What is the most interesting thing you’ve ever bought at a yard/estate sale?
We’ve all heard the old adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
But what if you purchased a seemingly innocuous item only to find out it held something dark and sinister?
In September of 2001, Kevin Mannis attended an estate sale in Portland, Oregon, perhaps hoping to come across a rare piece of furniture, and interesting tchotchke, or with the hopes of finding a very valuable item that the sellers didn’t know was worth a small fortune and be able to buy it at a bargain price. And what Kevin found that day would indeed prove to be way more than he bargained for.
The items at this particular estate sale were said to have belonged to an old woman, who had passed away at the age of 103. The woman had lived a long and storied life, according to the grandaughter overseeing the sale. Her grandmother had been the sole survivor of her family after their internment at a Nazi concentration camp. She would escape one night and make her way to Spain with some other prisoners and she would live in Spain until the end of the war. Looking for a new life and opportunities, the woman decided to immigrate to America, and before departing purchased a small wine cabinet to add to her few belongings that would make the long journey.
Kevin, having just purchased the cabinet was moved by the grandaughter's story and offered to return it to her and she could keep the money he had just paid for it, so that it may remain with the family. The grandaughter declined, rather fervently. So Kevin left that day with what he believed to be a rare heirloom. He took it to the small furniture refinishing shop he owned at the time. He thought he would refinish the cabinet and provide it as a gift to his mother. He took it to the basement and left to run errands, leaving a salesperson behind to run things while he was out.
A short while later Kevin received a phone call from the store, it was his sales clerk, she was in hysterics, saying that someone was in the workshop basement, breaking things and shouting angrily, and even more terrifying, the intruder had somehow managed to engage the security doors, trapping her in with him. Kevin rushed back to the store and arrived to find the iron security had indeed been locked and his store clerk cowering in a corner. Kevin made his way to the basement and when he reached the bottom of the stairs he was assaulted by the strong odor of what he could only relate to cat urine. The lights wouldn’t come on and as he advanced into the dark room he could feel the crunching glass shards of the fluorescent light bulbs under his feet. All else was silent; the intruder had clearly left. But how? There was only one way in and out of the basement. Kevin returned upstairs to question his salesperson but she had gone and would never return nor would she speak to Kevin about what happened.
Kevin would never know what truly happened that afternoon and after that, things got worse.
Two weeks later, Kevin was in his basement workshop. The events of that day two weeks prior pushed to the back of his mind. Today, he was beginning work on the cabinet he had bought and intended to gift to his mother. The box measured 12.5" x 7.5" x 16.25", and you opened one of the doors, a mechanism causes the opposite door, and the little drawer below, to open at the same time. Inside the cabinet, he found one 1928 U.S. Wheat Penny; one 1925 US Wheat Penny; one small lock of blonde hair (bound with string); a similarly bound small lock of black/brown hair; a small granite statue engraved and gilded with Hebrew letters that spell out the word SHALOM; one dried rosebud; a golden wine cup; and a peculiar looking black cast iron candlestick holder with octopus legs. Kevin suddenly recalled more of what the granddaughter had said when he made his purchase, that her grandmother had kept the box on a high shelf in her sewing room, it was always kept shut and the old woman had instructed, no warned, everyone to never open the cabinet. Kevin decided that these items might be some traditional or sentimental family items and put them aside so that he could return the contents to the family. After carefully cleaning and refinishing the cabinet Kevin prepared to present it to his mother for her birthday. When she came to the shop for their celebratory lunch he presented the cabinet to her. While she admired her new gift, Kevin stepped away to attend to some business. A few minutes later, a store worker came to him, panicked, and said that something had happened ot his mother. They rushed back and found her sitting in a chair near the cabinet. Tears were streaming down her face, which bore no expression. She did not move, and could not utter a word. After getting her to the hospital they discovered that she had suffered a stroke. It would be a while before she regained the ability to speak, but in the early stages of her recovery, she would use the alphabet to communicate. When Kevin visited her a few days after the stroke she spelled out N-O G-I-F-T. Kevin, thinking that she had forgotten and was teasing him for not getting her a birthday gift, assured her that the box would be waiting for her when she returned home. Becoming upset, she spelled out H-A-T-E G-I-F-T. Kevin laughed at this and assured her he would buy her anything she wanted as soon as he could.
