The Dibbuk Box: Jason Haxton on Writing His Story

by Jeff Denight

Jason Haxton writes in his journal daily, and has for the last twenty-two years, yet he has never considered himself a writer. Even now, after the publication of his book, The Dibbuk Box, a wild and fantastic telling of his real-life experiences with a haunted Jewish wine cabinet, Haxton doesn’t regularly think of himself as an author. This may seem strange that someone who is a member of the Author’s Guild and has a major motion picture based on his book wouldn’t consider himself an author. Yet, Haxton’s experiences with writing are collaborative, and he attributes his success to not only himself, but to everyone who helped him along the way.

When Haxton first had the idea for his book, he had no intention of writing it himself. He felt that if he provided the story and the material, then someone else might do a better job. After contracting with Truman State University Press to publish his story, Haxton originally took his idea to a writer recommended by the Press. But when this author began experiencing the strange effects of the box, he backed out.

Next, Haxton took his idea to Giles Fowler, author of Deaths on Pleasant Street, published by TSUP. Though Fowler was excited about the new project, he was unwilling to write it for Haxton.

“Giles agreed to edit my book,” Haxton said. “I wouldn’t have considered myself a writer then—I just have these journals—so when I sent in my first fifteen pages, I got three of them back. They were just bleeding with red ink.”

It was clear to both Fowler and Haxton that their system could be a bit more efficient. Haxton began sending a few pages at a time to Fowler, and this began a constant flow of new pages to Fowler, edits back to Haxton, revisions back to Fowler; each writer working in collaboration to craft a better book. Fowler was so dedicated to the book that he continued to edit it until they finished, which ended up being a few months later than he agreed to.

“The writing process took about nine months,” Haxton said. “Though Giles originally agreed to help for seven, he stayed on the project until we were finished.”

Haxton said he’s glad that he decided to work with Fowler in the way he did, instead of continuing his search for an author for his book. For the book, Haxton kept it true to life, and he said if someone else were to have written it, “It would have still been my story, but it wouldn’t have been my story. It would have become their interpretation of the story.”

With Fowler’s help, Haxton was able to keep a personal connection attached to the book, the reason he believes the book has been such a success. “They’re all true events. I can go back to any one of those days and look up what happened, because they’re all in my journal. I guess the pure honesty of my thoughts, what I experienced and what I was feeling came from my nightly journal entries—never knowing what the next day would bring with this item—truly comes through in the story. I guess that is why people like it—it is honest and occurring as you read it. Writing the book from my journals allowed me to keep from spoiling the mystery.”

The Dibbuk Box doesn’t rely solely on his own journals or experiences; it is riddled with stories and testimonies from previous owners, various folk who encountered the box, and a few anonymous persons whose only contact with the box was through a photo of it. Furthermore, people who play a role in Haxton’s Dibbuk Box story seemed naturally drawn to help Haxton in his efforts to understand and cleanse the box of its demonic evil. Even before the book was written, the story of the Dibbuk Box had a way of bringing people to work together, and that didn’t stop with just helpful strangers on the Internet.

In October 2004, a lawyer representing Sam Raimi, director and producer of such films as the Spiderman trilogy, approached Haxton. Raimi heard about Haxton and the Dibbuk Box through a Los Angeles Times article, as well as through Haxton’s own website. Raimi wanted rights to make a filmed version.

Though Haxton didn’t mind the idea of the story being retold, he said, “I originally told them ‘No.’ It didn’t matter to me who he was. I didn’t care. I was just starting my book, my kids were still young, and, most importantly, I was happy. I didn’t want anything to get in the way of that.”

But eventually a contract was drawn up that allowed Haxton to keep rights to a book, documentaries, replica boxes and a few other elements. A movie based on the box, The Possession, will be released August 31.

Just like with Haxton’s book, there was no shortage of people working on the film’s script. Haxton said there have been three scripts drafted for the film. Stephen Susco (The Grudge, The Grudge 2) penned the first of the scripts; his was loosely based on Haxton’s personal experiences, with the protagonist being a museum director who has recently taken possession of a haunted Jewish box.

