A Skeptic’s Review of Ghost Adventures: Cecil Hotel

Ghost Adventures: Cecil Hotel with Zac Bagans is one of the heavily promoted new shows hoping to lure you to the new streaming service, Discovery +. I chose to get the 2-week free trial because Scott Michaels, friend of the Beat and expert on the history of everything creepy in Los Angeles, would be appearing in the 2-hour special that starts streaming today. The Covid lockdown probably made this special happen for Ghost Adventures, because the lack of guests (and probably lack of funds) made it possible for them to explore the Cecil for the very first time, even camping out in the infamous hotel for several nights.

Research:

They did their homework on the Cecil, famous for the mysterious death of Canadian tourist Elisa Lam in 2013, as well as the many murders, suicides, and serial killer guests. The show had all of the details. If I ever felt like important information was missing, it would be revealed at a later stage in the show. This is where people like Scott come in, because he seriously knows his shit.

Watchability and Fun Factor:

Most of these shows have a bunch of people scaring themselves with things we can’t verify–a cold spot, a hand on the shoulder, a strange sound–and it gets tedious. Ghost Adventures has excellent editing, jumping from person to person so you never get bored, and the ghost hunting is interspersed with seriously creepy and beautiful shots of the hotel. Interviews with guest mediums and historical experts keep it flowing.

It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Occasionally someone makes a witty comment, and it was amusing to watch Zac play a Korean high school sleepover game in the elevators to see if he could unlock the door to spiritual dimensions. Without a wink or a nod. But this show is shot so well, that after my first eye-rolling at the silliness, I was soon clutching my chair, wondering, “What will be there when the elevator door opens???”

The communication from the spirits inhabiting the hotel was not as respectful as one might expect. At one point an investigator asks, “Is Richard Ramirez just playing with us?” That was something that made me think it could actually be him, because Ramirez loved scaring people and then laughing at them. He used to lunge at the DA in the courtroom barking like a mad dog. When an investigator tries asking the spirit of serial killer Jack Unterweger who he had touched, the response was “Your mom.”

This show is highly watchable and compelling.

Believability:

My judgement is hampered by my lack of knowledge about the equipment they are using. One of the gadgets makes it appear as if you can just text with the spirits. The voice recordings (EVPs) are interesting, but the human mind automatically translates gibberish into words fitting the situation. If the show didn’t tell you what the voice was saying, you might not hear the same thing. Except “Your mom.” That was pretty clear. And it happened twice.

There are the usual mysterious lights and shadows, cold spots and rushing wind, people being touched and even scratched. Visiting experts leave because they can’t handle being in the rooms, and one of the investigators starts to get uncharacteristically aggro. The scariest poltergeist-y thing that happened was when the sink turned itself on in serial killer Jack Unterweger’s room. Especially considering people in the hotel had been using the water that Elisa Lam’s body was floating in for weeks before she was found.

The most believable part for me was with medium Patti Negri. We are going to assume she hadn’t researched the hotel or been coached. The researchers didn’t tell her anything, and just let her wander. She almost immediately honed in on 1431, the room where Roy Thompson committed suicide by jumping out of the window in 1938. She went straight to the window, opened it and leaned out, saying, “I’ve got to get out of here,” scaring the crap out of everyone in the room. When they got her safely away from the window she sunk to the floor, moaning, “Sad…sad…sad.” She also entered room 1016, where Goldie Osgood was brutally raped and murdered. Patti immediately whimpered and tried to curl up, saying she wanted to crunch down and cover herself, her female parts, “I’m attacked and I don’t know what to do.”

As a skeptic, I have to entertain the notion that medium Patti Negri went into 100 rooms that night and just got lucky with two, having had a vague idea of what happened there. But between you and me, if I ever need a medium for any reason, I want to have her on speed dial.

Scare Factor:

I recommend that you do not watch this show alone late at night. It is edited for maximum suspense and eeriness. And the Cecil is a creepy-ass place all on its own. I am a skeptic sitting here on my couch warmed by the mid-morning sun, but if you put me all alone in the dark in one of those rooms at the Cecil, I bet I would become a believer real fast.

Photo of The Cecil by Deb Frazin

Elise Thompson

About Elise Thompson

Born and raised in the great city of Los Angeles, this food, culture and music-loving punk rock angeleno wants to turn you on to all that is funky, delicious and weird in the city. While Elise holds down the fort, her adventurous alter ego Kiki Maraschino is known to roam the country in search of catfish.
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