Ghost-Hunting For Dummies
Book image
Explore Book Buy On Amazon
There are many accounts from paranormal sources of what some researchers have called possessed possessions, items to which ghosts and negative spirits become attached. Older, antique items seem to be especially prone to attachments like this and can include anything from books to mirrors, jewelry, decorative items, clothing, and much more. I became so fascinated with these kinds of items that I opened the Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, where visitors can view and experience hundreds of haunted objects.

In the following sections, I list some of the most famous haunted objects in history, including two that I have had personal experience with. One of them, the Dybbuk Box, is on display at the museum.

The Dybbuk Box

According to Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is a dark spirit that takes over the bodies of living people and uses them for evil. Legend has it that a dybbuk can be trapped inside of a box and prevented from causing mischief — unless the box is opened, that is.

Several years ago, the Dybbuk Box, shown in the following figure, came up for sale on eBay. The seller listed a vintage wine cabinet that came from the estate of a woman who survived a World War II concentration camp. The seller, an antique dealer named Kevin Mannis, claimed that the first owner’s granddaughter was terrified of the box, warning him that her grandmother said it held a dybbuk. After buying the cabinet, he was plagued by a series of unfortunate events and recurring nightmares of an old hag that would brutally attack him, causing him to wake up with bruises on his body. He also experienced an overpowering stench of cat urine in his home. Tragically, his mother suffered a stroke while opening the box. Not surprisingly, he decided to get rid of it.

Dybbuk box ©Courtesy of Zak Bagans, The Haunted Museum.

Dybbuk box.

The box eventually ended up in the hands of Missouri medical museum director Jason Haxton, who was skeptical about the powers attributed to the box. He soon changed his mind. After acquiring the box, he began to experience a series of medical maladies, including bleeding eyes and strange rashes. He also began to dream of being attacked by an old hag and would also awake with bruises on his body. Kevin Mannis told me that while the box was in Haxton’s basement, a man died there, and his body was found lying next to the box. He eventually became so unnerved by the box that he reached out to scientists and rabbis, who instructed him to build a wooden ark, lined with 24-carat gold, place the box inside, and bury it in the ground.

The box was opened during the time that it was owned by Jason Haxton. He retrieved it from its burial site for a special appearance on my television show, Deadly Possessions. I arranged to have the box placed in a containment room so that Kevin Mannis, the previous owner, could confront his fears about the box. When he opened it, he found the contents were intact. There was a dried rose, two coins from the 1920s, a small gold kiddish wine goblet, two locks of hair, an octopus-legged candlestick holder called a shabbat, and an engraving of the word “shalom,” which means “peace” in Hebrew.

When Kevin opened the box, the lights in the building started to flash, strange sounds were heard, and strangest of all, Kevin turned to face a wall, and he got a very weird expression on his face. His voice changed, and he started to recite a story about a shadow man. He then started speaking in tongues and making bizarre whistling sounds. He was sweating profusely and began to cough uncontrollably.

I purchased the Dybbuk Box from Jason Haxton and placed it on display at the Haunted Museum. Because of the sinister nature of the box, only visitors over the age of 18 who have signed a waiver are allowed to see it. During the time that it has been on display, there have been people who have fainted, become dizzy, and even sick. Visitors have also witnessed a shadowy cloaked figure that has been seen passing directly through the closed doors of the room where it is on display. One of my tour guides has had her face shoved into the case that holds the box by an unseen force.

In 2018, my friend, singer-songwriter Post Malone, visited the Haunted Museum. During his visit, we were together in the Dybbuk Box room, and both heard the unmistakable sound of a little girl’s voice. Moments later, something began to affect us. This sensation prompted me to remove the protective case from the box. Something was telling me to open the box. After a very tense moment between Post and myself, I touched the box. I began to panic and to scream, cry, and hyperventilate. Concerned, Post reached out and touched my shoulder. When he did, I felt something pass through my body. When we left the Museum, Post saw the dark shadow figure that so many people had encountered follow us out. The next day, he sent me a photo of a mysterious bruise that appeared on his arm. After his visit, he was involved in an emergency landing in his private jet, his car was involved in an accident, and armed robbers targeted a home in San Francisco that they believed to be his. I believe that a curse from the box affected him in a series of three events.

