The Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles was once a luxury palace for travelers to the city of dreams. But as you will see it became a place of nightmares.
The Cecil was a monument to the sumptuous architecture of the 1920s. It fit neatly among the other opulent hotels that dotted the landscape at the time. In later years the building would become notorious not for its rich interior, but for its terrifying influence on the people who stayed there.
Pillar of Wealth
Built by hotelier William Banks Hanner in 1924 for $1 million, The Cecil was a popular destination for two decades after it opened. Its glory days were short-lived however thanks to a declining stock market and the stronghold of urban blight that would eventually invade a once-bustling Main Street.
The area was deemed Skid Row in the 1940s. In the years that followed The Cecil’s reputation became one of horror and tragedy.
Lots of people who checked into the hotel apparently had no intention of leaving properly through the lobby. Throughout the years, many guests jumped from their windows, ended their lives with pills or slit their own throats.
The hotel was nicknamed “The Suicide.”
Even innocent bystanders weren’t immune to the hotel’s destruction. In 1962, 27-year-old Pauline Otton leaped to her death from the ninth floor and fell on a 65-year-old pedestrian named George Gianni, killing him.
In 1975 “Alison Lowell” signed the registry then jumped to her death from the 12th floor. Authorities discovered she had used an alias at check-in and never did discover her true identity.
A Grisly History
Suicide wasn’t the only disturbing cause of death for some at the Cecil. There are remarkable reports of unsettling events involving murder and violence.
In 1944 a nineteen-year-old girl named Dorothy Purcell threw her newborn child out of one of the hotel’s windows.
Twenty years later a hotel staff member would find the body of “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood who had been raped, stabbed and beaten by Jacques Ehlinger.
Aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, notoriously known as The Black Dahlia, is believed to have had a drink in the hotel’s bar in the days leading up her gruesome murder.
Serial Killers Board at the Cecil
Serial killers also took to the Cecil for refuge. In the 80s California was terrorized by Richard Ramirez also known as the Night Stalker.
Ramirez, living in the hotel at the time, would throw his bloody clothes into the hotel trash after his nightly killing sprees.
Another killer named Johann “Jack” Unterweger was a journalist from Austria who came to Los Angeles on assignment. During his time at the Cecil, he would go on a murder binge, killing three prostitutes.
The Death of Elisa Lam
Then there’s Elsa Lam. She has become an internet phenomenon mostly because her final moments were caught on camera.
She was on a west coast holiday which she documented via her blog.
When she stopped calling her family to check-in everyday, they got worried and contacted police. The search was on with only some footage from the hotel’s elevator CCTV camera to go by.
The clip taken on January 31, 2013, shows Lam acting erratically, using hand gestures as if speaking to an invisible presence and pushing elevator buttons only to step back out into the lobby acting scared and agitated.
Police were at a loss until hotel residents complained that the water in the building tasted funny and had uneven pressure. On February 9, staff members made their way to the building’s water tower to investigate.
They found Lam’s decomposing body floating in the basin, they were bewildered at how she got there. The door to the rooftop triggered an alarm if opened and that never happened. Also, the cistern was latched from the outside.
An autopsy concluded that Lam had died accidentally with mental illness as the reason for her strange behavior.
Ghost On a Ledge
You’d think with so much death and destruction the building would be a hotbed of ghosts and the supernatural. Youngster Koston Alderete may have caught one.
A picture taken of one of the windows at the Cecil reportedly shows a ghost standing on the ledge.
The Cecil was re-named “Stay on Main” in 2011. Thanks to architect Loy Lester Smith’s design and its place in local history The Cecil is a historical landmark.
Although the rooms have been renovated and the lobby given a new life, what remains within its hallways is an eerie history that can never be erased.
You can read more about The Cecil HERE.
Netflix Doc ‘Devil on Trial’ Explores The Paranormal Claims of ‘Conjuring 3’
What is it about Lorraine Warren and her constant row with the devil? We may find out in the new Netflix documentary called The Devil on Trial which will premiere on October 17, or at least we will see why she chose to take on this case.
