Hotel: No Sir, That Smell Is Not A Decomposing Guest. (It Was.)

The Jane Hotel in NYC was once (and still sort of is) a “residential” hotel. Even though it’s been renovated and is open for business, there are still residents in un-upgraded rent-controlled rooms. And sometimes they die. And people don’t notice right away.

Gothamist points us to a blog entry by a father who stayed at the hotel while visiting his daughter at NYU. Here’s his story.

First, a description of the hotel:

The Jane is a 100-year old building on the Hudson river that was once a rooming house for sailors, with a long and colorful history – it even housed the survivors of the Titanic, and you can read all about it on their funky-groovy web site. What their site doesn’t mention is that for some years, the beautiful building had fallen into decline, becoming sort of a derelict apartment house. It’s now in the process of being remodeled into a hotel for those with “more dash than cash”. Hey, that’s me!

So, for the tidy sum of $115 a night, we were able to check in to a tiny room – really almost a closet – that consisted of bunk beds nestled next to a two foot by six foot stretch of carpet and a tiny window. Count us in!

And then, the incident:

I shared the elevator back up with a foreign woman, who got off on my floor. As we entered “the cloud”, I said, “I wonder what died in this hall?”

She had a hand over her face, but with the other, she gestured to the strange, old door. There was a bright green sticker on it that I hadn’t noticed today.

A police department sticker stating that the “room was sealed”. In fact, the name of the sticker was “Seal For Door of D.O.A. Premises”. Wow.

Our hero then begins to collect explanations from the hotel’s staff. He never quite gets the same story.

By 9AM, the odor has finally dissipated as I make my morning coffee run down the street. I return and wait for the elevator with a really pleasant maintenance guy. He says “You should have seen this place before the remodeling… really run down”, and explained that there were still residents on various floors, that those rooms were not yet remodeled, even down to the original doors still being in place.

Seeing I had an expert in my grasp, I inquired about the situation on the third floor. “Oh, that,” he replied, “Someone with really bad hygiene”.

I asked if the “hygiene police” had sealed the door. He laughed, leaned closer and whispered, “And some ladies used the bathroom in there, too”.

Now, I’ve lived in 80-year old homes. I’ve dealt with dead squirrels in chimneys, dead rats in walls. There’s only one smell like that, and it isn’t hygiene. “So, that’s the ‘official’ story?”

He laughed. “Yes sir. That’s the ‘official’ story.”

Yikes. Read the rest, here.

I Smell Dead People [Cloudy Project via Gothamist]
(Photo:Cloudy Project)


Edit Your Comment

  1. MaytagRepairman says:

    Was it also in the Dowisetrepla district?

  2. pegr says:

    Are you sure the victim wasn’t just waiting for Comcast to install their cable modem?

  3. idip says:

    It would be bad for business if they openly said, ‘Oh yea, some guy died and was starting to decompose and getting kind of gooey.”

  4. h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

    I have to say that I love the blogger’s attitude. “Yeah, the hall was crazy smelly, but the room itself was comfy and I got to see my daughter and damn, I don’t want to die like that dude.” I can think of a lot of people who would have gone ballistic. He seems like he’d be a lot of fun to travel with.
    As an aside, we watched 4 Rooms last night. Always check for dead hookers under the bed.

    • pop top says:

      @h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes: I love that movie. Tim Roth is hilarious.

      • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

        @squinko: I really enjoyed the concept and the execution. I always used to warn my fiance to check for bodies under the bed when he’d travel for business. For years he thought I was making a reference to 4 Rooms, rather than the real-life cases of dead bodies stashed in hotel rooms. When he figured out I’d never seen the movie he insisted we watch it, and I’m glad he did.

  5. mantari says:

    I know this isn’t BoingBoing! But after this and the porn story, can I have a nice beautiful Unicorn Chaser story to wash these down with, Meg?

  6. redskull says:

    Sounds kind of like the “Toolbox Murders” building.

  7. moore850 says:

    The smell of a decomposing human is not something you forget. But I guess the call of money means more than an appropriate burial, the kind of burial that humans have felt was appropriate for the past 10,000 years or so… until this hotel came along, that is.

  8. floor9 says:

    Regarding the price of the hotel, $100 / night (The Jane’s normal rate, not sure why it was $115 for the blogger) is a good rate for a boutique hotel. You can hostel for $20 – $60 / night (depending on how “flexible” you are with “safety” and “cleanliness). Major chain hotels in popular parts of the city will typically run $200+ per night.

