I arrived on the windswept shores of the Isle of Man on a Sunday evening in the winter of 1931. The little island was so awash with spectators that I could not find lodgings for my stay, and opted to spend my nights as an uninvited guest in the barns of the island, but only when my charisma was insufficient in finding a bed-mate of assorted persuasions.
For you see, I had come to the isle with swathes of journalists and investigators in the hope of gaining an audience with an extra special mongoose, named Gef.
The creature first announced its presence to his unwitting hosts, the Irving family, in much the same way as a common ceiling rat. Mr. Irving described the commotion as ‘animal noises’ between the walls of the house and soon enough, the family’s sleep was being distributed with ‘barking, growling, spitting, and persistent blowing’.
By September of ’31, the family noticed the vocalisations of the creature were peculiar. It would reportedly imitate birdsong and when the family’s only child, Voirrey, recited nursery rhymes at it, the creature, to their presumed shock, recited them back.
It was clear to the family that their isolated little farmhouse in Cashen’s Gap housed something rather extraordinary.
The creature was said to speak in a shrill voice, estimated to be several octaves above the average human pitch. He introduced himself as “Gef”, and told the family he was born in New Deli, India, on June 7th, 1852, which would have made the little beastie approximately 80 years old at the time of his communication, assuming he may age in the usual, corporeal manner.
Gef was a chatty little fellow, although he was known to be rather curt. Mr Irving told me of an incident where, upon suspecting he was being watched, Gef exclaimed “You’re looking! Stop looking! Turn your head, you bastard! I cannot stand your eyes!”
Indeed, it was only Voirrey that Gef permitted to gaze upon him. She described him as the size of a small rat, yellow in fur and with a bushy tail – very much unlike the Indian Mongoose he claimed to be. Of his appearance, Gef himself is quoted as 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!”
He had such a way with words, didn’t he?
It is with his so called ‘hands’- which Voirrey claimed to be ‘human like’- that Gef would wring the necks of rabbits to leave at the Irvings door to repay their hospitality.
When Gef wasn’t whispering cryptic riddles or hunting little bunnies for food, he was said to venture into town. Mrs Irving recalled that he sometimes accompanied her on her errands, where he regaled her with the gossip he’d seen on his solo adventures. He was cautious to remain out of sight and kept to the long grass beyond the path.
But just what was Gef? What evidence is there that our furry friend was indeed the “eighth wonder of the world” as he claimed?
Let’s scratch the surface of this little flea bag.
I was not the only curious explorer to venture into the windswept hills of Cashen’s Gap, or Doarlish Cashen, as it’s known in the native Manx.
The renowned psychic researcher and infamous spoil-sport, Harry Price, is best associated with this case. It was he who was forwarded a sample of Gef’s hair, which the creature kindly provided and set upon the mantle piece of the farmhouse. In addition to this, Price later received a set of plasticine imprints of Gef’s hands, feet and teeth.
But it was between the receipt of these gifts that Price and his friend, Richard Lambert, travelled to the Irvings farm in search of the mongoose himself.
Gef was, unsurprisingly, not fond of Price. Clearly the mongoose took offence to his perceived skepticism, referring to him as “the man who puts the kybosh on the spirits”, and I dare say our little friend is a rather good judge of character.
Upon hearing of his intention to visit, Gef went incognito and did not reappear until the visit was over.
Perhaps Gef knew that, despite his “open mind” on the case, Price had his suspensions of his authenticity. You see, Price had sent the hairs he’d received to a naturalist for examination, where it was concluded that the it was that of a dog. Specifically, a collie type, which was exactly the breed of the Irving’s dog, Mona.
Mona was a very good girl, but she was certainly no a mongoose. Unfortunately, the alleged paw prints met a similar fate, as the naturalist who examined them deemed they were certainly not of mongoose-ien origin and also “could conceivably be made by a dog”.
Maybe poor Gef put the kybosh on himself?
Theories and Analysis
Upon my return to London, I was overcome with a peculiar melancholy. I had not spoken with Gef. I had not seen him. I’d spent my time in Cashen’s Gap traversing the windswept hills, attempting conversation with rocks and chasing the odd bunny rabbit into his den in the hopes of an encounter with the elusive mongoose.