Back in 2021, everyone was holed up in their homes, and anyone with an HBO Max subscription could stream “Conjuring 3” day and date. It got mixed reviews, maybe because this wasn’t an ordinary haunted house tale that the Conjuring universe is known for. It was more of a crime procedural than a paranormal investigative one.
As with all of the Warren-based Conjuring movies, The Devil Made Me Do It was based on “a true story,” and Netflix is taking that claim to task with The Devil on Trial. The Netflix e-zine Tudum explains the backstory:
“Often referred to as the ‘Devil Made Me Do It’ case, the trial of 19-year-old Arne Cheyenne Johnson quickly became the subject of lore and fascination after it made national news in 1981. Johnson claimed that he murdered his 40-year-old landlord, Alan Bono, while under the influence of demonic forces. The brutal killing in Connecticut drew the attention of self-professed demonologists and paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, known for their probe into the infamous haunting in Amityville, Long Island, several years prior. The Devil on Trial recounts the troubling events leading up to Bono’s murder, the trial, and the aftermath, using firsthand accounts of the people closest to the case, including Johnson.”
Then there’s the logline: The Devil on Trial explores the first — and only — time “demonic possession” has officially been used as a defense in a US murder trial. Including firsthand accounts of alleged devil possession and shocking murder, this extraordinary story forces reflection on our fear of the unknown.
If anything, this companion to the original film might shed some light on just how accurate these “true story” Conjuring films are and how much is just a writer’s imagination.
After Nearly A Decade, A Suspect Has Been Arrested For The Long Island ‘Gilgo Beach’ Murders
Back in 2010, the missing person case of Shannan Gilbert ended up leading officials to a horrific discovery. 11 bodies were found. The suspect Rex Heuermann, 59, was officially arrested Thursday and was charged with the 3 murders of 3 women named Amber Lynn Costello, 27, Megan Waterman, 22, and Melissa Barthelemy, 24.
He has also been named the prime suspect in the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, 25. Heuermann has pleaded not guilty to the 3 charges of 1st-degree murder and 3 charges of 2nd-degree murder against him. The judge ordered him to be held without bail.
A chaotic, chilling 911 call ultimately led to the discovery of these victims. Shannon Gilbert, 24, called frantically stating “Something is going to happen to me … there’s somebody after me… please”. The search for her ended 8 months later but while looking for her body they found the remains of other victims who were women over the next couple of days.
“Rex Heuermann is a demon that walks amongst us, a predator that ruined families” is what was said by Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison on Friday. He stated that “Even with this arrest, we’re not done. There is more work to do in this investigation regarding the other victims of the Gilgo Beach bodies that were discovered” Some of the remains were found as far back as 1996.
According to court documents, they stated that the suspect would search for updates in the investigation. He would search for images of the victims and their families. He also searched “Why hasn’t the long island serial killer been caught” and updates on the investigation.
One of the pieces of evidence used to connect him to the murders includes burner phones that were used to contact the sex workers and then discarded after they were killed. An email that was used with these burner phones was linked to thousands of searches that were related to sex workers, sadistic torture-related pornography, and child pornography. The burner phones were tracked to Massapequa Park, which is where the suspect lives.
Some more evidence being used to link him to these murders was strands of hair. A hair was found in a burlap bound on one of the victims and was tested to be a DNA match to the suspect. It was found to be a match based on a DNA sample retrieved from a crust in a pizza box that was discarded. Another strand of hair found on 3 of the victims was tested and belonged to suspect’s wife. It has been stated that they believe that it fell off the suspect’s clothing. According to the court filing, she was out of the state at the time these 3 murders took place.
Another piece of evidence was provided by a witness that stated that they had seen a Chevrolet Avalanche being driven by a man with one of the victims inside. It was later discovered that a Chevrolet Avalanche was registered to the suspect.
The 11 victims include 10 adult females and one female toddler. Some of the other victims were named Jessica Taylor, Valerie Mack, and Shannan Gilbert. They were all females in their 20s. Of the four victims that been connected to the suspect, they were similar as they were all sex workers and petite. It was also stated that the crime scenes had similarities as the victims were found bound at the head, and that their midsection and legs were covered with a camouflage burlap.