    Part of The Jane’s allure is that it has a checkered past. The fact that the hotel is currently embroiled in a struggle with its remaining residents (Google this, there’s plenty of coverage out there) just makes it that much more appealing to some. I would imagine this latest incident even moreso.

  9. gfonner says:

    Reminds me of a documentary I saw about a man who has a “remains clean up” service. (I think that is similar to the business in the movie Sunshine Cleaning.) The documentary followed him as he cleaned up crime scenes. He also would get calls from supers when a resident would die and no one knew until the person who lived below the now deceased tenant would smell something yucky and/or see something yucky coming down the ceilings and walls.

    It truly is sad that some people just “slip through the cracks”. Maybe this story can serve as a reminder to check in on your Nana everyone few days.

    • temporaryerror says:

      Crime Scene Cleanup- It’s big business, especially because the police/investigators take zero responsibility for cleaning up the scene when they are done and there are strict regs for cleanup of biowaste. Also note that there are alot of scams out there that offer to get one into the business…

    • reishka says:

      @gfonner: Not the one you were referring to, but ‘Cleaner’ has Samuel L. Jackson, and we all know he makes everything better. ;)


    • steph3530 says:

      @gfonner: See something yucky coming down the walls? Slip through the cracks? I see what you did there.

  10. chemmy says:

    The gentleman in the apartment across from mine died on his bedroom floor. The apartment didn’t notify police to have the body removed until it had already decomposed. The smell is unforgettable and while they replaced the carpet in the bedroom, the entire apartment still reeks of death and decomposition…. and yet they’re showing it to potential tenants… focusing on the brand new carpet in the bedroom…

    • That's Consumer007 to you says:

      @chemmy: Realtors are really some of the most despicable human beings. No souls whatsoever, and many of them probably sell Amway on the side too. Yeah, I know, someone has to do it, but still…

      But don’t take my word for it: Watch!

      I know, it’s just a movie role, but Annette Bening nailed it! :)

  11. bohemian says:

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned the irony of the load graphic on the Jane’s website being a skull and crossbones.

  12. Radi0logy says:

    I’m sorry that selfish person went and died and ruined your morning coffee run.

  13. xxoo says:

    Would everybody please stop putting quote and quotation marks before commas and periods? Unless you’re a Brit, it isn’t correct. Stop it. Oh, and the entire Jane Hotel (including the bar) stinks. Avoid.

    • RogerTheAlien says:

      @xxoo: Actually, it depends on what’s being quoted and if you are capable of italicizing a word.

      If you’re quoting a word or phrase because it has some connotation other than it normally would that the quotes, through context, are conveying to the reader, then the quotes definitely come before the punctuation marks (comma, perdiod, etc).

      If, in an account of a past incident, the story-teller is quoting what someone said, then yes, the punctuation falls inside the quotes.

      Besides, if you’re going to be a Nazi about grammar, then don’do so while using sentence fragments as whole sentences.

      So -1 for the grammarian.

      • treimel says:

        Except … there’s no sentence fragments in his post.

        I suspect you think “Avoid” is a fragment. It isn’t. The verb is avoid, and the subject is understood to be the reader. Imperative sentences are often one word.

  14. That's Consumer007 to you says:

    Ummmmm….anyone dial 911 yet? I mean really if you saw a dead body in the street or the alley you would call, how is this any different?

    I just ask because honest to God I called for for my 90 year old lady neighbor – nobody had heard from her in weeks, and her car hadn’t moved, and relative called me concerned. Sure enough, found her deceased in the tub.

    The impressive thing was that solid front door of hers – took twelve police guys and 20 hits with the battering ram to get it down.

    It really kind of disturbs me though at the level of idiocy that whole groups of people will see something, know the right thing to do, and never do it, but instead gawk and gossip and move on.

    • treimel says:


      The room had been sealed by the *police, not the corpse-removal fairy. rtfa.

    • varro says:

      @Areyouagoodlittleconsumer: It might not even help even if you do dial 911 – they didn’t find the alleged Cleveland serial killer until he was caught in the act of raping someone.

      People repeatedly complained about the smells in the neighborhood – the city flushed the sewers, inspected gas lines, and the sausage factory (right next door) cleaned thoroughly, but the smell persisted.

      The smell was due to bodies buried in the back yard and crawl space.

  15. vladthepaler says:

    I stayed in a hostel in NYC for about $30/night. Like the blogger’s room it had bunk beds, but the room was much bigger than his, as was the window. Didn’t notice any corpes either.

  16. yume_ryuu says: