The Dibbuk Box (pronounced Di-bik) has been called the “world’s most haunted object.” And, those who come in to contact with it wish they hadn’t.
The word dibbuk comes from a Hebrew word meaning “cling.” According to Hebrew tradition, a dibbuk is an evil spirit that clings to a living person. This wandering soul is an evil one, who enters the bodies of living people instead of going on to its proper afterlife. Many believe that the dibbuk lives in a small wine cabinet, roughly 12 ½ inches by 7.5 inches by 16.25 inches, not very large at all. But the horrors attached to it are huge.
It was first brought to the US by a Holocaust survivor from Poland named Havela. Its story begins prior to WWII and continues to this day. Havela escaped a Nazi concentration camp and went to Spain where she bought the box. Unfortunately, the rest of her family, including her parents, brothers, a sister, husband, two sons, and a daughter were all killed by the Nazis.
When she went to the US, the Dibbuk Box was one of the few things she brought with her from Spain. She wouldn’t allow her family members in the US to touch the Dibbuk Box. She later died at the age of 103.
Over the years, many people have owned the Dibbuk Box. Probably the most well-known owner is Kevin Mannis who bought it at a yard sale from Havela’s family in Portland, Oregon. After he bought it, he was approached by a family member who told him what she knew about its history. She said that her great grandmother called it a dibbuk box. They didn’t want to keep it.
Mannis wanted to fix up the box, so he found a way to open it since it had been sealed really well. He found some interesting and strange things inside, including some 1920s pennies, a couple of locks of hair that were tied separately with string, a rosebud that had dried up, a candleholder with legs that looked like an octopus, a wine cup, and a small statue that had the Jewish word “Shalom” on it.
“Shalom” means peace and is used to greet someone and also to say goodbye. It also means more than that. It is used to mean that all is well, life is complete, that there is goodness as well as peace around. Maybe it was meant to make the soul in the box feel content, rather than lost and wandering. It didn’t help.
Mannis had an assistant who was very comfortable in his shop where he sold antiques and refinished furniture. But, after he brought the Dibbuk Box to the shop and down to the basement to work on, she became very scared around it.
Usually okay alone in the basement, the assistant was no longer comfortable. She thought someone was watching her. And glass started breaking. She became terrified when she realized someone (or something) had locked the iron door to the basement behind her. Was there a wandering soul with her?
She called Mannis who arrived quickly, after his cell phone mysteriously went dead while speaking to her. He found her crying hysterically. Mannis let her out of the basement. There was the smell of cat urine. All of the lightbulbs in the basement had been broken. She left, never to return.
Mannis decided just to clean the Dibbuk Box and gave it to his mother who had a stroke as soon as she opened it. He had stepped away for a few minutes. She was terrified, and was partially paralyzed. She couldn’t speak. But she could point to letters, and she spelled out “No gift.” Along with her tears, he could see the fear in her eyes.
Then, Mannis gave it to other family members, one after another. But, they all gave it back to him. One night, they shared their experiences and realized they had each had nightmares exactly the same as those he had when he had the box. They all saw an “old hag” in their nightmares, and they smelled unpleasant odors, like cat urine or jasmine flowers.
Mannis also saw shadow figures in his home.
Mannis sold it to some older customers. But the couple brought it back. His own nightmares came back, and he’d even wake up with bruises on his body. Enough was enough.
Mannis finally sold the box on eBay in 2003, to Losif Nietzke, a Missouri college student, for $140. Nietzke wrote about the box and what happened to him while he had it, including losing his hair, bugs, bad odors like cat urine, unexplained breaking of light bulbs, and more. Blood tests didn’t reveal anything, so he figured it must have been the box.
He sold it in 2004, less than a year later, for $280 to Jason Haxton who had been reading what Nietzke wrote. Haxton worked at a university museum.
Haxton then wrote a book about the Dibbuk Box. His computers started to crash. Lights began to break. He lost a lot of his work. Staff members who worked with him at the museum began to get sick. Haxton himself began to have nightmares of an “old hag.” He also was having health problems including bad bloody coughs and welts on his body.
The black mass he saw one night near his son was the last straw.
Haxton talked to local rabbis who helped him seal the Dibbuk Box again. And, then he called Kevin Mannis. Mannis went back to the home where he first bought the box and met another family member of Havela, who told him the full story of the Dibbuk Box. And here it is:
Before WWII, people loved to hold séances with homemade Ouija boards. During one of these sessions, thinking at first that it was fun, they realized they had made contact with a dibbuk. They became terrified and trapped the dibbuk in the box.
But now, Zac Bagans, of the Travel’s Channel’s shows Ghost Adventures and Haunted Artifacts, owns the Dibbuk Box, after paying many thousands of dollars for it. He won’t keep it opened up for public viewing, but if a visitor is over 18, he or she can sign a waiver, so that Bagans isn’t responsible for what happens next.
Does Bagans smell cat urine, or jasmine flowers, or see black shadows when he’s around the Dibbuk Box? Does he having nightmares of the old hag?
Hopefully, this wandering soul who comes to people in nightmares will someday find peace and no longer haunt those who have the Dibbuk Box.