Kevin decided to gift the box to his sister. She kept it a week before returning it to him. She claimed that the doors wouldn’t remain shut. So, Kevin gave it to his brother and his wife, they returned it in three days' time. His brother said the cabinet smelled too strongly of jasmine flowers, but his wife insisted the smell was that of cat urine. Kevin then gave it to his girlfriend, who insisted he just sell it after only a couple of days. So, Kevin sold it the next day to a middle-aged couple. Three days later, he found the cabinet sitting at the front doors with a note that read, “This has a bad darkness.”. Baffled, Kevin ended up taking it home.
Then, things got even worse.
The night he brought the cabinet home, Kevin began having a strange recurring nightmare. In it he would find myself walking with a friend, at some point in the dream, he’d find myself looking into the eyes of the person. It is then that he would realize that there was something different, something evil looking back at him. At that point in the dream, the person changes into a gruesome, demonic-looking Hag. This Hag proceeds to beat him savagely. He then awakes and, on numerous occasions, would find bruises and marks on his body where the old woman had struck him during his dream.
Time passed and one evening Kevin’s brother and his wife spent the night in his home. The following morning, Kevin’s sister-in-law, complained of having had a nightmare. One that she could recall having had a couple of times before. Kevin and his brother were frozen in shock as she described the dream, the same dream Kevin had been having. The same dream Kevin’s brother had had before too. Kevin called his girlfriend and asked if she could recall having any nightmares recently. She described a nightmare, with a Hag, just like the others had experienced. Kevin felt the hair on his neck stand on end. How could this be possible? How could everyone have had the same dream, and why did it seem to occur at the times when each person had had the box in their own homes.
More time passed as Kevin struggled to put the pieces of this mysterious box together. He then began “seeing” strange shadows in his home, but not just him, guest to his house claimed to see a figure, cat-like, darting around the home at times. Kevin finally put the cabinet in a storage shed. The same night he was awoken by the shed’s smoke detector blaring. When he opened the shed doors, there was no fire, no smoke, only the smell of cat urine. Confused and frustrated, Kevin did what most people do these days, he decided to see if he could find any information about the box on the internet. He searched long into the morning hours and fell asleep at his desk. He awoke from the recurring nightmare by what he described as the feeling of someone breathing on his neck and was engulfed by the smell of Jasmine flowers just as he saw a large shadow sweep out of the room.
Kevin was at the end of his rope and was now convinced that the cabinet had something to do with the many strange and horrific occurrences since he bought it. What exactly had he purchased at that estate sale. Thinking back, he recalled the woman at the sale saying her grandmother referred to it as a “dybbuk box”. He once more recalled how the grandmother had wanted the family to never, ever, open the box. The woman had also said that her grandmother never revealed what may be inside the box, instead spitting three times between her fingers when asked. Hadn’t he even offered to open it then and there so she could take whatever may have been inside? Yes, and she had refused, stating that she wanted to respect the wishes of her grandmother. And now that he thought about it, the woman not only declined every offer to take the box or it’s contents back that day, she nearly broke down in hysterics, practically screaming at him, ”No, no you bought it! You bought it! You made a deal!”
Did the woman know then that the box held something dark and destructive? And what was Kevin to do with it now?
Kevin listed the box on eBay. In the listing, he recounted the story of his experiences with the dybbuk box since he came into ownership of it. He ended the initial listing with the following, “I would destroy this thing in a second, except I really don’t have any understanding of what I may or may not be dealing with. I am 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.”
