A dybbuk in Jewish mythology is an evil spirit which can possess a living person – most often a male spirit that sexually invades a woman on the eve of her wedding. The dybbuk went on to possess popular culture by way of the Dybbuk Box, which first came to light in 2003 when its then owner Kevin Mannis tried to sell an old wine box on eBay that he claimed to have bought in 2001 from the granddaughter of a recently deceased Holocaust survivor named Havela. According to his description, Mannis was told the grandmother always kept it shut and out of reach because there was a dybbuk inside it that would cause bad things to happen.
Tales of the bad things that happened (you didn’t think anyone listened to the warnings, did you?) have popped up in articles, books, podcasts and movies (The Possession) all the way up to recently. The long list includes rooms mysteriously ransacked, disembodied voices, visions of an old hag, mysterious scratch marks and bruises, strange smells, inexplicable health problems, the stroke of one owner, famous people terrified by it and more. (An excellent account of the alleged history can be read here and one on a recent celebrity opening can be read here.) Kevin Mannis has now come forward with the real story – and may also be worthy of a movie of a different kind.
“I am a creative writer. The Dybbuk Box is a story that I created. And the Dybbuk Box story has done exactly what I intended it to do when I posted it 20 years ago. Which is to become an interactive horror story in real-time.”
In an interview with Charle Moss for Input Magazine, Mannis reveals that he made up the tale of the Dybbuk Box and explains how he did it. While he indeed bought it at a garage sale in 2001, the seller was an attorney who said it was a wine box. Mannis himself made the famous carving on the back is his creation, as is the mysterious stone inside. What about the two locks of hair?
“That’s my hair, yeah.”
Matthew “Shaggy” Christensen, who worked with Mannis at a bar called Club Underground in Beaverton, Oregon, confirmed what Mannis told Moss – the two locks of hair in the box were his.
“Kevin is one of the most brilliant people that I’ve ever met. The specific box was Kevin at a low point needing some money. And in his brilliant mind came up with an incredible story that he knew would sell. And it became the phenomenon that it is now.”
Curt Morris, another friend from that time, confirmed Mannis’ story as well, giving the primary reason why he did it. Mannis was not a millionaire in the mold of Forrest Fenn and his famous treasure chest, but a man with a fancy box in need of a few bucks and a change of luck after some bad experiences.
“At the time I created the Dybbuk Box, it was during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement,” he writes in a Facebook message to me. “I created the box whilst praying and asking for forgiveness for all of the sins that I had committed that I knew about, and, perhaps even more important, the sins I had committed that I didn’t know about.”
Mannis told Moss of a few truths in the story. He really did give the ‘Dybbuk Box’ to his mother on Halloween and she did have a stroke shortly after. She also lied for her son in interviews about the box. However, one of the subsequent owners, Jason Haxton, after hearing Mannis’ confession, still believes the box has a power.
“I always call it a wish box. Whoever created the Dybbuk Box gave it a power to do something. The creation of the Dybbuk Box and its story created a ripple effect in people’s lives. The sum of the Dybbuk Box is greater than he ever imagined.”
Current owner Zak Bagans, host of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures show and proprietor of the Haunted Museum in Las Vegas where the Dybbuk Box is displayed as “The World’s Most Haunted Object,” is much more vehement about its authenticity despite Mannis’ confession.
“Since owning the Dybbuk Box, there have been countless documented experiences people have had with it. Not just from myself, but my museum staff, my fellow crew members, visitors, and most notably, Post Malone.”
Earlier this year, rapper Post Malone shared on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” that he was at the museum when Bagans touched the box and a sensation passed through him to Malone’s hand on his shoulder – which Malone believes transferred a curse to him … his plane made an emergency landing, he was robbed and involved in a car accident.
How can a fictional story concocted to sell an ordinary wine box cause all of that?
“There is more to this powerful, cursed item. Its story is still being told.”
And sold. Always the marketer and promoter, Bagans emailed Morris that he will keep the story alive.
Who do YOU believe?