If you saw a “haunted object” listed for sale, would you: run away screaming or immediately pull out your credit card & select next day shipping?
If you chose the latter, you will be happy to learn that there is a whole industry popping up online where people buy and sell supposedly haunted objects to curious purchasers. On the other hand, if you would rather run from haunted objects, you may find the existence of these web pages especially frightening.
Purchasing haunted objects online has become so popular that many of the most well-known commerce sites, like eBay and Etsy, have specific pages and categories dedicated to paranormal items. Here, sellers list curious things that they’ve acquired (some purposefully, others accidentally) in the hopes of finding interested purchasers who are equally curious. While these online venues are relatively new, exchanging haunted objects is an industry that dates back centuries.
Long before the days of the internet, people sought out potentially haunted or cursed objects at local marketplaces or shops. Most cultures had their own versions of paranormal items that many believed may be connected with the spirit world. Good luck charms, potions for every imaginable ailment, magic objects to conjure spirits, or even cursed items to gift to enemies were all common wares at marketplaces all over the world for thousands of years.
Interest is Curious Objects Grows
In the Victorian era, interest in the occult grew substantially and people were obsessed with finding curious objects of their own. At the same time, retail culture was growing and specialty shops were popping up in booming industrialized cities. More people who were interested in the paranormal suddenly had more access to specialty shops. Haunted objects soon became a regular part of a store’s offerings, right alongside the crystal balls and magic items.
Around the same time, travelling fairs and festivals began crisscrossing the world. Common attractions included occult favourites like fortune tellers and mediums. During these fairs, the performers would often sell their tricks of the trade to curious spectators who wanted to try the objects for themselves. People brought home tarot cards and Ouija boards, but also managed to find supposedly cursed or haunted objects. While many of these items were probably a hoax, intended to conjure up fears to entertain a crowd, mysterious energies followed these fairs as they moved from place to place.
By the late 20th century, psychic fairs and festivals were popular again and an interest in the horror film genre pushed another generation into the haunted object craze. Movies with haunted dolls or other objects encouraged fans to browse second-hand stores looking for weird items of their own. Some people claimed that they found haunted objects and their stories were sometimes even transformed into horror movies. The draw to haunted objects, and the desire to find the origins of their hauntings, fueled the horror genre for decades.
And then, internet commerce was born. Even in the early days of the public internet, people were using the forum to spread stories of the paranormal. The horror genre was being fueled by new stories, as ordinary people had the opportunity to share personal encounters and find others with similar experiences. As the internet grew and commerce sites became household names, the haunted object industry suddenly exploded.
eBay Brings Haunted Shopping to the World
Starting in the early 2000s, numerous haunted objects started appearing on the growing website, eBay. Very famous stories, including a cursed painting that apparently came to life, and a box associated with demonic-like energies, took hold of the public imagination. As people contemplated buying these strange items, fear sometimes overtook them. Visitors to these sites reported strange occurrences and unexplained sicknesses, and eagerly shared tales as a form of caution to other curiosity seekers. As online experiences grew, the objects gained another layer of mystery and the unexplained lore of haunted objects only spread further.
As the internet grew and developed, more sites popped up. Marketplaces dedicated specifically to haunted objects entered the scene. Other popular websites began dedicating entire branches of their business to haunted objects. But with the increased interest, the hoaxes also began to appear. Buyers were frequently unsure if sellers were genuine or if they were simply cashing in on a growing industry. Like many peddlers of magic before them, some savvy salespeople made a lot of money on overblown hoaxes.
However, many buyers of haunted objects remain convinced that there are genuine paranormal objects being sold by legitimate people. There are countless stories of people who have purchased haunted objects only to have terrible things happen to them or their loved ones. There are others who were skeptical and found their perspective completely changed when odd things began happening. But then there are some who didn’t experience anything with their new haunted object, making them question if the spirit was attached to something else or if the object was simply a hoax.
The Day We Bought a Haunted Doll
We decided to buy a haunted doll in 2018. Listen to our Haunted Talks podcast episode where we look through the eBay listings and make our selection. Then watch as Glen (uncomfortably) unboxes our new paranormal treasure.
If you want to find a haunted object of your own this Halloween, you don’t have to look far. You can still visit those paranormal and occult stores, whether in your own hometown or online. Haunted or cursed objects regularly turn up in antique or second-hand stores, whether marketed as paranormal or not. You can also turn to those classified ads, in print or virtual, with people eager to get rid of their haunted items. Then there are those who are auctioning off truly exceptional objects to the highest bidder. However, you decide to go about your purchase, finding a haunted object that matches you and your requirements is only a click away…
Ghost Tours & Paranormal Adventures
Brittney Anne Bos, PhD
Haunted Walk Tour Guide & Host