It may sound far-fetched, but if the strange story of Gef the talking mongoose is true, it’s easily one of the weirdest paranormal events the world has ever seen...
The story begins in the 1930s, at the house of a poor family, the Irvings – Jim and his wife Margaret, and their daughter Voirrey – who lived on an isolated farm near Dalby on the Isle of Man.
Gef – later known as the Dalby Spook – struck up a relationship with the Irvings, talking, singing, growling, spitting and whispering to them, killing rabbits for Margaret to cook and passing on local gossip.
But what was Gef? Was he a poltergeist, a form of delusion created by a lonely family, an invention by a clever young girl – or was he a real creature?
Spitting and growling
‘If you knew what I know, you’d know a hell of a lot!’ – Gef
One early autumn evening, the Irvings thought they heard, ‘blowing, spitting and growling’ sounds from behind their wood-panelled walls. Assuming it was a rodent, Jim set traps and poison to snare the critter. But, despite his efforts, the noises persisted for several days, so Jim bought a dog round to try to scare it away. As the dog growled at the noises, to the family’s shock, the intruder growled back… Over time, the creature began mimicking birds, animals, even a gurgling baby… and then started talking.
It began when their daughter, Voirrey, decided to test the creature and asked it to recite nursery rhymes, which it did in a high-pitched, squeaky, yet clear voice. Soon, Gef had introduced himself by name, claiming he was ‘an extra-clever mongoose’ who was born in Deli, India, in 1852. ‘I am a freak. I have hands and I have feet, and if you saw me you’d faint, you’d be petrified, mummified, turned into stone or a pillar of salt!’
Gef took to Voirrey and Jim, although only Voirrey was allowed to see Gef for more than just a brief glimpse. Soon a part of the family, Gef would spend his days roaming the island, picking up gossip which he passed on to his new friends. When he got bored, he’d cry ‘Vanished!’ and went on his way, and if he wanted to talk to one of the Irvings, he’d call them out by name. And, it seemed the family could keep no secrets from Gef. ‘It’s hearing powers are phenomenal,’ Jim said. ‘It detects the whisper from 15ft to 20ft away, tells you that you are whispering and repeats exactly when one has said.’
Gef had a temper, too, which has led some to conclude that he was a poltergeist – noisy, disruptive spirits that often cause trouble.
When Gef first appeared to Voirrey, she became afraid and went to her parents’ bedroom to escape him. ‘I’ll follower her wherever you put her,’ Gef snapped when he overheard the family discussing the matter. Once Gef spent half an hour singing and groaning, much to the family’s unease, only to quip at the end, ‘I did it for devilment!’ He also enjoyed throwing pebbles, once pelting Margaret as she walked home. ‘Is that you, Gef?’ she asked. ‘Yes, Maggie the witch woman, the Zulu woman, the Honolulu woman!’ he replied. However, the mongoose could also be helpful, waking up anyone who overslept, stopping the stove if the fire was left burning at night and warning the Irvings of approaching guests.
The Irvings would leave Gef chocolate and bananas, which he took from a saucer they hung from the ceiling. Was Gef caught? As word about Gef grew among the local press, Jim invited the world-famous paranormal investigator Harry Price to his home – although Price reported nothing that either particularly supported or disputed the Irving’s claims about Gef.
In time, the Irvings moved out and a new owner, Leslie Graham, took up residence at the farm in 1946. Although he reported no conversations with Gef the talking mongoose, he did catch and kill an unusual small animal that, he told local press, ‘answers to all descriptions’ of Gef… Voirrey Irving was interviewed by Fate magazine in the ’70s. When asked about Gef, she said:
‘Yes, there was a little animal who talked and did all those other things… He said he was a mongoose and we should call him Gef… But I do wish he had left us alone.’