Earlier this week, the paranormal community was rocked with the revelation and confession from the original 'dybbuk' box owner that he made it all up as an interactive horror story.
You can read the full article here with a very long confession from Kevin Mannis: Finally the truth behind the haunted dybbuk box can be revealed
I personally was not surprised. It was a story that always had a lot of red flags for me in the beginning, and the more I researched into it, the more questions I had. Skeptical Writer Kenny Biddle uncovered what seemed to be an initial confession in 2015 as a reply to some comments posted on social media. This was the first real solid information that had been presented. Now that we have an actual confession, is this the end of the story? People will just move on right?
Let's put aside the fact that this was a pretty despicable act. It is fine if you want to release an interactive horror story, but the participants need to be made aware that they are a part of your experiments and that the information they are given is fictional. Neither of these things occurred. A LOT of money has been made off this story based on people believing it to be true. There have been television programs, interviews and even a movie based on the very concept from which Mannis benefitted from financially. It was then sold for a very large reported sum to sit in Zak Bagan's Haunted Museum as the keystone piece. Marketed as the most haunted object in the World, there is much fanfare around this item every year. Who can forget Post Malone touching the box and entertainment reporter TMZ reporting on it ruining his life? Videos surface from time to time of people fainting in the very presence of the box. Mannis even talks about how the footage was edited to look like he was possessed during the Halloween live investigation at the museum when he was around the box. The truth was, he got bored waiting around so started rehearsing lines for an upcoming project. Knowing what we know now, Zak would surely take it down from display admitting he too had been fooled by a con man, wouldn't he?
“I don’t believe this to be the full truth,” he writes in response to what Mannis told me about making the story up. He cites some of the things that have befallen Mannis in the past week, which Mannis has also shared with him.
“I think there is so much more to the Dybbuk Box and, regardless of its origins, it is very much cursed and evil,” Bagans continues. “I’m not surprised that more controversy and conflict keep arising from it. The Dybbuk Box has always raised questions and intrigue. And this adds to its narrative.”
What has been surprising is the response of people over the last few days to this confession. It is not necessarily one of anger which is what a lot of people are feeling. It is one of intrigue. Some people don't seem to care that the whole story behind it was made up. They are focused on the item itself and the fact that people have been feeding it with their own fears and beliefs and unknowingly in the process created a haunted item based on the very fraudulent story they were presented. Of course, this is a possibility, but what is being omitted by these conversations is the fact that the mythology that built this was all based on a calculated lie. Instead of being upset, they still continue to believe in the most haunted item in the World. Their belief seems to be more important than the truth. How the item became haunted doesn't seem to matter.
One response I received went onto say:
If you believe that items can become affected by energy, just as some haunted places have become "haunted" through ghost hunters visiting and expecting experiences, etc., so too could this box over 20 years.
I have omitted the name for privacy reasons. This is the type of response I have seen a lot of over the past few days. Of course, it is a possibility and a very valid comment. If haunted objects do exist, I would think this is as valid of an explanation as any and one I would likely present myself. But what I have found interesting scrolling through feeds and discussions is that instead of holding Mannis to account, people want to keep the Dybbuk box going. It is almost like the deception is put to the side to focus on the object itself. Now don't get me wrong, I think that this is something we should look into. We know how strong belief is and we know from things like the Philip experiment that we can create our own hauntings so this is a very plausible discussion. I do however feel like we are casting aside the deception and just focusing on the object. In some ways, it is like he just gets a free pass because people focus on the item itself. In a few weeks, a new story will be attached to the box and he and his confession will be forgotten about. The box will live on even though its very existence was created from a lie. It is in the grey area that deception will always thrive. It is an interesting look at belief and human nature, though in some ways it is not surprising. We only have to look at similar events from the past to see that people hold beliefs higher than anything else.
The spiritualist movement began thanks to the Fox Sisters. In 1848, 2 young girls Maggie and Kate who at 14 and 11 were at the able to demonstrate communication with spirits with what was described as rapping. You can read more about rapping here: https://llifs.com.au/blog/the-old-school-tricks-of-deception/
The spiritualist movement was born and so were theatre performances and eventually more people coming forward with similar abilities and beliefs. That was until 1888 when a confession was written in the newspaper. Maggie the oldest sister wanted to expose the truth.
My sister Katie and myself were very young children when this horrible deception began,” Maggie said. “At night when we went to bed, we used to tie an apple on a string and move the string up and down, causing the apple to bump on the floor, or we would drop the apple on the floor, making a strange noise every time it would rebound.” The sisters graduated from apple dropping to manipulating their knuckles, joints and toes to make rapping sounds. “A great many people when they hear the rapping imagine at once that the spirits are touching them,” she explained. “It is a very common delusion. Some very wealthy people came to see me some years ago when I lived in Forty-second Street and I did some rappings for them. I made the spirit rap on the chair and one of the ladies cried out: ‘I feel the spirit tapping me on the shoulder.’ Of course that was pure imagination.”
One year later, however, Maggie had a change of heart. She took back the confession and even went back to performing saying that her spirit guides had told her to do so. At the same time, she also performed under the alias Mrs Spencer where she exposed different tricks used with spiritualism. While it seemed she wanted to expose the fraud, she also needed the money.
While a lot of people felt this would kill the spiritualist movement, we know it did the opposite. While Maggie had exposed the family, others believed that Kate was a 'real medium' and it was just a bitter jealous sister wanting revenge. Even with the confession right in front of people, not everyone believed it, simply because they believed in spiritualism more.
While some may argue that there are mystical forces out there that make a person behave the way they do, I have a much simpler explanation. Sometimes the lure of fame or even just the desperation of needing money makes people do shady things. Where you are the Fox Sisters or Kevin Mannis, in between we have seen acts of deception on a range of scales. Then there are the ones that you don't hear about that is happening right under our noses. We all know of shady things others have done. While we may even publicly call them out or warn others about the deceit, there are still always going to be those who believe them and support them no matter what. Some develop cult-like followings where their belief overpowers any sort of rationality. The truth doesn't always seem to set us free. This is where it is up to us. In an unregulated industry, there are always going to people who try to take advantage of others on different scales. It is up to us to act with integrity and above all else be decent people that don't take advantage of others. While this seems like a pretty simple thing to do, we have a common enemy. It is called human nature. Deception has been occurring for centuries and the fact of the matter is that it is not going to stop now just because we want it to. I don't have the answer here but at the end of the day, we have to look past special abilities and haunted objects and look at the people behind them. While we want to understand the paranormal at a much deeper level and look at their experiences and stories, one of the explanations we have to consider is that there are some people out there who just make them up.
Here are some more articles I have written about deception through the ages in the paranormal field
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