Los Angeles is known around the world for its abundance of warm sunshine filled days, iconic palm tree lined streets and glamorous people, but there is a darker side to the City of Angels, a shadier side if you will, and no I’m not talking about the traffic. I’m talking about the mysteries, murders, suicides, and hauntings.
The opportunity to learn about the darker side of LA’s history presented itself when I was invited to join Cartwheel Art’s new Downtown LA walking tours: Paranormal Nights and LA Vice.
Led by historical journalist, Hadley Meares, the tours were a perfect mix of history and horrific. Along the way we were treated to spine chilling tales of unsolved murders, bombings, mysterious elevators, haunted hotels and more.
The Biltmore Hotel (Haunted?)
Our tour started at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel an appropriate choice as it’s considered to be haunted by multiple spirits. Built in 1923 the Biltmore catered to the rich and famous and was an early home to the Academy Awards ceremonies.
One of the hotel’s more famous haunts is Elizabeth Short, who after her death came to be known as the Black Dahlia. She was last seen in the hotel six days before her mutilated and severed corpse was discovered in a field in the Leimert Park neighborhood of LA. Due to the gruesome nature of her death her case because a national sensation and it is still unsolved to this day.
A police bulletin taken from the FBI Archives
Searching for the supernatural? Elizabeth Short is just one of the many spirits said to appear to guests of the The Millennium Biltmore… check in if you dare.
The Trunk Murders
Winnie Ruth Judd aka The Tiger woman, The Blond Butcher and The Trunk Murderess was accused and convicted of murdering her friends, Agnes Anne LeRoi and Hedvig Samuelson, in Phoenix, Arizona in October of 1931.
She stuffed their bodies one of which was dismembered into trunks and other luggage and took the train to Los Angeles. Her heinous crimes were discovered when a strong putrid smell and blood leaking from her bags drew attention from station personnel.
The Bradbury Building
Built in 1893, the Bradbury Building is the oldest commercial building in the area. Known for its Victorian era atrium, grandiose iron work, 50 foot ceilings, and open cage elevators the building is one of LA’s most architecturally famous buildings. Except the Bradbury Building, wasn’t designed by an architect at all.
Unhappy with the original architect’s plans, Bradbury asked George Wyman a draughtsman with no formal training to take the job. Worried about taking the commission away from his boss Wyman used a planchette to consult with his dead brother. Supposedly the brother told him “Take Bradbury you will be successful.” And so he was…
The 1910 Bombing of the Los Angeles Times Building
In the early hours of October 1, 1910, a bomb exploded in Ink Alley next to the Los Angeles Times. Set by disgruntled union workers the explosion started a fire killing 21 employees and injuring as many as 100 more. Tragedy wouldn’t stop the presses and the day’s edition was printed at the Los Angeles Herald.
Horror at the Cecil Hotel (The Suicide Hotel)
Built in 1920 the building once known as the Hotel Cecil is easily the most notorious building in LA. Originally built to cater to business men and travelers it fell upon hard times during the depression and became home to drug addicts, derelicts, and two serial killers: Richard Ramirez the Night Stalker, and Austrian Jack Unterweger. Many people have died within the hotel over the course of its history including multiple suicides and murders. One poor soul was killed when he was struck by a body falling from above.
In 2013 Canadian tourist, Elissa lamb, disappeared while staying at The Cecil. Her body was found three weeks later in the hotel’s rooftop water cistern. A video of Elissa behaving strangely in the hotel elevator just prior to her disappearance has been viewed 22,679,290 and has led many people to believe the hotel is haunted. This and other dreadfully frightening stories helped to influenced the 5th season of American Horror Story: Hotel.
The hotel was renovated renamed to The Stay on Main in 2014 and is currently undergoing another rebranding. You won’t catch me at the Cecil, no matter what they decide to call it next.
King Eddy Saloon
Opened in 1906, The King Eddy Saloon, has a long and storied history. The basement operated as a speakeasy during the prohibition era and has long been popular with famous actors, writers, and poets. With over 100 years of history it makes sense that the King Eddy Saloon would also be haunted.
One of the bar’s more famous stories is that of the vanishing hitchhiker. According to legend a repeat customer is an extremely intoxicated woman who, just before closing, asks a mail patron for a ride home. She borrows his jacket and gets in the car. When they drive by the Evergreen Cemetery she asks to get out and disappears into the graveyard. The man finds his jacket draped over a gravestone bearing the same name of the woman.
Indian Alley also known as Apache Alley, Blood Alley and Heroin Alley was at one time the Native American Skid Row. Sculptures and murals created by members of the Native American community line both sides the alley and pay tribute to the area’s dark history. The alley is overseen by These Days Gallery, which is located just next door. Contact the gallery to arrange a tour.
