Talk to any NBA player who has visited the Skirvin Hilton Hotel and it's likely they've at least heard the tales that its rooms on the 10th floor might be haunted.
Some players with the Knicks claimed the ghost of “Effie” led to their loss against the Thunder in 2010. The legend was enough to prompt a visit by NBA on TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager to spend the night — one that resulted in an amusing report that re-aired during the recent Thunder playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs.
Despite such notoriety, the hotel, which last year celebrated its centennial, remains a top destination for visiting NBA teams. The hotel's current guests, the Miami Heat, have so far dismissed any potential haunting of their performance in Tuesday night's loss to the Thunder.
“I don't know,” Heat player Udonis Haslem told The Oklahoman. “I've heard stories, but ghosts ain't knocked on my door, so I'm cool.”
Even if ghosts do haunt the Skirvin, they're not likely to upset fellow Heat player Shane Battier.
“Personally I don't believe in ghosts,” Battier said. “This is my chance to get some sleep. I have a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old at home, so I don't get much sleep. It's going to take a little more than ghosts to keep me from my catch-up sleep here.
So are the ghost stories true? Past Skirvin managers have sought to downplay such tales. Throughout the 1990s when the hotel was closed, electric was not just cut off — the power box itself was removed. Yet one single bulb inexplicably stayed lit that entire time in the lobby chandelier above where founder W.B. Skirvin once sat and greeted guests. The power source for that light remains a mystery, but is it really evidence that the hotel is haunted?
Another question often asked: is there any truth to the legend of a housekeeper named Effie being impregnated by hotelier W.B. Skirvin and then jumping to her death, baby in arms, from a 10th floor window?
W.B. Skirvin, who built the hotel in 1911 and owned the it until 1945, was a notorious womanizer and drinker. And a lot of wicked things did occur on the 10th floor, which originally was the top of the hotel before a third tower and three more stories were added between World War I and 1930.
Rooms on the floor consisted of salesman's suites, built extra large to accommodate temporary displays set up by traveling salesmen. But were they also used for gambling and vice?
Newspaper archives show the suites being raided by authorities on multiple occasions. On one visit, police seized fixed roulette wheels; in another incident, authorities discovered “loose” women, beer, a bullet hole in the ceiling and a trail of blood in the bedroom and bathroom. Hotel employees insisted they saw nothing and only heard the sound of a gunshot.
The Skirvin had its share of mysterious deaths. The shooting death of the hotel's first manager was investigated as a homicide, and Skirvin and his staff gave conflicting stories that would encourage one to doubt their insistence the manager committed suicide.
And Skirvin's own death — the result of a hit-and-run crash — is itself a mystery, considering it immediately followed a court ruling that restored his control of the hotel after a five-year battle with his family that placed it in receivership.
But these deaths did not occur on the 10th floor.
So the final question is: Was there an Effie?
Newspaper accounts record a suicide, but it was a salesman jumping from his room window, not a housekeeper. If there was an Effie, she does not show up in any news accounts, hotel documents or any other research we conducted over two years.
And if there were an Effie, one must wonder how she might have survived the attention of Mabel Luty, who was W.B. Skirvin's longtime bookkeeper and assistant. Skirvin's family believed Skirvin and Luty were romantically involved, and court records show their legal battle with Skirvin over control of the hotel in the 1930s was at least partially motivated by fears that he was going to will over his assets to Luty.
But Luty never jumped from a hotel window. Newspaper archives indicated she lived a long life and was still around in the late 1950s — long after Skirvin's death in 1945.
If it's of any comfort to visiting NBA players who do believe in ghosts, while some tales suggest “Effie” walks the halls of the 10th floor pushing a carriage with a crying baby, other guests have told hotel employees that “Effie” is an amorous ghost who has appeared to male visitors as they're going to bed or taking a shower.
Note: Steve Lackmeyer is author of the book “Skirvin,” a history of Oklahoma City's oldest hotel.