“I am a freak… and if you saw me you’d faint”
“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.” Thus said Gef when asked what he was. Hiding in the walls of a quaint farmhouse on the Isle of Man (Mann), Gef was indeed a unusual persona. Researched extensively by legendary ghost hunter, Harry Price, Gef was thought to be a spirit that took shape in the form of a talking mongoose.
On a farm in Manx, Doarlish Cashen in the United Kingdom’s Isle of Man, in the early 1930’s, Mr. James T. Irving discovered what he thought was a strange animal inside his house. Emanating from the paneled walls of his home were animal sounds – scratching, scurrying, barking, growling, gurgling, spitting, and persistent blowing noises. James tried everything to get rid of the pest, including poison and traps, but nothing stopped the animal from making his presence known to the Irving family.
Gef becomes a member of the Irving family
As the noises coming from the wall of their home became more and more unusual, James had an idea. If the animal could make such a variety of complex sounds, maybe he could teach the animal to make a few new sounds. He began shouting animal calls back into the wall and was amazed to find the creature echoed back the sounds exactly as James had made them. Over time, all James had to do was speak the name of the animal and the creature would reply with the correct animal call.
Next, James began to teach the creature nursery rhymes. In a voice two octaves higher than a humans, the creature recited the rhymes back to James verbatim. Soon the animal was mimicking songs sung by the girls and parroting things it heard in conversations – even ones that took place across the house. The father once said:
“It’s hearing powers are phenomenal. It is no use whispering. It detects the whisper 15-20 feet away, tells you that you are whispering, and repeats exactly what one has said.”
By this time, the creature had become a veritable member of the family and carried the name Gef (he told the family it was pronounced “Jeff”). Gef flatly told the family that the past few months had been a joke. He claimed that he had been able to speak all along and that he only pretended to make noises in order to ease his way into the family’s trust.
The family learns more about Gef
Over the years, Gef conversed with the Irving family on a regular basis. From his perch in the rafters, Gef told the Irving family that he came from India where he had been frequently shot at by the local farmers. He explained that he had lived with a man that wore a green turban on his head. He told how he had travelled with a man named Holland from India to Egypt and then to England. He told the family that he was born on June 7, 1852 (making him eighty-three years old).
Gef claimed that he often left the house to travel about the island in the backs of cars or buses and would tell them of all of the things going on with the neighbors and townsfolk, which was mostly gossip he’d picked up through his ultra sharp hearing and incessant eavesdropping. He also admitted that he liked to steal food from others, such as one bus driver who insisted the creature had pilfered two sandwiches from him.
The family occasionally caught glimpses of Gef – a small creature with a long tail and small frail hands. They even attempted to take pictures of him from time to time which apparently upset Gef on more than one occasion. Just as they were about to snap the picture, Gef would skirt away and would not be heard from for several days.
Gef was also quite fond of singing, with some his favorites being Caroline Moon and Home on the Range as well as the Manx national anthem. Indeed Gef would often belt out a song or ramble on even when no one was interested in hearing it, becoming somewhat of a pest at times.
Oddly, Gef fell ill on more than one occasion. When Gef was sick, the family would nurse him to health. Gef once said,
“Jim, I have a god-damn cough. I have a hell of a cold. You will have to get me something.”
On a few occasions, Gef allowed members of the family to reach through the rafters and stroke his fur. On one occasion, he even allowed them to feel his small, albeit sharp, teeth. The family fed Gef bacon, sausages, chocolates and bananas – but not eggs. Gef hated eggs – wouldn’t touch them. At one point, Gef began killing rabbits and leaving them for the family. His preferred method of killing was to strangle the animals.
Charles Morrison, a lifelong friend of James Irving‟s, who steadfastly defended Irving‟s integrity, heard Gef speak on two occasions, and was convinced it was no hoax. In his „Amplified Statement‟ to Harry Price,  Morrison described hearing a loud, clear voice from behind the boards in the kitchen – “„Tell Arthur [Morrison‟s son] not to come. He doesn‟t believe. I won‟t speak if he does come, I‟ll blow his brains out with a 3d cartridge‟” – together with “heavy thumping on the ceiling and behind the boards in the kitchen as much as a strong man could do”. Morrison was impressed by the fact of the noises seemingly coming from all over the house, with some rapidity.
Highly intelligent animal or poltergeist?
Gef demonstrated a high degree of intelligence. He spoke Russian, Spanish, Arabic and could understand the sign language used by deaf people. He was also clairvoyant and often told the family of events that were happening several miles away. To the family’s amusement, he began to demonstrate telekinetic ability, causing objects to move about the room and bouncing rubber balls up and down the stairs.
When asked if he was a real animal or a spirit, Gef replied, “I am an earth-bound spirit”. Many began to believe that Gef was more than a highly intelligent creature and thought that instead, he was a physical manifestation of a poltergeist (note: poltergeists are typically associated with teenagers and indeed, the Irving’s had a thirteen year old daughter living at home at the time).
Gef amused the family for many years. Sometimes curt, sometimes rude, and sometimes just outright scary. James recorded many of the conversations in his diary (see examples below).
Gef becomes a celebrity
After several years, knowledge of Gef became public and stories about the creature started to make headlines in various papers throughout the area (locals referred to the case as The Dalby Spook) As a result, people began to flock to the Irving farm in hopes of catching a glimpse of the mysterious Gef. One journalist who went to the farm claims to have communicated with Gef, an encounter he wrote of in an article for the Daily Dispatch titled Man-Weasel’ Mystery Grips Island: Queerest Beast talks to ‘Daily Dispatch’ reporter. Even BBC’s Listener magazine visited the Irving farm in July of 1935 to investigate the strange case.