On Halloween 2018, Ghost Adventures aired a live special from The Haunted Museum, when I planned to open the Dybbuk Box myself. During the time that I had owned the box, I had been too cautious to open it because of events that had transpired with it in the past. I had planned to open the box on live television, but in the end, I did not. I am a very empathic person. After the many cases that I have been involved with, my body has become sort of a tuned instrument when it comes to the paranormal. I believe that the Dybbuk Box was aware that we were on live television that night. It had no interest in performing. It does things on its schedule, in its own time, not according to our clock. I felt as though the energy in that room started peaking. It was overwhelming. I could feel that something very bad would have happened if I had opened that box.

It was affecting many people in the room that night, and people watching it on television couldn’t understand the seriousness of what was happening. I did not want to sacrifice our safety and health just for the sake of entertainment. It was mostly influencing myself, Aaron, electronic engineer Gary Galka, and renowned psychic medium Chris Fleming. In addition, other things were happening with the production itself that I felt were trying to prevent the box from being opened. This became apparent when Gary Galka and Chris Fleming began receiving some very disturbing messages using different pieces of communication equipment. I believe the Dybbuk Box disturbed and disrupted everything that we were trying to do. And it worked. I made a very abrupt decision to end things with the box unopened.

A lot of people questioned my decision, but I know that I did the right thing. I know what the Dybbuk Box had done to me, I know what it has done to others, and I know what it has done to my friends. The coincidences of what they have gone through and the curse of it are too coincidental to ignore.

The box remains on display at The Haunted Museum, where it is regularly seen by the thousands of visitors who come to experience it every month. Approach it at your own risk.

I say that from experience. I have a bizarre connection to the Dybbuk Box. It will pull me into that room, and sometimes I talk to it in whispers and words that I don’t understand. Sometimes, I cannot even open the door to the room. At other times, I feel that I can control it. It is a very strange relationship that I have with the Dybbuk Box and at some point, perhaps I will be able to truly understand it.

The Devil’s Rocking Chair

In 2019, I purchased another macabre object for The Haunted Museum. Dubbed the Devil’s Rocking Chair, it is of unknown origin but was passed on to the Glatzel family in the early 1950s. It was simply a piece of household furniture until the summer of 1980 when it became the center of a tragedy that struck the family. The sinister relic became a part of one of America’s most notorious exorcisms, which involved two demonic possessions and an eventual murder. It is believed that the chair, quite literally, was cursed by the Devil.

The horror began in July 1980 when David Glatzel, 11, became possessed by a demon. One night, he woke up screaming, claiming that he had been visited by a “man with big black eyes, a thin face with animal features, jagged teeth, pointed ears, horns, and hooves.” David was, everyone agreed, not the kind of kid who liked scary movies or who was likely to make things up, and he was visibly shaken by this experience. He became withdrawn and quiet. His older sister, Debbie, asked her fiancée, Arne Johnson, if he would stay with her family for a while and see whether it would help David get out of his depression.

Arne, of course, agreed, but things didn’t get better. David reported more nightmares about the terrifying man, who promised to take his soul. Odd scratches and bruises began to appear on the boy, and all the injuries seemed to happen while he was asleep. Odd sounds, which Arne couldn’t explain, were heard in the attic. Worst of all, David began to claim that he was now seeing the Beast while he was awake. He was always seen sitting in the family’s rocking chair, which the Beast now claimed as his own. David (and later, Lorraine Warren) was the only one who saw the Beast in the chair, but family members often saw it rocking back and forth, seemingly under its own power.

The family first brought over a priest to bless the house. This didn’t help. In fact, it made things worse. The sounds in the attic got louder, David’s visions increased, and he began to hiss at his family and speak with multiple voices. He started to quote from Paradise Lost, a book that most 11-year-olds aren’t exactly familiar with. During the night, someone had to stay up and watch David, who woke every 30 minutes, sometimes having seizures.

