Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles is the real-life ‘American Horror Story’

American Horror Story: Hotel is a terrifying show, but something even more eerie involves the fact that this season was inspired by a real-life hotel in Downtown Los Angeles.

A hotel with a long, sad history.

stay on main
(Photo: Yelp / Cecil Hotel)

Creator Ryan Murphy previously described how a girl’s disappearance and unsettling death at the Cecil Hotel near Skid Row inspired this season of the show:

“There was a surveillance video that went around two years ago that showed a girl getting into an elevator in a hotel that was said to be haunted … and she was never seen again.”

Elisa Lam, the woman in the surveillance video Murphy mentions, arrived at the hotel in January 2013. The 21-year-old Canadian student was traveling alone and staying at the hotel when she went missing.

In an effort to find her, LAPD released surveillance video of Lam in the hotel elevator. It quickly gained worldwide attention due to her strange behavior: hiding in the corner of the elevator, pressing all the buttons before peering out into the hallway, and even gesturing to someone outside the doors.

Soon after, guests at the hotel began complaining of foul-smelling water coming from their taps. An employee went to the hotel roof to check on the water tanks when he found Lam’s body inside of one.

Guests had brushed their teeth, drank and bathed in the water where a body had been decomposing for 19 days.

There was a lot of speculation about the cause of Lam’s death, as the doors and stairs to access the roof are locked. It was ultimately ruled to be an accidental drowning “with bipolar disorder as a significant factor,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The hotel today.

The Cecil Hotel was also home to the “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez, a serial killer, rapist and burglar who terrorized Los Angeles during 1984 to 1985. He killed at least 13 people, all of which he did while reportedly staying on the top floor at the Cecil for $14 a night.

Richard Ramirez in 2007. (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)
Richard Ramirez in 2007.

According to the hotel tour guide, Ramirez was “just dumping his bloody clothes in the dumpster at the end of his evening and going in the back entrance.”

Supposed “copy cat” Jack Underweger worked as a journalist covering LA crime for an Austrian magazine in 1991 when he murdered three prostitutes, all while staying as a guest at the Cecil Hotel.

“We believe he was living at the Cecil in homage to Ramirez,” tour guide Richard Schave told CNN.

hotel cecil 2
The backside of the building.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the hotel gained a reputation as a place where people tragically jumped to their death from upper-floor windows.

Cecil Hotel in 2013 (Photo: ZhengZhou)
Cecil Hotel in 2013 (Photo: ZhengZhou)

It is also allegedly one of the last places Elizabeth Short, better known as The Black Dahlia, was seen before her murder in 1947.

So what happened? Why does this hotel have such a morbid past?

According to tour guides, the place was originally built in the 1920s as a hotel “for businessmen” to come and stay a night or two.

However, nicer hotels in better areas of town were popping up, and when the Great Depression hit, the Cecil became more and more of a “transient hotel.”

The place has since rebranded as Stay On Main, but its past has not been forgotten.

Photo: Facebook / Stay On Main
The hotel today (Photo: Facebook / Stay On Main)

In fact, just one year after Lam’s death, a boy claimed to have taken a photo of a ghost outside a window at the hotel.

And then American Horror Story had to go and make a show based on the place.

Book your room today here, but beware—the Yelp reviews are a little terrifying too. 😬

Stay On Main is located at 640 Main Street in Downtown Los Angeles.

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Add yours →

  1. I’m bookin’ a room next week!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting post. I love LA history. Thank you.


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