Friday, February 22, 2013

Cecil Hotel, L.A: A Dead Body in Drinking Water Tank Maybe Almost Par For the Course?

After you read this you'll understand why, for the rest of my life, when I check into a hotel, I will demand to see the inside of their water tank first.

As you might have seen on various news reports, guests at a Los Angeles hotel drank and used the hotel's water for days while a dead body decomposed in the building's water tank.

The ill-fated Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles
 This isn't exactly a public relations coup for the Cecil Hotel.  The place bills itself as a "boutique hotel" after some extensive renovations, but it already had an um, storied past.  It's the site of stays by serial killers, the site of weird deaths, unsolved crimes and all the stuff that is the noirest of the noire genre. It could be a leading candidate for the worst, most star-crossed hotel on the plante.

Just imagine the Yelp reviews for this place. Actually, I found some. Here's one:

"Do not stay here. The water is contaminated by a decomposing corpse in the water tank. This will probably ruin your experience."

Yes, it probably would ruin your experience. Bad weather ruins vacation experiences. Extra, unexpected fees ruin vacations. Decomposing bodies in water tanks really, really ruin vacation experiences.

Here's some other Yelp reviews from the Cecil:

"Any hotel that wouldn't let their staff know a dead body was found in their water tank should be shut down. Nuff said."

Yeah, it would have been nice for the staff to have that piece of information, since they presumably drink the water too.

Here's another Yelp comment:

"There was poop on the walls in the bathroom. Well, that's OK, at least it was dried so I just avoided it. There was a sharp pointy towel rack broken in the bathroom that cut me as I recoiled after discovering the poop. The hallway was pretty creepy like out of a horror movie."  

This reviewer had me at "poop" If your standards are low enought that dried poop on the bathroom wall of your hotel room is "OK" more power to you, but you really could do better.

Once word got out about the dead body in the water tank, the Yelp reviews took on a bit of gallows humor.:

"Whenever I'm feeling dead tired, I like to give my bones a saok in this hotels's famous water tank."



"I'd rather stay in the Bates motel"

Yeah, in the Bates motel, the water pressure in the shower is fine and the water is clean, at least when it first comes out of the shower head. That's better than the Cecil.

According to BNO News,  here's how guests described their less than idea experience drinking water at the hotel

"It tasted horrible. It had a funny, sweetening, disgusting taste. It's a very strange taste. I can barely describe it," British tourist Sabina Baugh, who had been using the water for eight days, told CNN. "We never thought anything of it. We thought it was just the way it was here."

"Besides low water pressure, guests at the hotel also described the water turning black at times. "The shower was awful. When you turned the tap on, the water was coming black for the first two seconds, then it was going back to normal," added Bough. "It made me feel really sick ysterday until now, known that we've been drinking this water for eight days."

L.A. health officials have been performing tests to see how big a health risk the guests might have faced.
Firefighters carry material out of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles
after a body was found in the building's drinking water tank.  
And of course police want to know how the body got into the tank in the first place.

I'm sure the owners of the hotel will be facing lawsuits, especially if this report from CNN is true:

"New guests continued to check into the Cecil after firefightyers removed Lam's body from the water tank. But each guest was asked to sign a waiver releasing the hotel from liability if they become ill. 'You do so at your own risk and peril,' the hotel's release said. Guests who already paid for their rooms would  not get refunds if they move out,  it said.

There's your first clue that you oughta find another hotel. When was the last time you checked into a hotel and a release made it clear they were very, very worried you'd get sick there, and were trying to shield themselves from lawsuits?

As I mentioned, the Cecil has quite a complicated history.  According to Slate, the Hotel Cecil has quite a bit of a past anyway.  Here's part of the Cecil Hotel's highlight or blooper reel, whatever you want to call it.

In 1962, a woman leaped to her death from the hotel, and landed on a woman on the sidewalk below, killing her, too.

In 1964, ther Pershing Square "Pigeon Lady" was raped and killed in her Cecil Hotel room. The case has never been solved.

In 1985, Richard Ramirez, the infamous "Night Stalker" serial killer who murdered 14 people, stayed for a time on the 14th floor of the Cecil Hotel.

In 1991, Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger stayed at the hotel for a time while spending his days murdering prostitutes.

So, if you're taking a last minute trip to L.A. this weekend to check out the Oscars, you might want to see if something besides the Cecil is available.  Because whether it's the Bates or the Cecil, dead bodies on vacation are not the recipe for golden Kodak moments.

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