The final stop of our Haunted LA tour was The Wolves a newly opened bar and restaurant located in the historic Alexandria Hotel building. Famous guests of the hotel include Rudolph Valentino, Jack Dempsey and Charlie Chaplin and the hotel is said to be haunted by multiple ghosts.
With interiors inspired by the year 1910 stepping inside The Wolves is like going back in time. Period antiques from across America including a stunning train station ceiling from Paris, Illinois help to complete the feeling of total immersion.
If you’re interested in finding out more about LA’s dark history consider joining one of Cartwheel Art’s new 90 minute downtown walking tours. Tickets must be purchased online in advance.
Disclosure: I was invited to join a press preview of the Paranormal Nights and LA Vice walking tours. All opinions shared and nightmares I had as a result of these tours are my own.
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Probably the first post I have read that has actually made me shiver. There is no way on this planet I will be staying at the Cecil! Fascinating read 🙂 #farawayfiles
I know! I can’t stop thinking about how creepy that place is! 👻
I couldn’t agree more with Emma here. This post actually gave me shivers too. Some of those stories are seriously creepy. The Cecil one seems worst, partly because it’s so recent. And that one about the woman in the bar being dropped off at the graveyard. Off to cuddle a teddy… #FarawayFiles
I know so spooky and even more so because some of this actually happened! I seriously had no idea LA was such a frightening place…
This is totally my kind of tour. I mean, the stories are creepy, but in the cold light of day, I don’t mind. #FarawayFiles
Ha! Lucky for me this was a preview… these tours actually take place in the evening… 😳
Ooh this is fascinating… I love this kind of your (though very unconvinced that I would want to check in to any of the places mentioned). Definitely chilling. #farawayfiles
I’m with you! I love a good tour, but I prefer my hotels ghost free.
Ooooo, what fun! I want to look up these places the next time I visit my daughter in LA. What a fun day that would be, exploring these haunted sites. I’ve been to the Biltmore, but had no idea about it being haunted!
All of these spooky spots and many more can be found right in the downtown core. Apparently LA was a lawless and wild place for a very long time.
Are We Adults Yet
This is so awesome! I’ve learned so many things just from this post that I had no idea about! Definitely has me intrigued enough to try out the tour!!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it! It was a great tour. The history in this city is so fascinating!
Cynthia | Adventuring Woman
This certainly is a spine chilling and fascinating tour. I wouldn’t stay at the Hotel Cecil either! Some of the buildings could be on an architecture tour, like the Bradbury Building and The Wolves. The ceiling from the train station is just stunning. #farawayfiles
I agree! The Bradbury is definitely on a lot of tours it’s an architectural celebrity! I loved the ceiling and learned that because it was too long to fit in the space they cut it in half and put the two halves side by side, which just happened to fit perfectly!
Megan - TMK
Truly terrifying!! There is no way I am staying at the Cecil! Love these ghoulish tales! #farawayfiles
I had no idea that LA was such a scary place, and in fact had walked by the Cecil on more than one occasion before I knew its creepy history… in the future I will be crossing to the opposite side of the street when I’m on the block!
Ladies What Travel (@LadiesWTravel)
I know it’s creepy and macabre but this kind of tour would really interest me! #FarawayFiles
I found it really interesting as well, but was somewhat surprised at myself when I realized I was legitimately creeped out.
Cristina - Memories of the Pacific
Oh wow, this is really scary but interesting at the same time!
It is pretty creepy isn’t it?! I’m almost wishing I could go back to my previous misconception of LA LA Land.
Spooky! Not so good if you get hit by a falling body, you really know you’re times up then. I love the The Bradbury Building though, it looks beautiful.
The Bradbury is very beautiful and I have visited on more than one occasion with no creepy feelings whatsoever. In fact I’ve never felt anything other than wonder at the beauty of the light filled atrium space.
Ugh, the Elissa Lamb mystery is upsetting, but als totally piqued interest in my macabre heart. True Crime stories are just so fascinating. Well sometimes fascinating. Anyway, sounds like this tour would make for a SpoOoOky Halloween.
It is so upsetting, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and even freaked myself out further by watching the video on YouTube. I suppose I was thinking research, but ended up being heartbroken and scared at the same time. The tour is very fascinating and I learned so much about LA!
Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays
Ooooh spooky, fascinating but I’m not sure I would want to stay in any of them!
I know for sure that I wouldn’t stay in any of these! No question!
Caity Pfohl | The Pamplemousse Papers
I had heard of the Biltmore being haunted but not about any of these other places. These stories are so spooky! I love the design of the Bradbury Building, though! #farawayfiles
I never realized how spooky LA is. These are just a few of the many stories we heard on the tour. I love the Bradbury!