The Art of Darkness

A Couple of Easy Prop Ideas

September 10th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Dybbuk BoxNeed a new addition to your wunderkammer? io9 recently posted a list of, quote, “Terrifying Cursed Objects That Actually Exist.” The objects are not particularly terrifying–a killer chair sounds like the plot of a B-grade horror movie–but item #7 has kind of a neat backstory:

7) The Dybbuk Box

In Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is an evil spirit. Supposedly, a Holocaust survivor accidentally summoned the demon while using a homemade Ouija board, but managed to trap it inside the wine cabinet. Kevin Mannis bought the box at an estate sale in 2001, and immediately started having nightmares about an evil hag — as did friends who stayed with him. Mannis gave the box to his mother, who suffered a stroke on the same day. The box’s later owners have also claimed the dybbuk has appeared in their nightmares as well. The last owner was Jason Haxton, Director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, who not only had nightmares but developed a strange skin disease and began coughing up blood. At that point, Haxton contacted his local Rabbis, sealed the Dybbuk back in the box, and then hid it from the world. Thanks, dude!

The original box has its own Wikipedia entry which goes into a little more detail about the legend and the box’s contents: 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. (The legend also inspired The Possession, a horror film produced by Sam Raimi.)

You could get endlessly creative with both the container and its contents: The “real” wine cabinet, pictured above, is just a cheap wooden thing and pretty much any box of your choice would be a fine substitute. A lidded clay jar, a corked bottle, or an interesting jewelery box would be other good choices; I don’t think dybbukim are constrained by any particular physical dimensions so you could make the “prison” whatever size suits you. The contents could be any thrift-store stuff that seems creepy: Rusty keys, an old rag doll, a piece of parchment containing lines from the Kabbalah, and so forth. Display everything along with a little sign describing an appropriate provenance and legend for your “cursed artifact,” and you’ve got a great, creepy prop.

Spirit TrapIn a similar vein, I ran across this “spirit trap,” described thusly:

Shaman spirit trap in hard wood (made up of two halves), Burmese in origin. Probably early nineteenth century. Bound loosely with recent leather thong. Overall size 14 cms. Used by Burmese shamans or medicine men to capture and transport supernatural entities.

Let me just say that I am vastly taken with the idea of a handy container for transporting supernatural entities. It’s like Tupperware for ghosts.

Anyway, like the dybbuk box, the story is the important bit: The “spirit trap” could be just about any portable container you want, although something decorated with mystical symbols would be cool. A belt containing several traps would be a neat part of a demon-hunter costume, or would look great displayed as an inherited artifact from an adventurous ancestor.

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