From The New York Times.
The Weird World of ‘Haunted’ eBay: ‘Purchase With Caution’
An artist’s obsession with listings for the cursed, doomed and otherwise unexplained.
“BUYER BEWARE,” warns the eBay listing for the “Haunted Vintage Antique Evil Active Possessed Witch Demon Doll.” “So many things have happened when this doll is near,” writes sellintreasures-7. “She must go. I cannot have her in my home any longer.” The doll, which has been photographed atop a Ouija board, can be purchased for $99.99 plus $7.70 shipping. The Ouija board is not included.
“I just got obsessed,” said the artist Eric Oglander, 31, speaking of the night two years ago when he first came across a listing like this one. The item was described as a “haunted box,” and he immediately began searching for others. That night he captured screenshots of more than fifty similar listings, and has been looking for them ever since.
Oglander describes himself as a “collector of aesthetics,” and his material is the ephemera of the world around us. For him, it is not the item on sale, but rather the listing itself which becomes the object. The listings are “a way of containing a story and also telling a story,” he said. The images here are taken from this collection.
His previous work includes “Craigslist Mirrors,” a popular Tumblr site that was published as a book in 2016. Seemingly simple in conceit, it consists exclusively of screenshots of listings of people selling mirrors on Craigslist. The images are funny, poignant and often unintentionally telling, revealing strange corners of peoples’ lives.
“I appreciate the fact that these photos are being taken for the sole intent of selling an object,” Oglander said. Once they are put into a new context, however, “they can then be appreciated as something aesthetic.” By collecting the listings in this way, Oglander brings out patterns that may go otherwise unnoticed, and if so, only in passing.
The “haunted” eBay listings include many ordinary objects: feathers, coins, pebbles, pieces of wood. Often they are said to be enchanted, for luck or for fortune — good or ill. “You will be able to feel the vibrational energy from your coin. Must be a positive environment and attitude for it to work,” advises one seller. “Please note, this chip is for MONEY LUCK only, not general good fortune or finding love which are different spells,” warns another.
Other items are said to have powers all their own. “Hearing voices is really common. Sounds, faces appearing,” Oglander said. “But also, misfortunes happening, a string of negative events happening in peoples’ lives — like these objects have cursed them.”
The claims are, of course, difficult to verify. The site’s rules dictate that all listings must “offer a physical item or a tangible service.” Many listings include disclaimers about the objects’ supernatural attributes. “As required per eBay’s policy on the sale of paranormal items, this is for the sale of a tangible item only, no promise of a spirit attached,” writes one seller. “Purchase with caution,” writes another. “Not recommended for Children to play with.”
Still, such disclaimers do not entirely prevent instances of negative feedback from disappointed customers, which sellers sometimes address. “They often reply and say that you need to exist with it for a while before you start experiencing things,” said Oglander. “You didn’t give it enough time.”
In this context, “BUYER BEWARE” serves as both a disclaimer and as a potential selling point. As one listing put it, “I do not take any responsibility for, if anything at all happens, blown fuses, divorce etc!” The item, a vintage teddy bear, sold for $560 after 46 bids.
When asked if he was superstitious, Oglander said, “I guess I believe in spirits. I want to at least hope that there’s some magic in the world — some underlying thing we can’t see.”
Still, he has never bought a “haunted” item.
Sellers, in order of appearance: sellintreasures-7, tetris145, misslucine, asylum_gift_n_thrift, jenns_enchantments_316, vintagechicfla, lily-dale-hauntings, kreepee, jp.markets.
Produced by Raillan Brooks, Alicia DeSantis, Gabriel Gianordoli, Jolie Ruben and Josephine Sedgwick. Surfacing is a weekly column that explores the intersection of art and life.