The Hotel Cecil’s Gruesome Past aka Our Damn Am LA Trip
THERE IS NO ROOFTOP BAR at the Stay on Main hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The receptionist checking us in made that clear, or at least made it clear that there was something very strange about Milligan asking about it. She seemed surprised, embarrassed, amused? We’d find out why later, and none of us liked the answer. Well that’s not exactly true, I liked the answer but that just proves there’s something a little bit wrong with me.
DON’T stay at Stay on Main if you’re sure you want to survive the night. That’s Schaefer looking relaxed in front of the house of horrors.
So it was Milligan, Schaefer, Eric, Frank, and myself and we’d just arrived in LA for the first Damn Am. I’d booked the hotel. The price made it too good to pass up and the two reviews I’d read said, “Clean room!” and “Friendly staff plus a movie theatre in the lobby!” Sounded amazing. Note to self: Always read at least three reviews.
The first thing I noticed about the hotel was its proximity to skid row. Was that crack cocaine I smelled? You wouldn’t want to spend time down there alone. One stroll around the block and @streethandle could have shot enough material for a month. We also found a dirty needle on the floor of the hotel Ping-Pong room. And yes, they had a Ping-Pong room, another selling point, never mind the prostitute in the lobby.
Oh oh oh! Didn’t Daewon do that one thing there? And didn’t J-lee do that other thing?
On a side note, there are famous skate spots on every block in LA. Seeing them is the skater’s equivalent of spotting a celebrity. We mostly pointed at them out the van window on our way back and forth to the contest. “And to your right you’ll see Hollywood High School, where you’ll remember Andrew Reynolds once did a famous frontside kickflip over the handrail as seen on the cover of Transworld Skateboarding Magazine. And moving on, to your left just ahead is the Legendary Supreme Skateboard Shop where notable legends of boarding like Atiba Jefferson and Eric Koston can frequently still be found mingling with fans…”
Atiba, Koston, and Shoulder Hands.
Back to the hotel. Up until about two years ago it was called the Hotel Cecil. They had to change the name to keep people from NEVER STAYING THERE EVER AGAIN. We found that out after meeting up with OG Tampa bro Craig Chimile, who in addition to now living right down the street from the Cecil, works for Lakai and is friends with Mike Carroll. He couldn’t believe we were actually booked there but refused to tell us what the problem was, claiming he didn’t want to completely ruin our stay. So we turned to Google, trusted friend.
This is Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker. Cecil local, always down for a good time. Shake Junt!
Old Googs spilled the beans right away. He informed us that Richard Ramirez, one of the most notorious serial killers of all time lived at the hotel in the 1980s, Serial Killing’s Heyday. Richard was known as the Night Stalker when he was on the loose. After going out on a spree, he’d throw his blood soaked clothes into the dumpsters behind the Cecil and call it a night. A Night Stalker wannabe Jack Unterweger also lived at the hotel. He murdered three prostitutes, strangling them with their own bra straps. Additionally, the suicide rate at the Cecil has historically been off the charts. One time a deranged patron jumped off the roof, landed on a passerby down below and they both sailed off to the great hereafter. It’s no wonder the victims of these horrors have been roaming the halls ever since, causing all sorts of problems for guests and staff alike. Whatever you do, don’t ride the elevators alone, speaking of which… the clincher for Milligan was the story from only two short years ago when 21 year old Canadian student Elisa Lam mysteriously disappeared while staying the hotel. After an investigation, all the authorities could uncover was surveillance footage of her acting strangely in the elevator. After exiting the elevator she was never seen again. Well not alive at least. It was only after guests complained that the hotel’s water had an “odd color and disgusting taste” that someone finally thought to take a look in a water tank on the Cecil’s roof, where they discovered her decomposing body. Gross! Press reports claimed the roof was only accessible via a locked door and fire escape, but on our last night I personally climbed out onto the fire escape from the 15th floor and took the ladder straight up to the roof with no obstructions, before quickly turning around and climbing straight back down in a panic. So much for press reports.
They definitely don’t want you on the roof, especially if you’re going to end up dead in one of their water tanks.
We spent pretty much the entirely of our trip skateboarding around LA, running the best Damn Am event to date, and taunting ghosts. Milligan was not amused with that last part. As the only one of us not sharing a room, he says he didn’t sleep too well all week. The mind can be a powerful thing, and it didn’t help that each night, all night, a very real and disturbing banging sound could be heard echoing throughout the hotel, one that didn’t take a very far stretch to imagine was coming from inside the water tank on the roof just over our heads. I don’t see why they don’t put a bar up there. Sink or Swim Serial Killer Fridays!
- Paul Zitzer
Words and photos by Paul Zitzer.
Video by Frank Branca
Schaefer said I had to put myself in the article, I’m usually too modest for that. But here I am tearing the bowl a new one. Pretty sure I did like 10 NBDs and blew away everyone there. Just kidding. I sucked.