The Dybbuk box

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The Dybbuk box, or The Dibbuk box (Hebrew: קופסת דיבוק‎, romanizedKufsat Dibbuk) is a wine box which is claimed by Kevin Mannis to be haunted by a dybbuk. A dybbuk is a concept from Jewish mythology and concerns a restless, usually malicious, spirit said to be able to haunt and even possess the living. The box, supposedly from early 20th century Spain, gained notoriety when it was auctioned on eBay with an accompanying horror story written by Mannis. This is the original inspiration for the 2012 film The Possession. Investigation of the box's construction revealed that it was assembled not in Spain but in the United States, and investigation of its backstory concluded that the legend is fictional according to Mannis, who despite not identifying as Jewish himself claims to have invented the story of Jewish folklore and haunted Holocaust survivors to sell his box.

Legend and historyEdit

 
The box photographed in 2016

The term "dybbuk box" was first created and used by Kevin Mannis to describe a wine cabinet in the item information for an eBay auction and as the subject of his original story describing paranormal events which he attributed to the box. Mannis, a writer and creative professional by trade, owned a small antiques and furniture refinishing business in Portland, Oregon at the time.[1][2] The cabinet has the Shema carved into the back of it.[3] Its dimensions are 12.5″ × 7.5″ × 16.25″.[3]

According to Mannis' story, he bought the box at an estate sale in 2001. It had belonged to a survivor of the Holocaust in Poland named Havaleh, who had escaped to Spain and purchased it there before her immigration to the United States.[3] Havaleh's granddaughter told Mannis that the box had been bought in Spain after the Holocaust. Upon hearing that the box was a family heirloom, Mannis offered to give the box back to the family, but the granddaughter insisted that he take it, saying that the family did not want the box. She told him the box had been kept in her grandmother's sewing room and was never opened because a dybbuk was said to live inside it.[3]

Upon opening the box, Mannis wrote that he found that it contained two 1920s pennies, a lock of blond hair bound with cord, a lock of black/brown hair bound with cord, a small statue engraved with the Hebrew word "shalom", a small golden wine goblet, one dried rose bud, and a single candle holder with four octopus-shaped legs.[citation needed]

Numerous owners of the box have reported that strange phenomena accompany it. Mannis wrote that he experienced a series of horrific nightmares shared with other people while they were in possession of the box or when they stayed at his home while he had it. His mother suffered a stroke on the same day he gave her the box as a birthday present, October 31. Every owner of the box has reported that smells of cat urine or jasmine flowers[4][5] and nightmares involving an old hag accompany the box.[3]

Iosif Neitzke, a student at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri and the last person to auction the box on eBay, claimed that the box caused electronics to burn out in his house, a bugs infestation and his roommate's hair to fall out.[3] Jason Haxton, Director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri, had been following Neitzke's blogs regarding the box and when he was ready to be rid of the box. Neitzke sold it to Haxton. Haxton wrote The Dibbuk Box, and claimed that he subsequently developed strange health problems, including hives, coughing up blood, and "head-to-toe welts".[5] Haxton consulted with rabbis (Jewish religious leaders) to try to figure out a way to seal the dybbuk in the box again. Apparently successful, he took the freshly resealed box and hid it at a secret location, which he would not reveal.[6] He later donated the box to Zak Bagans of Ghost Adventures to display in his museum.[7]

Skeptical analysisEdit

Chris French, head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths' College, told an interviewer he believed that the box's owners were "already primed to be looking out for bad stuff. If you believe you have been cursed, then inevitably you explain the bad stuff that happens in terms of what you perceive to be the cause. Put it like this: I would be happy to own this object."[5]

 
A duplicate box Biddle ordered online following his investigation, complete with actual spirits.

In his Closer Look column in Skeptical Inquirer online, in January 2019 investigator Kenny Biddle reviewed the Dibbuk Box he found on display in Zak Bagans Haunted Museum in Las Vegas. His conclusion, following careful investigation of the cabinet's construction and history, was "Despite what various owners would have us think, the infamous dibbuk Box is not a [haunted] Jewish wine cabinet from Spain but instead a minibar from New York." Biddle also wrote that he believes Mannis created the dybbuk box story "from whole cloth", and that "This elaborate story that started the entire legend was not an account of real supernatural events, but instead a fictional backstory he came up with to sell an ordinary and incomplete mini bar."[7] Biddle's claim of the box and its legend being fraudulent is backed up by a screen capture of a Facebook post made by the originator of the legend, Kevin Mannis, to the "Haunt ME" page. The post, dated October 24, 2015, states:[7]

I am the original creator of the story of The Dibbuk Box which appeared as one of my Ebay posts back in 2003... How about this- if you or anyone else can find any reference to a Dibbut [sic] Box anywhere in history prior to my Ebay post, I’ll pay you $100,000.00 and tattoo your name on my forehead.[7]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Kevin Mannis (September 2, 2009). "The Dybbuk Box, A.K.A. The Haunted Jewish Wine Cabinet". Yahoo. Archived from the original on August 25, 2012. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
  2. ^ "TONIGHT (7-21) on Paranormal Underground Radio We Talk About the Haunted Dibbuk Box". Paranormal Underground. July 21, 2011. Archived from the original on February 23, 2013. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Max Gross (February 13, 2004). "A Box Full of Bad Luck: Haunted Wine Cabinet Goes to Highest Bidder". The Jewish Daily Forward.
  4. ^ Leslie Gornstein (July 25, 2004). "A jinx in a box?; Maybe mischievous spirits do haunt this Jewish scroll cabinet, or maybe it's just another Web-spawned legend run wild". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c Collis, Clark. "Little Box of Horrors." Entertainment Weekly, August 3, 2012, pp. 50–55.
  6. ^ "Paranormal Witness Episode "Dybbuk Box"". SYFY.
  7. ^ a b c d Biddle, Kenny (14 January 2019). "The Dibbuk Box". Skepticalinquirer.org. CFI. Archived from the original on 24 January 2021. Retrieved 24 January 2021.

External linksEdit