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Why Watching a Horror Movie Is Good For Your Health

Walking down a dark hallway
Photography by Charles DeLuvio

You’re finally home from a long day at work and now darkness sets in under a moonless, gloomy sky–having never been a fan of the dark, you lock the door behind you and kick off your shoes. There’s a split second where you feel your heart race at the thought of being caught off guard, the momentary flash of what-if.

You settle in for the night–maybe you just threw a microwave meal in to satisfy the need for food while also placating your exhaustion. You don’t want to go to bed yet, so maybe a movie? You flip through the channels and suddenly you find yourself at the entrancingly morbid opening credits of your favorite scary movie. Just as you begin to smile to yourself, the microwave beeps loudly from the kitchen and you jump in your seat–no you didn’t you’re not a fraidy cat.

Now you find yourself at the beginning of a marathon binge of a horror movie franchise and you don’t realize until two in the morning that you’ve got to be to work in a handful of hours and that you’ve made yet another pleasurably terrible decision. Good job on handling that adulting business that people always talk about.

Watching Horror Movies Has Benefits?

While it’s clear that many people are simply not interested in horror movies or the genre in general—it’s okay, not everyone enjoys the scary stuff—there have actually been studies done that lead us to believe that watching horror movies can actually be beneficial for our health! Sounds kind of silly, right? Seriously though, if you don’t believe us, keep reading—you might finally have an excuse to drag your friends into your next horror movie marathon once you’ve armed yourself with these awesome tidbits.

Anxiety? What anxiety?

Anxiety is an abnormal stressor that no one has time for, not to mention who wants to deal with that? When you voluntarily watch a horror movie, there is a latent feeling of safety that looms in the back of our minds—so when that scary music starts playing in the background and your brain begins to anticipate the danger that is coming for the protagonist on-screen, our fight or flight response is triggered.

When this response is triggered from suspenseful scenes in your favorite genre and has that subsequent release of adrenaline, glucose, and cortisol in our bodies it significantly combats the anxiety response. Anxiety, as anyone who suffers from it, will understand, is a huge roadblock when it comes to being able to accomplish anything—the fight or flight response counteracts that overwhelming obstacle in a huge way. In fact, some people use horror movies to treat minor instances of anxiety and depression—because adrenaline makes way for serotonin which is the body’s natural happy drug. Dr. Mathias Clasen, a professor of literature and media speculates horror movies educate people on how to deal with stressful or dangerous situations.

Liberate Yourself

Dark Misty Forest
Photography by Jakub Kriz

Speaking of abnormal stressors—stress is just plain unhealthy and those who enjoy watching horror movies, you’re in luck! When it comes to stress simply pick a horror movie, the creepier the better and let that stress bubble burst. This all goes hand-in-hand with the beautifully purifying catharsis that many people feel while watching scary movies.

Have you ever had someone cut you off in traffic and for a moment you feel such an intense surge of anger that you wanted to beat the tar out of them? Well—watching movies where these kinds of events are acted out on screen can actually have a cleansing effect. Since you would never act on these feelings yourself, due to your own moral and ethical objections to violence it’s only fair to be able to sympathize with Jason as he’s cutting down teens on Camp Crystal Lake.

Feel the burn—or, maybe not…

Thinking of putting off a visit to the gym tonight? Well, you can burn nearly two hundred calories sitting on your couch watching a horror movie. That’s not to say that you should substitute this in place of healthy exercise, but if you skipped out on your nightly walk to settle in and watch a horror flick you’re probably breaking even. Some of the most famous horror movies like The Shining, Jaws, and Alien were used in a study to determine the body’s reaction to stimuli presented in frightening movies—the result? Suffice it to say you can burn between 152 to 184 calories by popping in one of these movies, so while you might not feel the burn like you might with a short strenuous walk, it works just as well!

Enhance Brain Activity

Walking Down a Dark Street
Photography by Elti Meshau

The neurotransmitters that are released while watching a horror movie increase brain activity—as has been noted above—with the adrenaline rush that horror movies have been found to give us, the lasting effect is actually heightened alertness.

Learn What NOT to Do!

According to the Psychology department at the University of Wisconsin people, women, in particular, can actually experience an increase in maturity and street smarts. Even though horror movies are often over the top in their depictions of violence, they mentally prepare people who find themselves in precarious situations. Walking down a dark alley late at night? Anyone who’s versed in suspenseful cinema knows to be alert for someone jumping out at them from the shadows—we’ve learned from movies to not repeat the mistakes of the disposable characters. Don’t trust strangers, don’t divulge personal information, don’t pick up hitchhikers, be vigilant when you’re alone.

Boost Your Immune System

Horror movies—especially the intensely frightening ones—signal our brains to release adrenaline which is actually a booster for our immune system. Just in time for cold season and with the widespread panic of the coronavirus, this booster comes in the form of an increase in white blood cells. Both men and women could use an increase of white blood cells—since these are the cells that fight off infections—to decrease the probability of getting sick or the length of time and seriousness of a viral or bacterial infection.

