The Dybbuk box is a wine cabinet which is supposedly haunted by a Dybbuk which had been trapped inside it.


CURRENT LOCATION

Zak Bagans Haunted Museum


BACKGROUND, HISTORY AND LORE

The Dybbuk box is a small wine cabinet brought to America by a Polish Holocaust survivor, after the Second World War, named Havela who reportedly acquired the box in Spain. Other sources, however, claim that Havela made the box while in Spain.

“The two doors on the outside open up just like the Holy Closet, or Aron HaKodesh, a receptacle for Torah scrolls. And I saw round, metal hoops on the inside of the doors that would hold scrolls. This particular size is used when going to comfort the family of the deceased. This (the insertion of the spirit) was done deliberately, for a specific purpose.”

https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2017/12/the-mystery-of-the-cursed-dybbuk-box/ (Swancer, 2017)

Other sources report that the Dybbuk box was ‘created’ when Havela and her cousin Sophie used a spirit board. According to Mannis, Havela’s cousin Sophie later ‘indicated’ to him that she and Havela had, after the First World War and before the second, when séances were extremely popular, made a spirit board and had come into contact with ‘other-worldly beings’. Sophie claimed to suspect the negative energy of the ‘impending way’ may have attracted evil spirits when they used the spirit. Havela and Sophie reportedly tried to ‘bind’ the spirit that they had summoned but failed to do so. This is claimed to have happened on November 10th 1938, the night of Kristallnacht. After the Second World War, they tried again to bind the demon or evil spirit and were able to trap it inside the wine cabinet.

Illustration of a Dybbuk showing a man carrying a black robed skeleton on his back
Dybbuk, by Ephraim Moshe Lilien (1874–1925), from The Book of Job.

source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/Dybbuk.jpg

When she brought the cabinet to the United States Havela reportedly, warned her daughter to never open it and kept the box hidden in her sewing cabinet. In 2003 following Havela’s death, her family held the estate sale where the box was sold to Kevin Mannis, an antique collector, at an estate sale in Oregon.

Mannis claimed to have spoken to the seller, Havela’s granddaughter, to make sure that she had meant to sell it as they felt ‘it had deep sentimental value’ for her and offered to give it back to her even though he had purchased it. However, the seller ‘insisted’ that he take the cabinet and told Mannis that he should keep the box ‘stashed away’ and that he should not let anyone open it. She also reportedly explained that the box had sat in her grandmother’s sewing room ‘out of reach and unopened’ for years because of the Dybbuk inside it.

The word ‘Dybbuk’ comes from the Hebrew word meaning to ‘cling’ and, in the Hebrew tradition, is ‘a malicious spirit bound on the Earth to an object or person to complete unfinished business’.


PARANORMAL REPORTS

KEVIN MANNIS

Kevin Mannis ignored the seller’s advice to never open the box and opened it when he returned home. He reportedly found that it contained an ‘eclectic mix of odd items’ which included a ‘small gold wine goblet’, a ‘statue’ or ‘small granite slab with the Hebrew word “Shalom” etched into it’, a dried rosebud, a ‘four-legged candle holder’, two pennies from the 1920’s and two ‘locks of human hair bound by cords’ one blonde one brown. Mannis reported that on the same day he came home with and opened the cabinet ‘strange things began to happen’.

Mannis took the cabinet to his ‘furniture refinishing shop’ and stored it in the basement. Reportedly, one day when he had left the shop to run an errand and the shop was being run by an employee, Mannis received a ‘frantic’ phone call about half an hour after he left, from his employee.

The employee was reportedly ‘screaming’ that someone was ‘in the shop swearing and smashing things’ and that the ‘intruder’ had locked all the gates and emergency exits ‘locking her inside’. When Mannis returned to the shop he found that the doors were still locked, but that the place looked like it had been ‘ransacked’ but that nothing had been stolen. The lights in the basement were broken, with the crushed glass littering the floor, and the room was ‘filled with the stench of cat urine’ but that one ‘isolated area’ smelled of jasmine flowers. 