What happened to Gef?
Over time, Gef’s personality and behavior began to change. Whereas he had started off as rather jovial, if not a little mischievous, he began to display an irritable, nasty side. Gef’s language became more profane and his behavior more prankish, unruly, and boisterous. He would often belt out tunes off key at all hours of the night. On one occasion he groaned and sang for nearly an hour after which he exclaimed, “I did it for devilment!”
Gef also enjoyed harassing the family with pebbles, rocks, and sand thrown at the windows. On one occasion, Margaret was walking home when stones were tossed at her by some unseen hand. When the woman called out asking if it was Gef, she heard a high-pitched voice give the colorfully odd reply: “Yes, Maggie the witch woman, the Zulu Woman, the Honolulu woman!”
Interestingly, Gef seemed to take a particular disliking to Margaret, and would often swear at her, insult her, berate her, and even bite her. He would increasingly pop out of nowhere to say mean or even menacing things at a moment’s notice. One time when Jim was reading the paper quietly, an annoyed Gef blurted out, “Read it out louder you fat-headed gnome!”
Although Voirrey was the one Gef seemed to get along with the most, she was at times afraid of him too. In one instance, she was spooked by Gef babbling and talking to himself in her room so she went to sleep with her parents. Once tucked into her parents’ bed, a “powerful force” bent the door in causing it to bulge far beyond what one would expect a small mongoose to be capable of. At once, the angry voice of Gef stated,“I’ll follow her wherever you put her, ” then a jar of ointment corner went flying across the room, smashing against a wall.
Perhaps the case was concluded sometime after the Irving’s had left the area. Fodor wrote that the new owner (Leslie Graham) claimed to have shot a “weird looking animal”, described as looking like “neither a stoat, ferret, nor mongoose”. Certainly Gef appears to have disappeared around 1938/39. Walter McGraw writing for FATE Magazine claims to have spoken to the Irving family around 1970. When he asked them about the disappearance of Gef, they said, “He seemed to go away for longer and longer periods of time, and then he just never showed up again”
Gef comments recorded by the Irving family
Below are a collection of comments made by Gef. They were recorded verbatim in James Irving’s personal diary.
“I’ll split the atom! I am the fifth dimension! I am the eighth wonder of the world!”
“I am not evil. I could be if I wanted. You don’t know what damage or harm I could do if I were roused. I could kill you all, but I won’t.”
(After being asked where he would go when he died) “To Hell, to the Land of Mist.”
(Gef on life with the Irvings) “If you are kind to me, I will bring you good luck. If you are not kind, I shall kill all your poultry. I can get them wherever you put them!”
“For years, I understood all that people said, but I could not speak until you taught me.”
“If you knew what I know, you’d know a hell of a lot!”
“I am a ghost in the form of a weasel, and I shall haunt you with weird noises and clanking chains.”
(Upon noticing that Jim was reading the Bible) “Look at the pious old atheist reading the Bible; he will swear in a minute!”
“You’ll put me in a bottle if you catch me.”
“I am not a spirit. I am a little extra, extra clever mongoose.”
“I have been to nicer homes than this. Carpets, piano, satin covers on polished tables. I am going back there. Hahaha!”
“Well, Jim, what about some grubbo?”
“I like Captain Dennis, but not Harry Price. He’s the man who puts the kybosh on the spirits!”
“I have three attractions. I follow Voirrey, Mam gives me food, and Jim answers my questions.”
“I have three spirits, and their names are Foe, Faith, and Truth.”
(After being asked to chase away some weasels) “I don’t want a combat and a turmoil with them!”
“Of course I know what I am, and you are not going to get to know, and you are only grizzled because I won’t tell you. I might let you see me some time, but thou wilt never get to know what I am.”
Check out photos related to Gef the Talking Mongoose in the pictorial gallery below.
Letter from James Irving to Fodor
The following is a letter written by James Irving to an investigator.
To start with, during February & the beginning of March 1932 I heard a good deal about what was termed, at the time, as a “Talking Weasel”. I ridiculed the whole affair at first. Interest of the people concerned, with amusement in the foreground, I decided to visit Doarlish Cashen with the main object of exposing the whole joke, if there was one – on the 7th March 1932.
On my arrival at Mr Irving‟s farmhouse a screeching voice said, “Hullo Arthur.” To which I replied, “Hullo.” It then said, “Call me Gef. I am an earth-bound spirit. Before I saw you I was going to blow your brains out with a 3d cartridge, but like you now.” Quietness for a few minutes, then loud knockings on the walls in various parts of the house. Suddenly it said, “Vanished.” All this happened between 5pm and 6pm.
At about 8 o‟clock, Gef reappeared. “I‟m going to keep you awake all tonight.”
“You are not going to keep your promise, I hope. What have I done to deserve it?” I asked.
“You are a doubter.”
In the vicinity of 9 o‟clock, while dozing in bed, I heard something moving about underneath and thought it a rat or mouse. Peering underneath the bed, I perceived a pair of piercing eyes. They seemed smaller than a cat‟s eyes look like in the dark. An uncanny voice said, “Now do you believe? Don‟t you dare to upset Jimo with any sceptical remarks,” at the same time making a spitting noise. Jimo referred to Mr Irving.
All that night I was kept awake at intervals by animal noises. The next morning I apologised to Mr Irving for previously disbelieving in the stories of extraordinary manifestations taking place. I positively had all the Irving family at home at the time under observation. There was absolutely no fraud of any description.