The informant grew up in Chicago in the 1960s. There was an abandoned elevator for trash called a “dumbwaiter.” It was used by residents to send their trash down to the basement before the informant lived there. It went out of use when residents began carrying their own trash down themselves. The informant’s older brother would scare her with stories of a crazed man, named Ozok, who lived in the abandoned dumbwaiter and carried an axe through the halls of the building at night.
This piece was related to me over a Zoom call with the informant, discussing her childhood in Chicago.
E: No one used the dumbwaiter when I was living there. It used to be used to send trash down apparently, but eventually people just learned it was easier to their own damn trash out themselves (laughs). But the trash room was in the basement, and the dumbwaiter and the basement were mostly abandoned. There was a legend that a spirit used to live in the abandoned dumbwaiter. The story was that there was some sort of crazy man named Ozop… no Ozok, I think it was. But the story was that Ozok lived in the dumbwaiter and the basement, and he used to carry an axe when he walked the halls of the apartment building at night.
Me: All the kids in the apartment building believed this?
E: I don’t know about all of the kids, but my siblings and I certainly did. Our oldest brother told us that Ozok lived in the dumbwaiter and the basement and haunted the building. He took me down to the basement one time during the day and showed me an axe leaned up against the wall as proof. I don’t think I slept for a week after that! My parents allowed us to believe it and even told us when we were being too rambunctious at night that we better get to sleep before Ozok came down our hall. I had these wild visions of what he looked like. My younger siblings and I would talk about it. We thought he looked like something out of that movie, the old vampire one…
E: Yes! I conjured up some image of the vampire from Nosferatu in my head. That movie was the scariest thing I had ever seen as a little kid, and I thought there was a crazed vampire living in my own apartment building!
The tale of some deformed creature haunting a residency is a legend as old as time. It is a theme well known to all, and it naturally takes on its own variations as people author their own variations of ghost stories and hauntings. In this case, the informant’s older brother authored a variation of a crazed man, Ozok, who haunted the halls of the informant’s apartment building. Children, as my informant was at the time, are particularly susceptible to the tales intent on scaring. The informant’s older brother applied much of a classic ghost tale’s motifs to Ozok and their environment. He pointed to the axe as evidence of Ozok’s existence, and claimed that Ozok inhabited the abandoned dumbwaiter and basement, just as a ghost or creature of the night might live in the attic of a haunted house. Folk beliefs regarding ghosts have existed for centuries. The legend of Ozok living in an abandoned dumbwaiter and basement was simply a new variation of an age-old legend.