The dybbuk box, featured in Season 2, Episode 4 of “Ghost Adventures: Quarantine,” is linked to an item sold on eBay by previous owner Kevin Mannis.
Mannis said that the box used to belong to a Holocaust survivor and he believed that the spirit of a dybbuk, a malicious entity from Jewish mythology, haunted and cursed the box.
Subsequent owners kept the alleged curse alive by repeating it. One of them, Jason Haxton, Director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Mo., created a website elevating the curse to internet fame, a la creepypasta, Slender Man, before selling the rights to the production company for the movie The Possession.
However, further claims have been made, causing many to question its authenticity. So, let’s dig deeper into the Dybbuk box to separate paranormal fact from fiction.
Cal State anthropology professor and folklore specialist Dr. Elliott Oring criticized the dybbuk box story, claiming it had “areas that seem to require suspending critical functions”.
After his 2014 investigation of it, skeptic Brian Dunning said, “Nowhere in the folkloric literature is their precedent for a dybbuk inhabiting a box or other inanimate object.”
But the most damning piece of criticism came from the original seller himself, Kevin Mannis, who posted online, “I am the original creator of the story of the dybbuk box, which appeared as one of my eBay posts back in 2003 … If you or anyone else can find any reference to a Dibbut [sic] Box anywhere in history before my eBay post, I’ll pay you $100,000.00 and tattoo your name on my forehead.”
What is the truth behind the dybbuk box? Is it a paranormal artifact, which dates back to centuries-old Jewish Folklore or is it just a hoax?
Jewish folklore describes a dybbuk as a disembodied human spirit, cast away from its own body due to the sins committed by its owner. It is condemned to wander indefinitely or until it can find a human to possess. Only a rabbi (ba’alei shem or accomplished hasidim) could perform an exorcism to expel it once a possession would have occurred. They can redeem the soul and provide a tikkun (“restoration”) through transmigration or force the dybbuk to enter hell.
The dybbuk was believed to not only possess the body of its victim but also inflict mental illness. The term dybbuk was known as an evil spirit or ru’aḥ tezazit in the Talmudic literature or “unclean spirit” in the New Testament.
Its origins can be traced to Jewish literature in 17th-century Germany and Poland and was referred to as dibbuk me-ru’aḥ ra’ah (“a cleavage of an evil spirit”), or dibbuk min ḥa-hiẓonim (“dibbuk from the outside”).
Alledged at first to be evil or demon entities possessing the body of a sick person, the definition was later adjusted to define the spirits of dead persons not laid to rest. This idea developed alongside the belief in dybbukim, where sinful souls were not allowed to transmigrate due to the severity of their sins.
So, the term dybbuk does exist in Jewish folklore and literature. However, there is no proof that a dybbuk box exists as there is no reference to any physical evidence of it.
Historical references can be found anchoring the idea of dybbuk to the 16th century, where mystic Isaac Luria (1534–72) developed the idea of dybbuk within his doctrine for the transmigration of souls (gilgul). The idea of possession by a dybbuk was introduced by his disciples.
The idea was resurrected in the 1916 Yiddish play The Dybbuk by Hewish scholar and folklorist S. Ansky, which features the story of a young man, dying after using a mixture of Dark Arts, Jewish Kabbalah and folklore, and the ghost which possessed the body of the Bride he wanted to marry.
In terms of paranormal/scientific evidence to support the veracity of a dybbuk Box as a valid and justifiable artifact, unfortunately, there isn’t much.
With very few alleged boxes and no scientific way to validate them, the dybbuk box and its allegedly cursed contents seem to be nothing more than a myth.
But what of other possible explanations to bring the dybbuk box away from the myth and closer to reality.
I will present two potential hypotheses to view the dybbuk box from a different angle. These two ideas will be based on the hypothesis that there is a locked box containing a variety of items or none at all and that a strange event followed the opening of the box. However, this box is not cursed.
The first potential theory to explain what could be viewed as abnormal activity can be linked to a poltergeist.
Poltergeist activity is a paranormal event, usually identified through loud noises, objects being moved or displaced and reappearing at a different location and time, doors being opened and slammed. The theory is these events are caused unintentionally by an individual (who is usually unaware they are the source of it) going through a traumatic event. It is alleged that it’s their latent psychic ability reacting to external trauma.
In an article we wrote, we created the term konnen to describe the individual with poltergeist-causing abilities.
So, here’s a theory: What if the paranormal activity that is happening after the box is open, is not caused by the box itself or any curse but by the konnen, putting themself into a state of consciousness prone to releasing poltergeist activity.
The idea of opening a haunted box, with a malevolent spirit or demon inside, or the fear of the unknown fuels negative energy. If you consider the idea of mass hysteria, this theory does look more realistic than the idea of a demon in a cursed Box.
Another theory to provide an alternative explanation to the dybbuk box would be the tulpa created during the Philip Experiment.
The Philip Experiment was a parapsychology experiment that took place in 1972 in Toronto intending to determine if subjects could communicate with fictionalized ghosts.
Led by mathematical geneticist Dr. A.R. George Owen and psychologist Dr. Joel Whitton, they made up a ghost named Philip Aylesford, complete with backstory, and had a group try to communicate with Philip through a seance. The goal was to determine if a group of subjects could create an entity and communicate with it willfully. Also, it was to validate if subjects would attempt to make up evidence.
Unfortunately, even if the idea was original, the fact that you start your scientific experiment by providing falsified, invented and wrong evidence to its participants would automatically void its results of any scientific validity.
If you add the fact that it was relying on people’s subjective reactions, and the fact there was no possibility of having a test experiment as a base to compare it to, then the whole process is an exercise of opinions.
But the idea is interesting. Could the belief that willing something into existence be enough to make it manifest? In physics, the answer would be no. Things do not just generate out of nothing. It is a question of action and reaction. However, if somebody is convinced that something exists, it can affect the way that person would analyze and review a series of facts following the experiment.
So, it is possible that if somebody believes a box is cursed and opening it would unleash something terrible, that person could attribute any random events following that opening as a direct consequence.
Pandemonium Paranormal analysis
The dybbuk box got a lot of attention recently, due to paranormal TV shows and horror movies, adding to modern paranormal lore.
Unfortunately, like too often, in this case, facts are regarded as unnecessary for a fictional story to be told, creating a shock factor that investigators are left to debunk.
Through our research, we uncovered that dybbuk is indeed part of Jewish folklore and literature, however, we did not find any physical evidence of any dybbuk box being a legitimate item.
Therefore, from a paranormal standpoint, the dybbuk box is nothing more than a work of fiction.
Anton Buchberger, founder and lead investigator, Pandemonium Paranormal
Photo courtesy Travel Channel
Biddle, Kenny (14 January 2019). “The Dibbuk Box”. Skepticalinquirer.org. CFI. Archived from the original on 24 January 2021. Retrieved 24 January 2021.
Kevin Mannis (September 2, 2009). “The Dybbuk Box, A.K.A. The Haunted Jewish Wine Cabinet”. Yahoo. Archived from the original on August 25, 2012. Retrieved July 29, 2012.