The Dybbuk box opened and it's contents
Marika Martinelli16 / CC BY-SA

The employee also claimed that they had seen the lightbulbs ‘smashing by themselves’ and had heard a ‘disembodied voice cursing’. According to Mannis, the employee left that same and never came back after having worked for him for two years.

When I got back to the shop, I went to investigate. I remember heading toward the back and walking into what I can only describe as a wall of scent. It smelled like jasmine flowers. You could take one more step and not smell a thing, and take a step backward and be surrounded by it again.”

https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2017/12/the-mystery-of-the-cursed-dybbuk-box/ (Swancer, 2017)

Mannis, however, did apparently not connect these occurrences to the box as he reportedly began working on restoring the box to give to his mother for her birthday. He decided however not to ‘refinish’ it and chose instead to only clean the box. When Mannis gave his mother the box she had visited his shop as they were going out to lunch. After gifting her the box Mannis had reportedly left to make a phone call when an employee came to tell his that ‘something was wrong with his mother’. Mannis went back to his mother, allegedly after only ‘5 minutes’, and found her ‘sitting in a chair, expressionless and crying and totally unresponsive’ near the cabinet.

Mannis’ mother was rushed to a hospital where it was discovered that she’d had a stroke. She reportedly lost 80% of her sign and also lost her ability to speak ‘for a time’ and could only speak using a ‘spell board’ which she would use to ‘point to letters to spell out words’. When Mannis asked his mother ‘how she was doing’ she reportedly scribbled out a note, as she could not speak yet, with the words “no gift” and “hate gift”. She reportedly claimed she ‘felt a malevolence emanating from it’ and described that something ‘blew through her that she could only describe as pure evil’. According to Mannis, eyesight loss was also a ‘recurring theme’ with people who came into contact with the box.

Things reportedly got even stranger when the FBI raided and searched Mannis’ shop and reportedly took some ‘electronic gear’ before ‘leaving without explanation’.

Mannis then decided to give the box to his sister instead who reportedly kept the box for only a week before giving it back to him and claimed that the doors of the box would not stay shut and opened on their own when no one was around. She reportedly also claimed that the box had an ‘inexplicable feeling of dread orbiting it’ and that she had ‘potent nightmares of a scary old lady’ which stopped when she gave the box back to Mannis.

Then Mannis gave the box to his brother and his wife who kept it for three days before returning it, with Mannis’ brother claiming that he could smell ‘Jasmine flowers’ when near the box and his wife also claimed that it smelled of ‘cat urine’. Following this Mannis gave the box to his girlfriend who reportedly asked him to sell it. Everyone Mannis tried to give the box to stated that there was ‘something evil about it’ and his sister, brother and girlfriend all complained of being ‘beset by paranormal phenomena and horrifying nightmares’.

Soon after the box was sold to a ‘middle-aged couple’ however, three days later Mannis found that the couple had returned the box, leaving it in front of his shop with a note saying ‘this has a bad darkness’. A customer also reportedly bought the box but ‘promptly returned it’ saying that it was ‘evil’. Mannis then decided to hold onto the box for a while and stored it in his basement.

After bringing the box home Mannis began to suffer through ‘series of recurring nightmares that would haunt him for weeks’ which he called ‘the most potent nightmares he had ever experienced’. In these dreams he described that he was usually ‘walking with a good friend and when he looked into the friend’s eyes he saw something evil looking back’, his friend then turned into a ‘gruesome’, ‘demonic’, ‘hunched over old hag’, or other monster, who then ‘stalked’ and attacked him. Mannis also claimed that he would wake up from these dreams to find that he had ‘scratches, bite marks, and bruises on his body’.

“I find myself walking with a friend, usually someone I know well and trust at some point in the dream, I find myself looking into the eyes of the person that I am with. It is then that I realize that there is something different, something evil looking back at me. At that point in my dream, the person I am with changes into what can only be described as the most gruesome, demonic looking Hag that I have ever seen. This Hag proceeds then, to beat the living tar out of me.”

https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2017/12/the-mystery-of-the-cursed-dybbuk-box/ (Swancer, 2017)

These nightmares were even said to ‘invade the sleep of people who stayed over’. When his sister, his brother and his brother’s wife visited they all reportedly had the same dream. Mannis’ girlfriend also revealed that she’d had the same nightmare while in possession of the box.

