Skirvin ghost tales may get a Hollywood treatment
The Skirvin Hilton Hotel and Effie, the fabled ghost who supposedly haunts the historic landmark, may soon be featured a Hollywood movie based on tales told by NBA players who say they've had encounters with the tragic and sometimes amorous apparition.
Such ghost stories have long made the rounds on ESPN, magazines and sports sections across the country since the hotel's opening coincided with the temporary placement of the Hornets in Oklahoma City followed by the move of the Thunder from Seattle.
ESPN and Variety reported Monday afternoon the hotel will get the Hollywood spotlight with Imagine Entertainment announcing it has optioned an upcoming Players' Tribune oral history article on the Skirvin with the movie set to star Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics and “Uncle Drew” fame.
The film is set to be produced by Imagine Entertainment co-chairman Brian Grazer and Bobby Cohen.
"There are different ways to tell a story," Cohen told ESPN. "You could do a comedy version of this like 'Ghostbusters.' But what interested me more is what I refer to as the roller coaster horror movies, like 'Poltergeist,' where it's scary but it is also rich with wit and satire. So, we won't be doing a straight-up comedy, but it won't be hard-core horror like 'The Conjuring.'"
The reports do not indicate whether the studio will be filming at the historic hotel, but based on past response by the hotel's current owners, Marcus Hotels and Resorts, film crews may find themselves unwelcome guests.
Fellow Oklahoman writer Jack Money and I authored an exhaustive history on the Skirvin shortly after it's opening in 2007. We were quite aware of Effie, who legend says was a former maid impregnated by the hotelier and oil wildcatter W.B. Skirvin and then locked in the room on the 10th floor until she gave birth.
Once the baby was born, the tale goes, Effie jumped, baby in her arms, to her death.
Repeat after me: It never happened.
Oh sure, plenty of wickedness took place on the 10th floor, which was designed as large salesman suites in an age when hotels were used for mobile product displays. These rooms also were used for gambling, “loose women” and spirits that were definitely illegal during the state's Prohibition era.
W.B. Skirvin was absolutely a man who liked to have a good time, who drank liberally and chased younger women.
I suspect the original hotel operator might have been murdered, maybe even at the orders of W.B. Skirvin. I wouldn't be surprised if Skirvin was having an affair with his executive secretary who provided alibis after the manager's mysterious death.
People jumped to their deaths from the 10th floor.
But not Effie. We saw not even a hint of anything close to the story told about the fictional Effie.
But the ghost stories continue, and they've been a frequent topic among NBA players like Irving who have blamed Effie for restless nights. The hotel is still the main host for NBA teams, though some also stay at the Sheraton, the Colcord and the 21c Museum Hotel.
While doing research for our book, Jack and I learned the front desk was at one point writing guests' ghost tales in a book. We asked the manager at the time if we could see it and we were told it had been discarded.
Management did not want to see the ghost tales perpetuated.
During planning for the hotel's centennial ball in 2011, a pitch was made for employing actors to portray Skirvin, his famous daughter, Perle Mesta, and of course, Effie. The entire idea went nowhere after a different manager said he, too, did not want to promote the ghost story.
When a reality show on A&E contacted me to fly to California and film a segment about the ghost tales, I declined and told them I do not believe in ghosts. But I have seen weird things I can't explain.
The power box to the hotel was pulled in the early 1990s after the building was virtually abandoned by an out-of-state owner. Yet for more than a dozen years a single lightbulb in the lobby chandelier stayed on . Based on our research, it was over the spot where Skirvin would sit in his chair, giving thumbs up or down on which visitors would be allowed a room.
The tale of Effie follows two different themes. Some guests report hearing a woman pushing a stroller with a crying baby in the hallways only to look out from their rooms to see nothing. Others report a naked Effie joining them in the shower.
A week before the Skirvin opened in 2007, my wife and I were treated to a tour of the finished rooms. One set of rooms had been cleaned and locked down with access restricted to the manager and owners. Yet when we entered, the big screen television was on, a soft-core porn movie airing for no one … other than an amorous ghost if one is to believe in that.
Based on experience, I do not think movie makers will get any inside access to the hotel. Calls to Mayor David Holt and others in the local entertainment and event community lead me to think this is an idea hatched in Hollywood with little effort made to see if this is something that might be welcome by the hotel or the community.
Locals would likely cheer such a production. Holt and others see a chance the hotel would become a popular destination nationwide with such publicity, but the Skirvin's operators have indicated time and time again they would prefer this tale no longer be told.