Join Esotouric’s Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, the Skid Row historians featured in “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel,” and their special guest Joan Renner, on a true crime and cultural history walking tour that explores the terrifying intersection of real estate speculation, housing insecurity and death in Downtown Los Angeles from the 1940s to the present.
Starting from Grand Central Market, we’ll fan out over the historic core to visit significant sites in the investigations of three notorious and heartbreaking cases: the kidnapping and murder of Beth Short in 1947, the serial killing of seven poor or homeless men by Vaughn Greenwood between December 1974 and January 1975, and Elisa Lam’s disappearance and drowning while staying at the Stay on Main hostel inside the single room occupancy Hotel Cecil in 2013. We’ll also talk about the October 2021 disappearance of Heidi Planck, although we won’t trek as far as the Hope + Flower apartments where she was last seen.
You’ll learn about the importance of newspaper reporting to 20th century crime investigations, and the role of internet communities today, hear about how previous generations slept rough in all-night movie theaters, alleys and under bushes, how the high cost or lack of housing options make victims more vulnerable, and about property developers who bend the rules to transform low-income residency hotels and market rate apartments into profitable blind spots where people can vanish.
Along the way, you’ll get to know the victims as sympathetic and relatable people who serve as fascinating windows into real life and death in Los Angeles over the decades and learn how public policy choices can set the stage for avoidable tragedy.
Can understanding why true crimes happened help Los Angeles finally solve its housing crisis? We think it can!
This walking tour is illustrated with rare photos you can view on your smartphone.
About Our Guest Host
Joan Renner is a true crime author and commentator. Her blog, Deranged L.A. Crimes, covers 20th century crimes and scandals. The L.A. Weekly called her book The First with the latest: Aggie Underwood, the Los Angeles Herald, and the Sordid Crimes of a City, “A great introduction to some long-forgotten L.A. crimes.” Over the past decade, she has appeared in over sixty TV shows and podcasts such as City of Angels, City of Death; Deadly Women; Buried in the Backyard; and Hollywood & Crime. She is currently working on a book for University Press Kentucky about Los Angeles during the Prohibition era. When she’s not writing about or researching crime, Joan volunteers as an archivist at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Museum.
Tour begins at 10:30am sharp, with check-in time 10am at the patio outside Grand Central Market at 324 S Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Please arrive on time and proceed to the check in table to get signed in and logged in to the smartphone slideshow. Scroll down for tour rules and recommendations.
There are numerous paid public parking lots around Grand Central Market, including GCM’s multi-level lot at 308 South Hill Street Los Angeles, California 90013. The nearest Metro stations are Civic Center/Grand Park and Pershing Square. If using public transit, this link can help you plan your trip:
BE PREPARED: This is a walking hour lasting 2½ to 3 hours, over a mix of level ground and occasional hills and stairs moving at a casual pace. Wear comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and a hat. Bring your smartphone so you can view the tour slide show. We will have a cooler with cold water, and you’re encouraged to bring a full water bottle. A restroom will be available at the start and end of the tour. If you need more information about what to expect, please email us.
COVID SAFETY: At this time, we no longer require that masks be worn on walking tours.
CAMERA POLICY: No video- or audio-taping unless it has been pre-cleared with us, please. Still cameras and sketchbooks are fine.
Emailing is the best way to communicate with us, but after 8am on tour day you can call or text Richard on his mobile phone, 213-915-8687.
If you feel like you’re getting sick, if you test positive for Covid-19, or if you have knowingly been in contact with a suspected or positive case of Covid-19 in the last 14 days, please do not attend the tour. Let us know not to expect you. If notified at least 72 hours before tour departure, we can refund or reschedule your booking. If notified at least 24 hours before departure, we can honor the booking on a future date. You may also gift your ticket to someone else—we will need their name, email address and phone number to make this switch.
Click the “+” button for the number of tickets desired, then click “Get Tickets” to check out.