”He took it into the house and began searching the internet for information about the box. He fell asleep and had the nightmare and woke at 4:30 am to the feeling of someone breathing on his neck and to the smell of jasmine flowers. He again saw the shadow figure lurk down the hall.”

https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2017/12/the-mystery-of-the-cursed-dybbuk-box/ (Swancer, 2017)

Mannis, and visitors to his house, also reportedly began to see ‘indistinct, shadowy figures lurking about his home’, often in the periphery of his vision. Guests would also reportedly experience these unexplained phenomena. Despite not initially believing that the box had anything to do with these events he would eventually become convinced of the box being the cause. Mannis become too afraid of the box and it’s paranormal effects to keep it and decided to sell the box, hoping that someone who knew more about the paranormal could take it off his hands.

Mannis created a listing for the cabinet on eBay including his full account of how it came to be in possession and what he knew of its history, as well as the paranormal phenomena reported to have been caused by or occurred near the box. He wrote in the description:

“I would destroy the thing in a second, except I really don’t have any understanding of what I may or may not be dealing with. I’m afraid that if I destroy the cabinet, whatever it is that seems to have come with the cabinet may just stay here with me. I have been told that there are people who shop on eBay that understand these kinds of things and specifically look for these kinds of items. If you are one of these people, please, please buy this cabinet and do whatever you do with a thing like this. Help me.”

https://www.historicmysteries.com/dibbuk-box/ (Historic Mysteries, 2019)

The original, archived eBay listing for the box can be found here.

In the first episode of Deadly Possessions with Zak Bagans, the Dybbuk Box was brought in to Bagans’ museum by Jason Haxton while he was in possession of the box in April 2016. Zak Bagans asked Mannis when interviewing him if he believed that the Dybbuk Box was capable of killing people. Mannis replied that he couldn’t ‘empower that by saying yes’.

IOSIF NIETZKE

The box and it’s contents were purchased by a student at Truman State University in Missouri named Iosif Nietzke in June of 2003 for the price of $140.

Almost immediately after buying the cabinet Nietzke was reportedly ‘plagued by all manner of weirdness’. Nietzke claimed that electronics in his house would malfunction or just stop working, lights would turn on and off by themselves and objects would be moved by themselves, or by something, when no one was around. He also reported that he would experience strange smells that would ‘appear and disappear abruptly’ and see ‘blurry spectral figures roaming about’.

Nietzke also claimed that his hair began to fall out after he bought the box, that he and his roommates also suffered from illness and insomnia and that his home suffered a sudden insect infestation that seemed to come from nowhere. He reportedly went to see a doctor about his hair loss and health problems but and all his tests came back negative and they were unable to find a cause so he attributed the hair loss to stress.

After eight months Neitzke decided to try and sell the box on eBay. The box was sold to Jason Haxton from Missouri, who heard about the box from one of his students who was reportedly one of Neitzke’s roommates at the time, for $280.

Neitzke reportedly thought of the box as a ‘historical puzzle’ and talked to a reporter, Leslie Gornstein about it who said “It came from somewhere. It was made for a reason. What is it and why is it?”.

JASON HAXTON

Jason Haxton was when he bought the Dybbuk box, a curator of a university museum of osteopathic medicine at A.T. Still University and a collector of religious paraphernalia. Haxton is also the author of the book The Dibbuk Box (2011) which is about his experience with the Dybbuk box. He also had, for a time, a website dedicated to the Dybbuk box.

Haxton stated on the show Deadly Possessions, with Zak Bagans, that he was nauseous the first time he touched the box, sick to his stomach  and that an ‘ectoplasmic crud’ came out of him and that he experienced pain like he had been ‘stabbed in the gut’ with a knife ‘like someone ripped it through him’. He has also claimed that he coughed up blood and was choking after touching the box for the first time. Haxton also described experiencing other health problems since being in possession of the box such as ‘constant coughing’, fatigue, a ‘metallic taste in his mouth’, ‘persistent nasal problems’.

