage of a single young female of Asian appearance entering the elevator. The next couple minutes of footage is puzzling, baffling and downright frightening. Elisa appears to push the buttons in the elevator, to no avail. Then she hides behind sections of the elevator, trying to have a sneaky peer from the edges of it, to whatever awaits outside.
The lift refuses to move, let alone close. In frustration Elisa pushes all buttons, then decides to step out in some scattered movements. Her arms begin twisting and distorting as she appears to be communicating to someone- or something just outside the lift. Elisa finally disappears off camera, then suddenly the lift doors decide to close, without her in it. Moments later it was presumed she was dead. Her naked body was found weeks later at the rooftop water tank of the hotel. The only reason they found her body was the harrowing discovery by hotel guests who complained of “pungent black water” running through their taps.
Elisas mobile phone was missing and no other clues have come as to how she got in the water tank of the hotel. Yet police deemed the death “accidental”. A flavour that seems very bitter to many people who find the entire situation suspicious. She had no drugs or alcohol in her system. This story of Elisa Lam has become a “token” story in Los Angeles. Almost “fashionable” to talk about. Her story genuinely scared me because it is missing pieces of a puzzle that have been forced to “fit together” to fit the narrative that it was an accidental death, a narrative that makes no sense.
As captivating as her story is it has pushed me far away from Los Angeles because it is not only Elisas’ story that haunts me- the Cecil hotel being the portal of such bizarre activity and knowing i was only a click away from staying here really sealed the deal for me. I don’t truly believe Elisas case to be closed and its an incomplete circle. I do believe Elisas story needs to be revisited but most definitely not by me. The Cecil gave me a huge irrational fear of Los Angeles, i understand and acknowledge that it is an irrational fear yet reading up on the history of the hotel and the many characters that played a “lead role” in this place really made me realize i have no interest in making any appearances on its stage any time soon.