The Dibbuk Box

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Have you seen the new film The Possession yet? If so you may have seen the note that it is based on a true story. Most horror films now use this technique, even if the true story was in no way similar to the Hollywood version. But, The Possession was actually based around a real item; a Dybbuk/Dibbuk box that gained notoriety by being sold on Ebay.

You used to be able to search a whole category of objects on Ebay that people claimed were cursed or somehow haunted. It was fairly popular and certainly lucrative for the owners of such objects. This category seems to have disappeared from the UK site, which is rather a shame as it often provided a few interesting hours of browsing. The idea of someone buying a haunted object from Ebay was also dealt with in a fictional novel called Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son, for those of you who don’t know). It’s a decent book and worth a read. Totally unrelated, but I’d also recommend the wonderful House of Leaves for a scary story told in a very innovative and creative way. In fact, you should totally get both books right now. I’ll wait. 

Anyway, a Dybbuk/Dibbuk box is said to be the holder of a particularly nasty sort of spirit from Jewish folklore. A Dybbuk/Dibbuk haunts and often attempts to possess people, using them like puppets. There are numerous stories out there of people playing about with mediums or spirit boards and accidentally summoning something evil. Said spirit is then supposedly trapped in a box during a complicated ritual and all is fine from then on, providing no one opens the box. You can see what’s coming, can’t you?

In this story a man called Kevin Mannis found himself at a yard sale one day. A Polish woman named Havela had recently died and her items were being sold. He owned an antique shop and frequented such events in the hope of acquiring things he could sell on for a profit. He bought several boxes of assorted goods and upon returning home found that among other items was a small wine cabinet.

He opened it. Bad move. Inside he found some pennies from the 1920’s, a lock of blonde and brunette hair (both bound with cord), a statue, a wine goblet, a dried rosebud and a candle holder. These are all items commonly associated with Jewish exorcisms.

Mannis began to have terrible nightmares. In them he would be walking with someone he knew when this person would suddenly change into a terrible hag, who would then attack him. He began to notice bruises appearing on his body in real life. Electrical disturbances were also reported; bulbs blowing when they’d been recently replaced and other odd phenomena. In an episode of Paranormal Witness they document an employee who was working in the basement of the antique store where the box was at that time. The lights blew and she had the feeling that someone was there with her. She fled the shop and refused to return.

Mannis’ mother had a birthday and he decided to gift her the box, because what says I love you more than a creepy box full of evil? Screw you Hallmark, this is how we roll. He presented the box to his mother, who wasn’t overly keen. She was clearly ungrateful because who wouldn’t love an old box full of hair? 

Mannis had to step away to answer the phone and during this time his mother sadly had a stroke. She claims that she opened the box and felt a wave of pure evil wash over her, something felt like it was crushing her and she knew it wanted her dead. Happily she survived, but I expect for future birthdays she presented Mannis with a list of acceptable gifts.

Understandably this was the final straw for Mannis and he decided that the box must be sold. He listed it on Ebay with the longest description I’ve ever seen, explaining all the creepy things that had happened to him since acquiring it. A student named Iosif Neitzke decided that he wanted to own it and won the auction. I guess you can only spend so much of your student loan on vodka and then you have to branch out a bit.

He kept a blog based on his experiences with the Dibbuk box. He reported similar problems with electrical items, but did not suffer with nightmares. For reasons known only to himself he kept the box beside his bed. As time went on he began to complain that he felt someone was watching him all the time and his hair started to fall out. He became a recluse and stated that he felt very threatened, as though whatever was inside the box was building in power.

He decided that he had to get rid of the box. He also listed it on Ebay and it was bought by Jason Haxton, Director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine. He’d been reading Iosif’s blog and decided that he wanted to conduct a scientific study of the box. He took it apart and examined each of the items inside, but couldn’t find anything to explain the strange phenomena. At first he kept the box at the office, but his co-workers began to complain about a weird atmosphere and many of them became ill. The electrical disturbances continued and seemed centred around the box.

Haxton felt he had to take the box home, even though he didn’t wish to do so. He began to have nightmares very similar to the ones earlier mentioned. His physical health deteriorated also, he began to experience hives and other unpleasant things. His wife at one point handled a shirt that Haxton had wrapped the box in and immediately broke out in severe weeping blisters. The final straw for Haxton was when he and his son were watching television and noticed a thick black mass taking shape in the corner of the room. At this point he got back into contact with Mannis who approached the family of Havela. They spoke about accidentally summoning a demonic entity, who was imprisoned in the Dibbuk box. At this point Haxton consulted Jewish Rabbis for advice on how to reseal the box, which he apparently did. To this day he refuses to disclose the location of the box and will not resell it. There was talk during filming of The Possession about having the actual box in the room while writing, but funnily enough no one went for it.

There are numerous stories about Dibbuk boxes and in general about ghosts attaching themselves to items. Advice differs on how to deal with such things. Sam and Dean go for the salt and burn it technique, but others state that such an action would only permanently liberate the spirits within and send them off in search of a new host.

Haxton wrote a book about this case which I hope to acquire at some point in the future. If I do so then I will update this entry to reflect new information.

For now I have included some links within the body text, but have listed a few below that discuss the details of the Dibbuk box case.

Website about the box

The Haunting (True?) Story Behind The Possession (Hollywood Reporter)

A short conversation with the owner of the Dibbuk Box

Here are some videos dealing with the same subject. 

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