The Possession

As Fox Mulder’s poster proclaimed, “The tooth is out there” applies here, or is that the leap-off for the sequel? It’s scary and real. I know two people with similar experiences with spirits contained in non-living objects.

I left the screening and asked my husband, “Do you think it would be dangerous to talk about “Alfred?”

I know that there are objects that house spirits. THE POSSESSION is based on the true story of a wine container sold several times on ebay that has a dibbuk – a Jewish evil spirit – inside of it. The ebay seller documented the tales associated with the box and people bid on it. It has been offered a few times by various sellers and now resides with Jason Haxton, Director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri. Haxton, who is still the box’s current owner, allegedly offered to give the box to producer Sam Raimi and his team, but they turned him down. “They were too afraid of having the actual box,” Haxton said. “Nobody wanted to house it.”

Photo: The Dibbuk Box.

Stan Wertlieb, one of the film’s producers, confirmed Haxton’s statement: “At our first Dibbuk Box production meeting, Sam Raimi said it would be best to have the actual box in our possession while we worked on the movie. The question was raised about who would be the caretaker for the box while it was here. In a room of ten, nobody would volunteer, each using a different excuse to avoid exposure to the box’s curse.”

Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), a college basketball coach, was so obsessed with his career his wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) divorced him three months ago after a long separation. Stephanie has taken up with a handsome dentist Brett (Grant Snow), who has practically become a member of the household with includes 10-year old Em (Natasha Calis) and teenager Hannah (Madison Davenport). Stephanie seems to really like Brett and he is very present in her and the girl’s lives.

Clyde mopes around. He’s a good guy who didn’t give Stephanie enough attention though now he looks at Stephanie like a lovesick puppy.

While not wholly accepting the divorce, Clyde finally moves into a house in a brand new under-construction development. Clyde and the girls stop at an old lady’s garage sale and Em is drawn to an ornate box – The Dibbuk Box!

Only Em is capable of opening the box and the dibbuk has found its new host. Em starts changing. As the dibbuk takes over more and more of Em, people around her start having terrible accidents. One of her teachers is mercilessly killed.

When Em really goes off and starts producing paranormal phenomena, Stephanie decides to take her to a clinical center for a thorough evaluation. The dibbuk does not want to go and confronts goodhearted Brett. He asks about the box and demands Em show him what she has in her hand. It’s a weird looking tooth. He gets all his teeth knocked out and crawls away in a hysterical mess. Stephanie doesn’t even ask, or care what happened to him.

But when Em/dibbuk attacks her, Stephanie knows something is very, very wrong. Clyde visits a Jewish professor and shows him the box. Now he knows that an evil spirit has taken possession of Em.

Clyde does online research and goes to Brooklyn to find an orthodox rabbi for help. When a group of aged rabbis see the box they are terrified and say, “Let’s leave it up to God.” Young Tzadok (Matisyahu), son of one of the rabbis, agrees to perform the ceremonies that will return the dibbuk back in the box. What he needs is the dibbik’s name.

A good friend, a now-retired CIA operative, was stationed and living in the Congo in the 1970’s and came across a man selling a skull he said came from a cannibal tribe that used it for its black rites ceremony. My friend describes it thusly: red ochre in color; no lower jaw; for a neck it had a stick covered in bobcat skin; the skull had a Mohawk down the center of it head of the same animal skin; on the right side of the cranium it has a small hole of a spear; some teeth remain. The man wanted thousands of dollars but no one would even look at it no less buy it. In 1974, my friend brought it and put it in his huge villa. Both the houseboy and my friend felt an evil presence in the house. My friend wrapped up “Alfred”, his nickname for the skull, in a towel and placed it in a chemical box surrounded by sawdust where it remains today hidden in a closet in Las Vegas.

Perhaps my beliefs taint my opinion, but I was really scared. Danish director Ole Bornedal builds a lot of suspense and the scenes of possession and the dibbuk are terrifying. I was left with complaining about two things ignored by the screenwriters, Julilet Snowden and Stiles White. The tooth and the dibbik’s ring was never placed back in the box and, after showing how Stephanie had “moved on” and was in love with Brett, why didn’t she care about what the dibbuk did to him? Pretty insensitive even if she didn’t put the dibbik’s ring on her finger.

Second account: Another good friend and a fellow ayahuasca adept is one of the most authoritative dealers in rare singing bowls. Last year he told me about a bowl that had been given a name by its original owner. It had a very dark history. The highly unique, ornate shaped tgadibatu had unusual etchings and was purchased by my friend at a “Sacred Sounds” retreat.

My friend had heard various stories of spirits coming from singing bowls or being summoned by the sound of the bowl before but had never came across one until then.

He was told the bowl’s provenance. After an importer of antiquities brought the bowl to the U.S., she and her husband started having horrible nightmares. The wife phoned a high Rinpoche Lama in New York City. The Lama told her that there was something very old in her house that was causing the nightmares, and that whoever possesses this object will have extremely good luck or suffer extremely bad luck. The Rinpoche advised the woman to get rid of the bowl. She sold it to Mitch Nur who sold it to my friend.

My friend placed the bowl in his Bowl Room. Soon his son was having strange experiences and saw a tall dark hooded figure standing at the foot of his bed. He was terrified and started praying. My friend performed several rituals but also started experiencing strange phenomena around his house.

My friend didn’t have courage to play the bowl but put it away in a closet. That’s when the bad luck started. Soon after he woke up and found that he could not get up out of bed. Every bone, muscle in his body was in horrible pain, and he was experiencing extreme fatigue. This was the beginning of a year-long battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and lymes disease. After a protracted convalesce my friend got better and mustered up some courage go into the room, turn off the lights and play the bowl quietly in the dark. The spirit came and subsequently was often visible as a smokey, foggy, aberration. He felt its presence pass through him. It refused to give up its name.

Photo: The said singing bowl.

Eventually my friend told the story of this interesting bowl to one of his most sophisticated clients who urged him to sell it to her. Through her work with the bowl, she has appeased the monk spirit and placed it in the environment he told her he prefers.

Victoria Alexander is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association: and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society: Victoria’s weekly column, “The Devil’s Hammer,” is posted every Monday.

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