J.J. Abrams Creates Locked Mystery Boxes You Can Look Inside (Or Not!)

The Mystery Box is a collaboration between J.J. Abrams and magic card company theory11 that benefits 826 National and keeps you intrigued.

By now, we should all know that J.J. Abrams isn’t interested in doing anything unless there’s at least a chance it will make everyone’s minds explode. In the past, that tendency provided us with a time-bending TV series, the strangest book ever, and in the future perhaps a labyrinthine entry into the Star Wars franchise. For now, though, he has expanded his enigmatic ways into the realm of home goods.


In 2007, Abrams spoke at TED about a mysterious box his grandfather bequeathed him as a child. Although Abrams never opened the box, it has always served as a three-dimensional reminder of the power of the unknown. Now, in the spirit of his grandfather’s box, Abrams and his production company, Bad Robot, have teamed with magic card company theory11 to share the wonder.

The Mystery Box, which is now available, is made of 100-year-old, reclaimed wood, iron-branded individually. The boxes are also locked with an alphanumeric combination which users will not receive. Should they choose to crack the code–or smash the beautiful box–they will find 12 Abrams-designed Mystery Box Playing Cards, along with a letter-pressed note from the filmmaker in an envelope stamped with a black wax seal. It’s the users’ choice whether to keep the unknown unknown, or open the Pandora-ish box to see what’s inside.

“Last May, I was reading Empire Magazine and J.J. was on the cover,” says Jonathan Bayme, CEO of theory11. “Inside, he talked about his passions, interests, and inspirations, and somehow, as I’m glancing down at that page, I see theory11 playing cards. I reached out to a mutual friend, and so began this collaboration on how we could make an object that was a monument to all of our passions–design, printing, art, and magic–rolled into one.”

The project was a collaborative effort from the start, with all parties working to pack as much intrigue and surprise inside the box as possible. Of course, the whole package was designed to be just as alluring and curiosity-stoking if it remains unopened. Whether users decide to delve in or not, proceeds from each Mystery Box go to writing advocacy nonprofit 826 National.

Watch the original TED Talk that inspired the box below.