Is the Movie 'The Possession' Based on True Events?

The Possession

Lionsgate Films

The 2012 Lionsgate horror film The Possession was a box office success, grossing nearly $80 million at the worldwide box office on a low budget. As with other horror films, the studio promoted the movie as being "Based on a True Story." As many horror fans know, that phrase is used quite often in the marketing of horror films, and rarely do the events of the film genuinely reflect the events they are based on in a significant way.

In the film, Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars as a dad who begins to witness his young daughter acting strangely following the purchase of an antique wooden box with Hebrew markings on it at a yard sale. As the days go by, she becomes more obsessed with the box, and her behavior becomes increasingly erratic and alarming. So, is the story true? Should everyone be staying away from any antique boxes? Here's the scoop on the events that inspired The Possession.

Real or Fiction

The story of an antique wooden box that is claimed to be haunted does predate the film, and the stories surrounding the box inspired the film.

There is a much-publicized story of a box that has strange happenings associated with its possession. Los Angeles Times writer Leslie Gornstein's documented the tale in an article titled "Jinx in a Box." Published in July 2004, Gornstein's article chronicled bizarre events associated with a small antique wooden cabinet that had been placed up for sale on eBay. Tagged a "haunted Jewish wine cabinet box" by the seller, this mysterious item reportedly caused whoever owned it to have horrifying dreams, see shadowy apparitions, experience various health problems, and other strange phenomena as depicted in the film.

The box, according to Gornstein's report of the eBay description, contained "two locks of hair, one granite slab, one dried rosebud, one goblet, two wheat pennies, one candlestick and, allegedly, one 'dybbuk,' a kind of spirit popular in Yiddish folklore."The origins of the box are traced to 1938 and are said to have ties to the Holocaust. The box was brought to the United States by a Jewish woman after World War II, where she lived without ever opening the box until her death in September 2001 at the age of 103.

The box was sold at an estate sale in Oregon, eventually making its way to Missouri college student Iosif Nietzke who put it on eBay and sold it to Jason Haxton, a medical museum curator who collects religious paraphernalia. Fascination with the eBay description pushed the auction price of the box from a few dollars to $280 when bidding closed.

Haxton, in turn, began researching the source of the box and created a website ( where people could discuss and debate the mysterious 'haunted' antique. He traced its roots back to the Holocaust and in November 2011 published a book, The Dibbuk Box, with his findings. Haxton offered to send the dybbuk box to filmmaker Sam Raimi, who produced The Possession, though Raimi declined because he was frightened of the previous stories surrounding the box.

Even though the actual dybbuk box wasn't kept on set, strange events occurred during the shoot, including exploding lights. Also, after shooting wrapped all the film's props were destroyed in a warehouse fire. These incidents have only added to the mysterious legends surrounding the dybbuk box.


Most of the events depicted in the film involving Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his family are original ideas created by screenwriters Juliet Snowden and Stiles White. While they are inspired by the events depicted in the various legends surrounding this mysterious box, they do not depict an accurate retelling of the box's effect on a single family.

So, Lionsgate's 2012 film The Possession is inspired by the true story but takes many cinematic storytelling liberties with the actual events surrounding the small antique cabinet.