He also stated that after touching the Dybbuk Box for the first time he woke up and his ‘eyes were bleeding’ and had ‘broken out in hives’ and ‘head-to-toe welts’ reportedly on the same day of touching it for the first time. He also claimed that he experienced ‘paranormal activity in the presence of the box’, that the box is turned almost into a ‘liquid state’ when touched and that he has seen ‘strange lights and shadows’ and frequently experienced ‘phantom scents’ of cat urine and jasmine.

Haxton soon decided to leave the box in a storage unit outside his home. Shortly after he was alerted to the fact that the smoke alarm in his unit was going off. Mannis returned to the storage unit but found no smoke or fire but did again encounter the smell of cat urine which had reportedly, at that point, ‘permeated’ his house. He became curious and decided to bring the box home and began researching it. Haxton reported that one evening he fell asleep near his computer and woke up to see a ‘shadow on the wall moving away from him’.

Being the ‘caretaker’ of the Dibbuk Box for almost seven years, I’ve experienced a range of thoughts and feelings about it and its effects. Each caretaker who has passed the Dibbuk Box on reports both relief and loss. All regret losing control of it. I decided not to act in haste and get rid of it like my predecessors. Instead, I’ve worked with scientists, kabbalists, Wiccans and those in the paranormal to diffuse the energy and put the artefact in a rest state. For the past several years I’ve sealed it within an acacia wood ark lined in 24 karat gold. It has indeed calmed its effects.”

https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2017/12/the-mystery-of-the-cursed-dybbuk-box/ (Swancer, 2017)

Haxton claims that after a while he began to wonder if something could be wrong with the story that he had heard, from previous owners of the box, regarding its origins and history.

“He noticed several small details that could prove the history of it to be false. However, he needed to close these loopholes before he could write the book he was planning. For example, there were similarities between Mannis’s mother and Havela. Both ladies were Jewish and died at the age of 103. In his desire to investigate, he called Kevin Mannis to ask him more questions about how he came across the box.”

https://paranorms.com/dibbuk-box/ (Jim H, 2015)

This questioning from Haxton reportedly prompted Kevin Mannis to return to the house where he had bought to box to see if he could get answers. After a long discussion with the granddaughter of the woman who sold him the box (Havela) got him the name, Sophie. Sophie, who was Havela’s cousin, told Mannis the story of how she and Havela trapped the Dybbuk spirit inside the box. Sophie apparently became very upset and began apologising to Mannis and, when asked why she was so upset, she revealed that she believed it was probable that the spirit they had summoned had been the cause of the Second World War.

After learning this Haxton was curious about what was influencing or creating the strange events reported around the box. After doing some research, he came across the name Harry Hamilton Laughlin who he discovered was known for his role in the eugenics movement which helped inspire Hitler and others to attempt to eliminate any races or people that he considered to be inferior.

Intrigued by the paranormal phenomena, apparently caused by and surrounding the box, Haxton decided to have it looked at by a specialist in Jewish artefacts named Rebecca Edery. Edery reportedly determined it to be a sacred relic meant for imprisoning a spirit. 

“Haxton has taken a rather intelligent and academic approach to understanding the box. He has enlisted the help of scientists, paranormalists, kabbalists and Wiccans to put the box into a more manageable state so he can keep it. He believes the force contained in the cabinet is neutral but plays off of who comes into contact with it. It’s ultimate goal is to understand and reveal “truth” and that it was seeking the right owner to help it.”

https://exemplore.com/paranormal/The-Dibbuk-Box-Where-is-it-Now (Exemplore, 2019)

Haxton also consulted several Rabbis and ‘mystics’, to have rituals performed on the box to seal the Dybbuk inside again and to find out how he could keep it from harming anyone else. He also reportedly met with a ‘psychic medium’ who claimed to sense ‘death and fear surrounding the box’.

“When she touched the box, she felt a stabbing pain in her left ribs and her head. She believed that those sensations had something to do with [the] original owner of the box.”

https://paranorms.com/dibbuk-box/ (Jim H, 2015)

He claims to have eventually constructed an ‘arc’ of acacia wood, line with 24 karat gold, ‘replicating the Arc of the Covenant’ to secure the Dybbuk box inside to ‘keep it subdued’ and then ‘stashed it in his den’ for a time. He has stated that he later placed the box in a ‘military-grade shock-proof container’ and buried it in a ‘secret location’, which he refuses to reveal to anyone. He has mostly refused to discuss the box further since and ‘evades any questions about it’ and sometimes completely denies email inquiries regarding the box. 

In an interview he said of his ‘quest to tame the mysterious box’:

“The Dybbuk Box has gone on to become somewhat of a phenomenon since it was first listed along with its eerie story on eBay, to the point that it has been made into numerous articles, books, and films, most notably the Sam Raimi directed film The Possession (2012). It has also been the subject of countless Internet forums and comments, to the point that the tale has become nearly legendary. But what truth does any of this all hold? Well, that largely depends on who you ask.”

https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2017/12/the-mystery-of-the-cursed-dybbuk-box/ (Swancer, 2017)

The Dybbuk Box was however featured on the show Deadly Possessions. Haxton again claimed to have kept the Dybbuk Box buried in a military box for five years, in a secret location on his 25 acres of land up until that point, and that bringing the box to the Zak Bagans Haunted Museum was the first time that it had been out of Missouri for twelve years.

Haxton stated that he was apprehensive to bring the box to the museum and that he normally avoided disturbing the box at all. Bagans asked Haxon if he thought there was an ‘evil spirit’ contained in the Dybbuk Box. Haxton replied that he thought ‘evil can happen it just depends on how it’s used’. When asked why, if he thought the box was ‘not all bad’, did Haxton bury the cabinet in a military box in a field? Haxton stated that ‘not all wishes come true the way you want them to come true’. 

The day that Haxton appeared on Deadly Possessions with the box was also apparently the birthday of Kevin Manns’ mother and the day on which Mannis had planned to give her the box as a gift.

During this episode, Kevin Mannis was also asked by Bagans what he thought about the current owner of the box, Haxton, and what he thought about what Haxton was doing with the box and how he was storing it. Mannis replied that they could ‘talk about how many people have died around it. When asked how many people had died around the box Mannis claimed to know of a man who was living in a house which Jason Haxton was keeping the box in the basement of. Mannis claimed that the man was found dead, sitting in a chair over the Dybbuk Box.

Mannis was also, during the same episode, offered the chance to enter a basement ‘isolation chamber’ alone with the Dybbuk Box, on camera, and see the box again. Mannis had not seen the Dybbuk Box for ten to twelve years, according to himself, at this point. After entering the basement he opened the cabinet, at the same time lights in a separate room appeared to flicker, then shut the doors again. Mannis then wandered around the room, stood facing the wall at the back of the room, the camera then records a bang and Mannis begins pacing and seems restless. Mannis then begins speaking a sort of monologue or rhyme which sounded as follows to me when I watched the episode:

“Light from the hallway crept into my room along with a shadow man too I assume.

Never before had I seen such a form that could change as a canvas flame licks in a storm.

Light as a monkey, crept in on his knees and he perched on the edge of my bed if you please…

I would hear in the darkness till you fall asleep then I come to your dreams with a promise to keep.

From the night time till morning I’ll torment your soul

I tried to tremble, I covered my head…

… and took flight. He hid deep in my closet, peered out with delight.

I’d just about fallen asleep when it started, it began when I felt something under the bed coming…

… as a stench from the shadow man’s breath filled the air and the silence was broken one inch from my ear as the shadow man whispered my boy I’m right here.”