All the victim’s remains were found near Gilgo Beach. More specifically near Ocean Park across a stretch of highway between Nassau and Suffolk county. Six of the victims were found less than a mile apart from each other. Some remains that were partly found on Fire Island, are still unknown. Not all the names of the victims have been released as of this moment.
Some neighbors said they were shocked to find out that Rex Heuermann was the suspect in this case. He is married and has 2 children. They were described as loners, but everyone was friendly. He had been an architect for Manhattan since 1987.
One neighbor Devilliers told the news station “We’ve been here for about 30 years, and the guy’s been quiet, never really bothers anybody. We were kind of shocked, to tell you the truth.” He later stated, “Like I said, we’re shocked. Because this is a very, very quiet neighborhood. Everybody knows each other, all of our neighbors, we’re all friendly. It’s never been a problem at all”.
Other neighbors weren’t so optimistic. Neighbor Libardi says, “This house sticks out like a sore thumb. There were overgrown shrubs, there was always wood in front of the house. It was very creepy. I wouldn’t send my child there.” Neighbor Auslander stated “It was weird. He looked like a businessman. But his house is a dump.”
If convicted on the current charges, the suspect would serve several life sentences. The case is currently still ongoing. We give our condolences to the families of the victims through this difficult time. What are your thoughts on this case? Let us know in the comments below. You can also check out news reports on this case below.
Forget ‘Christine,’ The Black Volga is the Real Demon Car
In 1983 Stephen King released his possessed American automobile horror novel Christine but years before that the Black Volga was terrorizing the streets of Poland and some think it’s not a construct of horror fiction. But to understand why, we need to do a small history lesson. Don’t worry it’s a painless micro-learning moment.
In the 1930s central Europe was, let’s just say, in crisis. Poland was hit pretty hard by the Nazis and the Soviet Union, each taking up two different territories. The Nazis wanted all Poles killed while the Soviets wanted them deported (and subsequently killed). It was a very tumultuous time.
Once the war was over (the Polish resistance helping defeat the Germans), a new age was born; the Communist era. Forgoing a long explanation of political hijinx, there were organizations called the “secret police” that helped keep autocrats, or politicians with supreme power in office. One of these forces was called the NKVD. Their job? Political repression.
Between 1952 and 1989 Poland was ruled by a communist government. What does this have to do with a demonic car you ask? Well, the Soviet-led NKVD would oversee the manufacturing of the Black Volga (black paint was cheap to use) and utilize them in their patrols, terrifying citizens.
But some believe the Devil himself got a hold of one of these cars in the ’60s and ’70s and cruised the ghettos for children and unsuspecting adults. The urban legend says that the Devil himself would pull up alongside someone and ask for the time or something conversational, then kill them where they stood.
The Black Volga would also have a license plate with the number “666,” some also say it had curtains in the windows too. The only way to escape the demonic driver was to say “It is God’s Time,” and the vehicle would simply vanish. Some stories claim that the driver wouldn’t kill you on the spot, but tell you that you would die at the same time the next day.
Another, perhaps more realistic yet conspiratory version of the tale says the cars would do as above, but it wasn’t the devil in the driver’s seat, but KGB agents who would abduct children and steal their blood and organs for the Western black market.
A 1973 movie was made of this version of the story called, appropriately, Black Volga. Upon the movie’s release in Poland, it was quickly banned.
During filming, the director, Patryk Symanski, wanted to use a real black Volga, but he couldn’t because frightened townsfolk, upon seeing the car, refused to leave which made shooting on location an impossibility. In the end, Symanski never made another film, blaming Black Volga for being cursed. Did they cover that fact in the Shudder doc?
Another, more superhero-type movie that has nothing to with the legend, but features the Volga is called “Black Lightening” from 2009. Think Chitty Chitty Bang Bang meets Transformers meets Green Lantern.
This legend has withstood the test of time and it is known as far away as Mongolia. In yet another version of the tale, cultists would use the car to scour the streets for children to use in blood sacrifices.
As with most urban legends and creepy tales, The Black Volga is probably something made up as a metaphor for the bleak times in Eastern European history. But the fact that so many people are still frightened of its presence makes you wonder which version of this urban legend scared them the most.