In June of 2003, the box sold to Iosif Neitzke a college student. This after Kevin allegedly received hundreds of emails and various offers, some claiming to be willing and able to come and do an exorcism on the box. Kevin is said to have turned down a number of high dollar offers that were made offsite from eBay. His reason for turning down these offers was that he was trying to avoid the box being turned over to someone with ill intentions.
Eight months after this sale, the box once more appeared on eBay. This eBay listing included Kevin’s original story along with this addition from Neitzke:
“I bought the box from the first sellar above in the eBay auction around June of 2003, out of curiosity about the 'haunted' box. After receiving a deluge of e-mail about the box, I set up a web site to answer some questions, which I stopped updating in September and haven't updated to this day because I didn't want to talk about it with anyone.
I was doubtful of the 'haunted' box, and I still don't believe in the paranormal. What happened in August and Septemember is likely coincidental, so I will relate it as I originally wrote it down in a log.
Sunday, 31 August 2003 Over the last week some interesting, though possibly coincidental, items of note have come up. Firstly, I share a house with six other people; we have been taking turns sleeping with the box in each of our rooms.
Two people are now complaining of burning eyes, one is listless and depleted of energy, and another became spontaneously sick. [In retrospect I would say it was alergies.]
A few days after these ongoing annoyances started, the air outside our house was filled with small bugs for several hours (a Friday). [Weird summer stuff?]
Last night (Saturday) we discovered that the box, now located in the back corner of the house, had come mostly open, though it had been shut and it seems unlikely that anyone could or would have touched it.
Wednesday, 10 September 2003 Though it seems impossible to prove that the box is a direct cause of misfortune, we have definitely seen a tidal wave of "bad luck."
Strange odors now permeate the house, the dumpster out back overflows with trash and decay, one roomate suddenly got bronchitis, and I broke a finger.
Several mice have died in the engine of one car, and more electronic devices seem to be dying everyday: xbox, toaster, t.v., and watches.
I don't really want to talk about anything between September and January, so I'll just say that I'm selling the box now for a couple reasons:
Around October 6th, I started feeling bad, with trouble sleeping. This problem has persisted through today.
I live alone now, and as of late I have noticed replacing a lot of burnt out lightbulbs, and getting many unusual car repairs (transmission fluid was burned out of the reservoir.)
I've started seeing things, sort of like large vertical dark blurs in my periphreal vision.
I smell something like juniper bushes or stingy ammonia in my garage often, and I have no idea what from.
Most disturbingly, last Tuesday (1-27-2004), my hair began to fall out. Today (Friday) it's about half gone. I'm in my early twenties, and I just got a clean blood test back from the doctor's. Maybe it's stress related, I don't know.
Anyhow, for personal reasons I very strongly do not want this box anymore. I hope there's someone on Ebay that will take this thing off of my hands. [I would just throw it away in the woods or something, but I know there has been some interest in it in the past.]"
The box sold again to Jason Haxton for $280. Haxton allegedly intended to give it to an illusionist friend of his to use in his act, but when the friend heard about its past, the man didn’t want it. Haxton considered himself a man of science and did not believe the supernatural stories that accompanied the box, so he kept it. But soon, his health began to decline. He complained of stabbing abdomen pain, restless sleep, coughing up blood, welts, and having woken up to his eyes being pooled with blood. His health declined for months and then Haxton had the box tested for any substances that may lead to illnesses, but the results came back negative for any substance that would result in his symptoms Haxton’s son reported seeing a “black flame” move through the room and disappear into a wall. The elder Haxton then simply tried to get rid of the box, hiding it in an abandoned home nearby. Months later he returned to the basement hiding space to find it surrounded by venomous centipedes and scorpions. There was also a mysterious white, mold-like coating that had seemed to consume and kill all of the spiders and their webs.
