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It seems that more and more frequently there are stories circulating on the internet about items that are being sold, often on eBay, that come with the reputation of being haunted.  The idea of an item, rather than a place or a person, being haunted isn’t a new one but what can an object really be haunted?

Hauntings 101

For the most part, ghost stories or reports of hauntings are focused around either a location or a person.  Typically, the latter are poltergeists, the formless but powerful spirits that are known for throwing items around, moving the furniture and even making people levitate in the air.  Location based spirits can focus around anything from an ancient castle or palace to a modern house.  These ghosts don’t normally shift from their spot and can continue to haunt a building even when the building is no longer there, as is the case with new houses built over older ones – the ghost is haunting the non-existent older house but is appeared in the new one.

With haunted houses or buildings, it is often the belief that the ghost is tied to the location because something traumatic happened to them there or because they associated with their life and were unwilling to leave it.  Some of these ghosts are like recordings – they act in a certain way every time they manifest with no awareness of the world around them, much like a projection.  The other main type of ghosts are aware of their surroundings, sometimes even of their situation and their reactions vary depending on what is happening.  These are the ghosts most likely to communicate with people.

Dibbux Box

One of the most famous types of haunted objects are called dibbux boxes.  These boxes are actually wine cabinets that, according to Jewish folklore, contain an evil spirit that will not rest and haunt the box.  One such box was part of an estate sale in Portland, Oregon in 2001 when a woman aged 103 died and her belongings were being auction off.  The woman was Jewish and had been the sole member of her family to survive the Nazi concentration camps during World War II.  When she was free, the wine cabinet was one of only three items she brought to the US with her.

By Marika Martinelli16 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The woman had told her children and grandchildren never to open the box because it had a spirit in it, called a dibbux, which was evil.  She even said the box should be buried with her but because it was against Jewish tradition, the family didn’t do this.  Instead, her granddaughter was most insistent that the antique dealer take it, which he did.

No sooner was the box in his shop that the man began to experience strange things such as lights going out, security doors locking themselves and his assistant hearing strange noises from the basement, where the item was kept.  Everywhere was the strong smell of cat urine and light bulbs kept smashing for no reason.

The dealer gave the box to his mother, who had a stroke within no time and gave him a note from her hospital bed saying she hated the gift.  He tried on several more occasions to give the box away but it always was given back.  He also began to see shadowy figures at the edge of his vision.

Finally, one night he fell asleep at his computer and awoke abruptly when something was breathing on his neck.  He turned and saw a massive shadow running away down the hall.  At his wit’s end, he listed the item on eBay along with an account of what had taken place.

The rest of the story was detailed by Jason Haxton, curator of a medical museum in Missouri, who bought the box, in his book called The Possession that was later made into a movie.

Haunted dolls

Personally, I hate dolls.  I have nothing against Barbie and her like but the bigger and more lifelike the doll, the more it gives me the creeps.  And it seems that my little phobia may be well founded by the number of haunted doll stories from around the world.

In 1970, a woman bought a Raggedy-Ann style doll in a thrift shop for her daughter to take to college.  As soon as the doll arrived, strange things began to happen including pieces of paper appearing that they hadn’t brought into the room, covered in childish scrawl.  One time, the doll was even standing upright on its cloth legs – prompting the girl and her roommate to seek out a medium.  She told them the doll was possessed by a girl named Annabelle but when the case was investigated by renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, they discovered that ‘Annabelle’ was a guise and the doll was actually possessed by a demon.  The doll is now in the Occult Museum in Connecticut with a warning not to open its case under any circumstances!

Robert Eugene Otto was a little boy living in Key West in 1896 who was given a doll by one of the family’s servants who was fluent in black magic.  The boy adored the doll and would spend all of his time with it, talking to it.  However, soon servants became concerned that they could hear the doll answering the little boy as well as seeing the doll moving around when no one was present.  Problems increased with rooms being messed up, ornaments smashed and the boy was blamed but he insisted the doll had done it.  The boy eventually grew into a man and inherited the house.  He died in 1972 and the house was bought by another family with a little girl but she was terrified of the doll that came with it, saying it wanted to kill her.  The doll was donated to a local historical museum where it remains on display.  Visitors to the museum are told to ask the doll’s permission before taking a photo of it as many visitors have reported strange things happening if they pictured it without doing this, some having even written letters of apology to the doll to get the curse lifted.

Robert the doll - a haunted object?

By Cayobo from Key West, The Conch Republic (Robert The Doll Uploaded by LongLiveRock) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


In 1972, a painting was created by Hollywood actor John Marley called ‘The Hands Resist Him’ featuring a boy and a creepy doll standing before a glass door.  The picture was bought by a couple from California who put it up for auction on, you guessed it, eBay in 2000 along with a warning about owning the item.

According to the couple, people who sat near the painting reported feeling sick and weak while children would flee from the room when seeing it.  Adults in the room felt as if someone was grabbing them and blasts of hot air were reported.  Creepiest of all was reports that the boy in the picture stepped out of the painting and moved around the room.

The painting was bought by an art gallery in Grand Rapids, Missouri and they spoke to the artist who was surprised by the reaction of people to the painting.  However, he did mention that two people who had originally displayed and reviewed the painting died within twelve months of doing so.

Another painting that looks like it should be haunted is called The Anguished Man.  The painting lived for 25 years in the attic of Sean Robinson’s grandmother as she told him it was evil and that the artist had mixed his own blood with the paint when creating it then killed himself.  She told Sean that she heard voices and crying when near the painting as well as seeing shadowy figures and that way why it was in the attic.


When Sean took the painting home after his grandmother’s death, he soon began to experience strange things.  He fell down the stairs, both he and his wife saw a shadow man and heard crying and his wife felt someone stroking her hair.  He even set up a camera to record the events and it captured slamming doors, rising smoke and even the painting jumping off the wall.

Sean has since locked the painting in the basement out of sight and things have calmed.  He says he has no intention of selling it.

Special category

So it seems that the idea of a haunting item may not be all that strange and there are so many items claiming to be haunted now for sale on eBay that someone has even written a guide to buying them.  Whether the buyer’s motivation is to prove or disprove the haunting, help the trapped spirit or just enjoy the thrill of owning the item, the haunting items business is booming.  The biggest concern has to be that if something bad happens to someone who had bought such an item, will there then be talk of repercussions on the seller.  Does buying an item that could be hazardous to your health, even if it is a doll, mean that anything that goes wrong, this is part of the sale?  To my mind, yes, but unfortunately the rest of the world may not see it like that.  We await the first case of someone suing a seller for injury caused by a demonic possessed doll.

Further reading:

The Hands Resist Him book

The Dibbuk Box book

haunted objects

Robert the Doll book