Susco’s script was polished and finished, but then bad news came. While at a party, Susco ran into his friend and fellow screenwriter, E. L. Katz (Autopsy), who was elated about a new job that he had just received. The job? Katz signed on to write the script for a dibbuk box movie; the very movie that Susco had just finished writing. Katz’s script told the story of a college student who bought the box from an auction on the Internet; a close similarity to the owner previous to Haxton.

Once Katz’s script was completed, he received bad news as well; his script had been passed over, and this time Juliet Snowden (Knowing, Boogeyman) was to write the coveted screenplay. This version of the script is the final version, with the story vaguely following Kevin Mannis’ story, the original owner of the box.

Haxton hypothesizes that these first two drafts of the script aren’t just going to be thrown away. “It’s not like they were bad scripts. They were good. They just weren’t where the story begins.”

Haxton’s guess is that Raimi had the full story written in a backwards order, starting with Haxton’s experiences and leading all the way back to Mannis’. This way, Raimi could produce sequels to The Possession quickly, without sacrificing story quality.

“Raimi is a master of horror. He took control of the American horror genre with The Evil Dead trilogy; Japanese horror with The Grudge,” Haxton said, “and there’s no way he’s going to give up on Jewish horror.”

Many of those who worked on the film wanted to keep close to Haxton’s story, often asking him for advice or to draw inspiration from his stories. Though Haxton has written to all of the screenwriters, he still has regular contact with Susco. “Susco has kept up a friendship,” he said. “Mostly by his contacting me about the movie, my book, articles in magazines. And he has expressed a desire to do more work, if possible.”

Haxton’s contribution to the films didn’t stop there. In order to draw inspiration for the box, Raimi’s assistant asked Haxton to acquire an exact replica of the box.

“They were too afraid of having the actual box,” Haxton said. “Nobody wanted to house it.”

The box in the film, while not the exact replica, does draw upon the wine cabinet’s unique hinges, its odd appliques and Jewish inscriptions. When I asked why they decided to go with a chest instead of the replica, Haxton responded, “It was for practical purposes. [Natasha Calis, who plays the box’s first buyer in the film] needed to be able to carry it, but the replica was too large.”

Because the filmmakers worked so closely with Haxton throughout the process, taking his experience for inspiration, Haxton thinks the film complements his book, rather than detracting from it.

“I believe from what I have seen so far,” Haxton said. “That the movie truly complements the suspense I tried to keep in the book of not being too sure what might come next, and also that element of help coming when it is unexpected from unexpected sources.”

It seems that in the past few years, everyone wants to have a hand in telling the tale of the Dibbuk Box. Beside the book and the movie, there are several other groups telling the tale of this demonic box. One of which is SyFy Channel’s popular docudrama series, Paranormal Witness, which will air an episode on August 29 titled “Dybbuk Box” about Haxton’s story. Haxton said they were very excited to work on that episode, and that it could be one of the most-watched episodes of the season.

“SyFy really wanted this story because it was already vetted. With most ghost stories, you get people who have no real proof other than their statement. ‘Oh! I saw a ghost!’” (At which point in the interview, I admit, I thought Haxton had actually seen a ghost in our meeting room. But then he continued.) “They have to do research into these stories to make sure it’s true. Mine was already vetted. I have eight years of journals, a published book, and lots of contactable references. Their work is already done for them.”

Besides The Possession and the SyFy program, the story of the Dibbuk Box continues to be told again and again. Haxton spoke about the box and his book on multiple podcasts, an episode of The History Channel’s Fear Files based on his story, and in a six-page spread in Entertainment Weekly on August 3. It seems that this story has a natural draw to people that sparks their imagination, and they want to be a part of it. Haxton think this is because “People have always loved stories like this. We have Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster… what else? Chupacabra, that’s the newest one. But it’s really been a while since we’ve had a true story create a legend like this.”

In order to tell this intriguing story completely, Haxton understood the need to include as many voices as possible. Haxton said that he couldn’t have told his story without the participation and help from all who have been involved; that it’s great when “everybody comes together, when you help each other. Collaboration is the only way to get a great finished product. If you’re nice to people, and give what you can (especially if it doesn’t cost you anything), then you’ll only foster good relationships.”

