Holly's Hauntings: Skirvin Hotel

Updated: Nov 15



HISTORY

William Balser "Bill" Skirvin, a Land Run participant and wealthy Texas oilman, moved his family to Oklahoma City in 1906. He invested in oil and land, increasing his wealth considerably, and in 1910 decided to build a hotel on one of his properties at 1st and Broadway after an investor from New York City offered to buy the lot in order to build the "biggest hotel" in the state. Oklahoma City had only one luxury hotel at the time, and Skirvin thought it was an excellent investment.


Skirvin approached Solomon A. Layton, a famous area architect who had designed the Oklahoma State Capitol building, and plans were finalized for a 6-story, U-shaped hotel. But in late 1910, just as construction of the fifth story neared completion, Layton convinced Skirvin that OKC's growth justified ten stories rather than six.



The Skirvin Hilton, Opening its doors September 26, 1911, the plush hotel had two 10-story towers containing 224 rooms, was one of the first buildings in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to have air conditioning, then called “iced air,” had running ice water in each room, a ballroom that seated 500, and imported Austrian chandeliers that cost more than $100,000 each.


The lobby was decorated in English Gothic, and the wings of the hotel contained a drugstore, retail shops, and a cafe. Each room had a private bath, telephone, hardwood furniture, and velvet carpet.


According to many accounts, the hotel became a center for well-known businessmen and politicians over the next ten years. Skirvin began to expand the hotel, slowly at first, building a new 12-story wing and then eventually raising all wings to 14-stories by 1930. This increased room total to 525 and added a roof garden and cabaret club as well as doubled the lobby size.


As much of the country was hit with a depression, the oil boom in Oklahoma City kept the Skirvin Hotel going strong, and despite failed extension attempts and family problems, William Skirvin operated the hotel until his death in 1944. Skirvin's three children decided to sell the property to Dan W. James in 1945.


James immediately began modernizing the hotel extensively, adding numerous amenities such as room service, a beauty shop, a barber shop, a swimming pool, and a house physician. The Skirvin only grew in prominence as it hosted Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. But by 1959, suburban sprawl was severely hurting downtown OKC, and James sold the Skirvin hotel to Chicago investors in 1963. It was then sold again in 1968 to H.T. Griffin.



Griffin spent millions remodeling the Skirvin Hotel, but business continued to suffer and Griffin filed for bankruptcy in 1971. After changing hands a few times, the hotel underwent more renovation in the 1970s. In October 1979, the hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Past guests include US presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan, as well as Paul McCartney and Elvis Presley. It was renovated again in the early 80s, and then it eventually closed in 1988.


In 2002, the city of Oklahoma City acquired the property and put together a financing package to "renovate, restore and reopen." The Skirvin Hotel finally reopened on February 26, 2007. The $46.4 million project included the original exterior finish, historically accurate windows, reconfigured guest rooms, new guest elevators, an elegant lobby, restaurants, and state-of-the-art meeting rooms. Wherever possible, historical elements such as moldings, tiles, and ceiling treatments were incorporated into the design.


Rick Rollins, Raven's Husband took over as manager in late 2007 and was there until late 2009 or early 2010.


Its first manager is said to have shot himself in 1913 – a suicide that was later investigated as a murder. A rigged roulette wheel and Prohibition hijinks fomented Wild West-style gun fights inside the place.

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HAUNTINGS

The Oklahoma showplace became a popular speakeasy during Prohibition. During this time that W.B. Skirvin was said to have had an affair with one of the hotel maids. According to legend, the maid soon conceived, and to prevent a scandal; she was locked in a room on the 10th floor (Room 1015, originally the top floor) of the hotel. The desolate girl soon grew depressed, and even after the birth of her child, she was still not let out of the room. She is said to have jumped, her infant child in her arms, out of the window killing them both.


The Effie legend is a popular one, but there is no historical evidence for it. Though William Skirvin is said to be a noted womanizer and the 10th floor was likely a popular spot for gamblers and prostitutes in the 1930s, writers Steve Lackmeyer and Jack Money did extensive research for their book Skirvin but found no evidence of an Effie. The only recorded suicide at the Skirvin was that of a salesman who jumped from his window.


It was not uncommon over the hotel's existence for guests to complain about an inability to sleep, often due to the incessant sounds of a child crying. In addition, according to some, a nude Effie is known to appear to male hotel guests while showering, and her voice can be heard propositioning them. Staff members have reported everything from strange noises to things moving by themselves. One man even claimed an invisible entity sexually assaulted him during his stay. Other strange noises and occurrences were reported by staff and guests, including things seemingly being moved around by themselves, such as the maid’s cart being pushed down the hall when no one was there.


Such stories, most notably among visiting NBA basketball teams who have overnighted here before playing the Oklahoma City Thunder, only to experience inexplicable creaks, groans, cries and ghostly molestations.


"There's the spooky, sad Effie, and then there's the Effie that wants to get it on to Barry White music," said Steve Lackmeyer, co-author of the book Skirvin, as we sat at the hotel's Red Piano Bar. "And with the NBA it tends to be the latter. This is the most legendary ghost story in Oklahoma City, if not the entire state. You have even these famous people claiming they've had encounters with a horny Effie."


