Monster Monday: Dybbuk

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Dybbuk.

Dybbuk by Ephraim Moses Lilien
Dybbuk by Ephraim Moses Lilien

A dybbuk is a creature from Jewish folklore. It is the malicious spirit of a deceased person who possesses the body of a living person in order to complete some task. Supposedly it will leave the possessed body after it has accomplished its goal.

Early stories about dybbuk possession seem to be focused on instilling morality, suggesting that a person opens himself up to dybbuk possession by failing to observe the religious laws or lapsing in faith. It is said that a person possessed by a dybbuk can be identified if they talk about things they could not possibly know but a spirit would have knowledge of. In addition to voluntarily leaving the body it has possessed once completing its task, a dybbuk can be exorcised by a rabbi.

A recent story from the Internet involves what was called a “Dybbuk Box,” a wine cabinet that was offered for sale on eBay. Supposedly the wine cabinet was owned by a Holocaust survivor. Owners of the cabinet reported having similar nightmares and suffering from health issues such as skin lesions and coughing up blood. According to the story, a rabbi sealed the dybbuk in the cabinet, and now it is stored in an undisclosed location.

The word dybbuk comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to cleave” or “to cling,” as in the spirit clinging to the person it has possessed.

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