Tag Archives: chicago

Ozok

Background:

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.

Context:

This piece was related to me over a Zoom call with the informant, discussing her childhood in Chicago.

Main Piece:

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…

Me: Nosferatu?

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!

Thoughts:

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.

Demon Baby of Hull House

Storyteller:

“Do you know about the demon baby of Hull House? Hull House was a settlement home developed by Jane Adams, the godmother of social work. And in 1902 a baby was born outside of Chicago, outside of wedlock, where it was born with horns and a tail, and cloven feet. Unable to keep the baby, they brought it to Hull House where it could be cared for and most importantly prayed for…but nothing could fix it. They kept it away as it started to become a draw. And so they kept that baby up in the attic where it wouldn’t bother anyone or be bothered by them. And it’s said that still today, you can see that baby up in the window…”

Background Info: The storyteller lives in Chicago and it is a story that buddies of the storyteller had been telling while living in the city.

Context: I was with my family and I was telling them that I had this project coming up and told them some of the stories people had told me for it. That spurred a conversation where everyone started sharing their pieces of folklore and this was one of them.

Thoughts: I was immediately captured by the title of this story. When the storyteller asked me if I had heard of a demon baby I was intrigued. The storyteller’s performance was captivating because the storyteller used a tone of voice that many use when telling creepy stories. I read up on the story after it was told and I discovered that some people refer to the baby as a “devil baby” and there are many different versions including an Italian version and a Jewish version which can be found here:

Addams, Jane. “The Devil-Baby at Hull House.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 1 Oct. 1916, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1916/10/the-devil-baby-at-hull-house/305428/.

 

Pullman Hotel Tennis Ghost

Main Piece:

 

The following was recorded from the Participant. They are marked as TM. I am marked as DG.

 

TM: When I was working, um, at Pullman Hotel, and it’s in the uh Pullman neighborhood in Chicago, and it’s the hotel that housed people that used to visit the Pullman Palace Car Company and made railroad cars-really fancy ones. And so, uh, they had a factory in that neighborhood, and then they had a tower of houses…And so it was built in 1880, and it’s no longer used as a hotel, um, partly because there’s no way to get out if you’re on the top floor. Yeah, um, and I…was kind of manning the front desk for tourists to come in and walk around the old hotel and these three women walked in and one was kind of a little bit, you know, younger–not 20s but maybe 30s, and, um, then there were two women maybe a little bit older and they had like fanny packs on, you know, and kind of tourist looking… And, um, the younger one had on like a tennis skirt or something. It looked like she played tennis or something, um, it looked a little dated but not really so I talked to them…Um, it was mostly–it was the two older women who were talking to me, I guessed the other was their kid, and, um, it used to be a restaurant at the hotel-and it was fancy-which isn’t there anymore. Um, so they all kind of went off and the two of them went to do the tour where, um, you have your piece of paper and you walk around and take the tour on your own, and the other went off to the bathroom. And then the woman comes walking around the corner from the bathroom, kind of reaching into her pocket to, you know, maybe hand me a piece of paper, and then she just just disappeared. Just completely gone! She had a tennis skirt on, it was kind of 80s. It was kind of funny 80s, I thought it was kind of dated, but then I was like she’s kind of close to my age so like. I have no idea what that was about.

 

Apparently the hotel was supposed to be haunted and many people have had ghost experiences there.

 

 

Context:

 

The conversation was recorded while sitting in a hallway outside of a classroom on a university campus. The context of where the interviewee saw the ghost was in the front desk area of the old Pullman Hotel. Apparently, the hotel is a well-known haunted site, and most who have worked there have had sightings.

 

Background:

 

The interviewee is a professor at the University of Southern California. They are also a practicing archeologist. Originally from Chicago, IL, they now live in Los Angeles, CA, with their husband. The interviewee worked in Finance before pursuing a teaching degree.

 

Analysis:

 

I think this story held a lot of weight because I’ve had my fair share of ghost stories. I’ve also worked long hours in a retail setting, and know that feeling you get towards the end where you’re starting to imagine things. I think that made this story even better, because I could easily imagine the feeling of “Did I just see that??” Beyond that, many others have apparently seen ghosts at the Pullman Hotel, adding legitimacy to the legend. It also made me wonder what was on the paper–was it a message that the apparition was trying to tell TM, or was it just a recording ghost that does the same act in the same place forever?

