After attempting to give the box to his brother, sister and girlfriend, all three returned it with various gripes, saying it smelled or the doors flew open on their own. Mannis says he sold it to a young couple then found it back on the shop doorstep with a note: "This has a bad darkness."

Finally, Mannis took it home himself. That's when he began experiencing nightly dreams of a horrifying witch. After each of his siblings and his girlfriend described identical nightmares when they'd housed the box, Mannis says he decided he had to get rid of it.

"I am afraid (and I do mean afraid) that if I destroy the cabinet, whatever it is that seems to have come with the cabinet may just stay here with me," he wrote toward the end of the 2003 online listing. "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."

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.

The auction drew a fair amount of online interest, and before long a student from the small college town of Kirksville bought it for $140. Mannis says he spoke by telephone to the kid and tried to warn him about the risks but that the boy wasn't interested in the occult; he claimed it was a gift for his parents.

"The day, literally the day I ship it," says Mannis, "there was a palpable difference in the environment in my house. It was like coming up out of water...absolutely amazing."

Meanwhile, the trouble in Missouri was just about to begin.


Michael Callahan was at his former job at the A.T. Still University admissions department in Kirksville when he got an excited instant message from Jason Haxton from Haxton's office a floor below in the medical museum.

"Should I get this thing?" Callahan recalls Haxton typing. "It's only going for 200 bucks."

Callahan bemusedly read the unusual item description on eBay from a seller also right in Kirksville. The auction included Mannis' original posting and, as a postscript, a log of everything that had happened to its current owner in the last six months:

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 allergies.]

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 roommate 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.

The poster — a young man in his mid-twenties identified only as "Joseph" in Haxton's book — ended by saying he was seeing dark blurs out of the corner of his eye and that about half his hair fell out in the past four days.

"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," he concluded.

Haxton actually knew about Joseph and the box through an intern at the museum, one of Joseph's six housemates. The boys lived next to Truman State University in a worn-down apartment building nicknamed the "Pirate House" for the skull-and-crossbones flag flying from the roof. (Attempts to reach the roommates were unsuccessful. RFT received a chilly response after phoning the Kirksville parents of the boy believed to be Joseph: "He does not want to speak to you. He does not live here.")

Haxton mentioned the box to Callahan, whose real passion was a side career as a magician who sometimes used ghost stories in his act.

"I probably did encourage him to get it. It was an amazing story," recalls Callahan.

Haxton won the box for $280, and Callahan was there the day it arrived.

"The creepiest thing about it was just seeing that hair and those coins," he recalls. "Those are artifacts that are real links to real people."

According to Haxton, the trouble began for him as soon as he touched the box with his bare hands. In his book Haxton writes that a searing stomach pain overwhelmed him, and that evening he was haunted by dreams of a horrible old woman with sunken eyes. His health soon deteriorated. He began experiencing choking attacks, sudden rising welts and hives, a strange acrid taste in his mouth and what an optometrist called a "spontaneous eye event" that left large dry patches on his eyeballs, giving him a wild, bloodshot look.

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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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