With all the excitement stirring around the story of the wine cabinet, could there be repercussions with tempting the haunted box? The film crew has already felt the effects of the Dibbuk Box. Haxton said that a few days after The Possession finished filming, their entire props warehouse spontaneously burned to the ground. If the dibbuk did actually cause this incident, what will happen when this film is released to the wider audience? In The Dibbuk Box, the box affected people after they saw only a picture of it. This is a major motion picture telling the story for entertainment; could the malicious effects be intensified?

I asked Haxton what he thought about this possibility. He said, “I believe people will feel a connection and have issues—they always do—but so far nobody has died, just felt horrible bad luck. So, I am not too worried.”

Then he joked, “Then again, there is that Mayan ‘December 2012: End of the World’ scenario—maybe it can give that ball a kick start.”

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23 thoughts on “The Dibbuk Box: Jason Haxton on Writing His Story

  1. I’m so intrigued. I watched Paranormal Witness Aug. 29th, 2012. My curiosity lead me to this website. I had already made plans to go see The Possession Sunday, Sept 2nd not knowing that the movie was based on the Dibbuk Box. Now I’m even more excited. I am under the impression that Jason Haxton has the box locked up and never plans to sell it or disclose its locaton. I hope that’s true so no one else gets hurt. Looking forward to the movie now. Thx to Jason for taking the box out of circulation.

  2. I watched The Possession this week before watching the story of the Dibbuk box on Paranormal Witness. The film is very losely connected but not as good as the original story…. I thank you Jason for hiding the box, but surely for the sake of our future surely there is a way to rid the evil spirit for good rather than hiding the box? It would be a very selfish act to allow someone in the future to find this box, unless its all a fake?
    Gos Bless You!

    • This box is not a fake there are many more in the world that are locked and hidden. To hebrews this box is like a ougi board and should never be messed with. A lot of holocaust survivors had them. NEVER OPEN A WINE BOX THAT HAS HEBREW ON THE BACK OF IT

      • I have never heard of this story until yesterday. A co-worker is a HUGE horror movie buff and she was telling me about the movie Possession and how it was based on a true story. Out of curiosity I began searching for information. I clicked on images and when I saw the box I froze… My heart started pounding out of my chest! I have seen the box before. My mother had one that she bought from an estate sale in Dayton, Ohio in 1994. It’s such a distinct box I am 100% sure it looked exactly like it. I’m so freaked out! I have been doing research for the last 24 hours. I have even asked my little brother to search the attic and basement to see if she still has it. Nothing, yet… But I’m so intrigued! I want answers!

  3. Oh my god! I just saw this movie a few hours ago with my husband! People had side effects from watching the movie?! now I regret watching it!

  4. What a load of rubbish, and a nice little earner from it. All i can say is, you can fool most people, most of the time.

  5. hello, I have delved into this story for some time now and I want to buy the dybbuk box off of you and run some tests on it. Everything and everyone associated with this investigation will be filmed and give their own accounts on anything that may or may not happen. Is there a chance that you could name a price and we could come to some sort of an agreement?
    excellent book and best wishes

    • Agreed.. I would like to see it under a Geiger Counter. Many of the conditions explained sound alot like radiation poisioning ie hair falling out, weird skin rashes, etc..

      It is said that the Shroud of Tourin (the burial cloth of christ) is said to have some sort of radioactive emmitance.

      If it does emit some sort of radiation, that would be intersting no?


  7. why would someone what to mess with something they know notting about someone can get hurt or die

  8. This is nothing to mess with.
    I hope this box is buried 20 feet deep in a concrete hole.
    We have enough evil in the world, we don’t need more.

  9. But then there are people like me who are fascinated with the idea of something beyond, lurking in our world wanting to know more.

  10. I am Jewish and speak Modern Hebrew fluently. The Herew term you brought up Koslim is actually Kosmim which means magic. I have never heard of a Holocaust survivor possessing a box such as this. I think it would be something a Kabbalistic rabbi might possess. I like the idea that you buried the Dybuk box as Jews believe that the earth purifies items. I myself would have it buried in a Jewish cemetery as that would insure no one could dig it up. I will be seeing the movie and there is a famous Jewish play called The Dybuk which deals with subject matter but not with a box.

