Stay On Main Hotel – Los Angeles, California - Atlas Obscura

Stay On Main Hotel

This brightly made over hotel hides decades of suicide, serial killers, and mysterious deaths. 


The historic (and recently re-branded) Stay On Main Hotel in downtown Los Angeles has a history of suicide, murder, and madness stretching back more than 50 years when the location was known as the Cecil Hotel.

The Cecil was built in 1927 in a bid to attract businessmen to Los Angeles’ bustling downtown area. However, after 20 years of decline and the economic strain of the Great Depression, the respectable businessmen began seeking beds elsewhere and less respectable drifters began seeping in to fill the Cecil’s 700 rooms. Shortly after this shift in clientele the dark events that would come to define the Cecil began.

The suicides started in the 1950s. At least three people jumped to their deaths from their rooms in the Cecil, with one woman landing on a hapless pedestrian who was killed along with her. Then in 1964, an elderly resident was brutally murdered, her room ransacked, and her killer (or killers) were never caught.

By 1985 the hotel was a known flophouse for transients, convicts, and other ne’er-do-wells. It was during this year that infamous serial murderer Richard Ramirez, also known as the Night Stalker, used the Cecil as his base for his Los Angeles killing spree. Six years later, Austrian crime journalist, and former murderer, Jack Unterweger booked a room in the hotel while covering the area and proceeded to murder a further three prostitutes himself.  After these high profile residents, the Cecil remained an unremarkable, part of the downtown skyline until February of 2013, when hotel guests began to complain about poor water pressure and foul smells. A maintenance worker soon investigated and found the body of a young Canadian woman, Elisa Lam, floating in one of the hotel’s rooftop water tanks. Between the gruesome shock to hotel guests and the bizarre circumstances surrounding Lam’s death, the hotel resurfaced in the public eye. The Cecil had struck for the last time. 

Shortly after Lam’s body was found, the hotel changed hands and was re-branded as Stay On Main Hotel and Hostel. The bright and fun re-branding seems to have erased some of the location’s negative reputation, but history has a hard time staying buried, so no one can say how long it will be before the Cecil is heard from once again. 

The site is rumored to have been the inspiration for American Horror Story’s “Hotel” season.

Update: The hotel has closed and been turned to apartments.

Know Before You Go

The hotel is easy to find, as it is on Main Street between 6th street and 7th street.

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