"It is interesting," adds Stiles White, Snowden's husband and writing partner. "You may not think you're a superstitious person, but as soon as someone offers you the actual artifact...you realize your level of superstition."

Before flying off to the movie's premiere in Hollywood on August 28, Haxton agrees to make a special exception and open the dybbuk box once more for Riverfront Times.

Though he figures he knows almost everything there is to know about the mysterious container in his possession — he published his findings in a book called The Dibbuk Box that came out from Truman State University Press last year — having contact with it can still feel like tempting fate. (Haxton chose to spell the word "dibbuk" to keep consistent with how it appeared in its original eBay auction; the more common spelling is "dybbuk.")

The “real” dybbuk box — shown here inside its protective ark — is kept in a secret location somewhere in northeast Missouri.
The “real” dybbuk box — shown here inside its protective ark — is kept in a secret location somewhere in northeast Missouri.
Jason Haxton at the Laughlin family plot in Kirksville, where Harry Laughlin is buried.
Jessica Lussenhop
Jason Haxton at the Laughlin family plot in Kirksville, where Harry Laughlin is buried.

His son Ross regards the opening of the dybbuk box with a mix of excitement and trepidation.

"It's always an event to open the box," he says. "It doesn't like to be moved."


When Kevin Mannis sat down at his computer in Portland, Oregon, in June 2003 to write an eBay auction description, what came out read more like a distress call.

"All of the events that I am about to set forth in this listing," he wrote, "are accurate and may be verified by the winning bidder with the copies of hospital records and sworn affidavits."

Mannis, an antiques dealer and real estate broker, was then two years into ownership of a strange wine box he now believes was to blame for the loss of his business, his mother's failing health and his loosening grip on reality.

"Either I have some kind of weird haunted box," he recalls thinking, "Or I'm going crazy, and either way it's like I'm going crazy."

Searching for new and interesting items for his shop, Mannis says that in 2001 he attended an estate sale and bid on a pallet of items stacked in the lawn. It wasn't until he began loading the material that he discovered a small, slightly worn cabinet, with two doors, metal grape-bunch embellishments on either door face and a small drawer. Thinking the item might have been put there by mistake, he approached a young woman in charge of the sale.

"I see you got the dybbuk box," she said as Mannis approached.

Mannis says the young woman told him the item was a wine box, and belonged to her 103-year-old grandmother, Havela, who had just died. An immigrant from Poland, Havela was sent to the Nazi concentration camps along with her entire family — parents, siblings, a husband and three children — and emerged the sole survivor. She'd fled to Spain, where she bought the wine box, and eventually made her way to the United States with little else in her possession. But it wasn't a treasured keepsake — Havela warned her family never to open the box and spit through her fingers after she spoke of it. When Mannis offered to give the box back, the woman panicked.

"'No, no, you made a deal,'" he recalls her saying as she hurried away. "'Take it and get it out of here.'"

Ten minutes after dropping the box off at his shop in downtown Portland, Mannis says his store manager called in hysterics. Someone, she screamed, was ripping apart the basement and cursing. Mannis returned and found his manager cowering on the office floor. She pushed past him, never to return to work again.

In the basement Mannis says he found all the light bulbs smashed, heavy tools thrown from one end of the room to the other and the thick smell of cat urine hanging in the air. What he didn't find, however, was any intruder.

Two weeks later Mannis says he opened the box. The doors swung open simultaneously when he opened the drawer, and inside was a small gold wine goblet, a candleholder with decorative octopus legs, a dried rosebud, two U.S. wheat pennies minted in 1925 and 1928, a piece of stone with Hebrew characters for "shalom" engraved in it and two locks of hair — one jet black, the other frizzy and reddish. Setting the items aside, he gave the box a coat of polish then presented it to his mother when she visited the shop to take him to lunch on Halloween.

Within minutes of handing it over, Mannis says his mother suddenly began acting strangely.

"I said, 'Mom, you OK?' and she didn't respond," he recalls. "I could see her eyes were welling up with tears. She was just stonelike, and I realized she was having a stroke."

As his mother was being loaded into an ambulance, Mannis claims a team of law-enforcement agents raided his shop and began confiscating merchandise. Agents from the FBI, he says, told him he wasn't under arrest and that he could go to the hospital with his mother. Robbed of her ability to speak, Mannis says his mother tapped the words "NO GIFT" and "HATE GIFT" out on an alphabet card from her hospital bed.

The raid never resulted in charges, but it did tank the shop. (Portland FBI would not comment on whether any such raid took place.) All Mannis got back, initially, was the dybbuk box.

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7 comments
kevinmannis
kevinmannis

Please know that the comment below was left with a great deal of affection and not intended to be offensive in any regard.

 

Jason Haxton is an outstanding writer, a true scholar, and someone I am privileged to call my friend.

kevinmannis
kevinmannis

Over the past 8 years, or so, I have come to know Jason Haxton as a fine upstanding citizen, an intrepid investigator, and someone, in my who has made great efforts, great strides, and found success as an academic achiever.