Desensitize Yourself

While it wouldn’t be ideal to be desensitized to everything in life—moral abhorrence is typically what keeps people from being apathetic to the problems of others—there are a lot of people out there that deal with phobias on a daily basis. Therapists that work with these people often suggest watching horror movies as a means to overcome the irrational fears that these people suffer from. So, this counts as yet another health benefit that comes along with movies that are meant to scare the pants off of people—after all, who can’t get comfortable in a controlled environment with a fictional movie that is meant to test your resolve (yeah, we know, there are still some people who can’t muster the courage to undergo this sort of confrontation).

A Boon for Relationships

Lastly, no one can claim that horror movies don’t bring people together—sometimes even literally, grasping each other tightly with a shriek. The trick used to be a guy would ask a lady out on a date, usually a movie, then pick a scary movie so the lady might be inclined to scoot closer or let him put his arm around her. Horror movies are an experience for everyone involved, and there’s often at least one person in the group that gets worked up over the scariest scenes. Having a hand to hold, or strength in numbers revives the notion that our survival often depends on other people.

The Takeaway

If you’re not keen on watching scary movies, never fret—there are ways to alleviate the burden of your own fears. Watch them with friends or family, be ready with your phone to remind you that you’re not alone, hide behind some munchies and blankets, keep the lights on, read the synopsis of the movie to familiarize yourself with the plot prior to watching, and finally—if you really just aren’t comfortable while watching, you can always turn it off and live to be afraid another day! Keep in mind that all of the benefits discussed here are the results of studies done on willing participants—forcing yourself or others to watch scary movies is never advised, especially since you can only reap the benefits of watching them if you’re doing so willingly!

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Lifestyle

Why You Should Never Buy a Dybbuk Box on eBay

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This Dybbuk box was for sale on Etsy.

For hardcore paranormal believers, the subject of haunted objects holds a lot of fascination.  Is it possible for a demonic spirit to be encapsulated in an inanimate object? And if so, what happens if you become the owner, and you open it?

We did a little research in January to see how many Dybbuk boxes were actually for sale on eBay.  At the time of writing, there were 367 Dybbuk boxes for sale on eBay, and each of them came with a ‘caveat emptor’ or buyer-beware warning like: “dangerous apparition attached” and “do not open”.

We’ve all heard about people who experience disruptive and even life-threatening encounters with the paranormal by accident; they move into a house, use spiritual messaging like a ouija board or tarot cards, or visit a haunted location and something ‘hitches a ride’ back home with them.  But would you ever willingly purchase a haunted object and bring it into your house?  Let us know in the comments below. 

What is the Judaic History and Culture Surrounding Dybbuk Boxes?

Dybbuk boxes were used in the Hebrew faith for thousands of years, but they were not something that was talked about publicly.  Imagine a situation where a family or home was infected with a benevolent entity; the Rabbi would come to your home, study it and then determine the intervention which would seal the demon in the box. 

However, in the Jewish faith, these Dybbuk boxes were never intended to be passed on to another individual. In fact, if your family had a Dybbuk box, it was like having an entity that had attached itself to your household; a curse that could last generations.  And so, the Dybbuk box and the existence of them were a secret among devote Hebrew families; they hid the box, and they protected it from being opened or damaged.  

The Jewish faith actually downplays demonology, but there are many examples within the historical religious texts that provide instructions on dealing with demonic manifestations.  Demons in Hebrew text are called Sheydim.  The first Sheydim of course, was Lilith. 

In Jewish mythology, a Dybbuk is actually a malicious spirit that is believed to not be demonic, but the disenfranchised soul of a dead person. Dybbuks can possess people to accomplish a goal, such as revenge or in the act of bringing someone to justice for a horrific crime.  This is another reason why the Dybbuk boxes were not always feared in the Hebrew faith, but respected.  

From that perspective, the box represented insulation of the spirit from influence (or preventing it from possessing someone).  But the Dybbuk itself may be a close family member also who passed on; the perspective of the box and entity is much different in the Hebrew faith.  And very different from the horror movies and occult accounts that proliferate the web today, about haunted boxes and Dybbuk demons. The rough translation of the word “Dybbuk” in Hebrew means “to cling”. 

If you are interested in learning more about Judaic demonology and mythology, check out the podcast “Throwing Sheyd” by Miriam Brosseau and Alan Jay Sufrin. 

Are Dybbuk Boxes Truly Sealed?

So, assuming you believe that a benevolent entity is trapped inside a Dybbuk box, how exactly do you prevent the spirit or demon from escaping the box?  We can imagine that the idea of having a Dybbuk box as part of your paranormal collection of lore may be appealing, but probably less so if you think there is a possibility that it can get out, and start causing real problems for you. 

