As promised, the tale (tail?) of Gef, the Talking Mongoose, one of the strangest twists on the average Poltergeist I’ve ever come across. Its also one of my favorite stories.
It all begins on the Isle of Man (in the Irish sea) in the year 1931. There was a somewhat isolated farmhouse on the island, the home of The Irving Family (Consisting of James Irving, his wife, and their 13 year old daughter. The source I’m presently using does not provide the names of the ladies, unfortunately.) In September of 1931, the family began to hear strange noises coming from their attic, and the noises soon grew worse. They sounded like an odd mixture of Barking, growling, hissing, spitting. Finally, whatever was making the noises began to make weird gurgling noises, which reminded the family of a baby.
Mr.Irving discovered that if he would make a noise, the thing would try and repeat it, or duplicate it. Within a few very short weeks, the entity could speak very well. It said its name was Gef, and that it was “a little clever, extraclever mongoose.” Gef remained hidden within the walls of the house, or within the grasses and weeds around the house, anywhere it could speak and still remain hidden.
Gef claimed to have been born June 7, 1852 in Delhi, India, but never explained how he came to dwell on the small island in the Irish sea. (As an odd coicidence, there IS a tradition apparently, in India that the mongoose is capable of learning to speak.) In fact there WERE mongooses on the island, as a farmer on the island had, around 1912 or so, released some into his fields to kill rabbits.
Gef was only ever seen by Irvings young daughter who described him as looking something like a weasel. Mr. Irving, at one point convinced Gef to allow him to touch him. He described the fur as very soft. He also scratched his finger on one of Gef teeth, proving that the teeth were needle sharp. Gef advised him at this point to “Go and point some ointment on it.” Apparently Gef was concerened the wound might become infected.
Gef disrupted their lives there a great deal, causeing things to break and be thrown around the house. More than once he woke the Irvings up with the tremendous racket he was making. Once he pretended he had been poisoned and was in great pain, which alarmed the family a great deal. The Irvings got so fed up with Gef’s antics that, on occasion, they threatened to move out. Gef would whine at this point, “Would you go away and leave me?” (Gef was apparently a lonely mongoose.) He would quiet down for a time after that.
One of Gef’s favorite pastimes was to wander around the neighborhood and listen to people’s conversations. He would then tell the Irvings all about them. Sometimes neighbors claimed they had heard the strange creature talk, or make other noises.
The strange case of Gef continued until 1937, when the Irvings abruptly sold their farm and vanished. In 1947, the new owner of the farm claimed that he shot a “strange-looking, mongoose-like animal” on the property. Some people believe that this might have been Gef, but most of the people in the neighborhood around the old Irving Farm believe that Gef left with the Irving family when they moved…
Strange tale, but a fun one.
A reader adds the following comments:
The ladies of the Irving family were Margaret (the Mrs.) and Voirrey (the daughter…and perhaps Gef as well!)….
This case was thoroughly investigated by the SPR in the early 30’s and it appeared that young Voirrey was the voice behind the mongoose…
Several pieces of physical evidence were produced (including hair samples, photos, and plaster casts of paw prints) that were of …questionable…authenticity…For instance the family dog shared the same fur as the incredible rodent, the casts were discredited by a scientist at the Natural History Museum, and the best picture of the bunch resembles a cat (to my admittedly untrained eye)…
The source for this information is Melvin Harris’ Article on the subject in Mysteries of Mind, Space and Time, Vol. 23
Mr. Wells is right…It is a great yarn!
I am a parapsychologist and have read extensively about Gef, one of my favorites. Nandor Fodor, a respected psychical researcher, investigated and wrote about the case in Between Two Worlds. Book is out of print, but I checked Barnes and Noble and they have copies of it for sale.
Gef had a very salty vocabulary. He didn’t like strangers and would tell them to get away, go clear to hell.
One day Gef was hungry and he went into the cold cupboard, found some bacon and ate it. Maggie (Mrs. Irving) was furious. Gef did what any child would do. He hid until she calmed down.
One day, Jim decided to scare Maggie, Viorrey and Gef. He put a sheet over his head, pretending to be a ghost. When Gef saw him, he was scared and told him to go clear to hell. When Jim took off the sheet, Gef cried in relief.
As for the animal that was killed, it 1946, it definitely was not Gef. Too big and wrong color.
Fodor, in the book, said the last words on the subject should be Viorrey’s. They are. Source: psychic Pets & Spirit Animals, FATE presents, Llewellyn, 1996. Walter McGraw tracked her down and had an article in the 7/70 issue of FATE.
She said she had been called a mental. Had been called a ventriloquist and, had she been that good, she would have money. She was called spook and taunted. She said Gef had a high pitched voice and swore a lot. She wished she had never met Gef. He made her meet people she didn’t want to meet.
“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 let us alone.”
Gef, the Talking Mongoose Poltergeist (2)
I recommend this source for information on Gef, the talking Mongoose of the Isle of Man.
HARRIS, Melvin. “The Mongoose That Talked & Lost For Words” In Peter Brookesmith (ed) _Open Files_. London: Orbis Publishing 1983, pp. 19-27.
Voirrey Irving was twelve and thirteen years old at the time of the notoriety. Characterized by outside observers as a bright and imaginative girl, she must have felt some gloom at her family’s fortunes. Her 60 year old father, James, was retired, her mother was nearly as old, and all three of them were barely surviving on a income of 15 shillings a week (Harris 1983, p. 19). To supplement the family larder, Voirrey would hunt, kill and bring home rabbits with the aid of her dog, Mona (p. 20).
Voirrey began attributing the dead rabbits she brought home to Gef, a sentient mongoose, and before long she had her parents believing the tale and spreading it to their neighbors. As Melvin Harris put it (pp. 26-27):
“Gef never had a personality or existence independent of Voirrey. He brought home rabbits, as did Voirrey. His favorite foods were also Voirrey’s favorites. He shared her strong interests in mechanical things. Moreover, Gef was never heard unless Voirrey was out of the room or so placed that her mouth could not be watched. The voice itself was described by one observer who believed in Gef as ‘like a girl’s voice of 15 or 16 — a striking penetrating voice.’ In other words, just the sort of voice that Voirrey could easily assume. [..]
“It is not unreasonable to assume that [Voirrey’s] parents were caught up in the masquerade and became accomplices. Indeed, Jim Irving became so involved that he ‘became obsessed with the thing.’ He would speak for hours, telling and retelling the saga to anyone who would listen. [..]
“Perhaps [the mongoose] was even the high point of [Jim Irving’s] whole life. The publicity, the collecting of anecdotes, the storytelling — all these were Irving’s responsibility and his pride.”
All in all, a talking mongoose which drew ghost hunter Harry Price and various journalists and tourists to a hardscrabble hilltop farm in the back of beyond was a nice way to break the monotony of poverty — and even a few shillings in tips or payments might have seemed substantial to the Irvings. Too bad the bubble burst in October 1935 when samples of Gef’s hair proved to be “absolutely identical” to hair from Voirrey’s dog, Mona (p. 24).
As an aside, please consider how closely parallel are many of the reported phenomena of the Talking Mongoose and the Bell Witch. Easily feigned poltergeist activity, a mysterious entity that talked a lot (at least to some people), girls of the same age, and deep involvement by the father of the girl. True, Gef was light-hearted and kind, and the Bell Witch was vindictive and mean — but at this remove, who can say that the nature of the entities did not derive from the personalities of the pranksters?