Razzle Dazzle and The Aztec Hotel

Monrovia is a small suburban community of a little more than 35,000 residents nested in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, in the San Gabriel Valley directly east of Los Angeles, and in fact is a scant nine miles from where this article is being written. One of the oldest cities in Los Angeles County, Monrovia was close to forty years old when in 1924 the Aztec Hotel was completed on the city’s

Aztec Hotel, c. 1930

main street, Foothill Blvd., two years before the establishment of the U.S. Highway System, and the renaming of Foothill Blvd. to what was to become the iconic US highway connecting the country, and the source of folklore, adventure and intrigue - Route 66. The Aztec Hotel was to take its place as part of that folklore, adventure and intrigue, and that included stories of the hotel featuring a gambling hall, a speakeasy, a brothel, and being a hangout for some of Hollywood’s most famous celebrities, and oh yes, for being haunted.

Designed by famous British architect, amateur archeologist, explorer and author Robert Stacy-Judd, the hotel was actually, and purposefully, of Mayan style and design, but named by him the “Aztec”. Stacy-Judd had designed numerous Egyptian styled building, including
hotels and theaters, in other countries, but when he came to the US and to Southern California, he changed his focus to Mayan architectural design, with buildings in North Hollywood and Ventura, and plans for several major developments on Los Angeles’ Wilshire Boulevard. His major enduring monument in California, though, was was Aztec Hotel,commissioned by the city of Monrovia
and built with $250,000 raised by the local Chamber of Commerce. Opening during Prohibition, the hotel featured murals of Mayan culture, custom-made furniture, and a basement speakeasy, and it was an immediate success whose fame quickly spread across the country.

With its quirky, unusual architecture attracting tourists at first, the Aztec’s location east of LA helped lead it to become a stopping-off point for Hollywood types on their way to Palm Springs, with 1920s mega-stars such as Tom Mix becoming frequent guests. The opening of
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Aztec Hotel, c. 2005

nearby Santa Anita Racetrack in the adjacent city of Arcadia a few short years latter led more of the motion picture crowd, such as Bing Crosby and Mickey Rooney, to the Aztec. But other interests and uses were also part of the early fame and success of the iconic hotel.

The hotel’s basement became well known and in some circles, notorious, for its prohibition-era speakeasy, gambling, and the availability of, for a price, female companionship. The job of keeping everything on the straight and narrow was delegated to
Monrovia’s Chief Constable, at first one James Quibble, and then later on Frank Scott, but there is ample evidence that the success of the “shenanigans” carried on for years at the Aztec was in part due to the additional business expense of lining the pockets of those officers in charge.

As the years went by and as Prohibition ended and as the Great Depression came, the Aztec saw significant decline as it passed from owner to owner, and eventually to uses such as a boarding house and as a half-way house. And with all of that came of stories of the haunting of the Aztec Hotel.
While visitors, both in the past and in recent years, including the many groups of ghost hunters who have staked out the Aztec, have seen and heard paranormal activity in the hotel basement, where years of illegal drinking, gambling and other activities carried on,
the real focus of ghostly sightings has been the infamous Room 120 and in it the sounds of the ghost known as “Razzle Dazzle” and the event that led to the haunting of the Aztec Hotel.

Some stories say that Razzle Dazzle was an innocent young woman, some say an aspiring actress, actually staying at the hotel with her new husband on their honeymoon, while other stores say she was a professional, engaging in her trade on a regular basis at the hotel. Some of the stories tell the tale that she met her death when in the throws of passion she fell from the bed, striking her head on the radiator, killing her instantly. Other versions
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Aztec Hotel Interior and Mural

say that she had apparently angered her john who murdered her in the room. But the stories are consistent in that the radiator was involved, and that as a result adjacent rooms have bee without heat since, despite the equipment being in perfect condition.

Stories abound over many years of the ghosts of Razzle Dazzle and others inhabiting the rooms and hallways and restrooms and basement of the Aztec, with reports of chilly gusts of wind and voices heard to ask “Where are you going?”, of doors slamming in the
ladies’ restroom across from the main desk, of images of beings floating through hotel hallways, and of the image of a lady dressed in white and in the style of the 1920s or 1930s. Theories have developed that a part of the basement known as the “Green Room” is a portal for spirits to enter “our” world through the Aztec Hotel.

Ghost hunters and other investigators have spent years searching through records, as well as studying the actual hotel, and they uncovered two interesting things. They have found no record of a prostitute or other hotel guest having or using the name “Razzle Dazzle”, but they did uncover the fact that when various groups used the hotel basement for drinking and gambling events, including on frequent occasions the local Elks lodge, they referred to and marketed the events as their “Razzle Dazzle Nights”.
The Aztec Hotel has seen many renovations, with its ghostly presence apparently left undisturbed, and much of its original design and decor remain, including the tile floor, dome-shaped windows, stained glass, murals, lighting fixtures and sculptures. In recent years, while the hotel itself has been closed, the hotel restaurant had a resurgence and degree of success as a high end gourmet restaurant. Only the spirits know what the future holds for Razzle Dazzle and the Aztec Hotel.

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