Mannis then begins muttering, laughing and making strange noises and almost perhaps speaking in tongues.  Bagans and his team then speak to Mannis but he doesn’t seem to be aware of what he has been saying. When asked if he is ok Mannis replies that he is and claims that over by the furnaces in the basement they had ‘quite a bit of activity happening’. He described a ‘sort of wispy manifestations’ which he claimed had happened three times since he had been in the basement but this was out of the camera’s view. Mannis said that the Dybbuk Box was not something to ever ‘something to play with’ and that he hadn’t expected to be affected by the box the way he was. Bagans and the team at the museum also thought that they heard other voices in the basement when Mannis stopped talking but Mannis claimed to not hear these himself.

During the episode, after Mannis comes back out of the basement, Mannis and Haxton are also taken to visit a synagogue and speak to a rabbi. While speaking to the rabbi, Mannis suffered a coughing fit and needed to leave.

Haxton has said that he believes that the spirit possessing the box is on a mission to ‘show them the truth about the Holocaust’.

BAGANS

Ghost Adventures host Zak Bagans is the current owner of the Dybbuk box after buying it for an amount that was reportedly ‘tens of thousands of dollars’.

Bagens told TMZ that he plans on showcasing it in his Haunted Museum in Las Vegas but that he will be displaying it closed, not open. Guests will also reportedly have to be over eighteen years old to see the box and sign a waiver.


EXPLANATIONS AND THEORIES

Skeptics of the paranormal, and of the Dybbuk Box’s reported paranormal activity and phenomena, have reportedly been quick to point out that ‘the story lacks very little verification or substantiation’. Some of the ‘alleged’ owners, namely Iosif Nietzke, have not been tracked down to allow their accounts and stories to be verified. 

The accounts relayed by Mannis, which he reportedly received from relatives of the boxes previous owners, also cannot be verified. The fact that Kevin Mannis is an aspiring writer, and has written a book on the supposedly haunted wine cabinet, has also raised suspicions and the possibility that the whole thing may be a hoax or a work of fiction. The book was also adapted into a film, The Possession (2012), directed by Sam Rami which added fuel to these theories. This story may have been picked up and continued by later owners of the box, either intentionally, or unconsciously as they expected and already believed the box to be haunted.

There is also the common argument against the existence of ‘cursed’ objects that suggests that the tales of a curse or haunting can lead to an exaggeration of unfortunate and unlucky events that can be connected to the object and prescribing them to a curse, a haunting or a demon.

Chris French, from the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths’ College, has said of the supposedly haunted Dybbuk Box:

[They 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.”

https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2017/12/the-mystery-of-the-cursed-dybbuk-box/ (Swancer, 2017)

Jason Haxton’s own theory regarding if, or how, there could be a ‘mysterious force’ attached to or infusing the box, and what it’s purpose may be as quoted:

“I believe that the box is somewhat neutral – neither evil nor good. I believe it was designed and equipped to move a person toward their innermost desire or wish. Of course, sometimes what a person wants is not always a good thing for them or others.

The Dibbuk Box moves toward understanding and exposing the truth at the smallest level. Its original acting out against its early owners and others was a way of continuing to move toward the ultimate goal of its creator. Those not willing to move it forward received stronger assaults from it until they let loose of the box so it could find someone who would fulfill its destiny and accomplish the goal or task it was given. Now the journey and its work is finished. As long as the Dibbuk Box remains contained with no one requesting anything more from it, it will stay in a neutral state.

I don’t think the box or its consciousness has any specific feeling on these things going on, but that these are just the means to provide the truth. The wish of its creator is coming to light in a few months. That was the assignment, and its job will be complete. I cannot see how this information juggernaut could be derailed at this point. So it’s resting. Mission accomplished.”

https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2017/12/the-mystery-of-the-cursed-dybbuk-box/ (Swancer, 2017)

ALSO KNOWN AS

  • Dibbuk Box
  • Dibek Box
  • Dibbuq Box

PODCASTS


VIDEOS


LINKS/SOURCES

  1. https://exemplore.com/paranormal/The-Dibbuk-Box-Where-is-it-Now 
  2. https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2017/12/the-mystery-of-the-cursed-dybbuk-box/ 
  3. https://www.historicmysteries.com/dibbuk-box/ 
  4. https://www.tmz.com/2017/03/04/zak-bagans-the-possession-haunted-box/

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