The Archaeology of Dybbuk Boxes

Divvy the Dybbuk in his box.

Dybbuk Boxes are a new thing. The first “confirmed” Dybbuk Box I can track down is the ‘original’ Dybbuk Box from 2003, which is now owned by Zak Bagan’s in his Haunted Museum. The box has an interesting history because as far as anyone can tell, it’s completely made up. Yet this particular object has spawned several replicants, and you can now go online and buy your very own Dybbuk Box on the Internet if you look hard enough. At the height of their popularity, nearly every paranormal YouTuber was buying and opening these boxes and then recording all the spookiness that occurred afterward.

What got me thinking about this particular object, was a re-read of Chris Caple’s book Objects: Reluctant Witnesses to the Past (2006). He hits on a class of objects;

“Objects as symbols: spirit containers. Many cultures believe in spirit worlds, some believing that spirits can and frequently do reside in objects […] This can make some objects very significant to believers, and place restrictions on object use, ownership, handling, etc. […] …[Offerings and libations are made to the object] if the object is considered partially human and capable of absorbing or appreciating the offering. […] …it is difficult to identify such objects from external appearance. “

Now Caple isn’t talking about Dybbuk Box here, but oddly enough, these boxes are modern examples of Caple’s Spirit Containers. Allow me to explain.

Let’s take a quick look at the history of the Dybbuk Boxes

First, we should talk about what a Dybbuk is. According to Dr. Ilil Arbel on the Encyclopedia Mythica site (2002), the Dybbuk itself is not mentioned in the Talmud, nor is it part of mainstream Judaism. The concept of a Dybbuk doesn’t seem to have evolved until the eighth century and was most likely a product of integration of other religion’s concepts into Judaism. The Dybbuk is one of three kinds of soul transmigration, the movement of the soul from one state to another. For example, the first form is birth, where according to Jewish lore the soul enters the body. The Dybbuk represents a malicious form of possession, and I need to differentiate here because there is a positive form of possession according to Arbel (2002). The Dybbuk is a lost soul of sorts, though there are some early descriptions hinting that the diabetic can be a demon. However, normally the Dybbuk is the lost soul of a human being. The reason the soul has become lost can be many; they were either a sinner trying to escape punishment in the afterlife, they may be a soul seeking revenge or to complete something on earth, or they can be someone who is gotten lost and who is purposefully seeking help to pass on.

The term Dybbuk is Yiddish for the action “to cleave” or “to cling”. It is a form of possession. In all of the Jewish folklore that mentions Dybbuks, none have ever mentioned a Dybbuk possessing an inanimate object.

That is until 2003.

Not whether or not the Dybbuk Box is actually possessed of a Dybbuk is not the focus of our article today. What we are looking at is the formation and sustainment of an artifact. Specifically, one that falls into Caple’s category of the spirit container.

Caple advocates for the study of an object’s history. He wants us to take an object all the way back to its manufacturing in order to understand the full meaning of an artifact. In a case like the Dybbuk Box, we don’t necessarily have to take the physical object that is the Dybbuk Box all the way back to its manufacturing, though we can with a little bit of study. What we need to do is trace the Dybbuk Box back to when it first became the Dybbuk Box.

In 2003 and antique dealer by the name of, Kevin Mannis, listed a peculiar looking box on eBay. He started bidding at one dollar, and by the end of its run got $140 for what he described as a “haunted Jewish wine box.” Before Mannis put this box up for sale, there had never been an instance of a Dybbuk Box existing.

Again there are suspicious instances that surround the origin story of the Dybbuk Box and its history since. Lots of people have taken a look at the overall reality of the Dybbuk Box, and I will link them in the references below. This is not what we’re interested in here. Regardless of if the Dybbuk Box is authentically haunted, is aside from the point.

Much like the Annabel doll, the Dybbuk Box has taken on a life of its own, sustained by its own legend and is amplified by the modern media and the Internet.

The Dybbuk Box, according to the story, was originally purchased by a college student who claimed to have blogged strange happenings occurring after the Dybbuk Box was brought into their dorm room. This college student, deciding that the box was the cause of the misfortunes they were experiencing, put the box back up on eBay and sold it for twice what they originally paid.

