"Where do you go from there? I write a great story, and all these things happen to people who are entirely unconnected? It doesn't make any sense."


Despite his own debunking results, Haxton refuses to draw any hard conclusions about Mannis or the box. Since the completion of his book, Haxton says Mannis' brother took back his denial about the dreams and then stopped communicating. Haxton says he's also now spoken to the store manager who was present during the destruction of Mannis' shop in Portland. RFT's attempts to reach both the manager and the other Mannis siblings were unsuccessful.

As he and his son prepare to open the dybbuk box for the first time in months, a skeptic in the family pipes up for the first time — Haxton's eighteen-year-old daughter, Laurel.

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.

"I don't have anything to do with it," she deadpans. "It just buys me things."

(Haxton later says that in addition to sponsoring three Vietnamese orphans with the money from the movie, he bought his daughter a Prius, her "dybbuk car." He believes the film has the potential to carve out a place in mythological history: "One of those legendary things — the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot and the dybbuk box — that'll be forever a mystery.")

Haxton and Ross gingerly unbuckle the black case's butterfly clasps and lift the lid, revealing the polished acacia wood of the ark. Together they lift the heavy piece and place it in the center of a cleared dining-room table.

"You want us to open it now?" Haxton asks.

The top of the ark folds back first, revealing the glow of the gold-leaf lining. The door of the ark swings open to reveal the much darker, scuffed wood of the dybbuk box and the dull metal of the grape-bunch decorations. Haxton pulls out the drawer, and the two doors open slowly with a soft clunking sound.

Space inside the box is scarce nowadays with the addition of the religious items intended to keep the dybbuk complacent. But the original items are all there — the cup, the stone, the rosebud, the candleholder. Haxton opens up a small plastic bag and pulls out the locks of hair, laying them gingerly on the ancient kabbalah prayer book.

Everyone sticks their heads into the dybbuk box and inhales. The smell is woody, earthy and slightly sweet.

"If I opened it up and it smelled like urine, I'd be probably worried," says Haxton. "I think it's truly trying to work with you. 'Put me out, I'm an air freshener, I've learned my lesson, don't lock me up,' you know, kind of thing. Like a genie in a bottle."

For a few moments, father and son regard the box and circle it warily. Aside from a loud moaning of the wind picking up outside with the approaching rainstorm, nothing happens. While Ross suggests they leave it out longer to see if anything happens, Haxton is eager to pack it up.

"I'm certainly on edge just a little bit," he confesses.

Back in the pickup truck, the box safely back in its black coffin and en route for safekeeping in a secret location, Haxton says he wants people to make up their own minds about the box. He's a normal person, he insists, to whom some extraordinary things have happened.

"We're more average than most," he says. "I hope, consistently, that proved to you this is no setup."

He does express a touch of irritation with Kevin Mannis. In their deal with Lionsgate, both retain the right to produce a documentary on the dybbuk box and will conceivably work together on it in the future. But Haxton doesn't like Mannis' somewhat un-academic approach when he's interviewed about the box — repeating to reporters that it contains a dybbuk and a "kessem," which Haxton says is a totally incorrect term for a spirit or magical object.

"I don't understand Kevin, but you know, in many ways he's brilliant and bright about a lot of things. He shouldn't be clueless about some of these things," he says, turning the truck back down toward Kirksville as rain begins to patter on the windshield. "Anybody who'd want to perpetuate a hoax wouldn't want to look like a fool."

Haxton says that even if it started as a joke or hoax or an amalgamation of truth and fiction, there is something undeniably special about the box now.

"There's some secret to the dybbuk box that Kevin has," Haxton concludes. "I don't think it'll ever be told."

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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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