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Friday, February 9, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Woodinville man sells soul for $400

Seattle Times staff reporter

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For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
- Mark 8:36

And how will it affect your eBay feedback rating?

Adam Burtle of Woodinville gained not the world but $400 in an auction on the Internet site that ended at 4:36 p.m. yesterday.

Bidding for the item, listed as "20 yr-old Seattle boy's SOUL, hardly used," began at 5 cents Feb. 1. A bidding war for Burtle's soul broke out in the auction's final hour, shooting its selling price from $56 up to $400.

"I was happy to be past $7.50," said Burtle, an atheist, noting that an ex-girlfriend had bid $6.66 - the number of the beast - for his soul.

But his soul's going, going, gone: eBay officials removed the listing and suspended Burtle from the site. For eBay, the issue seems not metaphysical but postal.

"You have to have a piece of merchandise that a seller can deliver to a buyer," said eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove.

In the past, the San Jose-based company has stopped auctions for human souls before they ended, but Burtle's slipped through the cracks. Pursglove said the company can't stop the two parties from carrying on any transaction on their own at this point.

The buyer is a woman from Des Moines, Iowa. It's unclear what kind of hands Burtle's soul has fallen into because she has a feedback rating of 0 - meaning she has no track record of behavior with other eBay users.

"I don't think she's going to be able to collect on my soul, to be honest," Burtle said.

Burtle, a University of Washington student and part-time automotive technician, was pictured in the auction listing wearing an "I'm with stupid" T-shirt. And while no one may be able to vouch for his soul, his one feedback on eBay is a glowing one: "Truly a man I would trust my daughter with," said someone who bought a Bill Hicks comedy CD from him.

In the eBay description for his soul, Burtle wrote: "Please realize, I make no warranties as to the condition of the soul. As of now, it is near mint condition, with only minor scratches....

"Due to difficulties involved with removing my soul, the winning bidder will either have to settle for a night of yummy Thai food and cool indie flicks, or wait until my natural death."

In the past, people have tried to sell a liver and a kidney on eBay, a site with 22 million users and 6 million items up for bid at any given moment.

"People have tried to auction off, as pranks, their virginity," said Laura Fisher Kaiser, co-author of "The Official eBay Guide to Buying, Selling and Collecting Just About Anything."

The list of prohibited items includes guns, body parts, drugs and alcohol.

"I think what's funny about it is the idea that you can sell anything on eBay, and people are constantly trying to push the limits on that, to see how big a dent they can make in the cultural consciousness," Kaiser said.

For his part, Burtle was less interested in the cultural consciousness than placing what he said amounted to a clever personal ad not to be taken seriously.

"I was just bored, and I'm a geek. So anytime I'm bored, I go back to my Internet."

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