Last week, news broke of a development which wouldn't have been out of place at the Bates Motel or Overlook Lodge; the discovery of a body floating in a water tank at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

The body of 21-year-old Canadian Elisa Lam had apparently been lying in the tank at the Cecil Hotel for a full 18 days, while guests continued to drink the water in blissful ignorance of what was wallowing at its source.

The discovery of Lam's body has, predictably, unleashed a torrent of criticism every bit as foul as the liquid coming from the Cecil's water tank. One visitor wrote sardonically on Yelp: "Pro's: Beautiful building once inside, nice 32" LED TV's, fitness centre on premises with decent exercise equipment, and comfy beds.

"Con: Rotting corpse recently located in one of the hotel's water tanks, which funnelled potable water into rooms.

"The pro's, while nice, are slightly outweighed by the con."

However, the hotel's bad reputation pre-dates the putrid discovery made on its premises last week; in fact it has had a stinking reputation for months.

Of the 198 reviews on travel website Trip Advisor at the time of writing, 66 people rated the Cecil as terrible while a further 73 said it was very poor or, at best, average. On Booking.com, users said the low price of a room (typically £40-80 a night) reflected the quality, with many saying the location of the hotel was the high point of their stay.

Even before Lam went missing, guests were complaining that the two-year Cecil was more like a youth hostel than the "beautiful vintage European-style hotel" promised on its website.

And it seems the mephitic water has long been a problem. Trip Advisor user Kasie B, who stayed at the Cecil in November, said: "The nice floors disappeared when you opened the door, the carpet looked like something out of an ancient bowling alley. There was a nasty looking rusty sink in one corner with awful smelling water."

'It's the place where serial killers stay'

Furthermore, the creepy image which will surely haunt the Cecil for evermore is nothing new. In fact the hotel has been freaking out its guests for months, even years.

Shannon V, from Vancouver, wrote after staying at the Cecil in January: "This place was unbelievably scary. The bait and switch of it all is an on-going joke now, but only because if we couldn't laugh about it we'd just cry."

She went on to say everything is "sterile smelling like a horror movie kill room" and that people were screaming at one another in other rooms: "It was then that I concluded that one of us might get shot while we slept."

Since Lam's death, more details about the hotel's dark past have emerged. While many people took their own lives at the hotel in the 1950s and 60s, two serial killers stayed in the 80s and 90s.

Nightstalker Richard Ramirez killed 14 women, while journalist Jack Unterweger is believed to have murdered three prostitutes.

Tour guide Richard Schave told CNN: "It's the place where serial killers stay."

Lam's death, the latest dark chapter in the history of this most ill-starred of establishments, is still being investigated; coroner's officials are now awaiting toxicology results to find out how she died.

Whatever the outcome, it's clear that the Cecil has yet another gruesome tale for the ages, and its sinister legend will only gain further prominence in the years ahead.

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