Had I been the victim of some kind of strange hoax? Had I been duped by the seemingly courteous Irvings who were now screaming with laughter behind my back, just like the boys in prep school?
I still hear them laughing.
Paranoia aside, I felt the pull of a certain je ne sais quoi about the whole affair, which deserves further analysis.
There was certainly something strange afoot in Cashen’s Gap and it’s time to examine it with the hardy eyes of scrutiny.
The Natural Explanations
Gef was a purposeful hoax, perpetrated by one or more of the Irvings
Clearly, we can discount the physical evidence provided by Gef. We must confront the possibility (or probability) of the hair and impressions being a creation of the family.
Perhaps they never imagined that the hairs cut from Mona could be examined in the manner they were. The Irvings did not given these hairs directly to Price, but rather to a friend of his, who was asked to evaluate the scene and who was said to be convinced of Gef’s existence.
Perhaps they never intended for Price to visit at all. In fact, his own account of the case includes the following:
Mr. Irving wrote that he would be delighted to see me and would make all arrangements for my visit. Unfortunately, on receipt of the letter announcing my decision, Gef suddenly disappeared. I waited for a week or so, but the mongoose was still missing. It was not an unusual occurrence for Gef to slip away for a few days, but an absence of two weeks was unusual. At the end of a month he was still missing, but I decided not to alter my plans and arranged to travel to the Isle of Man on Tuesday, July 30, 1935.
It would be convenient for ‘Gef’ to disappear during Price’s visit, so as not to give him the opportunity to debunk his antics. It’s more than plausible to imagine the Irvings disheartened (or “disheartened”) by Gef’s silence in the presence of Harry Price and producing the moulds as a last ditch attempt to convince him otherwise.
Further supporting the hoax theory:
- Tabloids at the time hailed Voirrey as a “talented ventriloquist”, although I have come across no evidence confirm this.
- The family attempted to take photos of Gef, but these are unclear and could easily be staged.
- The Irvings farmhouse was particularly isolated, with the nearest neighbours being a mile away. Additionally, the family were new to the farming lifestyle, with Mr Irving being a traveling salesman before turning his hand to sheep farming. At the time of Gef’s appearance, the farm was operating with the efficiency of a chocolate teapot and the family were in dire financial straits. Would it be impossible to believe that one or more of the Irvings created Gef as a form of escapism or in the hopes of monetary gain?
- The walls of the farmhouse were constructed with wood panelling and featured a great cavity between each. The acoustics of the house may have helped carry the voice of a hoaxer.
- Last but not least, we have the theory of Occam’s Razor – The simplest explanation is the most probable A hoax is much more likely than an actual, living, breathing 80 year old talking mongoose.
But was it a deliberate deception? The Irvings claim not:
- The family did not make any profit from Gef. Mr Irving even allegedly refused to sell the photos of Gef to the media. After Mr Irvings death, Voirrey and Mrs Irving left the farm, selling it at a loss due to its haunted reputation.
- In 1970, journalist Walter McGraw, interviewed Voirrey, who steadfastly denied the affair was a hoax, saying:
“It was not a hoax and I wish it had never happened. If my mother and I had our way we never would have told anybody about it. But Father was sort of wrapped up in it. It was such a wonderful phenomenon that he just had to tell people about it” and “Yes, there was a little animal who talked and did all those other things. He said he was a mongoose and said we should call him Gef. But I do wish he had let us alone.”
- Voirrey also spoke about the negative impact Gef had on her life:
“I was shy… I still am… he [Gef] made me meet people I didn‟t want to meet. Then they said I was „mental‟ or a ventriloquist. Believe me, if I was that good I would jolly well be making money from it now! Gef was very detrimental to my life. We were snubbed. The other children used to call me „the spook‟. I had to leave the Isle of Man and I hope that no one where I work now ever knows the story. Gef has even kept me from getting married. How could I ever tell a man‟s family about what happened?”
