Ghosts and ghouls, hauntings and mournful spirits. The British Isles are full of centuries-long tales of the undead refusing the grave and remaining in the world of the living. Whether these are the spirits of murderers, Victorian chimneysweeps, spurned wives or vengeful witches, one theme remains constant throughout. They are all human.
Then there’s Gef. Gef is not human. Gef is a mongoose. A ghost mongoose.
In September 1931, the Irving family was troubled by persistent scratching and rustling sounds behind the walls of their farmhouse. These were interspersed with vocal mumblings, much like that of a baby. The family, James, Margaret and their 13-year-old daughter Voirrey, lived in a farmhouse at Cashen’s Gap, by Dalby on the Isle of Man. Prior to these noises, there had been no reported paranormal activity at the house. However, the family did not have to make contact themselves, as the voice did that of its own accord.
The scratchings and mumblings became clearer and louder, and soon introduced themselves as being from Gef. Gef was born in New Delhi, India and was a mongoose. According to the young girl, the mongoose was ‘the size of a small rat with yellowish fur and a large bushy tail.’
The family told the press that Gef was a ghost in animal form and was an ‘extra, extra clever mongoose.’ He became a watchman of sorts, warning the family of approaching company and animals. He would also wake up family members if they overslept, put out the unattended stove and rid the house of mice; without killing them, of course. Over time, Gef supposedly proved himself able to sing, read, do basic arithmetic and even speak several languages.
For a mongoose, Gef had quite a way with words, once saying,
“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!”
Despite being a spirit, the family made sure to feed Gef, leaving him biscuits, chocolates and fruit, all which was eaten while the family were not present. Gef was not tethered to the house either; he regularly accompanied the family on trips to market, making sure to keep out of eyeline, behind the hedges.
Locally, Gef became quite the star, with several people outside of the family circle claiming to have heard Gef’s voice and, in two cases, seen him.
Understandably, Gef soon became ripe for tabloid investigation and amusement, and journalists from around the country flocked to the hamlet, eager to catch a glimpse of Gef.
As much as investigators tried to find physical evidence of Gef, samples of hair submitted as belonging to the spectral mongoose were shown to be from the family sheepdog.
Nonetheless, interest in Gef continued. In 1935, renowned paranormal investigator Harry Price and writer Richard Lambert took a trip to the Isle of Man to find Gef for themselves. Their trip resulted in the book ‘The Haunting of Cashen’s Gap,’ which is arguably why their investigation is rather wishy washy in its conclusion; a firm conclusion of fraud isn’t the most financially lucrative of decisions.
However, Price’s investigations concluded that no teeth marks within the house matched those of a mongoose. Also, the walls through which Gef had communicated for so long, were double-layered, making the house the equivalent of,
‘one great speaking-tube, with walls like soundingboards. By speaking into one of the many apertures in the panels, it should be possible to convey the voice to various parts of the house.’
Fellow investigator Nandor Hodor spent a week with the family and experienced no evidence of Gef’s existence. However, unlike other journalists, Hodor concluded that Gef was not a deliberate deception, rather a phycological offshoot of Jim Irving’s psyche.
Despite Gef’s many tales of assistance and kindness, the general consensus between reporters, locals and the wider public was that Gef was a deliberate deception by the family. Gef was thought to have been created initially by their daughter Voirrey who was questioned by her father when making sounds, then claimed that they were originating from elsewhere. Other reports state that Voirrey used ventriloquism to project Gef’s voice throughout the house.
Whatever conclusion was drawn, Gef’s story travelled far and wide thanks to a very clever family, some very keen journalists and some very sketchy investigators.