Nowadays, dybbuk boxes—wine containers haunted by a dybbuk, a malicious mythological demon from Jewish folklore said to hold the power to invade and possess a body—are all the rage within the paranormal community. Well, at least on the Internet.
As the story goes, the first dybbuk box appeared in 2003 when antique store owner Kevin Mannis bought a vintage wine box from a 103-year-old Holocaust survivor via eBay, an online auction marketplace. After a string of unexplained hauntings, including recurring nightmares, unexplained bruises, and the incessant stench of ammonia, the box soon found its way back onto eBay and, after a few ownership swaps, landed in the hands of its current foster parent, Jason Haxton, the Director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri, who paid $280 for the artifact in 2004 from eBay user “spasmolytic.” (Haxton was the winning bidder, out of 51.). A victim of the box’s wrath, Haxton sealed and buried the box somewhere in Missouri, but he recently dug it back up for a television cameo in a new show by paranormal hot shot Zac Bagans of Ghost Adventures fame.
Haxton isn’t fazed about the box’s resurfacing since the dybbuk’s unfinished business, he believes, is now “finished.” He’s even written a book about it.“I feel the prayer is answered,” he told me. In fact, Haxton now thinks the dybbuk box’s energy has reversed, so much so that Haxton even lighheartedly calls it his own personal “fountain of youth.” At the age of 57, Haxton said his vitals are better now than when he was 40, attributing his enhanced feeling of health to the haunted heirloom.
Since that fated original transaction in 2003, dybbuk boxes have fast become a hot commodity on eBay and Etsy. The original box also got mad press and continues to do so, even inspiring Sam Raimi’s 2012 film, The Possession. Prices currently range from $40 to $400-plus, meaning that most people with a bit of spare change can nab a wandering spirit that will demonize your soul indefinitely. And maybe, if you’re lucky like Haxton, it’ll get your cholesterol in check.
In 2012, Paranormal investigator Tim Wood of Live SciFi TV paid about $20 for his box on eBay, a real bargain. Wood said he bought the dybbuk box before they became the trendy “it” item they are today. Even though his dybbuk box came with instructions that warned the buyer to never open the contraption, Wood went ahead and did it anyway. He filmed it, too. Wood said he has experienced hauntings manifesting as shattered glass and rancid smells, which resulted in him resealing the box and burying it in an undisclosed location somewhere in California. “I’m not going to tell anybody where it is,” he swore.
And yet, since the market is chock full of dybbuk boxes, Wood said it’s hard to discern the fugazi dybbuk boxes from the authentic ones. Together we worked to lay out tips for potential dybbuk box buyers—caveat emptor: It is essential that a box that come with a good backstory. As are certified documents, especially those signed by a rabbi. Warnings such as “under all circumstances, do not open,” are definitely a plus, said Wood. And electromagnetic field (EMF) readings don’t hurt, either. And, of course, if the box contains creepy pictures and locks of hair, that’s also a good sign of authenticity.
Based upon my research, I deduced that a box covered with melted wax, though a fun accoutrement, is not necessary and may in fact point to a fake. And, of course, when opening a dybbuk box, if you’re overcome with the smell of urine, or see dark, amorphous specters whose entrances are complete with electric zaps of light, then you’re on the right track.
Yet Haxton is skeptical about “copycat” dybbuk boxes for sale on the digital marketplace. “There’s only one dybbuk box,” he said. “Any other box is a load of crap.”
Tess Cutler is an intern at Tablet.