- There were reported interactions with Gef when each member of the household elsewhere, as well as sightings and interactions with Gef by those outside of the family.
Gef was a non-deliberate “hoax”, with a psychological cause
The mind is a funny old thing, you know. Just because a thing has no physical mass, does not mean it’s not real to its victim. It’s entirely possible that living in an isolated farmhouse, with the added pressure of a failing farm business, could develop a psychosis in someone predisposed to mental illness.
But what about the rest of the family? All three of the Irvings were convinced of Gef’s existence, despite having very different experiences of it. Well, in such a close knit or suffocating environment, one person’s delusions can develop into a foile à deux, or shared psychosis. Such happenings are rare, but not unheard of.
If this is the case, there are a few details which, if we are to assume all statements have been truthfully recorded, leave me troubled. There were reports of Gef telling the family things they could not have known independently:
- Gef could allegedly describe the lodgings of a bus driver, who had not been visited by the Irvings. There is, of course, the likelihood of a family member seeing these through a window, but the driver lived on the first floor, with the inside hidden from the street below.
- Gef is said to have described a visitors outfit or their imminent approach before the family were aware.
- There were also those outside the family who believed in Gef or interacted with him in some way – however, incidents of mass hysteria have been seen across time and could this be an explanation for this.
The Supernatural Explanations
Gef was “an earthbound spirit”
If we are to believe that Cashen’s Gap was indeed home to a talking mongoose, it may be easier for us to imagine him as some kind of incorporeal ghost.
Disembodied voices from the walls, the occasional thrown object (as was reported by the Irvings) and even the ability to describe events and settings (supposedly) unknown to the witnesses – these are typically observed in incidences of hauntings.
On reflection, the incident is not entirely dissimilar to that of the Bell Witch, who haunted the family of John Bell in Tennessee during the 1800s. Here, the family were haunted by the spirit of Kate Batts, who spoke to the family in a disembodied voice, threw objects and eventually (allegedly) murdered the families patriarch with poison. Similarly to the Irvings, the family were also pestered by sightings of a strange creature. In this case, a peculiar half-dog half-rabbit, as opposed to a little yellow mongoose with a bushy tale and human-like hands.
So, perhaps Gef was a ghost? After all, it is well theorised in the paranormal community that poltergeist-like behaviour demonstrated by Gef, often manifested in the presence of pubecent teens, such as Voirrey. Could a particularly isolated family such as the Irvings inadvertently such a spirit?
Maybe it was a sort of “perfect psychic storm” that enabled a spirit – describing itself for whatever reason as a mongoose – either fed off the energy of the Irving family, or indeed was a direct manifestation of whatever chaotic dynamics were at play between them.
Although Gef referred to himself as an “earthbound spirit” and “a ghost in the form of a mongoose”, he also rather adamantly insisted he was not a spirit at all. As he pointed out, how could he choking rabbits with his human-like hands, if he were not a physical being?
He may have been a contrary little scoundrel, but Gef seemed to know exactly what – and who – he was, stating clearly in a shrill voice from behind the wall:
“I am a little extra, extra clever mongoose.”
So what happened to Gef once the Irvings left Cashen’s Gap? Well, the new homeowner, Leslie Graham, reported to the press that he’d shot and killed poor Gef, and displayed his body as proof of this.
Luckily for us – and also for Gef – the animal he produced was much larger and of black and white colouration. Upon seeing the image, Voirrey insisted that the creature was not the little yellow beast with the big bushy tail that she had seen and conversed with during her time at Cashen’s Gap.
Was Gef a ghost, a product of mass hysteria, a living, breathing creature with extraordinary powers or a hoax?
Somewhere in the middle we may find the truth, but where’s the fun in that? I’d like reality to keep a few of her secrets, lest we stop dreaming all together.
There is more to Gef’s adventures than I have time to record. He told the Irvings many tales of his life before Cashen’s Gap and how he was “brought to England by a man named Holland” after spending some time in Egypt.
I will end this case with the curious fact that the Irvings neighbour did indeed import a population of mongooses to assist in controlling the local rabbit population, although I do not recall if his name was Holland.
Dr L J Hawthorn