by Emily Ploch
When I first came to Kirksville, some of the first stories I heard about the town and the school had to do with ghosts and the supernatural. There is a ghost that haunts the dorms. There is a ghost that haunts the memorial building. There are ghosts that haunt downtown. Some of the stories depict these spirits as protectors, most notably the ones who live in the dorms. Others are depicted as the scary beings that are often featured in horror films. Regardless if you believe in them or not, these stories hold value.
Our interest in the paranormal is more than just a quick thrill to keep us up at night. It’s an attempt to name the scary thing lurking in the shadows. It’s a way to give an explanation to the things we don’t understand. As humans we are always trying to find answers to the things we don’t know and strive to discover what is left to discover. Even those who don’t believe in ghosts still try to give explanation to the random creeks in the floor and the faint silhouettes of light (even if their explanation is that you’re just imagining things and you need to get some sleep).
One of the more famous ghost stories of Kirksville that has gained national interest involves the “dibbuk box,” a wine cabinet haunted by a malicious spirit who torments anyone who has the box in their possession with nightmares, health ailments, and the smell of jasmine flowers and cat urine, giving those who have the box the heebie jeebies. The box made its way from Spain, after being purchased from a woman who survived the Holocaust, to Oregon, when the woman immigrated to the United States. The box was then sold to an unassuming antique buyer-refinisher who went to eBay with several stories relating to the box that helped him come to the conclusion that the box might, in fact, be haunted. A student in Kirksville bought the box from there but it didn’t take long before it was sold again to Kirksville resident Jason Haxton. Haxton, the only person who knows the current location of the box, recounts the terrifying stories surrounding the box and his attempt to put the spirit back to rest in his book, The Dibbuk Box. The story of the dibbuk box was adapted into a movie, The Possession, in 2012.
The ghost stories and folklore surrounding this city seem to be something ingrained in towns all over, at least in Missouri. In Jason Offutt’s book, Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to the Show-Me State’s Most Spirited Spots,his collection of ghostly encounters in thirty-two different locations throughout the state are truly haunting. While he visits each location, he gathers testimonials from workers, residents, ghost hunters, and others who have had experiences with the spirits. My favorite story in the collection is from the Lemp Mansion, a St. Louis hotspot for hauntings, where Offutt walks into a cold spot from a spirit on the third floor, the floor with the most accounts of haunting.