Large men unafraid of attacking the lane, diving headfirst into the seats or lobbing pressure-packed shots shudder at the mere thought of Effie. More important, perhaps, they lie awake the night before a game, their prescribed rest undone by phantom pains. Is it any wonder that the Thunder had the league’s second-best home record? In the past few seasons, the Knicks blamed creaks and groans for a sleepless night before a loss. A Bulls player could not explain why his bathroom door slammed shut. A member of the Phoenix Suns woke to find his bathtub filled with water.
“Everyone in the league knows about her,” said Caron Butler, a 12-year N.B.A. veteran who stayed at the Skirvin many times before he joined the Thunder this season. “Hopefully, she’ll haunt all the teams that come for the playoffs.” The legend holds that Effie was a housekeeper during the early years of the Skirvin, a luxury downtown hotel, before its 10 brick floors were expanded to 14 in 1930. W. B. Skirvin, the hotel’s widowed owner, supposedly had an affair with Effie and, when she became pregnant, ordered her to stay locked inside a room on an upper floor, even after she had the baby. At some point, the story goes, Effie went crazy, grabbed the baby and jumped, killing herself and the child.
Employees know all about the legend, though, greeting inquiries with a smile. (The hotel is known for its service, after all.) Some laugh it off as nothing but a story; others insist it is true. One banquet worker said she sometimes heard a crying baby, mostly in the basement or on the 10th and 14th floors. It is not scary, she said, because it is something she only hears, not sees.
Weeks later, Chicago’s Taj Gibson said that his bathroom door at the Skirvin had slammed in the middle of the night for no reason. His teammate Derrick Rose was among the Bulls who heard strange bangs and bumps and became a believer. “It was scary last night,” Rose said.
His teammate Eddy Curry said he slept just two hours one night. He was the only player assigned to the supposedly spooky 10th floor, and he spent most of his time in Nate Robinson’s room, afraid to be alone. “I definitely believe there are ghosts in that hotel,” Curry told The Daily News, which illustrated its article with a photograph not of the Skirvin but of the Bates Motel.
“I don’t think Effie exists,” said Steve Lackmeyer, a reporter for the newspaper The Oklahoman who co-wrote a book, “Skirvin,” about the hotel’s colorful history. That past includes the mysterious death of its first general manager, but years of research have found no record of a housekeeper named Effie, or of any housekeeper who leapt to her death, with or without a baby. “If you had a maid suffer a bloody ending, it would not have been kept quiet,” Lackmeyer said. “This was a small town.”