Thursday, October 18, 2012

Supernatural Friday: Cursed Boxes

Sorry a day early, but I will be sleeping tomorrow to prepare for a late night ghost tour and overnight investigation at Henricus Historical Park. And with a book signing at Short Pump Barnes and Noble the next day for Haunted Richmond II, I will need my sleep.

Today’s Supernatural Friday is about cursed boxes. It is said that curse boxes are locked, wooden containers with sigils on the exterior. They are designed to contain the magic , evil spirits, or cursed objects to prevent them from causing harm. Cursed objects are created by magic, and can kill their owners. The idea for the curse box may have come from the legend of Pandora's Box, a box that holds all the evil and all the diseases in the world, until - once opened - it releases all this evil upon the world, leaving only Hope behind.

In the fictional world of television, in one show, Supernatural, Dean and Sam Winchesters' father, John Winchester, had curse boxes made for him by Bobby Singer. He kept these at his secret storage space in New York. One of his curse boxes were stolen by thieves working for Bela, who worked for those who paid to get their hands on supernatural objects, and when they opened it, they found a cursed rabbit's foot inside.

One now well-known cursed box, thanks to an episode of Paranormal Witness this year and a movie, The Possession, that came out in September, dybbuk box, or dibbuk box. It is a wine cabinet which is said to be haunted by a dybbuk. In Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is a restless, usually malicious, spirit believed to be able to haunt and even possess the living. The cabinet has the Shema carved into the side of it. Its dimensions are 12.5" × 7.5" × 16.25”. Shema are the first two words of a section of the Torah, and are the title of a prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services.

The term "Dibbuk Box" was first used by Kevin Mannis to describe the box in the item information for an eBay auction to describe it as the subject of an original story (not the story for the film) describing supposedly true events which he considered to be related to the box. Mannis, a writer and creative professional by trade, owned a small antiques and furniture refinishing business in Portland, Oregon at the time. According to Mannis' story, he purportedly bought the box at an estate sale in 2003. It had belonged to a German Holocaust survivor named Havela, who had escaped to Spain and purchased it there before her immigration to the United States. Havela's granddaughter told Mannis that the box had been bought in Spain after the Holocaust. Upon hearing that the box was a family heirloom, Mannis offered to give the box back to the family but the granddaughter insisted that he take it. "We don't want it." She said. She told him the box had been kept in her grandmother's sewing room and was never opened because a dybbuk was said to live inside it. On opening the box, Mannis found that it contained two 1920s pennies, a lock of blonde hair bound with cord, a lock of black/brown hair bound with cord, a small statue engraved with the Hebrew word "Shalom", a small, golden wine goblet, one dried rose bud, and a single candle holder with four octopus-shaped legs; all items supposedly used in Jewish folklore to exorcise demons. Numerous owners of the box have reported that strange phenomena accompany it. In his story, Mannis claimed he experienced a series of horrific nightmares shared with other people while they were in possession of the box or when they stayed at his home while he had it. His mother suffered a stroke on the same day he gave her the box as a birthday present — October 28. Every owner of the box has reported that smells of cat urine or jasmine flowers and nightmares involving an old hag accompany the box. Iosif Neitzke, a Missouri student at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri and the last person to auction the box on eBay, claimed that the box caused lights to burn out in his house and his hair to fall out Jason Haxton, Director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri, had been following Neitzke's blogs regarding the box and when he was ready to be rid of the box Neitzke sold it to Haxton. Haxton wrote The Dibbuk Box, and claimed that he subsequently developed strange health problems, including hives, coughing up blood, and "head-to-toe welts" Haxton consulted with Rabbis (Jewish religious leaders) to try to figure out a way to seal the dybbuk in the box again. Apparently successful, he took the freshly resealed box and hid it at a secret location, which he will not reveal.

Skeptic Chris French, head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths' College, told an interviewer he believed that the box's owners were "already primed to be looking out for bad stuff.  In other words, if one is primed to believe they’ve cursed. Bad stuff that happens is what you perceive to be the cause.
When I went to eBay and put in the word, dybbuk box, four came up, including this one.

Another cursed box is used in the film, Silent Hill. I can’t tell you for sure if used in the video game, only a gamer that has played it can.

Of course, the most famous cursed “box” is Pandora’s. The original Greek word was 'pithos', which is a large jar, sometimes as large as a small person (Diogenes of Sinope was said to have once slept in one), mostly used for storage of wine, oil, grain or other provisions, or, ritually, as a container for a human body for burying. In the case of Pandora, this jar may have been made of clay for use as storage as in the usual sense, or of bronze metal as an unbreakable prison.
The mistranslation of pithos is usually attributed to the 16th century humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam who translated Hesiod's tale of Pandora into Latin. Erasmus rendered pithos as the Greek pyxis, meaning "box". The phrase "Pandora's box" has endured ever since.

I will end this article with the Greek myth, “Pandora’s Box.”

Once up a time, a long time ago, Zeus ordered Hephaestus (Aphrodite's husband) to make him a daughter. It was the first woman made out of clay. Hephaestus made a beautiful woman and named her Pandora. 
Zeus sent his new daughter, Pandora, down to earth so that she could marry Epimetheus, who was a gentle but lonely man. 
Zeus was not being kind. He was getting even. Epimetheus and Prometheus were brothers. Zeus was mad at one of the brothers, Prometheus, for giving people fire without asking Zeus first.  
Zeus gave Pandora a little box with a big heavy lock on it. He made her promise never to open the box. He gave the key to Pandora’s husband and told him to never open the box. Zeus was sure that Epimetheus' curiosity would get the better of him, and that either Epimetheus or his brother would open the box. 
Pandora was very curious. She wanted to see what was inside the box, but Epimetheus said no. Better not. "You know your father," Epimetheus sighed, referring to Zeus. "He’s a tricky one."
One day, when Epimetheus lay sleeping, Pandora stole the key and opened the box.
Out flew every kind of disease and sickness, hate and envy, and all the bad things that people had never experienced before. Pandora slammed the lid closed, but it was too late. All the bad things were already out of the box. They flew away, out into the world.
Epimetheus woke up at the sound of her sobbing. “I opened the box and all these ugly things flew out,” she cried. “I tried to catch them, but they all got out.” Pandora opened the box to show him how empty it was. But the box was not quite empty. One tiny bug flew quickly out before Pandora could slam the lid shut again.
“Hello, Pandora,” said the bug, hovering just out of reach. “My name is Hope.” With a nod of thanks for being set free, Hope flew out into the world, a world that now held Envy, Crime, Hate, and Disease – and Hope.

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