Here's how the real Cecil Hotel inspired American Horror Story

10 February 2021, 16:59

Watch the trailer for Netflix's true crime doc about the Cecil Hotel

Katie Louise Smith

By Katie Louise Smith

American Horror Story's Hotel Cortez was partly based on Cecil Hotel. Here's how they're linked.

Thanks to a new Netflix true crime documentary, Crime Scene: The Vanishing at Cecil Hotel, Google searches for the infamous Los Angeles' hostel are about to sky rocket. But beyond the real life tragedies that occurred there, did you know that it also served as inspiration for the main location of American Horror Story: Hotel?

The Hotel Cortez from AHS: Hotel was initially based on an actual hotel built by H. H. Holmes in Chicago. Later known as the ‘Murder Castle’, the hotel was built specifically for Holmes to torture and dispose of the people he murdered, much like Evan Peters’ character James March.

However, Cecil Hotel did provide a lot of inspiration for the location, and the 'Devil's Night' episode, in the show. Here's how it's all linked.

READ MORE: Is the Cecil Hotel still open? Stay on Main hotel closed in 2017 for refurbishment

Where was American Horror Story: Hotel filmed? What hotel did they use?

Cecil Hotel: How the real life location inspired AHS: Hotel
Cecil Hotel: How the real life location inspired AHS: Hotel. Picture: Netflix, FX

The fictional Hotel Cortez was also located in downtown Los Angeles, in a similar Skid Row location to the real life Cecil Hotel. The Hotel Cortez doesn't exist in real life, as it was filmed on a purpose build soundstage. The exterior shots of the hotel were filmed at the James Oviatt Building, in downtown Los Angeles.

Much like Cecil Hotel, AHS's Hotel Cortez was the scene of countless deaths, including murders, suicides and accidental overdoses. While the Cecil wasn't home to a murderous hotel owner ghost and a vampire Countess played by Lady Gaga, a lot of the deaths in Hotel reflected many of the real life deaths at the Cecil.

READ MORE: American Horror Story season 10: Theme, cast, release date and spoilers

American Horror Story's Hotel Cortez was inspired by Cecil Hotel
American Horror Story's Hotel Cortez was inspired by Cecil Hotel. Picture: FX

Cecil Hotel also has links to a number of serial killers who reportedly stayed in the hotel back in the day. Richard Ramirez (a.k.a The Night Stalker, and popular AHS figure) and Jack Unterweger both were said to have stayed there while committing their crimes.

In American Horror Story: Hotel, James March hosts a 'Devil's Night' where, on one day each year, the ghosts of dead serial killers check into the hotel to kill the guests and enjoy a feast together. That obviously never happened at the Cecil, but the show clearly plays on the idea that the infamous hotel once hosted those killers.

The Cecil also has another connection to the horror anthology series through Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, who appeared in AHS: Murder House. It was reported that Short used to frequent the hotel's bar but those claims have since been disputed.

via FX

Cecil Hotel opened in 1924 and soon fell into decline when the Great Depression hit. The area soon became populated by homeless people, sex workers and drug dealers. Many of the people who tragically took their own lives in the hotel were likely dealing with mental health struggles.

While there's been a lot of speculation about whether or not the Cecil Hotel is cursed or haunted (the documentary series even points out that people have wondered if it's "consumed by a nexus of dark energy"), the dark story behind the hotel seems more circumstantial than supernatural, which is the case with AHS' Hotel Cortez.

READ MORE: The best true crime shows on Netflix