A Box Full of Bad Luck: Haunted Wine Cabinet Goes to Highest Bidder

By Max Gross

Published February 13, 2004, issue of February 13, 2004.
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The Internet auction house eBay recently added a new item among the steak knives and vacuum cleaners normally up for sale: a dybbuk-haunted wine cabinet.

Earlier this week, a small wooden wine cabinet with the Shema, the Hebrew prayer, carved on the inside was auctioned off on eBay. The cabinet might have looked like hundreds of other pieces of furniture sold via the Internet if it didn’t come with an ominous history of bad luck attached.

“I very strongly do not want this box anymore,” read part of the description of the cabinet posted on eBay by the seller, a college student in Missouri named Iosif Neitzke. “I hope that there is someone on eBay who will take this off my hands.”

Neitzke also wrote that a number of plagues have befallen him since the cabinet has been in his possession.

For starters, Neitzke blames the box for sleeping problems, car trouble and light bulbs burning out throughout his home. Then there are the more unusual issues: “I’ve started seeing things, sort of like large vertical dark blurs in my peripheral vision,” Neitzke wrote. “I smell something like juniper bushes or stingy ammonia in my garage often, and I have no idea what from.”

“Most disturbingly, last Tuesday… my hair began to fall out,” his item description continues. “Today (Friday) it’s about half gone. I’m in my early 20s, and I just got a clean blood test back from the doctor’s. Maybe it’s stress related, I don’t know.”

Neitzke is not the cabinet’s first owner to believe that bad luck is attached to it. According to the story that he placed on eBay, the cabinet was originally the property of a Polish Holocaust survivor who escaped to Spain and bought it there sometime during or soon after the end of World War II. The box was sold at auction to a Portland, Ore., resident after the survivor died in 2001. When the buyer — who owned a furniture refurnishing business — was about to take the cabinet home, the granddaughter of the recently deceased survivor said, “I see you got the dybbuk box.”

She told him that the “dybbuk box” had been kept in the survivor’s sewing room and never opened. When referring to the cabinet, the survivor would spit three times and say that a dybbuk — an evil spirit from Jewish folklore — lived inside.

The Oregon resident felt that the granddaughter might have some sentimental attachment to the cabinet and offered to give it back to her but, he wrote, the granddaughter became hysterical and refused to accept it.

Upon opening the cabinet, the Oregonian discovered two 1920s pennies, a lock of blond hair and a lock of brown hair, and a small statue engraved with the Hebrew word shalom.

The Oregonian planned to refinish the cabinet and give it to his mother as a birthday present. But on the day of her birthday, according to the eBay posting, his mother suffered a stroke. As she convalesced in her hospital bed, she managed to spell out the words “N-O G-I-F-T” and “H-A-T-E G-I-F-T.” The Oregonian decided to give it to his sister, who enthusiastically accepted the cabinet and then coldly returned it a week later. His brother took it and then complained that it brought odd smells into his house. He sold it to a middle-aged couple, only to find it waiting for him on his porch a few days later with a note attached to it saying, “This has a bad darkness.”

The Oregonian decided to sell the cabinet on eBay when he started seeing and smelling strange things around his house and having nightmares about the cabinet.

“One more note,” the Oregonian said in his original sale of the cabinet on eBay last summer. “On the same day my mom had her stroke, the lease to my store was summarily terminated without cause.

“The measurements are 12.5” x 7.5” x 16.25.”

When Neitzke purchased the cabinet from the Oregonian, it became a prime example of Internet lore. Dozens of blogs and Web sites weighed in on the story.

“It’s bunk, but a great story,” wrote the Dan & Angi Web site (http://blogs.oc.edu/dan.lovejoy/), which posted the box’s story on its site last June.

Some were more contemptuous about the authenticity and the legend of the box.

On the Jodiferous.com blog, a visitor named Lisa wrote, “Looking at the box, there is no way it was made in the early ’20s or before.”

Neitzke put the small box up for sale on eBay just months after purchasing it. Instead of scaring away potential buyers, the stories seem to have enhanced its mystery. A West Coast paranormal institute sent Neitzke a letter asking him to let them research the cabinet before he sold it. A fierce bidding war broke out in the last five minutes of the auction, raising the price from $108 to $280 before it went to a bidder known as Agetron, aka Jason Haxton, a museum curator and lecturer in Missouri.

Haxton, who is not Jewish, often lectures about the paranormal and has a collection of African and Mayan statues and charms. He heard about the auction from one of his research students who rooms with Neitzke.

Haxton admitted he is a little wary about taking the box home to add to his collection. “I’m going to keep it in storage — or with friends,” Haxton told the Forward.

But he doesn’t think that the box will bring him any great misfortune.

The dybbuk, Haxton postulated, might merely be looking for someone to understand him. “I don’t think the idea [is] that this box is good or bad — I don’t think it’s bad necessarily,” Haxton said. “I’m not even sure that there’s a spirit attached to it. Maybe there were bad issues” with the previous owners.

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