Every so often, Hollywood will introduce us to a tale based on actual events so intriguing and terrifying, we have no choice but to listen. This is the case with the back story to the 2012 blockbuster hit, The Possession. The film, while full of hyperbole and fictitious additions, has its fair share of truth. The dybbuk box has been passed on numerous times, and each owner recounts eerily similar events.
What we do know: 1.) The dybbuk (or dibbuk depending on who you ask) box is actually a small wine case discovered at an estate sale after the death of 103-year-old Holocaust survivor. This woman of Polish descent had carried the box with her most of her life, keeping it stowed away in a sewing cabinet; 2.) The box was purchased at said estate sale by Kevin Mannis, an antique dealer out of Portland, Oregon. He took it home with the intentions of either selling it or gifting it; and 3.) Every single person Mannis gave (or sold) the box to has fallen victim to health issues and/or paranormal activity. The box now resides in the hands of Zak Bagans, paranormal investigator and producer for the Ghost Adventures show on Travel Channel. He has plans to display it to the public…if you’re willing to sign a waiver to see it.
Before we get started, we should clear up what a “dybbuk” even is: dybbuk is found in Hebrew folklore, meaning “adhere” or “cling”. Often times, it refers to a restless spirit who has unfinished business and can be malevolent and troublesome.
The box is certainly charming in its antiquity. It stands about two feet tall, with double doors and a small drawer. After Mannis purchased it, his curiosity got the best of him and, naturally, he opened it. Inside, he found an odd collection of items: 2 pennies from the 1920’s, 2 locks of hair, bound in thread (one blonde, one red), a statuette with the Jewish phrase “Shalom” on it, a small wine goblet, dried roses, and an “octopus” themed candle holder. Almost immediately after opening, strange things began to happen.
Mannis’ only employee called him up one day, hysterical, claiming that there was someone in the antique shop destroying things. He rushed to the scene to find that someone had broken out numerous light bulbs; glass was shattered everywhere. His employee, furious in her fear, left and never returned. Mannis eventually blamed the event on her, seeing as how there was no one else on the premises and the gates had been locked.
There were a few times that he sold the box only to have it returned with little to no explanation. Eventually, he gave the box to his mother, who soon after suffered a stroke. She ended up communicating to him through broken speech and writing that she did not like the gift and claimed it was “bad”.
Mannis took the box back and attempted to sell again though it was difficult. Many claimed the box reeked of cat urine (Mannis had no cats on the property). During this time, he also suffered from nightmares that seemed centered around an old hag who would viscously attack him. He later stated he would often wake up with bruises and scratches.
Mannis ended up posting the box on eBay, hoping that some collector would scoop it up out of an interest in the paranormal. Never once did he lie when attempting to sell—he didn’t want the box to end up in the hands of someone ill prepared like he was. He had considered destroying the box but was scared that whatever malevolent spirit lay inside would then be set free and may possibly stay with him. This was in 2001.
The box floated about online while Mannis suffered more nightmares. He later saw shadows in his home and complained of more phantom smells (the cat urine and also the scent of Jasmine). In 2003, a man by the name of Iosif Nietzke purchased the box via eBay. During his ownership of the box, about a year or so, Nietzke and his roommates experienced nightmares, phantom smells, strange shadows lurking in the corners, and health issues. Neitzke, only in his twenties, began to lose his hair rather rapidly. While this could be linked to stress or genetics, he believes it was the dybbuk box. He eventually sold the box to Jason Haxton, director of the A.T. Still University Museum of Osteopathic Medicine. Haxton was the most recent owner of the box before Bagans.
Haxton took a very scientific approach to the mysterious box. His occupation had trained him to be analytical and skeptical. He had the box tested for contaminates (hoping to explain some of the health problems he and pervious owners had faced) and found nothing of concern. He also had the box viewed under black light in the hopes of some explanation. Again, nothing was found. Working with Rabbi’s, Wiccans, scientists, and paranormalists, Haxton eventually sealed the box away in an underground, secured location for his safety and the safety of others. For years, he refused to sell it, fearing that whoever purchased the box would end up sick…or worse. When Bagans of Ghost Adventures expressed interest, Haxton must’ve either been tired of the responsibility or impressed with the number of zeros on the check.
Until science catches up to the paranormal theories, we have no way of proving the existence of such a spirit. Enough witnesses have reported eerily similar events that certainly make the case convincing. One thing is for certain: you won’t catch me opening that box.