From there the Dybbuk Box fell into the hands of, Jason Haxton, who was the second-longest owner of the box. Now, Haxton took a scholarly interest in the box. It wasn’t enough for him to own it, he wanted to know all he could about it. Caple would be proud. Haxton claims to have on the box for roughly 7 years, and wrote a book about his experiences with it in that time. Because of Haxton, we can trace the elevation of the Dybbuk Box from a random Internet curiosity, to the haunted darling that it became.

In his book, Haxton (2011), details the history of the box as he understood it, and of course, outlines all of his experiences while owning the box. He also conducted several interviews during this time with various online news sources. He stated he was being asked far too many questions by random people to be able to answer all of them one-on-one, so he created a website for the box for people to turn to with questions.

Now because of the book and the website, and the generous use of the Internet, the box became a topic of discussion for many paranormal research and discussion groups. This helped fan the flames of the legend behind the Dybbuk Box, elevating it further. Now people wanted to come and see the box, they wanted to interact with the box, they wanted to have a personal encounter with whatever was inside the box.

Haxton, claimed that most of this desire was being generated by the box itself because the box wanted to be understood. As far as I can tell, Haxton, is the first person to start attributing human-like qualities to the box, and the possible entity inside. Before, the box had merely been explained as a bad luck charm. No one prior to Haxton had assigned desires to the box. Both Mannis and the college student merely mentioned the bad luck and unfortunate events that occurred around them during their ownership of the box. Haxton is the one who began to say that the box itself wanted something.

Image Description
The Dibbuk Box in its gold-lined acacia wood ark.


Haxton is also the first person to start restricting access to the box. He had a special ark created for the box following specific traits that he considered spiritual. He built this box from the same kind of wood the Ark of the Covenant supposedly was built from, he lacquered the inside of the box with 24 karat gold, he had the box itself constructed by Amish workers, and then had a replica made of the original Dybbuk Box, so that the original could be kept away from the prying eyes of the public.

All of these traits put the Dybbuk Box into the category of a Spirit Container. The gifting of humanlike qualities, the restricting of access, and the creation of an elaborate resting place, move the Dybbuk Box away from being an everyday object into a sacred object of sorts. Interestingly the Dybbuk Box is not a religious item in the traditional sense. It is neither Jewish nor Kabbalahlic in nature.

Again a Dybbuk spirit has never possessed an inanimate object only living things. According to Dr. Yitskhok (Itzik) N. Gottesman in an interview with The Paranormal Files on YouTube (2018), what Jewish folklore there is about Dybbuks, actually seem to require the Dybbuks to work its way up from a ‘lesser creature’ like a fish or a cow in order to get to a human being that then must come in contact with it in order to become possessed. Seeing the reasons behind the Dybbuks existing in the first place, there would be no purpose for a Dybbuk to even possess something like a box, it would be counterproductive to their goals.

Gottesman also rules out Jewish mysticism because of the legibility of the writing on the box. He says that should the box have been a magical relic per Kabbalah, the writing would be gibberish It would be unreadable to anyone except the magician who carved it. The fact that the words on the box can be read and understood rule out Jewish magic.

Image Description
The back of the Dibbuk Box.

And yet, the Dybbuk Box is considered one of the most haunted objects of the modern era. Zak Bagan received the box from Haxton and promptly put it in his haunted museum in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bagan continues the paranormal treatment of the Dybbuk Box. He keeps it in a secure room, he does not make it part of his regular tour of the museum, to see the box you must fill out forms protecting him from any injuries or mishaps that may come from observing the box. He doesn’t take the box out very frequently to show to the public, and when he does it’s often the replica that’s Haxton had made for this purpose.

In 2015, Kevin Mannis, took to Facebook posting on a fan page for the show Haunt ME, and admitted that he created the whole concept of the Dybbuk Box.

db admit
Screenshot showing Mannis admitting he originally created the story.


I am the original creator of the story of The Dibbuk Box which appeared as one of my Ebay posts back in 2003. The idea that dibbuk boxes have some kind of history prior to my story, and the idea that a dibbuk box could contain anything other than a dibbuk, along with any deviation to the type of contents I created to be found inside of a dibbuk box is laughable at best. How about this- if you or anyone else can find any reference to a Dibbut [sic] Box anywhere in history prior to my Ebay post, I’ll pay you $100,000.00 and tattoo your name on my forehead. Bottom line: I applaud your reference to my work, but use your own creativity to come up with something for your show and leave my practice of Kabbalah, and my intellectual property alone.

Despite this admission, the Dybbuk Box continues to be one of the most popular haunted objects today. This I’m sure this is owed in no small part to the published book and the movie The Possession (2012), which was written about a similar haunted object, also called a Dybbuk Box. Bagans reportedly will not open the box for fear of releasing something evil, and when on his show Deadly Possessions, he received the box from Haxton, Haxton appeared to have some sort of spiritual reaction in the presence of the box.

There appears to be a belief about the box that is strong even today. The Internet has played a huge role in the growth and maintenance of the story of the Dybbuk Box. Pictures of the object itself are considered by some to be cursed. This includes not only physical pictures but digital ones as well. Both Haxton and Bagans have mentioned receiving comments from viewers on the Internet claiming to have had misfortune occur around them after viewing pictures of the Dybbuk Box. A few have even reached out to the two men asking them for ways to counteract this bad luck. Pleas have been made to Haxton especially, to take down pictures that he posted of the Dybbuk Box so that the evil spirit within can’t use those pictures to travel throughout the internet. 

It’s these sort of statements that clearly show that the Dybbuk Box is considered by many to be a haunted object. Even without fully understanding the nature of a Dybbuk, or the history of the object itself.

What does all this mean in the eyes of paranormal archaeology?

What we have just outlined here is the creation of a paranormal artifact. Again keeping in mind the reality of Dybbuks, mysticism, or the box being an authentic Jewish artifact, are not the focus here. We are examining is, as Caple explained above, that some people believe that spirits can reside inside physical objects , and that makes the object significant’s to those believers. This object doesn’t have to be religious in nature. As we’ve seen with the DB, though arguably spiritual, the box itself is nonreligious. It does not belong to the religious or mystical practices that it is supposedly linked to, but because people believe that it does, it is treated in a way that one would treat a spiritual object.

Keeping in mind that anything created by human hands is by definition an artifact. The point here is, this seemingly innocuous 1950s portable liquor cabinet has been elevated to the rank of a spiritual container and haunted object, not only by the purposeful creation of a story surrounding it but by other individuals belief that the object is what the story says. Whether or not the story is true is again beside the point. What is important is that’s the object was created to serve this purpose of supporting the story, and it has served its purpose. Many people continue to believe that the DB is real, not only that the DB is itself is real, but that other dB exist. This is the creation of an entire class of objects from the existence of one.

What is perhaps most interesting here, is that even if the original DB was proven beyond a doubt to be fake (and we’re really not going to go into that here), belief in the other dB that exists would not be affected. The concepts of a DB has been placed into the public mind, and it will be interesting for archaeologists years from now to start finding these handmade DB replicas, seeing how other people have interpreted the DB, brought it into their own personal use, and pass along this particular piece of paranormal culture.

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Arbel, I.

2002    “Dybbuk.” Judaic Mythology. Encyclopedia Mythica, 22 Apr. 2002. Accessed Nov. 5,  2019.

Bonnet, G.

2013    “For sale: one wine cabinet. Comes with an evil spirit.” Skeptophilia. Gordon Bonnet, 1 Feb. 2013. Accessed Nov. 5,  2019.

Brevet, B.

2012    “The True Story of the Haunted Dibbuk Box that Became The Possession.” Rope of Silicon. LLC, 4 May 2012. Accessed Nov. 5,  2019.

Caple, Chris

2006    Objects: Reluctant Witnesses to the Past.  London: Routledge, 2006.

Dunning, B.

2019    “The Haunted Dybbuk Box.” Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 19 Aug 2014. Accessed Nov. 5,  2019.

Friazier, Karen

2019    “Frightening True Story of the Haunted Dybbuk Box.” Accessed Nov. 5,  2019.

Gornstein, L.

2011    “A Jinx in a Box?” Los Angeles Times. 24 Jul. 2004, Newspaper.
Haxton, J. The Dibbuk Box. Kirksville: Truman State University Press, 2011. Accessed Nov. 5,  2019.

Mayhem, Marquis

2019    “The True Story of the Dybbuk Box and Where It Is Now”  Accessed Nov. 5,  2019.



Published by ArchyFantasies

An active Archaeologist myself, I've gotten a bit tired of the use of bad science and archaeology to defend and "prove" made up claims. In this vein my videos should help others who are are not familiar with how Archaeology actually works understand the truth and see through the misleading lies of others

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