Free Throws: Knicks' ghost stories nothing new in pro sports realm

Free Throws: Knicks' ghost stories nothing new in pro sports realm
January 18, 201
by Tim Weisberg

As if having Scott Layden and Isiah Thomas each in charge of the franchise at one point isn't horrifying enough, the New York Knicks had a new scary situation to deal with this past week: ghosts.

According to the New York Daily News, the Knicks blamed a loss in Oklahoma City on Monday night to the haunted Skirvin Hilton Hotel, where they stayed for two days.

"I definitely believe it," Jared Jeffries told The Daily News' Frank Isola. "The place is haunted. It's scary."

Center Eddy Curry said he was so scared by stories he heard about the hotel, he slept just two hours on Sunday night. (That didn't really matter, since Curry has been benched by the Knicks since mid-December.) He instead spent the night in the room of Nate Robinson, another Knick banished to the bench by coach Mike D'Antoni until recently.

For a player looking to get out of New York and into a better situation elsewhere, talking about the paranormal likely won't endear Curry to other teams. The idea of haunted hotels, however, is more prevalent among professional athletes than one might think.

"It has more to do with the dynamics of being an athlete on the road," said Seekonk's Dan Gordon, a co-author of "Haunted Baseball: Ghosts, Curses, Legends and Eerie Events."

The book, written with Mickey Bradley, mentions numerous hotels across the country that house both pro athletes and paranormal activity. Gordon said haunted hotels, which come up frequently in his book, hits home with athletes who spend several months per year sleeping away from home, sometimes in spots rumored to be haunted.

"They often arrive in these hotels bleary-eyed in the early hours of the morning, and are sometimes jittery about those stories," Gordon said.

Gordon's book also recounts the story of Tampa Bay's Vinoy, where relief pitcher Scott Williamson experienced phenomena he shared with the media during his Red Sox days. While Gordon said no major or minor-league players mentioned the Skirvin in his research, he said they did mention a haunted hotel in Oklahoma City.

Tonya Hacker, however, said it's a well-known haunt. The founder of GHOULI in Oklahoma City and a paranormal investigator for more than a decade wrote about the Skirvin in her book, "Ghostlahoma."

"We researched the hotel for about a month before the Hilton took over the property. In our findings, we did come to the conclusion that the hotel does seem to hold on to parts of its history," Hacker said. "The hotel is far from 'scary,' but there were enough unexplainable events that took place during our trials that make a person raise an eyebrow."

With an influx of paranormal-themed programming on television and growing acceptance of the topic to already rumor-rich locker rooms and clubhouses, it's no surprise these stories would make it into the media. But both Gordon and Hacker think the Knicks are just using the historic haunt to take the blame off themselves for the way they played.

"Ghosts may not have directly caused the Knicks to lose, but if players are short on sleep, they certainly won't be bringing their 'A' game," Gordon said.

"If they want to blame a bad game on the hotel, so be it," Hacker added. "I'm glad they said it, because it got the hotel national attention. (But) they just blamed the ghosts for a poor game."

In truth, there's a rather non-paranormal reason why the Knicks lost to the upstart Thunder on Monday night ... unless you count Kevin Durant (30 points) and Russell Westbrook (17 points) as otherworldly.

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