One thing you will notice about Dybbuk boxes for sale (and historical write-ups about them) is that they are always sealed with wax.  But not just any kind of wax.  The ritual for sealing a Dybbuk box involves a Rabbi or a Priest and incantations, followed by the sealing of all possible exits for the entity from the box by white wax.

White candles are known in lore and ancient religions for having a cleansing and purification power, that repels negative energy and provides protection.   All colors on the spectrum are derived from pure white light, which has the power of consecration.  White reflects no light and has virtually no ability to absorb energy (white candles conduct less heat than other colors of wax).  Therefore (if you believe the lore) the white wax acts as an impermeable barrier preventing the entity or spirit from leaving the box. 

Now you know why so many Churches worldwide use white candles in temples and places of worship.  For more than 2,000 years, white candles have been used in all faiths to repel evil, and prevent demonic influence from harming people. 

Can a Dybbuk Box Influence You If It Is Not Opened?

There are many fascinating stories about people who have purchased or inherited what they believe to be an authentic haunted Dybbuk box.  Again, is not the box that is the problem; it is what was sealed inside of it. 

The internet is full of spooky stories about people who purchased a Dybbuk box, only to have it arrive at their home with a crack in the box (due to damage in transit).  Those individuals share some spectacularly creepy paranormal experiences, that were so disturbing, they either resealed the box and sold it to someone else or they buried it far away from their home, to protect themselves (and others) from the benevolent influence inside the box. 

Some signs that people have reported around Dybbuk boxes (which may indicate authenticity and an evil or unquiet spirit inside) are:

  • The smell of cat urine, rotting eggs, or sulfur. 
  • Nightmares of demons, the box or the box breaking open. 
  • Unexplained scratches, burns or welts on the body of the owner or anyone who touches the box. 
  • Unusual bad luck, feeling emotionally drained, or unusual feelings of anger toward those in close relationships with you. 

The most internet-famous case to date is the story of the Dybbuk box that was owned by a man named Kevin Mannis, in 2001.  Mannis purchased the wine cabinet from an estate sale of a woman who was originally from Poland.  The granddaughter of the deceased woman insisted that Kevin keep the box (but never open it), even after Mannis tried to give the box back to her, as it had been in her family for generations. 

While Kevin Mannis owned the Dybbuk box, he stored it briefly in his restoration shop. He received a call from his employee that someone had broken into the basement and was ‘smashing up the place”.  When Mannis arrived, he went into the basement (where the box was stored) and found the lights broken and shattered, and a thick scent of cat urine.  His employee left after the examination of the basement and never returned. 

Kevin wanted to refurbish the wine cabinet as an antique and give it to his mother. After he cleaned it up, his Mom arrived at his shop to go out to lunch, and he gave her the box as a gift.  After she returned home, a family friend called him to say that his mother was found in a chair with an expressionless face, crying but otherwise unresponsive.  At the hospital, she was unable to speak, but they gave her a spelling board to point out letters so she could communicate. 

She typed out two sentences: “no gift” and “hate gift”.  Mannis gave the box to his sister (who was curious about it too) and after a week she returned it to him claiming that her home smelled like jasmine flowers and cat urine.  He gave the box to his girlfriend to sell for him (as he was afraid to touch it again) and the middle-aged couple who purchased it, left it on his front door with a note saying “this has bad darkness”.  

He returned to his mother and found her sitting in a chair, expressionless, crying, and totally unresponsive. She was rushed to the hospital, and it turned out she had had a stroke and lost her ability to speak for a time. During this time, she could only speak using a spell board on which she would point to letters to spell out words. When he asked her how she was doing, she spelled out, “No gift.” When he said he’d given her a gift, she emphasized, “Hate gift.”

He then gave the box to his sister. She kept it for a week and gave it back. He gave it to his brother and his brother’s wife, who kept it for three days and returned it. The brother said it smelled like jasmine flowers, and his wife said it smelled of cat urine.

Kevin gave it to his girlfriend, who soon asked him to sell it for her. He sold it to a middle-aged couple and three days later found the box sitting in front of his shop with a note saying, “This has a bad darkness.”

While Kevin Mannis owned the box, he reported being tormented by a malevolent spirit:

“I find myself walking with a friend, usually someone I know well and trust at some point in the dream, I find myself looking into the eyes of the person that I am with. It is then that I realize that there is something different, something evil looking back at me. At that point in my dream, the person I am with changes into what can only be described as the most gruesome, demonic-looking Hag that I have ever seen. This Hag proceeds then, to beat the living tar out of me.” — Kevin Mannis

The Kevin Mannis Dybbuk box has changed hands and currently belongs in the private collection of haunted objects and paranormal expert, Zak Bragans from the television series “Ghost Adventures”. 

Do you think Dybbuk boxes are real, or a hoax? Have you ever been in a room with one and had a paranormal event that you can’t explain?  Share your story with us, and leave us a comment about your haunted object experience.