Desperate for help, the Glatzels called Ed and Lorraine Warren, who began making regular visits to their home, bringing more priests with them, and performing exorcisms. Many of those exorcisms took place while David was seated in the rocking chair. The chair itself moved about the house on its own, mysterious disappearing and reappearing in different places. Most incredibly, it levitated on numerous occasions in full view of witnesses, including the Warrens, clergy members, and shocked family members. It happened once while David was sitting in it during an exorcism.

After a final exorcism, the demon left David. He soon began to show signs of improvement. However, his sister’s fiancée, Arne Johnson, was not so lucky. Apparently, the demon left David and entered him. He started making the same kind of growls and hisses that David had made, as well as slipping into trances for a period of months before killing his landlord, Alan Bono, with a five-inch pocket knife, stabbing the man over and over as Debbie watched. Bono died a few hours later in the hospital, and Johnson was picked up by the police two miles from the murder scene. Eight months later, Johnson appeared in court with a plan to enter a plea of not guilty, due to demonic possession.

For the first time in American legal history, demonic possession was used as a reason for murder. It didn’t work. Judge Robert Callahan refused to accept the plea since there was no evidence to show that Johnson was possessed. Johnson eventually went to prison for his crime. He was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter and received a 10- to 20-year sentence, although he only served 5. Arne and Debbie married after he was released.

For many years after the horrifying events of 1980, the rocking chair remained in storage. When the Glatzel family later moved, it went with them. However, over time, it became apparent that there was something very wrong with the chair. Whoever sat in the chair, whether innocently or because they knew its strange history, were suddenly stricken with incapacitating sciatica or abnormal back problems. Some were so bad that they required surgery. Once close family member was unable to walk upright more than ten years after testing the legend of the chair.

Today, the Devil’s Rocking Chair is at The Haunted Museum. There are stains on the original cushion from holy water and blessed oils that were part of the exorcisms conducted by Catholic priests and Ed Warren. An evil presence surrounds it, and even before it was on display, it was already causing problems in the building. Soon after it arrived, doors at the museum began shutting themselves and locking, light switches physically turned off, and it created a terrible tension between staff members in the area where the chair was stored. I also heard from the shipper who picked up the rocking chair from the Glatzel house, and he told me that he was plagued by terrible nightmares after coming into contact with it.

Like the other cursed items at The Haunted Museum, the Devil’s Rocking Chair will be safely displayed so that creates the least amount of havoc in the building. Even so, there remains the chance that the menacing aura that surrounds it will have an effect on those who are brave enough to visit it.

“The Hands Resist Him” painting of Bill Stoneham

No one could have known that a photograph that was taken of Bill Stoneham when he was 5 would go on to become one of the most famous cursed paintings in history.

At the time, Stoneham’s father was in advertising and did a lot of traveling. His family was staying at his grandmother’s apartment in Chicago to save money. The place was so small that Bill had to sleep on a mat in a closet filled with coats and dresses. He regularly played with a little girl from the neighborhood, and one day, his parents had both kids pose in front of a glass door for a photo. They couldn’t have known that, two decades later, Stoneham would turn the ordinary photograph into a terrifying painting that has become the stuff of Internet legend.

In 1972, Bill’s first wife, Rhoann, wrote a poem called “Hands Resist Him.” It was about Bill’s experience of being adopted and never knowing his biological siblings. At the time, the couple lived in California, and Bill was under contract with art gallery owner Charles Feingarten to produce two paintings each month, for a fee of $200 each. With his next deadline approaching, he used his wife’s poem and the old photo of himself with the neighbor girl as inspiration.

Stoneham called the painting “The Hands Resist Him,” and he turned it over to Charles Feingarten for a large gallery show in 1974. At the show, the painting was purchased by actor John Marley, most famous for his role as the movie producer in The Godfather who wakes up with a severed horse’s head in his bed. The gallery show also led to the painting’s first press mention when it was reviewed by noted art critic Henry Seldis.

