Yesterday's Myths & Mysteries

Gef the Talking Mongoose: A Mystery on the Isle of Man

If you were to ask Gef the Talking Mongoose who he was and where he came from, he’d probably answer “I am the fifth dimension!” or “I am an earthbound spirit.” Or, perhaps, he’d leave you with a simple “I am a little extra, extra clever mongoose.”

That is, of course, if Gef existed at all, and not just as the imaginative fantasy of a family on the Isle of Man.

The Tale Of A Talking Mongoose

Gef the Mongoose’s story began in 1931. The Irving family lived in a remote farmhouse called Doarlish Cashen (or Cashen’s Gap) on the Isle of Man, a small isle in the Irish Sea.

There were three of them: James Irving, the father; Margaret, his wife; and their 13-year-old daughter, Voirrey Irving. They lived an ordinary life as a poor farming family, miles removed from the nearest town. But on one strange day, their lives changed forever.

In September of 1931, the family began to notice a persistent scratching behind the wooden walls of their farmhouse. It was an eerie rustling, followed by barking and spitting, that could have belonged to a ferret or some other wild creature. This continued for a while, until something extraordinary happened: a mongoose revealed itself, small and furry and yellow.

And it began to speak.

Skittish and often dashing through the farmhouse, the mongoose revealed to James Irving that it was from India. He said he was frequently hunted there and, afraid of being trapped, somehow found his way to the Isle of Man.

The family took to calling him Gef (pronounced Jeff), which he seemed to like, and opened their lives to this curious little creature.

Gef, as time went on, would spout one-liners and bits of wisdom, much to the bemusement of his listeners. He wasn’t always cordial, though; he could be brash and aggressive. He’d swear and toss objects. But other times he’d help out around the house, hunt rabbits for dinner, and sing songs.

Beneath it all, however, was a mystery: just what was Gef, anyway?

“If you knew what I know, you’d know a hell of a lot!”

A Talking Mongoose Warrants A Serious Investigation

A photo of an isle near Ireland, reading "His name is Gef"
Image: Tony Hisgett/Flickr via CC by 2.0

As with most things Fortean, the supernatural activity at the Irving homestead drew a lot of attention from psychical researchers and tabloid newspapers (even going so far as to appear in the Hong Kong Telegraph). The Irvings released alleged photographs of Gef, and others began to join in on the story, claiming they, too, had heard Gef speak.

Many would visit the farmhouse. They’d experience strange, unexplained noises and disembodied voices echoing through the walls.

Traditional paranormal investigators would attribute this to poltergeist activity, while the more skeptical would notice that the voices they heard always seemed to emanate, suspiciously, from the location of Voirrey Irving.

Perhaps the most famous investigation was that of psychical researcher Harry Price. For quite some time, James Irving had corresponded with Price, hoping he’d agree to investigate their extraordinary paranormal activity. Price hesitated, but eventually visited their home in 1935, although he wasn’t exactly impressed with what he found.

For one, he never actually saw, let alone spoke with, Gef, who coincidentally never seemed to be in the “talking mood.” He was given a tour of the farmhouse, and Gef’s usual haunts. In the end, however, Harry Price was left only to wonder about the motive of the Irvings’ story.

In Chapter VI of his Confessions of a Ghost-Hunter, he wrote of his experience at the farmhouse that he “could not determine whether, in our role of investigators, we had taken part in a farce or a tragedy.”

Time passed. The Irving family sold their farm, and the story of Gef seemed to fade away. He’s still a topic of interest in paranormal circles, perhaps because he was never “disproven,” but the how and why of his story will remain a mystery, for now. That, to Harry Price, was the most compelling thing of all.

In a letter written by Price on April 8, 1936, he elaborated on why he found the case so fascinating:

“I agree that the whole family must be mixed up in it but there still remains the question of motive. It certainly is not to draw people to Cashen’s Gap, because they do their utmost to keep them away…the motive for the imposture lies much deeper than mere publicity.”

Whether Gef the Talking Mongoose was truly the “eighth wonder of the world” or just a hoax put on by the Irving family, it’s remarkable how a story like this has persisted to this day.

What do you make of the “true accounts” and investigations? Was Gef a wayward spirit, or Voirrey Irving’s part-time ventriloquism act? We can only wonder!


Rob Schwarz

Writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. Editor-in-chief of Stranger Dimensions.

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