WEIRD OF OZ: Human Soul for Sale — CHEAP!

WEIRD OF OZ: Human Soul for Sale — CHEAP!

faustNo, not mine. But I thought I’d let you know that you can buy a soul on eBay.

In fact, right now there are at least four sellers offering souls at prices that range from “99 cents or best offer” (5 have sold at that price) to a starting bid of $1,500 (no bids on that one yet).

Pretty amazing how cheaply you can acquire a human soul these days. I suppose you would have to pay more if they came with a certified valuation from Sotheby’s or something.

While statements about the benefits of a soul have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, I doubt if anyone is going to bring a charge of false advertising against a soul seller any time soon. The claim that someone can send you a soul is so absurd that it falls under “caveat emptor”: “let the buyer beware.” In most cases, it is surely just in jest, as with the seller who has an opening bid of $7.99 and a “Buy it Now” price of $10.99 for a “used Human Soul ‘cheap’” that, according to the entry in “Item condition,” has been “slightly used and gently tormented.”

deer and apparitionThe aforementioned auction, interestingly, is accompanied by a night-lens photo of a large buck staring at what appears to be an apparition that stands underneath some kind of tripod from which hangs some kind of electric bulb. I don’t know if this is a picture the seller took of the alleged soul or just a photo the seller came across on the Internet, but I’m including the image here so you can see the merchandise being offered (and if any of you does go and buy this soul, please do let me know if this creepy apparition shows up). Maybe the winning bidder gets a copy of the picture — that’s not clear from the listing, but there is an additional $3.59 charge for economy shipping.

If international bidders want to buy one, do they have to pay custom duties and import taxes on a soul? If you send a soul Priority Mail, how much can you claim in insurance should it be lost?

TheMonkeysPawSeeing these souls for sale on eBay reminded me of the classic setup of many a fantastical tale where an unsuspecting buyer purchases a lamp or decanter that contains a genie or a demon or a ghost. These days it’s a fairly cheesy premise, one that I usually find hard to swallow in contemporary tales: it tends to signal that the story is going to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, an extended joke. Such tales often involve a shop that wasn’t there before and that mysteriously vanishes again after the deal has been made. There are some powerful and chilling exceptions, of course — and I do hope some readers will chime in with their own favorite examples.

Anyway, thanks to eBay, this premise can be used anew. Since you can log on to eBay right now and purchase an alleged human soul, the setup, at least, is no longer so outlandish or outdated as it might seem!

What unforeseen events might the purchase of some mysterious object — bought for a lark on eBay — set in motion? Speculative-fiction writers out there, what happens after the purchase is made is now entirely in your hands. Go ahead and write it — maybe you have the twenty-first-century answer to “The Monkey’s Paw” twisting around in your fevered brain right now, waiting to come twitching to life on your tablet. And if you do write it, and it gets published, let me know. I’ll read it, content in the knowledge that I was able to provide the seed-germ of an idea. (I’m not going to write it myself — are you kidding? I’m way too busy discovering what weird crap you can find on eBay.)

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James McGlothlin

Great idea! This would be a good modern twist or re-telling of some great old ideas. I hope you or someone soon takes advantage of it.

jalazar88

It has been done at least once, in Joe Hill’s ghost story The Heart-Shaped Box. The inciting incident is an aging rocker purchasing a dead man’s suit (ghost attached) off an unnamed auction site. Which, I thought, had a fantastic opening third, a mediocre middle, and an adequate conclusion.

Sarah Avery

I wrote one in which an operator of a ghost tour got a ghost-in-a-cabinet from ebay, but the new ghost had been a labor organizer in life, so she tried to unionize the other ghosts on the tour. Wacky hijinks ensued. Sold it to Baen’s Universe as “New Jersey’s Top Ghost Tours Reviewed and Rated,” which I think you can still find online.

Sarah Avery
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