Do people really die in hostels?

With the release of Hostel II, I was wondering: do people really die in hostels? I’m sure there are isolated cases, but is it common enough to actually make this movie series somewhat believable? After all, the director, Eli Roth, and friend Quinton Tarantino claimed the idea for the original movie was “inspired by true events.” They say the plot was born out of a Thai website they found which offered a sort of “murder vacation” package which offered “users the chance to torture and kill someone for the price of $10,000.”

So what’s the scoop — was the “murder vacation” website legitimate? “It doesn’t even matter,” said Eli Roth in an interview with, “because someone still thought of this and took the time to make [the] site, you could go and pay money to kill somebody.”

That had me thinking. He’s right, it doesn’t even matter. I stopped chasing that lead. Instead, I found a whole lot of other instances where people die in hostels. Real events, where large groups of happy-go-lucky travelers go to bed and never wake up. How does it happen? Let’s find out…

Childers, Queensland, Australia — June, 2000. A fire breaks out at Palace Backpacker’s Hostel. Travelers awake to the smell of smoke and sound of shattering glass instead of fire alarms, which evidence later revealed were faulty and turned off. Many escaped by jumping through a second-floor window onto a neighboring roof — they were at the right place at the right time. When trying to escape, the unfortunate ones were met with windows that had been nailed shut or painted over and emergency escapes that were blocked. Fifteen people perished in the fire. The story doesn’t end here, however. Robert Long, a 37-year-old vagrant fruitpicker, had been kicked out of the Palace Backpacker’s Hostel, and threats he made to burn the building down were overheard by other travelers. The night after the blaze, Long ran to a nearby sugar plantation, where the police caught up with him in a struggle which ended with shots fired. Long was hit once, and later charged with arson. He remains in jail today. The Palace has since been rebuilt, and its doors re-opened in April of 2004.

Todolella, Spain — February, 2005. Roughly 50 people had gathered in Todolella for a birthday celebration; some went home after the party, but 20 stayed at the Sant Cristòfol hostel in the Castellon province of Spain — a decision that would later cost most of them their lives. The hostel staff awoke next morning to find 18 of the 20 visitors dead, all from toxic fumes leaked from a faulty butane heating canister left on overnight. The two survivors were sleeping in an adjacent room and were found unconscious but later revived. Among the group that died were five young members of a local rock group which had performed at the party the evening before the tragic event.

Launceston, Tasmania, Australia — January, 2005. In a case eerily similar to the Childers hostel fire of 2000. New Zealander Tony Laurence McLennan, a 36-year-old employee at Metro Backpackers Hostel in Launceston greeted the new year by setting the building he worked in ablaze. While motives are sketchy, some reports claim other employees told McLennan he should stop drinking, which might have set him off. Others believe he lit the fire to cover up the fact that he had stolen money from the hostel. A 21-year-old Scottish man (pictured) died in the blaze, and McLennan recieved 9 years in prison for manslaughter. Fortunately the Launceston hostel fire was much less deadly than the Childers, but one is enough.

Uyuni, Bolivia. Andréanne Lacroix-Pelletier and Anne Christelle Dubé-Marquis (right), both 21-year-old students from Quebec, went to bed in a small-town hostel in Bolivia and never woke up. Once again, a faulty gas heater is to blame. “Richard Poulin, head of international studies at Laval, said the students likely died after breathing carbon monoxide from a faulty propane heater while they slept.” One of the girls had phoned her father earlier expressing concern about the condition of the hostel. I guess she was right. It turns out you’re much more likely to die from a quiet, flowing gas than a deranged lunatic looking to torture for fun. But how entertaining would a horror movie be about a faulty gas heater?