Infamous Haunted Box May Not Actually Be All That Haunted

The man responsible for popularizing the legend of the Dybbuk Box now claims that he made it all up

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Screenshot: Paranormal Witness | YouTube (Fair Use)

You may have heard of the Dybbuk Box, an old wine cabinet that was allegedly haunted so that bad fortune misfell everyone who touched it—including, hilariously, Post Malone. The box’s legend reached so far that several different horror movies have been made based on the stories surrounding it. It turns out that the so-called Dybbuk Box may not actually be haunted at all, and instead just an elaborate ruse made up by a creative writer trying to create a horror phenomenon.

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As the original legend goes, the box’s former owner Kevin Mannis purchased it from the granddaughter of a recently deceased Holocaust survivor named Havela. It was reportedly one of the three items Havela brought with her to the U.S. when she immigrated at the age of 103. Mannis always claimed that upon purchasing the box, Havela’s granddaughter told him that it contained a dybbuk, which in Jewish folklore is “an evil, restless spirit that possesses the living” and that he should never open the box.

Unsurprisingly, Mannis didn’t listen, and upon opening the box he claimed to have found a number of odd objects including two U.S. wheat pennies from the 1920s, two locks of hair, a dried rosebud, a four-legged candlestick, a golden wine cup, and a granite sculpture inscribed with the Hebrew word shalom. The back of the wine cabinet had the Shema, an important Jewish prayer, carved into it. As the story goes, a series of odd and unfortunate occurrences befell Mannis and the people around him in the years after he acquired the box, which is what led to him posting the box on eBay in 2003 with a detailed description of everything he’d supposedly been through—and that was the beginning of the legend.

Ever since, countless other people have claimed to have been cursed or haunted by the box, including Mannis’s mother (who had a stroke after Mannis gave her the box), a subsequent owner of the box named Jason Haxton, and the director of The Possession, one of several movies about the legend of the box.

But Mannis recently revealed to Input Mag that everything he claimed about the Dibbuk/Dybbuk box in his original 2003 eBay listing was a work of fiction, which he made up with the purpose of creating “an interactive horror story in real-time.” Mannis actually bought the wine cabinet from an attorney, not the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, and he put the items in it. Input Mag confirmed this story with two of Mannis’s friends, one of whom confessed that it was actually his hair that was in the box.

“The carving in the back of it is my carving,” Mannis told Input Mag. “The stone that was in the box is something that is a signature creation of mine also. Make no mistake, I conceived of the Dybbuk Box — the name, the term, the idea — and wrote this creative story around it to post on eBay.”

Haxton, for his part, accused Mannis of making up the whole story around the Dybbuk Box in his 2011 book—but maintained that the lore about the box’s evil powers is still true, claiming that Mannis himself had actually cursed the box using Kabbalah. What a convenient theory, especially coming from a man who seems to have made quite a bit of money off the legend of the box!

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If it’s true that the Dybbuk Box legend was actually entirely manufactured, then it sounds like Mannis’s experiment was actually a rousing success—though it also begs the question of why he decided to reveal the truth now. And even if Mannis’s original story was full of lies, that doesn’t explain the many documented accidents and other odd events that have seemingly followed the numerous people who have had possession of the box. It’s always possible that these incidents are just a result of confirmation bias, but who knows? Maybe the Dybbuk Box really has been cursed all along.

DISCUSSION

By
Dubs

I love horror movies but don’t put much stock in the supernatural, and I reckon most people, like me, assumed this was a fun story with perhaps some earnest believers clinging on.

That said, I do agree with you, Justice, that this is a neat bit of interactive storytelling. Mannis seems to be one of several creators who have effectively leveraged the “always on multimedia” effect of the internet to spin super engaging yarns. I think also of Ted the Caver’s old Angelfire website that had enough jank to lend it a shred of, if not, credibility, then at least mystique. Or those guys who made Marble Hornets.

Anyway, cool stuff!