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A dybbuk is an evil possessing spirit in Jewish mythology that is believed to be the dislocated soul of the deceased. It possesses a host until its goal has been achieved or has been exorcised. Though the name first made appearances in 16th century writings, it was ignored until S. Ansky’s play, “The Dybbuk,” popularized it. The dybbuk and the dybbuk Box, a wine cabinet haunted by a dybbuk, has been the influence in recent films such as “Possession” and “Ezra.”
Before the dybbuk, early accounts of possession in Jewish mythology, like those given by Josephus, were demonic. As a result of the dybbuk possessions, orthodoxy was advocated among the masses to prevent them. Things such as a sloppy mezuzah or entertaining doubt of Moses crossing the Red Sea opened one’s household to a dybbuk.
Accounts of possession have been very precise, they include names and locations, and have been compiled into the “Sippurei ha-Dybbuk.” Every story follows a similar pattern where the victim is possessed, a Rabbi confronts the spirit and demands it to reveal its name and story, the Dybbuk tells its tale, leaves the host, and then they recover. In recent years, psychological literature has written off Dybbuk possessions as hysterical syndrome even with Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar rebbe reportedly advising a victim to consult a psychiatrist.
The Dybbuk Box is a wine cabinet said to be haunted by a dybbuk, a malevolent Jewish ghost. The term was created by writer Kevin Mannis to describe the wine cabinet in an eBay auction and the subject of his original story that describes the paranormal events surrounding the box that was the influence behind the 2012 movie “The Possession.”
Mannis acquired the box at an estate sale in 2003. The box belonged to a Holocaust survivor by the name of Havela from Poland. Havela’s granddaughter claims her grandmother escaped to Spain, where she purchased the box, and then immigrated to the United States. Mannis offered to give the box back to the family when he realized the importance behind it but the granddaughter insisted he take it, telling him “We don’t want it,” and that the box was kept in her grandmother’s sewing room and was never opened because it was said a dybbuk lives inside of it. When Mannis opened the box he found two 1920s pennies, a lock of blonde 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, a dried rose bud, and a single candle holder with four octopus-shaped legs.
Horrific nightmares plagued those who were in possession of the box. These nightmares were also shared by people who stayed in Mannis’ house while he had it, including nightmares of an old hag. Mannis gave the box to his mother as a birthday present and she suffered a stroke the same day. Everyone who has owned the box claims the smell of cat urine or jasmine. A student at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, Josif Neitzke, was the last person to auction the box on eBay. He claimed it made lights burn out in his house and caused his hair to fall out. Neitzke sold it to Jason Haxton, the Director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, who had followed Neitzke’s blog posts about the box. Haxton developed odd health problems like hives, coughing up blood, and welts that he claimed were “head to toe.” Haxton consulted with rabbis to lock the dybbuk back in the box. Once successful, he hid the box in a secret location until he donated it to Zak Bagans of Ghost Adventures. It is now on display in Bagans’ museum.