Visit the upcoming tour page for upcoming walking tour dates. This tour is also available as a private group booking.
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.