After some research, Jason Haxton sought the help of rabbis, to have the box resealedRabbis told him that to reseal the box he would have to construct an ark made of acacia wood from a single tree and line it with 24-carat gold to contain it. They told him that this would have a calming effect on the box. Apparently successful, he took the freshly resealed box and hid it at a secret location, which he would not reveal. He later donated the box to Zak Bagans of Ghost Adventures to display in his museum. Bagans had teased multiple times that he would reopen the dybbuk box for his broadcasts and finally did so in June of 2020.
What Is a Dybbuk?
In Jewish mythology, a dybbuk (Yiddish: דיבוק, from the Hebrew verb דָּבַק dāḇaq meaning 'adhere' or 'cling') is a malicious possessing spirit believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person. It supposedly leaves the host body once it has accomplished its goal, sometimes after being helped.
Dybbuk, also spelled dibbuk, plural dybbukim, in Jewish folklore, a disembodied human spirit that, because of former sins, wanders restlessly until it finds a haven in the body of a living person. Belief in such spirits was especially prevalent in 16th–17th-century eastern Europe. Often individuals suffering from nervous or mental disorders were taken to a miracle-working rabbi (baʿal shem), who alone, it was believed, could expel the harmful dybbuk through a religious rite of exorcism.
Isaac Luria (1534–72), a mystic, laid the grounds for Jewish belief in a dybbuk with his doctrine of transmigration of souls (gilgul), which he saw as a means whereby souls could continue their task of self-perfection. His disciples went one step further with the notion of possession by a dybbuk. The Jewish scholar and folklorist S. Ansky contributed to worldwide interest in the dybbuk when his Yiddish drama Der Dybbuk (c. 1916) was translated into several languages.
The greatest danger is when a demon clings to our soul. A clinging demon is called a dybbuk. The Hebrew verb from which the word dybbuk is derived is also used to describe the cleaving of a pious soul to God. The two states are mirror images of each other.
Most frequently, the unfortunate person whom the dybbuk possessed was a woman. The image of a dybbuk, usually male, penetrating her body is both sexual and an illustration of the doctrine of opposites. Male and female, living and dead, pure and impure, all fused together in one human body. Exorcising a dybbuk, removing the destructive forces from a pure soul, is not just an imperative to save a person who has been possessed. It is a battle in a cosmic war.
Jewish women believed to be possessed by dybbuks would have fared no better in Christian society, where they would have been condemned as witches. Exorcising a dybbuk involved removing it from the body in which it had taken up residence and returning it to the world of the dead. A dramatic, terrifying ritual was required to force the reluctant spirit out of the body in which it was squatting. The ceremony was conducted in the synagogue, in the presence of ten men who had purified themselves through fasting and ritual immersion. They would all dress in the white shrouds in which a corpse is buried, wreathed in prayer shawls, their heads and arms bound with the sacred parchments worn in daily prayer. The exorcist would address the dybbuk directly. Listing the offenses that the soul had committed during its human life, which might include apostasy, talebearing, suicide, murder, or ritually deviant conduct, the exorcist would both cajole and threaten the dybbuk.
With the dybbuk fully cognisant of the trouble it was in, and the appeal to its better nature concluded, the ark in the synagogue containing the scrolls of the Torah was opened. Seven scrolls were removed, seven blasts were blown on seven rams’ horns, and seven black candles lit. Curses were proclaimed, incantations recited, and seven different combinations of the 42-letter name of God pronounced.
The Safed kabbalist Hayyim Vital recorded instructions received from his teacher Isaac Luria for expelling a dybbuk. It was imperative that the exorcist remained strong-hearted, displaying no fear. The spirit was to leave the body only between the big toe and its nail; any other exit route might cause permanent damage to the possessed person. Crucially the spirit was to be warned, with threats and imprecations, against entering anybody else. There is no place for the world of the dead in the abode of the living
There is also a prayer carved into the back of the box, it is said to be a shema, a Hebrew prayer which translates to "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one"