True Story behind The Possession: The Haunted Dibbuk Box

A lot of scary movies claim to be based on true events, usually just loosely.

The Possession, out in theaters August 31, 2012, is no exception.

There was no little girl, and fingers didn’t come out someone’s throat, but there is a guy who says he vomited up slime because he was in the possession of a small wine cabinet. In fact, everyone who’s ever had this particular cabinet in their possession hasn’t had a pleasant time. There’s a whole folklore built around it, and the folklore has become a kind of industry.

It’s known as the Dibbuk Bo, because it’s thought to be possessed by a “dibbuk,” which is a restless spirit in Jewish tradition. The original contents of the box were a candlestick holder with octopus-shaped legs, two 1920s pennies, two locks of hair (one brown, one blonde) bound by cords, on dried rose petal, one small golden goblet, and a granite statue with the world “shalom” written on it.

Kevin Mannis, a Portland, Oregan furniture refinisher, bought the box at an estate sale after a 103-year-old holocaust survivor named Havela died. Havela’s granddaughter told Kevin that Havela bought the wine cabinet in Sparin after escaping a concentration camp. She brought the box with her to the U.S. when she emigrated and always claimed it held a “dibbuk.” Kevin offered to give it back after he found out how special the box was, but the granddaughter refused emphatically telling him “You bought it! You made a deal! We don’t want it.!”

Later, when the next owner of the box (Jason Haxton) was investigating the box, he spoke with Havela’s cousin Sophie who revealed Havela had tried to capture a spirit to help fight the Nazis, but instead called an evil spirit into the world. Havela had supposedly been unable to contain the spirit, and she believed many of the disasters of the 20th century were caused by it, but she was eventually successful in trapping the spirit in the box.

Of course, things didn’t work out very well for Mannis. He put the box in the basement of his shop because he planned to fix it up to give it to his mom for her birthday, then went out to run errands. Soon his sales clerk called in hysterics about someone screaming and smashing up the basement. When he returned, all the lightbulbs in the basement were broken and it smelled like cat urine.

Even so, he gave the wine box to his mother on October 31, and she immediately suffered a stroke. The next day, unable to speak, she spelled out “NO GIFT” and “HATE GIFT.” (She eventually recovered her ability to speak.) Kevin gave the box to his sister, but started suffering terrible dreams about a hag, and sometimes he claimed he was covered in bruises in the morning.

His sister gave it back because she said the doors of the cabinet kept swinging open, and his brother refused it because of the feline urine odor. He sold it to a couple, who left it sitting outside his store the next day with a note that read “This has a bad darkness.” Kevin hosted a family dinner, and all the guests reported nightmares about a hag the next day.

He said he started to see “shadow things” in his vision, and felt someone breathing down his neck at times. He decided to sell the box on eBay with as musch description as possible to someone who “understands these kinds of things.”

A student bought the box June 2003, and eventually Jason Haxton, the director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirsville, MO, decided to buy it when the student listed it on eBay after dealing with sleeping problems, vertical blurs in his peripheral vision, and hair loss. Haxton paid $280 for the box February 2004, he wanted it for his magician friend Michael Callahan.

Jason ran a black light over it to try to find the “cat urine” smell, but found nothing. He did experience a warmness, and a “pulse.” Suddenly, he felt a crippling pain in his abdomen that bothered him for several hours. That night he had nightmares of disfigured faces that would turn into an white-haired hag.

He later took the box home from the museum after staffers had complaints of their own. The next day his truck had an overpowering smell of cat urine. His magician friend kept seeming to make up excuses not to see him, so he kept in an unused room at his house (where he lived with his wife and two kids.) The house grew very cold despite how high they turned the heat, and his son reported seeing a shadow drift across the room. Jason himself kept breaking out in welts, and eventually started coughing up blood.

After searching for help through online communities, he decided to take some of their advice. He took a bath of sea salt and basil, and then coughed up a huge amount of slime. He also performed a Wiccan cleansing ceremony on the box, invoking the goddess Hecate, and telling the box “You will be contained.” He also put the box in another box made of acacia wood and gold leaf, which what the Biblical ark of the covenant was made out of. Jason says that over time, after being contained, the box began to give off a really pleasant scent, which he believed was the box trying to trick him into letting it out again.

This is a pretty compelling story, but skeptics say that the owners of this box were willing to believe it was haunted, so they only chose to see the bad stuff that happened to them, and attributed it to the box. In fact, their imaginations could have created the dreams of the  hag and so forth out of the lore they already knew. Professor Christopher C. French, who studies finding psychological and physical explanations for paranormal experiences, told Entertainment Weekly “If you believe you have been cursed, then inevitably you explain the bad stuff that happens in terms of what you perceive to be the cause. Put it like this: I would be happy to own this object.” Maybe he should own the object, or just borrow it for a while to see what happens.

Do you think the Dibbuk Box is possessed? Do you think any object can have harbor a spirit?

CLICK HERE to read the true story behind The Vow.

The Possession, U.S. release date: August 31, 2012 director: Ole Bornedal, producer: Sam Raimi. It stars Natashia Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Kyra Sedgwick.

Here’s a new trailer for the film:

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