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The Body in the Bed

An Urban Legend

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Looking Under the Bed
Ryan McVay/The Image Bank/Getty Images

As told by reader Autumn Murphy...

A man and woman went to Las Vegas for their honeymoon, and checked into a suite at a hotel. When they got to their room they both detected a bad odor. The husband called down to the front desk and asked to speak to the manager. He explained that the room smelled very bad and they would like another suite. The manager apologized and told the man that they were all booked because of a convention. He offered to send them to a restaurant of their choice for lunch compliments of the hotel and said he was going to send a maid up to their room to clean and to try and get rid of the odor.

After a nice lunch the couple went back to their room. When they walked in they could both still smell the same odor. Again the husband called the front desk and told the manager that the room still smelled really bad. The manager told the man that they would try and find a suite at another hotel. He called every hotel on the strip, but every hotel was sold out because of the convention. The manager told the couple that they couldn't find them a room anywhere, but they would try and clean the room again. The couple wanted to see the sights and do a little gambling anyway, so they said they would give them two hours to clean and then they would be back.

When the couple had left, the manager and all of housekeeping went to the room to try and find what was making the room smell so bad. They searched the entire room and found nothing, so the maids changed the sheets, changed the towels, took down the curtains and put new ones up, cleaned the carpet and cleaned the suite again using the strongest cleaning products they had. The couple came back two hours later to find the room still had a bad odor. The husband was so angry at this point, he decided to find whatever this smell was himself. So he started tearing the entire suite apart himself.

As he pulled the top mattress off the box spring he found a dead body of a woman.



Analysis: It only takes one dead body under the mattress to spoil your whole honeymoon.

As befits its "Sin City" reputation, Las Vegas is a magnet for horrific urban legends (see "The Kidney Snatchers" for another example). What sets "The Body in the Bed" apart, however, is how frequently incidents resembling this have happened in real life — just never, to my knowledge, in Las Vegas itself (so far).

The closest encounter between fact and legend I've been able to document took place in Atlantic City (another gambling mecca, naturally) in 1999. This account comes from the Bergen Record:

The body of Saul Hernandez, 64, of Manhattan was found in Room 112 of the Burgundy Motor Inn after two German tourists slept overnight in the bed despite a rancid smell that prompted them to complain to the front desk.

The couple told motel officials about the smell Wednesday night but stayed in the $36-a-night room anyway. On Thursday, they complained again and were given a new room while a motel housekeeper cleaned Room 112.

The same thing happened to vacationers in Pasadena, California in 1996, as recounted in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:

Lynn Nakamura of Honolulu walked into a Pasadena, Calif., motel room with her brother and joked, "You better check under the beds for dead bodies because I'll freak if I find one."

That was before she and her brother, Dennis Wakabayashi of Los Angeles, noticed the foul odor that permeated the Travelodge Pasadena room July 24.

Not wanting to ask for another room because they had just been moved from another one, the two unknowingly spent the night in a room with a dead woman.

In July 2003, a cleaning crew discovered a dead body stuffed under the mattress in a room at the Capri Motel in Kansas City, Missouri. This report was filed by KMBC-TV News:

Police said that the man appeared to have been dead for some time, but the body went unnoticed until a guest staying the room could no longer tolerate the smell.

Officers were called to the Capri Motel in the 1400 block of Independence Avenue around noon Sunday after cleaning crews made the grisly discovery.

KMBC's Emily Aylward reported that the man who checked into the motel room a few days ago complained to management about the odor two times over the three days. He then checked out on Sunday because he could not tolerate the smell.

In March 2010, Memphis police responded to a call from a local motel where employees had noticed a "foul odor" in one of the rooms. According to ABC Eyewitness News:

On March 15th, investigators were called back to room 222 at the Budget Inn, where the body of Sony Millbrook was found under the bed. Police say she was found inside the metal box frame that sits directly on the floor after someone reported smelling a strange odor. The box springs and mattress fit into the top of the bed frame.

Room 222, according to investigators, had been rented 5 times and cleaned many times by the hotel staff since the day Millbrook was reported missing.

Homicide investigators say Millbrook appears to have been murdered.

There's more than one moral to these story, to be sure, but the most disturbing of all is that urban legends do sometimes come true.

Sources and further reading:

  • "Body Found Under Motel Bed Is Identified." Bergen Record, 12 June 1999.
  • Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Baby Train. New York: W.W. Norton, 1993.
  • "Isle Mainland Traveler Shared Room with Corpse." Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 1 August 1996.
  • "Maid Finds Dead Woman's Body in Ft. Lauderdale Hotel Room." Daytona Beach News-Journal, 17 Dec 2001.
  • "Man's Body Found Stuffed Under Motel Bed." KMBC-TV Kansas City, 14 July 2003
  • "Missing Mom Found Dead Under Motel Bed in Memphis." ABC Eyewitness News, 17 March 2010.
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