    • Thank you for the information on the term Koslim/Kosmim—even though the box is buried (glad you agree—it is a good thing to have done), I still have an interest in anything that might shed a little light on the topic. I think you would enjoy the SyFy Paranormal Witness 2 show called The Dybbuk Box. It shows almost everyone I talk about in the book.
      Best, Jason

      • Jason,
        I’m glad you’ve buried the box, and found a way to keep it safe, I do have a question/suggestion though. Have you found and/or searched for a person who will continue to keep the box safe from the curious after you’re gone?
        My thought is this: If you are concerned that no other people will suffer what you and those before you have gone through, it would be wise to begin a lineage of guardians who keep the box and its location secret/protected.

      • if it were me and all of these events are true i would consider having someone like john zaffis investigate the box.i myself believe in demons but not in the sense of most and certainly not in the aspect that religeous organizations see them. but if these events are true i wish you the best of luck

  11. At risk of sounding religious and perhaps a little crazy I’d like to offer some info:

    At the fall of Lucifer and his hoards, the earth was given over to them. That being the case, there is no way to effectively banish a demon ‘back to hell’. In fact, there are only a certain amount of specific demons who occupy hell. These are the ‘Sons of God who entered the daughters of man’ in Genesis 6. Read Josephus Discourse the Greeks on Hell and Hades for further explinations.

    Tho we cannot send them back to where they came, they can be destoryed. We can take this lesson from Jesus when he compelled the demon Legion into the swine, where they then drowned themselves in the sea. One caveat here: was the demon destroyed? I would have to say yes, although at this point there is no proof of that, other than lack of proof of Legion’s continued existence.

    For this to take place two things must happen. First, the name of the demon must be obtained. Second, the demon must be drivin out… permanantly.

    In Catholic exorcisms, or any exorcism, the demon is compelled to flee the host at the command of the priest in the power of the SPIRIT of Jesus Christ. Not just the name, as is so commonly mistaken. This is why most demons come back to possess the original host. Basically it is tormented until it gives up, leaves to lick it’s wounds, then comes back to possess with a vengance, which in turn requires another exorcism. It is common knowledge that one exorcism will not do the trick. Sometimes, many exorcisms fail. The plan is that eventually the demon will give up and seek out a more ‘hospitable’ host.

    Since the Jews have not come to believe that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, they have no way of destroying these entities, so they trap them into these boxes. No fault of their own, this is their way, what they have been taught, and what they are comfortable with. Sadly, trapping the demon and then appointing yourself gaurd of the prison is a Really Bad Idea as you no doubt have realized.

    So if you want this thing gone seek out one who has the anointing of the Holy Spirit on them. It is the only way that you can learn the name of the foul thing and destroy it or at least get rid of it. Oh and make sure you have another host immediately available to kill (chicken, goat, bull, pig, dog, cat, bird, mouse, rat, snake, whatever..) Do Not Eat It. The concept is that if the host perishes while the demon is trapped, it too will perish. or be released again, lol who knows for sure.

    Anyway, just my thoughts.

    It appears that more “Dibbuk Box” is in store for the world! Hollywood has announced a sequel to the movie by Good Universe Productions—a new spin-off company of Lionsgate.

    Joe Drake and Nathan Kahane were with Lionsgate until they recently decided to create their own company “Good Universe”. These two Hollywood executives have supported “The Dibbuk Box” from the very beginning and brought it through with Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Pictures, Mandate Pictures and finally Lionsgate Pictures.

    “The Possession” seems to have held its own. It is even up for a Saturn Award—we will know in June if it wins.

    Link: and scroll down to Best DVD-Blu-ray.

    Those are the updates! Jason Haxton

  13. Why would you meddle with something that so clearly has a demonic hold? 2 Corinthians 10:4 “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)” Even the devils “believe and tremble” when it comes to God.
    James 2:19 “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”
    I have read excerpts about the Dibbuk Box and those who previously owned it—I have not read the book nor watched the movie. Opening yourself up to those things can give those wicked powers claim over you. I say just leave well enough alone. The more people you affect with this “box” the more people you “infect.” Not a good thing, to be sure.

  14. Please, why would anyone want one after they see all of the horror it has caused. The Holocaust in itself was a horrible experience. Keep it hidden but as someone suggested do seek a “gatekeeper” in the event you perish to keep the thing hidden. Believe there is evil out there and it takes a nonbeliever to experience things to become a true believer!!

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