Without some sort of written record, we'll never know what the first modern humans thought about death, but it's likely that at least some of them believed their loves ones continued on in some way, shape, or form, just as many of us do today. In the early part of the last century, seance parties were all the rage, with the best mediums commanding top dollar and achieving a certain level of fame. Today, movies about ghosts are raking in the bucks and yesterday's mediums have been replaced by today's reality TV "ghost hunters," who use all manner of high-tech gizmos — many of them created specifically for the task — in their quest for proof of the afterlife. And, thanks to the internet, you don't even have to travel to a haunted house to have a paranormal encounter anymore — you can buy your own evil spirit online!
The Strange Truth
On the hunt for a great score at an estate sale in Oregon back in 2001, antiques collector Kevin Mannis thought he had found just such a score when he came across a small wooden wine cabinet decorated with metal plates shaped like grape clusters. Upon purchasing the cabinet, the estate's host supposedly told Mannis that it had belonged to her recently-deceased grandmother, a Holocaust survior, who had told her that the " dibbuk box" should never be opened. In Jewish folklore, a dibbuk is a particularly nasty, malicious spirit of a dead person capable of possessing the living. Mannis was either unaware of this lore or simply chose not to believe it because the first thing he did when he got home was to open it to find...
...a couple pennies, some lockets of hair, a statue with "SHALOM" engraved on it, a dried up flower, a wine cup and a weird candlestick holder.
Apparently unimpressed with the dibbuk box, Mannis offered to return it to the woman he had bought it from in case it held some sort of sentimental value for her, but she emphatically refused to take it back. Mannis kept it, placing it in the workshop of the business that he owned with the intention of cleaning it up and giving it to his mother as a present. Only a half-hour after leaving the dibbuk box in his business, Mannis received a phone call from one of his sales people, who was sobbing hysterically and going on and on about an intruder in the workshop. No intruder was found. This was the merely the beginning of Mannis' troubles.
Mannis cleaned up the dibbuk box and gave it to his mother for her birthday. Five minutes after receiving the gift, Mannis' mother suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. Unable to speak, Mannis' mother spelled out the words "H-A-T-E G-I-F-T" for Mannis, referring to the dibbuk box, which he laughed off at the time. Then, things got even worse.
You can read more about the littany of paranormal activity that surrounded Mannis while in possession of the dibbuk box here, but suffice it to say Mannis eventually grew tired of the box and decided to get rid of it...by selling it on eBay. Here's an excerpt from Mannis' extremely long item description from the eBay archives:
I would destroy this thing in a second, except I really dont have any understanding of what I may or may not be dealing with. 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. 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.
Director Ole Bornedal's (Deliver Us from Evil) 2012 supernatural horror movie is loosely based on the story of Mannis' dibbuk box. In fact, the latest owner of the box — there have been several since Mannis sold it on eBay — was willing to bring it to the set of the Sam Raimi-produced movie, but headliner Jeffrey Dean Morgan, a self-professed "skeptic" of the paranormal, was "adamantly against" having the box on the set.
If you go and you look at what has happened to people that have had contact with an actual dybbuk box, it's not good stuff. It's not like demons flying around but it's like trees crushing your house, weird rashes. Why risk that?
Though based on Mannis' story, the plot of the movie differs considerably, with the dibbuk box instead purchased at a yard sale by a young girl named Em (Natasha Calis). Jeffrey Dean Morgan and and Kyra Sedgwick play Em's parents, who struggle to understand what's happening to their daughter after she frees the spirit in the box and becomes possessed. Grant Show, Madison Davenport and Agam Darshi also star.