The urban legend goes like this: A couple checks into a hotel room and complains about the smell. The front desk says there’s nothing they can do. So with bovine complicity, the couple returns to their room to commence their stay. By the time they check out, the smell is so bad the maid makes an effort to find the source. This of course leads her to look under the bed, which, of course, reveals that the hapless couple, for three days, had been sleeping directly above the rotting corpse of a murder victim. Guess what, not only is this legend true, it’s not even uncommon.
Yes, murderers love to murder in hotel rooms, where, let’s face it, bad smells are not unusual. The killer commonly stuffs his victim under the bed, where the body can go undiscovered long enough to give the killer a head start on homicide detectives. In 2010, the body of a missing young mother remained stuffed under the bed in a Budget Inn Motel for nearly two months before the smell finally drew attention to the room. The room had been rented to numerous different patrons during that time. The worst kinds of beds are the ones with the frames that sit flush with the floor. Those provide lovely little convenient hide-a-caskets for homicide victims. You have to physically lift the mattress and box spring to look inside. (But after reading this, who’s not going to?)
To make things even more creepy, the under-area of hotel beds aren’t the only place inside hotel rooms that murderers like to stash their victims. Dead bodies have been discovered in hotel-room showers, closets, dresser drawers—one poor skinny crack addict was found folded in half and shoved inside the vent behind the wall register. Sometimes the bodies aren’t in just one hiding place, but cut up and divvied about. I’m not telling you this to be terrified (yes I am), but the next time you check into a hotel room, you should also thoroughly check the room for any unwanted company before you settle in. Because nothing could be worse than a murdered body under the bed, right?
Wrong. The murderer himself could be hiding there. How do you think all those bodies got under the bed in the first place? Murderers love to prey on people staying in hotel rooms. Think about it; a hotel is a hive of potential victims who are sectioned off in rooms, isolated from their normal environment, trapped behind a locked door, and, as a side perk, probably naked. This explains my theory as to why predators like to apply for jobs as security guards at hotels. They get to carry keys to the rooms and lay in wait for the single female traveler they just watched check in, for one. So if you must rent a hotel room, the best practice for avoiding becoming a corpse under the bed is to never, under any circumstances, prop your door open and to always use your interior deadbolt and/or safety-bar latch. If your hotel-room door doesn’t have one, you’re probably safer sleeping in your car.
Photo: Janine, CC-BY
Hollis Gillespie is Paste Travel’s The Ugly American columnist. She is a writing instructor, travel expert and author of We Will be Crashing Shortly, which is on bookstore shelves now. Follow her on Twitter.