 

In the article Devil's Wine Box: Missouri's tie to The Possession, it was reported that Jason doesn’t like my “un-academic” approach when I’m interviewed about the box. The article goes on to say that Jason’s irritation stems from my repeated statements that the box contains a “Dybbuk”, and “Kesem”, which Jason asserts is a “…totally incorrect term for a spirit or magical object.”

 

I just wanted to chime in by saying that the word “unacademic” is not a hyphenated word according to the Oxford dictionary, Webster’s, or Dictionary.com, and while Jason may not like, approve, or consider my approach to interviews we have done as being academic, the fact of the matter is that I approach every interview from the position of being the only person who has been allowed to maintain contact with the family of the original creator of the object. The fact of the matter is that I have never claimed that the box contained anything called “Kesem”. I have always used the correct term, “Kesselim”, which is a Hebrew word for what is translated as the term, “fooling spirits”.  One of the best descriptions of these entities may be found in Gershom Sholem’s book, “Kabbalah”, which is considered to be a definitive primer on the subject.

 

To be certain, I approach interviews and the subject of the Dibbuk Box as someone who began learning Hebrew at birth; began studying the contents of the Hebrew works such as the Mishnah at the age of 10; studied the Hebrew and Aramaic of the Torah, the first five books of Moses-the first five books of the Old Testament, and the verses of the Haftarah, from the books of the Prophets on a daily basis in “shiurim” classes, “chavrutas” pairs and private tutored study 3 hours per day, from the age of 10, through the date of my Bar Mitva at the age of 13.

 

Upon my Bar Mitva I became eligible to lead religious services, and read from the Torah as well as participate as a member of a minion. I was expected as I continued my daily studies of the Talmud, the Shulchan Aruch, and Halakha. Halakha has been developed throughout the generations since before 500 BCE. It is a constantly expanding collection of commentaries consolidated in the Talmud. It is the amalgamation of intricate judicial opinions, legislation, customs, and recommendations, passed down over the centuries, and taught to successive generations from the moment a child begins to speak. It is the subject of study in yeshivot. Yeshiva is a Hebrew word   I was also expected to have learned and responsible for keeping the 613 commandments contained in the Old Testament. Known as the Taryag mitzvot תרי"ג מצוות, there are 248 positive mitzvot and 365 negative mitzvot given in the Torah.

 

I have read and studied in Hebrew, Aramaic, and English, ancient Kabbalistic texts such as the Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation), the Zohar, the Sefer Ha-Bahir (the Book of Illumination), and scores of other works contained as part of Aggada – always keeping in step with Parashat HaShavuah, or the weekly portion of the Torah, Ketuvim, Navi, and the blessings of the works of Sholom Dovber Schneersohn, Schneur Zalman of Liadi, and even the radical works of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

 

Eventually, I ended up also taking the regular courses I completed in college for my A.A. in Real Estate, and the licensing requirements of my state, and my B.S. in Business/Advertising too.

 

I’m sure it is obvious that due to the fact that I am a Jew, aside from my regular American education, I have had no other option but to receive my education in exactly, and identically, the same manner as people such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Jesus.

 

On his website, under the heading of research, Jason lists two books:

 

 Sepher Ha-Razim (the Book of Mysteries) Jason states that the book contains actual Hebrew “incantations” written phonetically in English that instruct a user on how to call upon angels.

 

Jewish Magic and Superstition, by an author named Trachtenberg. Jason offers this book as the best book on Jewish Mysticism in the last 2000 years up until 1939.

 

Having said all of this, let me just give my apology for the unacademic way I have approached the subject of the Dibbuk Box, derived from my original Ebay posting, and the subsequent interviews I have participated in over the last 8 years. I have been trying to do the best I can with the resources I have had.

 

Steven Butler once commented,

 

"Academic and aristocratic people live in such an uncommon atmosphere that common sense can rarely reach them."

 

Happy Rosh Hashana, everyone!

 

kyda40
kyda40

@rbdragonrider You should research and learn the difference between "then" and "than" as well as how the space goes after the comma instead of before and a period ends a sentence, not a comma.

rbdragonrider
rbdragonrider

that is Qaballa, and Madonna is one celebrity ,among many, who practice the spiritualism and self empowerment, before quoting it u should learn to spell it and study it, I have studied the Qaballa for years and even applied it to precepts of wica,for self  healing and power, and i have never had  any disease since adolescence,more serious then a cold

rbdragonrider
rbdragonrider

 @kyda40  @rbdragonrider actually i probably know better then u how to punctuate since i have had several published essays in Missouri Youth Writes,from Mizzou press, but my typing is atrocious so a few typos are inevitable, hence editors

kevinmannis
kevinmannis

 @rbdragonrider The word is spelled Kabbalah, when it isn't spelled in Hebrew, and Madonna's practice of Kabbalah is similar to a penguin's practice of rug crochet. I am glad, however that you have been blessed with good health and a hearty faith.

 

rbdragonrider
rbdragonrider

 @kevinmannis like i said the correct spelling is Qaballa go to ur local library and check the card index I have the the book. published in 1934 by Random house

 
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