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Possessed Wooden Box Filled with Evil Demons!

What is the true story behind the infamous demonic “Dybbuk Box” that inspired the movie The Possession and has fascinated paranormal fans for nearly a decade?

I have always been a fan of horror, the occult, and the paranormal. I remember when being totally scared out of my wits when seeing The Exorcist for the first time as a young teen taking solace in the fact that I am Jewish and we do not believe in demons, The Devil, possessions, and the like. 

That was until I heard the story of the Dybbuk Box!

As the story goes, in 2001, Kevin Mannis was out visiting yard sales, looking for supplies for his furniture-restoration business in Portland, Oregon.

During his scavenges, he purchased an old wine cabinet from the granddaughter of a recently deceased Holocaust survivor named Havela, who it was said escaped Nazi-occupied Poland. Havela’s parents, brothers, sister, husband, two sons, and daughter were all killed. She, with other survivors, fled to Spain and lived there until the end of the war. When Havela, who lived to 103, immigrated to the US, the wine cabinet was one of only three items she brought with her.

As Mannis was paying for the unusual-looking wine cabinet, Havela’s granddaughter said to him, “I see you bought the Dybbuk Box.” 

Despite being in the antique furniture business, Mannis had never heard the term before, and asked what is a “Dybbuk Box?” The granddaughter told him her grandmother always kept it shut and out of reach because there was a dybbuk — in Jewish folklore, an evil, restless spirit that possesses the living — trapped inside of it. The seller purportedly warned Mannis it was never to be opened, and if it was, bad things would happen. 

Like the mythological Pandora, he did not heed her warning.

Breaking a centuries-long protective seal on the box, Mannis found 2 pennies from the 1920s, a lock of blonde hair, a lock of dark brown hair, a small statue engraved with the word “shalom,” a small wine goblet, a dried rosebud, and a candle holder.

But according to the following owners of the box, it contained something far more sinister. The events surrounding the Dybbuk Box would inspire one of horror’s most infamous possession movies, take up permanent residence in Zak Bagans’ haunted museum, and even claim popstar Post Malone as one of its victims!

Since inspiring the 2012 movie “The Possession” and a few cheaper knock-offs, the term “Dybbuk Box” has entered into the paranormal lexicon. You can find several for sale on the dark web and even in the “haunted items” section on eBay.

But while dybbuks are an important part of ancient Jewish folklore and mysticism — the analog of Christian demons, who possess human beings — taking up residence in wine cabinets and alternative objects is not often noted. And this is what makes this tale so unique; Mannis’s is the first discovery of a “Dybbuk Box” and the first notable use of the term.

Mannis’ Misfortunes

Just as Havela’s granddaughter predicted, Mannis experienced a series of misfortunes and unusual occurrences after breaking the seal on the box. 

He gave his mother the wine cabinet as a gift on her birthday. She had a stroke later that day.

He then tried to give it to other members of his family. Shortly after receiving the box, each would return it, claiming the doors of the cabinet would suddenly open and refuse to close, and complaining its emitted odors of both jasmine and urine.

Mannis even tried to sell the box to a couple, but they returned it two days later. They left it outside his front door with a succinct note – “This has a bad darkness.”  

As for Mannis himself, he would often dream of his friends turning into a demon and beating him. He would then wake up covered in bruises as if the attacks had taken place. Each and every person he gave the box to would have the exact same nightmare – and every one of them returned it to him.

Mannis considered destroying the box, but something in the pit of his soul told him that doing so was a bad idea and destroying it would release whatever “evil” was living in the box and permanently attach it to himself.

So, he did what anyone of us in his position would do — decided to sell it on eBay, where the largest online marketplace for haunted objects had been growing since 2000.

The Box After the Infamous eBay Listing

Mannis’ eBay listing, which for all intents and purposes coined the term “Dybbuk Box,” went into details of how he acquired it, the strange things that happened to him and his family afterward, and why he wants to get rid of it. Toward the end of the description, he writes, “Help me.”

It was purchased for $140 by a college student named Losif Nietzke, and if he thought it would be “cool” to own a haunted object, he got more than he bargained for.

The next seven months of his life were indeed a “living hell.” Nietzke and his roommates fell victim to a number of sudden and inexplicable ailments, from insomnia and bronchitis to broken fingers. And if that wasn’t enough, newly bought electronic devices would fail to work, and various dead mice would be found in the kitchen cupboards.

He decided to then sell it to Jason Haxton, a museum director in Missouri who specialized in procuring and investigating haunted and cursed objects.

Haxton reported similar occurrences to previous owners, from his house’s lights burning out to a number of physical symptoms, whether he had sudden outbreaks of hives or was coughing up blood. Haxton, along with Mannis, served as “consultants” on The Possession.

Eventually, he consulted with rabbis to investigate the nature of the dybbuk and the paranormal activity connected to it and found a way to ritualistically seal it back in the box.

For a time, he kept the box hidden at an undisclosed location until he donated it to Zak Bagans. It is currently one of the most prized items in his collection at his haunted museum. 

Never one not to tempt fate, Bagans filmed the reopening of the box for an episode of the paranormal show Ghost Adventures: Quarantine. The on-air reopening resulted in a resurrection of its paranormal activity, including a spate of bad luck for popstar Post Malone! 

As Bagans opened the box in front of the cameras, he heard it say “Kevin,” referencing Mannis, and “evil,” then heard a child’s voice. The show captured on camera what Bagans and his crew claimed was a figure that manifested inside the box. 

The highlight of the episode, however — at least from the media’s standpoint — was security camera footage of Bagans and his friend, the musician Post Malone, touching the closed Dybbuk Box prior to Bagans opening it.

The dybbuk might not have possessed the pop music artist, but it certainly made its presence known in what many deem a curse — his private plane had to make an emergency landing, armed robbers targeted what they thought was his home, and one of his cars was involved in a serious accident.

Of course, over the years, there have been plenty of skeptics. Various reports — including a 2004 Los Angeles Times that cast doubt on the legend of the Dybbuk Box and most recently a 2019 column in the Skeptical Inquirer magazine where writer Kenny Biddle dismisses the haunted wine cabinet as a hoax created and perpetrated by Mannis himself.

But if Mannis, a creative writer by trade, was indeed simply crafting a good horror story, drawing on his Jewish heritage for one that had not been done before, it does not explain any of the well-documented incidents of misfortunes of those he came into contact with the box after him. 

Today the Box still resides as part of Bagans’ collection of paranormal objects in his haunted museum in Las Vegas. It is not on public display. However, if you’d really like to see it, you must sign a waiver that releases Bagans from liability if anything bad happens to you while viewing the box or immediately after.