The Haunt

A History of Haunted Hotels in LA

Los Angeles is known for celebrities, glitzy nightlife, and vibrant beaches. But this City of Angeles is also known for its dark and eerie side, one that you might not know much about, but that lurks on average street corners. 

LA has a very haunted history, especially when it comes to local hotels.

Haunted hostels in LA are a cornerstone of this city, and there are many spooky tales that stem from behind hotel walls. In general, the haunted history of Los Angeles has led to a plethora of stories, rumors, and even true-crime movies and shows. Some of these stories you may know, and we’re sure there are plenty of them that you’ve never heard of.

But how exactly did haunted hotels in LA become a “thing” in the first place? What exactly makes Los Angeles one of the best places in the world for haunted hotel lovers? 

Let’s dive into it. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the history of haunted hotels in Los Angeles.

How LA Got Its Spooky Start

While it might be tough to say exactly how Los Angeles became a hotbed for haunted tales (especially when it comes to haunted hotels in LA), there are some early events we can point to. 

A brief history: before colonialism, the area of Los Angeles was inhabited by indigenous people. But in the 1700’s, the Spanish set up an outpost in the area, naming it “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula,” or “The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciúncula.”

This pueblo was not only the site of the original town square where people came  to mingle, it was also the site of town gallows and trees used for hangings. You can imagine just how many eerie things happened there.

As Los Angeles became more populated, it became something of a lawless land (think Wild West movies). There were criminals and violence, and many murderous events that mark a dark part of American history. 

Today, the pueblo is still believed by some to be haunted, but it’s certainly not the only spooky property in LA. No, haunted hotels in LA are a fixture in this city.

The Haunted History You Didn’t Know You Needed to Know

How exactly did hotels start to become the sites of ghostly appearances in Los Angeles? 

Starting in the 1920’s, many glamorous hotels started to open, hosting everyone from average customers to the wealthy and famous. 

Many of these guests seemed to have enjoyed their stays so much, because they’re still there to this day.

Here are some of the haunted hotels in LA where you might encounter a spirit, spectre, or apparition. Trigger warning: we’re about to get a little dark.

The Chateau Marmont

Harry Cohen, a co-founder of Columbia Pictures, once said this: “If you must get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.” In the 1930’s, moral codes dictated what behavior stars could and couldn’t do, both on camera and off of it. 

Chateau Marmont became the perfect hideout for those with secrets, and deviants of all sorts. The hotel became a hotbed for those having salacious affairs, those looking to partake in illicit partying, and everything you could imagine. 

Along with all of the debauchery, many dark things happened in the Chateau Marmont. Comedian John Belushi died of a fatal overdose in the Chateau Marmont in the 1980s, and in 2004, fashion photographer Helmut Newton  died after losing control of his car in the hotel’s driveway.

To this day, there are reports of sightings of floating heads, furniture and other items being moved, and plenty of other paranormal activities. 

The Cecil Hotel

You know a hotel is pretty haunted when it gets its own Netflix documentary, but the Cecil Hotel is just that spooky. 

At least 16 people have died in the hotel, and notorious serial killer Richard Ramirez stayed there during his killing spree in the 1980s. 

More recently, the world was captivated when Elisa Lam went missing in 2013. Video showed Elisa at the Cecil Hotel acting strangely in an elevator before she vanished. Her body was found in a water tank on the hotel’s roof more than two weeks later. 

The reputation at the Cecil Hotel was so tainted, the owners shut it down and reopened it as “Stay on Main.”

Hotel Normandie

Hotel Normandie is another one with plenty of stories of ghostly apparitions, so much so that it’s often visited by YouTubers and ghost hunters who want to experience all of its spooky offerings. They claim to have heard ominous noises and to have experienced unsettling feelings that keep them awake at night.

This hotel is also so haunted, it was the setting for a mystery-thriller about a couple who checks in for a supernatural stay. 

Today, guests report seeing figures, shadows, and feeling unusual energies.

Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel opened in 1927, catering mostly to a star-studded crowd (it even hosted the first Oscars in 1929). Marilyn Monroe was known to spend much of her time there, even posing for her first print ad at the hotel pool.

After Monroe’s death, a hotel maid reported seeing her ghost in a mirror. And that’s not the only celebrity who is said to haunt the grounds. 

Guests have reported sightings of the ghosts of classic actors like Montgomery Clift, Lucille Ball, and Ozzie Nelson in the property. 

Millennium Biltmore

The Millennium Biltmore hotel is notoriously haunted, and tons of paranormal activity has been reported in it. Guests say they’ve seen the spirit of a little boy running around, the ghost of a nurse, and that they’ve encountered the apparition of a little girl. After opening in the 1920’s, it was a destination for the rich and famous, and was a luxurious destination.

But many eerie things happened here over the years. So much so, it has a reputation as one of the most haunted hotels in LA, and it was the setting for the spooky flick “The Shining.” 

The most famous ghost to haunt its halls? The spirit of Elizabeth Short, or the “Black Dahlia,” who was seen alive there before her brutal murder. There are also stories of different ghostly sightings at the Millenium. 

That’s Just LA’s Spooky Start

If you love the history of haunted hotels in LA as much as we do, we’re only just getting started. There’s a reason why LA is perfect for ghost hunters, and why ghost tours are really big here. 

We run LA’s real ghost hunting tour, taking you to haunted locations throughout Chinatown, armed with professional-grade paranormal investigation gear: The Haunt Los Angeles.

Interested in learning more? Check out our post on LA true crime stories, and learn how to get ready for an LA ghost tour.

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