The cardboard box was about three feet long by four feet wide and sealed in at least three layers of packing tape. It was too big to take onto the subway, so I called a car. The driver helped me load the box into the trunk, and on the hour-long ride home we made conversation about the MTA and rent in New York City. It was all very pleasant and normal, but every pause made me nervous. I wanted to tell him there were six cursed objects in the vehicle.

eBay has a range of cursed, haunted, or just downright spooky objects for sale, and as part of my job at Topic, I purchased a range of items to photograph that had been labeled “haunted.” Using that label has turned out to be a weirdly successful way to sell old dolls, or shoes, or mirrors, or a “spirit bra.” The company forces sellers to label their haunted goods as “entertainment,” lest someone actually feel ripped off by the lack of awful occurrences that follow the purchasing of a clown mask.

What is the appeal of owning cursed items? If history has taught us anything, it’s that the legend of a haunted thing is good for business. It’s been good for the cursed Hope Diamond, which is said to bring death and heartache to whoever possesses it (“I like to pretend the thing brings good luck,” an American buyer of the diamond once stated). It was good for an otherwise-unremarkable 1972 painting called The Hands Resist Him, which sold for more than $1,000 after someone claimed to see the painted figures move. It has certainly been good for fictional stories about the curse of the Pharaohs—the idea that people who upset ancient Egyptian tombs will face deadly consequences—the Mummy franchise is now on its two dozenth film since 1932.

The box is still sitting in my house, its contents spilling out. So far, nothing good has happened (it is 2018, after all), but nothing catastrophic has happened either. I did take the haunted teacup to upstate New York, then dreamed my room was inhabited by a Slimer-style ghost. The best outcome, of course, would be if I ignored all the warnings given in the listings quoted below and passed on these goods to the next curse-curious eBay buyer. Our fascination with the spirit world seems to know no price.


HAUNTED CHILD SPIRIT DOLL

From listing: “We moved into our 1920s house a couple of years ago. A while ago I stumbled upon an old trunk in our basement that had been converted into a toy box. Since then, the following has happened:

—My sons’ toys go off randomly without anyone there to touch them. —My eldest son has nightmares every night and has woken up thinking he has heard someone walking around in his room. —My front door has swung wide open with no one there. —I have heard laughing and someone coughing when I’ve been home alone. —My five year old son is now afraid to sleep in his room alone and must have a light on. —He also talks about an old man and his mother that live in our basement. —You can hear what sounds like footsteps sometimes coming from the above attic. —Our remote and toy batteries drain down unusually fast. I am not responsible for anything that may or my not happen when in possession of this doll.”

Winning bid: $57.50


HAUNTED ANTIQUE CHINA” (three pieces)

From listing: “All three pieces were found wrapped in a wad of old newspaper under the porch of a house dating from about 1910. The bundle was buried under a thin layer of dirt and damp, decayed leaves that must have blown under the porch for decades. The homeowner set the china on a window sill and promptly forgot about them.

One afternoon an elderly neighbor was passing by and she noticed the pieces of china on the window sill. She seemed suddenly disturbed by their presence and asked where he got them. After some questioning she admitted they looked very similar in pattern to a set once owned by another neighbor, Mrs. Dylan, whose husband beat her. One day, he turned up dead. Mrs. Dylan, became reclusive and then suddenly moved away with no notice to her former friends. The homeowner thought no more of it until the next morning when he found the creamer and 2 cups on his kitchen table and could not remember bringing them in the house. He quickly put all 3 pieces in a shoebox, he put the box on the porch, and he made a phone call to a friend who had an interest in the paranormal. After relating the story and getting some suggestions, the box was picked up and delivered to us.

I can personally attest that in the time I have wiped them off and taken photos, there were no less than 3 dips in electrical power that caused the lights to dim briefly.”

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Winning bid: $45


HAUNTED WATCH (stuck at 11:29 p.m.)

From listing: “The person I received this watch from informed me that Julie owned this watch when she was 24 years old. She set the watch on her nightstand before she set off to jog and she never retuned home. Sadly she was abducted and killed by a crazy person around 11:29 pm, the same time the watched stopped working on her nightstand. I took this watch to my medium friend and she confirmed that Julie revisits this watch time to time. That would explain the unexpected temperature drop I get sometimes when I hold this watch. I felt goosebumps in 80 degree weather.

Watch is not working. Watch is used.

Please read this disclaimer before you buy this item. I cannot guarantee the same experience I had and I’m not responsible for the experiences you have with this item. This disclaimer is for my protection as well as the Buyer’s Protection. eBay prohibits the sale of intangible items. it’s also their policy for me to State this disclaimer. I am selling this item as is nothing intangible, just a watch.”

Winning bid: $17.50


HAUNTED DYBBUK BOX

From listing: “If you’re not experienced in the paranormal, then look to buy elsewhere. I am not looking to sell to people who have no business getting involved in something they know nothing about. Not trying to sound harsh, just a warning.

Here is another dybbuk box which I bought from an elderly man in South Carolina. I have been keeping these in the crawl space of my house, mostly because that’s just how large my collection has grown. Many of these have burns on them and some of them seem to have something inside. But as I have always stated, I never ever open them.

Since keeping them in the crawl space, I have heard what sounds like something moving quickly under my house. I hear it at 3 am on the dot every other night, like clockwork. Also when I check on them there is a cool heavy air surrounding them, even in July. My dog often growls at crawlspace when she passes. And less often, but still odd, I hear a knocking and children’s whispers coming from down there, which is alarming.

Buy at your own risk and again DO NOT OPEN THE BOX! I cannot stress this enough. I am not responsible for its misuse.”

Winning bid: $39.99


HAUNTED VINTAGE TEDDY BEAR

From listing: “My grandmother went to a antique store in San Diego when she was a teen and saw this creepy looking old Teddy Bear. She told me when she took ‘Joey’ home, she started to have nightmares. Joey would be sitting on her desk in one direction, but when she woke up, he would be looking a different way. Sometimes when she would leave her room, she would come back to one of his arms up in the air. She never mentioned this to her mother or father thinking they would give or throw her bear away. For some reason, she never wanted to give Joey up.

For my grandma’s 90th birthday, she wanted me to take some of her items, including Joey. After I put him in my room, I started having bad nightmares. I would get up and feel like someone or something was looking at me. Joey’s head would move from one direction to another along with his arms. My kids started crying and begging me to get rid of Joey. I put Joey in our garage, and stuff would be moved around or fall. I can no longer have Joey in my house or anywhere near my kids. He’s looking for a new home, so hopefully it’s yours.”

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Winning bid: $179.99


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HAUNTED SHELF AND MIRROR” (with candleholder)

From listing:Purchased at an Estate sale in Kanab, Utah. I’m not sure as to how haunted, and I’m skeptical. However my wife is a believer and apparently it freaks her out. She won’t let me keep it in the house, let alone hang it up.

Winning bid: $49.95


HAUNTED ANTIQUE EYEGLASSESExtremely Grey Extremely Top Top Top Yourturn Grey Yourturn Yourturn Extremely Grey (with case)

From listing: “Very old eyeglasses with case from cursed/haunted house in Suffolk, Virginia. Eyeglasses are the pince nez type that sit on the nose and have a thin cord strap. These things have EMP [electromagnetic pulse] readings and have a bad feel about them, possibly cursed or haunted. Selling for entertainment purposes only.”

Winning bid: $25.66


HAUNTED PATENT LEATHER DRESS SHOES

From listing: “I found these shoes at a local thrift store. When I got home, I noticed that the wooden stays had been engraved with a name, so I looked it up on the internet. The first entry that came up was the gentleman’s obituary. I scrolled down a little and found some articles about his life, and then an entry where he had been reported missing. His body was found about a month later.

As soon as I finished reading the last article, my computer shut itself down. Okay that’s a little weird I thought. That night as I was sleeping I was awoken by a huge crash in my kitchen—a huge blackboard on one of the kitchen walls had fallen down. The next day my son told me that all the electricity went out in his room for a few minutes, but the rest of the house was fine. I have two Blessed Mother statues and a Jesus statue on one of the dressers in my bedroom. Once, I happened to look up and the two Mary’s were turned around looking at Jesus. I definitely did not move them that way.

When I was getting ready to list the shoes, I decided I needed a drink before I started and went down to the refrigerator to get one. I opened the door and something that had been set on top of the refrigerator fell off but I caught it with my left hand before it hit me. It was never close to the edge before and I’m not very coordinated so it was a miracle in itself that I caught it.

If you buy the shoes and would like the articles that I found, let me know and I will mail them along with the shoes. If you want to wear the shoes, they are size 9.5 E.”

Winning bid: $125.08

Monologue

Greg Nicotero: In Search of a Scream

The special-effects expert and Walking Dead producer on his love of horror and his own near-afterlife experience.

The Wings Won’t Fall Off

To overcome her fear of flying, a writer spent weeks going to a class inside an airport. But could she ever get on a plane?

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Something Wraithlike This Way Comes

All over the world, a certain kind of ghost story gets told—one in which a woman comes back from the dead to haunt men.

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On the Other Side of Fear

Is is possible to take a pill and unlearn a phobia?

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My Bodyguard, My Self

These days, it seems like everyone has a security detail. We spent a day with three men in suits to find out how it feels to be safe.

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Mixtape

Fear Itself Mixtape

Four short films to make you break out in a cold sweat, with nary a drop of blood in sight. (Well, maybe a little blood.)

Phobias for the 21st Century

What does it say about us that the most modern fears are about our phones?

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The Magic Bullet

How a drug called Miltown ushered in an age of pill-popping for anxious Americans.

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A woman is beset by heart-pounding, stomach-churning panic attacks. But then an unlikely spirit animal helps her regain control.

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A doctor has come up with a way to knock out phobias and trauma overnight. But what if being afraid is a fundamental part of who we are?

I Looked into the Void, and the Void Looked Back

Everyday messages of existential dread. Please take one.

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About the Cover: Fear Itself

The artist behind Topic’s October 2018 cover art on how she remixed the trope of the female horror victim.

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Material & care

Outer fabric material: 100% cotton

Fabric: Jersey

Care instructions: Do not tumble dry, machine wash at 30°C, Machine wash on gentle cycle

Details

Neckline: Scoop neck

Pattern: Colour gradient

Article number: YO122OAFE-C11

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