And then things got strange. Between 1978 and 1984, three of the men closest to the painting died: Seldis in 1978, Feingarten in 1981, and Marley in 1984.

The painting disappeared from public view after Marley’s death and it would be another 26 years before Bill Stoneham heard about his painting again. He would later find out that it had been abandoned behind a California brewery that was turned into an art space. In 2000, the painting resurfaced in a listing on eBay. The family selling it had a chilling story to tell.

Their kids claimed that the boy and the doll in the painting were fighting and coming into their room at night, so Dad set up a camera to show them they were just imagining things. There was nothing to be afraid of. Instead, he saw the boy crawl from the painting. He quickly put the painting up on eBay with a disclaimer.

These details proved to be a huge draw for buyers. The eBay listing was viewed more than 30,000 times. Some of these viewers even complained to the seller about experiencing supernatural occurrences after merely visiting the listing. They claimed to hear voices on in their homes. Others said that they became ill after viewing the painting. Another claimed to have blacked out.

By the time the painting was sold to gallery owner Kim Smith for $1,025, its legend had spread across the Internet. Today, the painting is in storage at Smith’s gallery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has been asked to see the painting only a handful of times over the years but still receives messages each week from people who are terrified by it.

I tried to purchase this painting for The Haunted Museum but was unable to make a deal with the current owner. However, I was unable to stop thinking about it, so I started doing some research and got in touch with the artist, Bill Stoneham. Oddly, when we spoke, Bill told me that he sensed a strange connection to me and that it was fate that I had called him. He eventually ended up painting for me the prequel to “The Hands Resist Him,” which he called “The Hands Invent Him.” It portrays the inside of the window from the original painting.

This was a surreal experience for me, and it ended up becoming even eerier. Bill did not want me to see the painting until it was completed and shipped to me. While the painting was in transit, several staff members of The Haunted Museum and I began hearing the sound of a child’s tricycle traveling the halls of the building. The sound was often accompanied by the ringing sound of a bicycle bell. Around this same time, a light bulb mysteriously exploded in the Oddities Room. It was located above an old coin-op machine that was on display. This particular machine had a long hose coming out of it with a hand on the end.

The Hands Invent Him. The Hands Invent Him.

Once the painting arrived, I realized that it depicted a long hose with a hand on the end of it, ringing the bell on a tricycle. I was in absolute shock over this. I had no logical way to explain the connection between the painting and the events that occurred at The Haunted Museum except to say that Bill Stoneham is a very mystical person. He creates tarot cards and is very much in touch with the other side. Somehow, our connection created a link between me and two different versions of the “Hands” paintings.

Robert the Doll

The life-sized straw doll had been a birthday present for Robert Eugene Otto — or Gene, as his family called — and the young boy loved it. It was given to him by his grandfather, who bought it while on a trip to Germany in 1904. Dressed in one of Gene’s sailor suits, the doll became his favorite toy. He took it everywhere and began calling it Robert after himself. Soon, things became a little strange.

The stories say that the Ottos and their servants would often hear Gene in his bedroom, having conversations with himself in two different voices. On many occasions, the family was awakened in the middle of the night by Gene’s screams, only to find the frightened boy in bed, surrounded by overturned furniture and scattered toys. Gene claimed that it was Robert who had messed up the room.

Robert the Doll. Robert the Doll.

When things moved about the house and when toys were broken or lost, Gene always stated that “Robert did it!” And while his parents didn’t quite believe the boy, they were unnerved by the strange events and bothered by stories told by the servants of hearing small footsteps and laughter in the house when it should have been empty. People who passed by the Otto house at 534 Eaton Street in Key West, Florida, even claimed to see the doll staring out the window at them. When Gene left home to study art, Robert was moved to the attic, where he remained for many years.

In 1930, Gene married Annette Parker in Paris, and after his parents passed away, he moved back to the Otto home in Key West. He retrieved Robert from the attic and returned him to his old turret room on the second floor, which he turned into his studio.

