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February 22, 2013

6 ways to tell if you're staying in a murder hotel

NEW YORK — This January, a 21-year-old Canadian tourist named Elisa Lam disappeared while visiting Los Angeles. Lam was last seen at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, where she had been staying.

Tuesday, her body was found at the bottom of one of the hotel's rooftop water tanks, thus solving two separate mysteries at once: "What happened to Elisa Lam?" and "Why is the water pressure so bad at the Cecil Hotel?"

The hotel's guests were horrified at the news, with good reason — nothing spoils a vacation faster than learning you may have been brushing your teeth with corpse-water.

But anyone familiar with Los Angeles' history couldn't have been too surprised. Downtown L.A. has long been seedy, and somewhat dangerous; the Cecil Hotel, for its part, has a long and sordid criminal history.

The Cecil doesn't advertise its dark past; caveat emptor and all that. But, still, many guests might balk at staying in a hotel that was once a crime scene. It's best if you do your research before embarking on your travels, not after. Here are some ways to determine whether or not you might have booked a room in a murder hotel.

The hotel is also a residential hotel.

Half the time, people who live in hotels are either eccentric millionaires or adorable, adventure-prone children. The rest of the time, they are usually creepy drifters. Sometimes it's hard to tell which is which, so corpse-wary travelers should play it safe and avoid hotels that court the long-term trade. The Hotel Chelsea, where Sid Vicious allegedly killed Nancy Spungen in 1978, was also a long-term residential hotel. The Cecil is one, too; a Los Angeles Times article about the Lam case featured quotes from an 89-year-old man who has lived in the Cecil for 32 years. A hotel like this is probably not the sort of place you want to stay, unless you are a character in a Charles Bukowski novel — in which case, congratulations on magically coming to life!

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