Creepy Things That Seem Real But Aren’t is a series that explores modern urban legends, bringing you a new tale each week.
In June of 2003, an auction appeared on eBay. This (naturally) was not an unusual occurrence. Nor, at first glance, was the object up for auction itself unusual: A small wooden cabinet, old, measuring 12.5″ x 7.5″ x 16.25″, intended for the storage of wine. The contents of the box, however, were somewhat less mundane: Inside the box were two locks of hair, one granite statue, one dried rosebud, one goblet, two wheat pennies, one candlestick– and one dybbuk (alternately spelled “dibbuk”), a malevolent spirit believed in Jewish folklore to be the dislocated soul of a dead person. Thus, the item’s name: THE DYBBUK BOX.
The seller of the box told the item’s tale in a lengthy description on the auction page. In September of 2001, he wrote, he attended an estate sale in Portland, Oregon. The estate in question belonged to a Jewish woman who had lived until the impressive age of 103. Originally from Poland, the woman and her family were sent to a Nazi concentration camp during World War II; of the family members who were sent—her parents, brothers, a sister, husband, and two sons and a daughter—she was the only survivor. She escaped to Spain sometime during the war, which is where she acquired the wine box. It was one of only three items that she took with her when she emigrated to the United States.
After the current seller purchased the box, he was approached by the woman’s granddaughter. Referring to the wine cabinet, she said, “I see you got the dybbuk box.” Not knowing what she meant, he asked her to explain. She went on to tell him that when she was a child, her grandmother kept the wine cabinet out of reach in her sewing room. It was always shut. When the girl asked her grandmother what was in the box, the woman spit three times through her fingers and said, “A dybbuk.” She told her granddaughter that the box was never to be opened. Ever. The girl still had no idea what a dybbuk was, but true to her word, she had never opened the box—and she didn’t intend on doing so now. Concerned, however, that he was taking away with him a family keepsake, he offered to give the box back. The girl was first insistent that he keep the box, but the more he persisted in his offer to give it back, the more upset she got. Finally, she yelled, “You bought it! You made a deal! We don’t want it!” and stormed off.
He took the box and left.
And that was when the bad things started happening.