There are many tales in Key West about Annette’s disdain for the doll. Conflicting rumors are still told, some alleging that she died from insanity after locking Robert back in the attic, while others claimed that Gene died with Robert at his side. What we do know is that Gene passed away in 1974 and his wife died two years later.

Robert stayed with the house when it was sold to Myrtle Reuter, who owned it for the next two decades. Those who passed by the house always saw Robert looking out of the second-floor turret room window. Today, Gene’s former residence operates as a bed and breakfast called the Artist House, and visitors can even stay in the old turret room.

Robert the Doll isn’t there anymore, however. He now lives at the Fort East Martello Museum, safely locked away in a glass box that has been outfitted with alarms. Those who come to see him are warned to be careful. It is said that curses will befall those who take photographs of Robert without asking his permission first. While this seems hard to believe, the walls near his glass case are covered with letters from scores of visitors and nonbelievers, writing to beg for Robert’s forgiveness and asking him to remove the bad luck that he placed on him because of their carelessness.


The history of Annabelle remains a bit of a mystery, but we do know that it has long been one of the most famous items locked away in the occult museum of haunted and cursed objects that was owned by investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.

According to the Warrens, the Raggedy Ann doll was given to a nursing student named Donna by her mother in 1970. Within days, Donna and her roommate noticed that the doll appeared to change positions when no one was looking. When it began to show up in different rooms of the house, seemingly under its own power, they decided to get help. A psychic told them that the doll was possessed by the spirit of Annabelle Higgins, a little girl who had died under mysterious circumstances. The spirit apparently claimed that she only wanted to be loved. Feeling sorry for her, Donna and her roommate gave Annabelle permission to remain with the doll.

A short time later, though, the doll — or the spirit inside of it — attacked a friend of Donna’s, and they contacted a priest. The priest contacted the Warrens, who declared that Annabelle Higgins was not a spirit but a demonic entity posing as the little girl. The doll ended up with them, and it was locked away in their museum for safekeeping. Since then, she has been blamed for a number of fatal and near-fatal accidents involving those who doubt the spirit’s power.

Not long after opening the Haunted Museum, I invited Tony Spera, Annabelle’s current owner, to bring the doll to Las Vegas for a special episode of Ghost Adventures. I knew the stories. I was aware that Annabelle was said to be so evil that she was kept locked in a case and handled only with gloves and holy water for less than a minute at a time. It was said she was even responsible for harming people and even killing one visitor to the Warrens’ museum in Connecticut.

When Tony Spera agreed to let Annabelle out of her case and brought in the doll, we were all warned not to touch her. But as she was placed in the middle of the room, something drew me to her. I touched Annabelle. All the people watching the show saw me do it, as did Tony, who got angry and put her back in the case, warning me that I was in danger.

All that I can say to the people who criticized me for touching Annabelle is that while they may think they know what it’s like to be in these kinds of situations, they don’t. I absorb and sense energies around me at a very high level. Whether it’s from living people, residual energy, objects, or from spirits. I’ve been like this my entire life. I am not a psychic medium. I am a sensitive. It’s a rush, it’s draining, it’s exhilarating, and it’s terrifying all-in-one, depending on who or what I’m in contact with.

There are layers and layers of negative energy around Annabelle, and I was completely affected by everything that was happening. I became very sad for no reason at all. I truly believe that Annabelle was manipulating me, sending me into a trance. I didn’t want to touch her, but I felt compelled to do so. I simply did not have direct control of myself at that moment.

But, yes, I wish that I had not done it. Touching her led to many strange events, and it was a dangerous thing to do. If you ever decide to tempt fate and fool around with a cursed or haunted object, think again. The legends that surround many of them may seem far-fetched but, as many unlucky people can tell you, they got started for a reason.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Zak Bagans is the host, lead investigator, and an executive producer of Travel Channel's popular series Ghost Adventures. He travels to domestic and international locations rumored to be haunted in search of evidence proving the existence of the supernatural. He founded the world's largest paranormal organization, The Ghost Adventures Crew.

This article can be found in the category: