The best Jewish paranormal literature

Why am I passionate about this?

I come from a rather strange background: southern Italian and Eastern European Jewish. As a child, I heard both Italian (Neapolitan dialect) and Yiddish. I later learned that my maternal grandmother’s brother was the well-known Yiddish poet and playwright, Jacob Adler, creator of Yente (who wrote under the name B. Kovner to avoid confusion with the great actor by that name). I have been involved with what some call the “occult,” “paranormal,” or “supernatural” for many years, and these appear in much of my recent writing. Moreover, The Ibbur’s Tale draws on various elements drawn from the history of my mother’s family, including the fate of some during the Holocaust. 


I wrote...

The Ibbur's Tale

By Lenny Cavallaro,

Book cover of The Ibbur's Tale

What is my book about?

Professor Benjamin Dinerstein is quite surprised to find a former student in his home when he returns from class. As he notes, "I was far more taken aback when I remembered that she had died a few weeks earlier."

Miriam explains that she is an ibbur. She has come to seek his assistance with a task, a last mitzvah she was unable to complete during her short lifetime. Miriam's family has been unaware of a shonda: the sister of Miriam's great-grandmother had an illegitimate child. Moreover, her Uncle Isidore (aka "IKE") has stumbled upon evidence that this child might somehow have become a Nazi war criminal, and that the entire family may be in grave danger. Can Benjamin help the ibbur overcome a curse?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Warsaw Anagrams

Lenny Cavallaro Why did I love this book?

Zimler’s earlier novel, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, presented masterful prose in the genres of historical fiction, mystery, and thriller.

The Warsaw Anagrams continued in this vein: a murder mystery set amidst the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto. For me, it was a “can’t-put-it-down” novel, and I was absolutely captivated by the author’s design. He has the ibbur – in this case, the late Dr. Erik Cohen – tell the story to Heniek Corben, and what a profound tale it is! 

 To the best of my knowledge, The Warsaw Anagrams was the first novel to present an ibbur, and it prompted my own efforts. I hope that my novella will in turn encourage other authors to consider using this material from the Jewish shtetlach of a lost era. 

By Richard Zimler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Warsaw Anagrams as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Autumn 1940. The Nazis seal 400,000 Jews inside a small area of the Polish capital, creating an urban island cut off from the outside world. Erik Cohen, an elderly psychiatrist, is forced to move into a tiny apartment with his niece and his beloved nine-year-old nephew, Adam.

One bitterly cold winter's day, Adam goes missing. The next morning, his body is discovered in the barbed wire surrounding the ghetto. The boy's leg has been cut off, and a tiny piece of string has been left in his mouth.

Soon, another body turns up - this time a girl's, and one…


Book cover of The Dybbuk: A Play in Four Acts

Lenny Cavallaro Why did I love this book?

Perhaps the best-known play in the Yiddish canon, The Dybbuk has spawned other cinematic, dramatic, and literary efforts.

Of course, the dybbuk is, by definition, a malevolent entity: a dead spirit unwilling to depart; instead it takes possession of a living person. In Ansky’s play, the pious Khonen was not necessarily “evil,” but he felt betrayed by Leah’s engagement to Menashe, took possession of “his” intended, and had to be exorcised by Rabbi Azriel (with the inevitable tragic consequences). 

An ibbur is a benevolent spirit, and in my novella, Benjamin works willingly with Miriam, in order to help her complete her last task. Nevertheless, I feel profoundly indebted to Ansky’s masterful drama, particularly because it presents a more sympathetic dybbuk. This treatment prompted me to offer a more modern ibbur!

By S. Ansky, Henry G. Alsberg (translator), Winifred Katzin (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dybbuk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Dybbuk, regarded as the classic drama of the Yiddish stage, has long frightened yet fascinated audiences throughout the world. Based on Jewish folklore, its dark implications of mysterious, other-worldly forces at work in a quaint and simple village make for gripping, suspenseful theater. To the Chassidic Jews of eastern Europe, a dybbuk was not a legend or a myth; rather it remained a constant and portentous possibility. During that age of pervasive mysticism, when rabbis became miracle workers and the sinister arts of the Kabbala were fearsomely invoked, it was never doubted that a discontented spirit from the dead…


Book cover of The World That We Knew

Lenny Cavallaro Why did I love this book?

The World That We Knew has nothing to do with possession, but it is another “Jewish supernatural” tale.

Hoffman treats the legendary golem, but in this case, she creates a female golem! This brilliant conception unfolds not in the ghetto of 16th-century Prague but during the horrors of World War Two.

We see a unique golem (Ava): a healer who can also speak with the birds (and vanquish enemies, of course). The interactions of the characters amidst the frightful setting are absolutely captivating.

Although tales involving the golem are completely unrelated to narratives involving possession, I found the Hoffman novel most enjoyable. Moreover, it presents yet another modern adaptation of the old legends and myths. Several chapters of The Ibbur’s Tale are also set during World War Two.

By Alice Hoffman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The World That We Knew as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

* LONGLISTED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL *

'Oh, what a book this is! Hoffman's exploration of the world of good and evil, and the constant contest between them, is unflinching; and the humanity she brings to us - it is a glorious experience. The book builds and builds, as she weaves together, seamlessly, the stories of people in the most desperate of circumstances - and then it delivers with a tremendous punch. It opens up the world ... in a way that is absolutely unique. By the end you may be weeping' Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive…


Book cover of Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural

Lenny Cavallaro Why did I love this book?

This 1988 anthology provides fifty stories, dating from the medieval period to the last century: from central and eastern Europe, the Middle East, and across northern Africa.

Although we find "possession" in several of the narratives, we do not find the ibburNevertheless, some of the demons who take possession of the living are truly evil, and perhaps thus similar to the dybbuk in that regard. Many of the selections read almost like fairy tales, although not all have a "happy ending."

This is by no means a source for the ibbur, but it is a nice introduction to the Jewish supernatural. A few tales are actually rather profound, though most are quite simple. Those unfamiliar with this aspect of Jewish culture might find Schwartz’s anthology a nice place to begin.

By Howard Schwartz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lilith's Cave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Once upon a time in the city of Tunis, a flirtatious young girl was drawn into Lilith's dangerous web by glancing repeatedly at herself in the mirror. It seems that a demon daughter of the legendary Lilith had made her home in the mirror and would soon completely possess the unsuspecting girl. Such tales of terror and the supernatural occupy an honored position in the Jewish folkloric tradition.

Howard Schwartz has superbly translated and retold fifty of the best of these folktales, now collected into one volume for the first time. Gathered from countless sources ranging from the ancient Middle…


Book cover of Dybbuk

Lenny Cavallaro Why did I love this book?

This study offers a thorough presentation of the traditional (and non-traditional) Jewish thoughts about various topics, including ghosts and apparitions, magic and superstition, and even reincarnation. However, the main thrust is the analysis of six (presumably) documented accounts of possession by spirits and subsequent exorcisms. 

I have listed this work for two reasons. First, it underscores the significance of possession within a community not known for performing exorcisms. Then, more personally, I found the presentation challenging, intriguing, and perhaps even provocative. If such malevolent possession has been documented, why not a benevolent ibbur?

By Gershon Winkler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dybbuk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An astonishing book chronicling and dramatizing six documented reports of possession and exorcism in the Jewish experience. Also features a fascinating historical look at the traditional Jewish perspective on reincarnation, ghosts, apparitions, magic and superstition.


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Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

Book cover of Rip Current

Sharon Ward Author Of In Deep

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as a kid, I was intrigued by the underwater world, so as an adult, I learned to scuba dive. I took to it like a fish to water, and my husband and I spent the next several years traveling to tropical islands to experience the local dive conditions whenever possible. I loved learning how every island had a different culture and a different undersea environment. Since I love tropical islands, scuba diving, mysteries, and adventure stories, these books really hit my sweet spot.

Sharon's book list on mysteries set on a tropical island

What is my book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.

Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary. When a young internet influencer…

Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

What is this book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.
Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary.
Soon after a young internet…


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