Lakers forward Metta Sandiford-Artest, formerly known as Ron Artest, claimed he was assaulted by an amorous ghost at the Skirvin in 2016. In 2010, Ed Curry, a seven foot, 295-pound centre for the New York Knicks, slinked off to spend most of his Skirvin stay in the room of 5'9, 180-pound teammate Nate Robinson for protection. Heat forward James Johnson once had Derrick Rose as a roomie when Johnson was on the Bulls. Rose was too scared to stay alone and moved into Johnson’s room. Although Rose chose the one teammate who is a second-degree black belt, Johnson said he does not know how his martial arts training would help him fight a ghost


The most notable example occurred in 2010, when the New York Knicks famously blamed their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on the haunting and when the Chicago Bulls reported doors slamming shut on their own and strange sounds outside their rooms.

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Susan Riley, who, until recently, served as its in-house historian - During Riley's six and a half years working at the hotel, she claimed she often heard a crying baby during her shifts, but later realized that when a side door was opened in blustery Oklahoma, it let in a banshee-like cry from the gust. Riley added that a woman in a red dress, not always detectable as a phantasm, is said to lurk in the halls.


The Venetian Room, an ornate ballroom on the top floor is said to have the most activity. She explained that she'd set up banquets here only to return the next morning to find tables and place settings inexplicably disorganized. She wondered whether it could be explained by a recent uptick in earthquakes instead.

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The words "HELP ME" have been known to appear on foggy bathroom mirrors. One claim was reported by a women attending a conference at the hotel, she said her colleague had discovered this on his bathroom mirror.

Don Jackson, Skirvin's director of sales and marketing : "We've had recent reports that that verbiage may appear in the mirror."


"People will tell us their lights will flicker at night or a closet door will slam unexpectedly or there will be a creaking door," said Don Jackson. "There are some haunted stories floating around out there about the hotel, but we prefer to stay away from them since they have never been proven to have happened."

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Dr Bryan Farha, a professor and director of applied behavioral studies at Oklahoma City University and the author of Pseudoscience and Deception: The Smoke and Mirrors of Paranormal Claims, told me he surveyed the Skirvin in 2004 to search for ghosts.

"My wife claimed she heard ghostly laughter some nights."


"I walked every inch of every floor and found nothing of substance," he said. "And I did so under the creepiest of conditions – before the restoration, below freezing with the electricity shut off, so a flashlight was the only means of visibility most of the time. Still, nothing was found. Just an old, empty, cold hotel."

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Tanya McCoy, a ghost hunter who founded the Oklahoma Paranormal Association, investigated the hotel herself. "You can just lay your hand on the wood downstairs and feel the energy," McCoy said. "It's crazy."

Stepping into the hall, McCoy had her husband pull up his Ghost Hunting Tools app that, he claimed, allows a spirit to attach itself to different frequencies and communicate intelligently in slow drips of language through a text box. She used her phone to scan the hallway for visuals.


"Get out," read the words on the Ghost Hunting Tools app. A shiver ran down my spine. We walked through the hallway on the hunt and felt a temperature shift. Could it have been a draught? "It's a ghost," McCoy said – an adult one. She noted that she felt a shiver from the top of her head down and had goosebumps on her arm.

"Seat", appeared on the Ghost Hunting Tools screen. McCoy, using GhostTube SLS, showed the stick-figure outline of a tall figure seated on the jade-green chairs in front of the lift. McCoy said it was a man in his late 20s named Charles who was a contractor downtown pre-1950. She said she felt a pain at the back of her head – often, she explained, ghosts will want to indicate to the living how they died.

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Comments from People who have stayed or worked there.

  1. "I shared a hotel room with my uncle and felt a mysterious being touching me inappropriately at night." - Reddit User

  2. Rick Rollins reports that during his employment there, the workers would speak amongst themselves about things moving, doors opening and closing on their own, ethereal moans in the hallways and coming from empty rooms, etc. He said, at least among the Latin American workers, they didn't like to speak of such things because they didn't want to draw the attention of any spirits that may reside there. He also recalls having to move guests from room to room as they would feel uncomfortable or like they were being watched in the room they were in. Sometimes they would ask for refunds and stay with other guests who had a room there for safety. He says he never witnessed or experienced anything there himself, but there were plenty who did.

  3. Fun and Crazy Kids on Youtube: They stayed on the 10th floor. They claimed while they stayed they heard knocking on the walls, the curtains were open, they turned away, then when they turned back around they were closed. They took off down the hallways and heard "strange noises" which could have been chalked up to the ice machine they were next to. One of them claimed she saw a little kid running and laughing but then vanished near the room 1015. (This is also a mom who took her young teen daughter and her daughter's friend who went for ghost hunting purposes. It seems mom is overemphasizing things the whole time just to keep the rouse up for the kids.)

  4. Bill Simmons of the show Any Given Wednesday says he was woke up in the middle of the night by a ghosts. He claims he was freaked out for several days after.

  5. 2021: The manager, Linda, said she sees a lot of activity in the cameras from the gift shop. One of the Valet workers claims there is a lot of activity on the 3rd floor.


Sources:


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