Chicago Parking Chairs

Informant is a 19 year old female who was born in Chicago and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is my roommate.

Informant: So there’s this really strange tradition where I’m from in Chicago. And I mean, I don’t know if it’s only a Chicago thing, I don’t know if they do it in other parts of the States too, but it’s very common to see in Chicago. So like, basically, what the tradition is is that during the cold months, when people have to shovel the snow off of their parking spots, they have to remove their cars, right? So what people do is that they will put a chair, sometimes they put other things, but usually it’s a chair, and they will put the chair in their parking spot so that no one takes it. Because parking in Chicago is really hard. And like people will do this for games too. Like I’ve done it before when I went to a Cubs game. That’s a baseball team in Chicago by the way. But yeah, so it’s super popular to go to, and everyone’s looking for parking, so people will put chairs in their parking spaces to reserve it for them.

Collector: Do people actually respect these chairs?

Informant: Yes. I mean, of course there’s some people who don’t. But most of the time, because everyone does it, yes, they respect it. Like you won’t really see someone removing a chair unless it’s their chair, and they’re taking their parking space. It’s just because parking goes so fast there, because there’s so many people. But people tend to be respectful of it, it’s a pretty big tradition there.

Collector: Is there anything that you particularly like about this tradition?

Informant: Well, I always find it funny when I go down the streets and I see a bunch of chairs all over the place. I like it because it reminds me that it’s going to be the holidays soon. But other than humor, I’m pretty indifferent towards it.

I think this story is really cool because its so different from my culture. Where I’m from, Sao Paulo, there are a lot of people and also difficulties finding parking, but if somebody were to put a chair to save their parking space, people would laugh, remove the chair, and park their anyways. I think it’s interesting how this has become such a tradition in Chicago that people respect other people’s chairs and parking spaces. It’s also cool to see how a tradition can arise from external factors such a temperature and spacial arrangement.

Lights off on Elm Street

Folk Piece

“The movie nightmare on Elm Street was filmed in my town, on Elm Street. One of the things that’s been a legend on elm street is that cars would be driving on Elm Street, like at night, and there would be a car behind them and they could see it and they could see it, and then all of a sudden it would just disappear. And suddenly someone would appear in front of their car. It was just like super freaky, and I don’t know, that’s just one of the stories that I’ve heard. So my friend tried to like fuck with people at night because he had an all black car that was really quiet. So he could like drive up right behind people and when there was nowhere to turn or anything he would turn off his lights and just roll on behind them and people would like pull over and freak out that he was like gone, but he was actually there the whole time”

 

Background information

The informant began by saying “Well, my town is boring, I don’t think we really have many cool stories or anything… Well, we did have Elm Street from that movie.” She had said that she’d never seen the movie, but that it had an impact on the way that people thought about the street. Especially kids her age, that weren’t born for another decade after the movies’ premiere, would tell stories of Elm Street, but not necessarily ones that originated from the movie.

 

Context

“No, it wasn’t just my friend, a lot more people did it. But, like, he just drove down it a lot and yeah, he did a few times.” She said that the prank itself was done by a lot of people, mostly older high schoolers, though. She had never witnessed it herself, but only heard about it.

 

Analysis

Pranks, or practical jokes, are performed for a variety of different reasons. In this circumstance, the prank is driven by a legend about a mysterious figure that would appear in front of people’s cars on the street where A Nightmare on Elm Street takes place. The legend is so widely known, that the exploitation of a plot point in the story can lead to drivers becoming very scared. It is interesting to note that A Nightmare on Elm Street doesn’t have a scene where there are cars driving down the road and the lights turn off. The original authored story transformed the street itself into somewhat of a legend, which in turn was exploited as a prank. This transition from authored material, to legend, to prank could be explored further with more data from other town members.

Also interesting is that older high schoolers are the one performing this prank. Presumably, these are drivers that had just acquired their license and are given some autonomy. That they take this new found freedom and also exploit it for humor and rebellion shows why this might be such a popular prank in this town.