Walking through an antique mall in North Carolina, Chynah Boise felt strangely drawn toward a case tucked away from the rest of the store. Behind its glass sat a set of gorgeous daguerreotypes, photographs of Victorian women.
Upon calling over an employee, the case was unlocked and she soon held the cool, fragile pieces of photography in her hands. She had found what she’d been searching for, but instead of the thrill of victory, she felt a cold certainty that they weren’t hers to keep.
“The longer I sat with it, the longer I was like… this doesn’t belong to me,” Boise haltingly said, her eyes wandering to meet those of a cartoonish ceramic ghost serving as the centerpiece on the table in front of her. “I think it was more reverence…I looked at it and I was like this isn’t mine; this isn’t mine to have…this experience does not belong to me, and I felt like I was opening myself up to something I didn’t need to be a part of.”
She then asked the employee to lock them back behind the glass.
Upon typing “haunted” into eBay’s search engine, a person will be greeted with over 150,000 results. The supposedly “haunted” listings that appear vary widely, ranging from haunted dolls to haunted paintings, and even the rare “Haunted Thomas the Train.”
Filtering to see listings in the “Auction” category, one will find that multiple people are already in a bidding war over “Haunted Doll Jason,” who is described as being a “Powerful Warlock.”
The seller “workingwitch” entices the bidders by stating that “he can give you your heart’s desires. He can cast his spells for you for success, wealth, love, happiness, anything you ask of him. He can also cast karma spells on your behalf on anyone who has ever hurt you or used you. He can cast a curse on them as well.”
But underneath all of the flourish lies a statement that remains consistent underneath every haunted listing on eBay: “eBay requires me to add their policy. They forbid the sale of intangible objects, (spirits, entities, luck, magic). Therefore, I am only selling this item as a Tangible Doll as is. There is no guarantee of paranormal activity happening as a result of purchasing this doll. Everything mentioned in this listing is for entertainment purposes only. No Returns.”
In spite of this, the current bid continues to climb on Jason the Haunted Doll. People are actively seeking out these supposedly haunted items.
“We’re all seeking connection,” explains Boise, a clinical mental health counselor. “We’re social beings. If we’re not getting those needs met in traditional ways, we’re going to seek them in different ways.”
Having created the Oaktree program at Rutland Mental Health, Boise has spent the better part of a decade providing clinical support for foster and kinship families, helping numerous children dealing with trauma. She views the world of the paranormal from a psychological standpoint, and on a personal level, stays reverently distant from it.
“My family comes from Irish gypsies,” Boise explains as her eyes again wander toward those of the ceramic candy dish.
“My mom’s side of the family, they do truly believe in things…so it was not something to play with. Which is, I think, kind of the appeal now,” she states, speaking not with disdain but with a sense of concern. “People are looking for these items and looking for the thrill, and I grew up with my mom saying under no circumstances are you to touch a Ouija board.”
Placing the planchette prominently in the center of the Ouija board, Steven Brodt stepped back to admire the newest addition to his collection. With 75 Ouija boards in his possession, he knew that this original-print that he had recently purchased off of eBay was an important piece of a history that fascinated him. He took a quick photo of the board on his dining room table before he and his wife turned in for the night.
“I got up for work at about 3:15 the next morning, so it had only been a few hours really since we had gone to bed,” Brodt said, his voice excited as he weaved his story. “It’s just my wife and myself in our house, we don’t have any kids. We do have a dog but the dog sleeps in our bed with us and the door is closed at night.”
Walking through the dining room, Brodt passed the Ouija board on his way out the door. “I stopped and I went back and looked and the planchette had actually turned probably three or four inches towards the word ‘yes,’” he said.
He paused for a brief moment before casually saying: “I thought that was pretty cool.”
With over 13 years in the field, professional paranormal investigator Steven Brodt is not easily phased. With numerous paranormal encounters and experiences to speak of, he has made a business out of ensuring that others can encounter experiences similar to his.
Owner of the business Haunted Nights in nearby South Glens Falls, New York, he hosts investigations in famously haunted locations around America, providing equipment for those who may not have access to such resources. Visiting the Haunted Nights website will reveal that many of the upcoming events are already sold out, with over 15 people booked to attend each.
“I think there’s just a curiosity of that unknown,” Brodt explained of his company’s success. “I think people get really excited when they realize that they have the opportunity to try to go and experience something that they don’t understand for themselves.”
But he also knows that people’s fascination with the paranormal goes deeper.
“As a collective, the human race hates not understanding things and hates not knowing the answers,” he said. “I mean, I’m out there because I want to know what happens when people die – is there something else after you die? Or is it when you die your eyes close and it’s lights out and that’s the end of it?”
Brodt hopes that through Haunted Nights, he is giving people not only the opportunity to have a good time, but also to understand themselves and the world around them a bit better.
“It opens up people’s eyes to the possibility that there is something after,” he said, his voice still in awe of a world that he’s spent over 13 years living in. “I think that’s the important aspect of it, opening people’s eyes to what really the paranormal is.”
Connection and curiosity fuel the bids behind Jason the Haunted Doll. This same drive created a successful business for Steven Brodt.
Why humans are drawn to finding out the truth is as diverse as eBay’s assortment of supposedly haunted memorabilia, and though Boise would choose not to invite these experiences into her life, she encourages acceptance of those who would.
“I always felt like the best course of action was to respect people’s experiences,” Boise stated assuredly. “I’ve always wanted to honor people’s reality.”