'GEF' THE TALKING MONGOOSE
The strange case of a family 'haunted' by a talking 'man-weasel'.
Published: Friday 7th February 2020 Author: Hannah Smith, Genealogist & Owner of Family Trees by Hannah
This story epitomizes what I love most about my work as a Genealogist - the things that breathe life into the stories of the people who have gone before us. This is one of the most bizarre stories I've stumbled across during my research. It is truly weird and I love it!
In 2018 I was researching a family who lived in northwest England at the turn of the Century, one branch lived on the Isle of Man during the late 1920s and likeky there when the Irving family turned the tiny Island into a national media phenomenon through their claims they were being haunted by a talking mongoose from India who had introduced himself as 'Gef'.
"If you know what I know, you'd know a hell of a lot" - Gef.
It was Autumn 1931 when strange events began. Mr and Mrs Irving (Jim and Margaret) and their 14-year-old daughter Voirrey lived on a farm in the Isle of Man. Isolated, on a bare hillside a steep climb 2 miles from the nearest village or road, there was no electricity or telephone and the house was lit with petroleum lamps.
The family began to see a small creature ‘similar in appearance to a weasel with a small body, long bushy tail, flat nose and yellow in colour’ that was living in the walls of their home, keeping them awake at night blowing, spitting and growling.
Mr Irving named the creature ‘Jack’ and made various attempts to catch him.
Around the same time they began to hear a voice they didn’t recognise repeating songs and hymns.
Cashen's Gap Farmhouse, Isle of Man. Home of the Irving Family in the 1930s.
In 1932 (as Mr Irving later revealed to a reporter), Jim and his daughter Voirrey were in the house in broad daylight one day when he chased the creature down the garden with a gun. Later that evening he was recounting the tale to Mrs Irving when a voice said “It was me you saw, Jim”.
Eventually, the voice made himself known to the family as a Mongoose from India and spoke with a voice the family described as “loud, clear and one or two octaves higher than a human”. Other witnesses also described 'Gef's' voice as “very high, screechy”.
The creature also made it known his name was ‘Geoff’ or ‘Jeff’ spelling it for them phonetically as G-E-F. When asked who or what he was he would frequently reply “I am the ghost of a weasel, and I will haunt you with weird noises and clanking chains”. Later he described himself as “Just a little extra, extra clever Mongoose”.
"How Gef showed his fingers". Mr Jim Irving is pointing towards a pair of white hand-like objects that protrude from the gap between the wooden rafter and the roof. from Gef!: The Strange Tale of an Extra-special Talking Mongoose (courtesy Strange Attractor)
Initially, Mr Irving did not suspect anything supernatural but soon changed his mind. One night after Gef displayed the power of invisibility Mr Irving decided “We should have Voirrey’s bed in my room for safety”. The voice from behind the wall came – “I’ll follow you wherever you move her”.
“When we went to bed, I barricaded the door with dressing-boxes, chairs, and a heavy weight… Soon we saw the top of the door bulging in as if some terrific force were thrusting against it.
But the door held. Then Gef‟s queer, high voice said, "I'm coming in." A few seconds later, a heavy pot of ointment kept in the room crashed against the bedstead."
Gef's behaviour was certainly changeable and often surprising. Sometimes he seemed friendly towards the Irvings, leaving
them dead rabbits in return for sausages, bananas and other such rewards.
Not only did he talk, Gef sang along to the gramophone – his favourite record was 'Carolina Moon'. He performed the Manx national anthem as well as hymns and Spanish folk songs. Gef even drew a self-portrait for the family.
Sometimes, Gef seemed to delight in tormenting the Irving parents. On one occasion he threw stones at Mrs Irving as she walked home and one morning when Mr Irving took too long to open the morning paper he lost his temper and cried out “Read it out, you fat-headed gnome!”.
Mr Irving’s diaries told of other odd events. One such time was when 3 fisherman visited. While in conversation one of them suddenly stopped speaking and said a white cat had jumped onto his lap – yet nobody else could see it and the Irving’s didn’t have a cat.
Another was a road repair worker working near the farm. While having his lunch he threw an unwanted piece of bread into a field near the Irving's farmhouse and was amazed to see it moving of it’s own accord.
Cyril Oates (Mr Irving’s cousin) was once working in a field near the farmhouse when a stone was thrown over the hedge at him. Upon investigation, there was nobody there.
Through his extensive diary entries Jim Irving tells of how each of the family members had seen Gef when they were alone - once, Jim had touched Gef's hand and his wife had put her fingers in Gef's mouth and felt his teeth.
Journalists, Scientists, Spiritualists and Mediums flocked the Island to visit find out what was really going on. If it was a Hoax there must have been co-conspirators beyond the Irving family. Apparently Gef liked to hitch a ride on the bus to nearby Peel and spy on the depot drivers.
One such driver became fed up of Gef's eavesdropping saying "this animal, or whatever it is, knows a darn sight too much!" Bus conductor Jack Tearle was interviewed - "Yes, I am the man whose dinner was pinched. The dinner was six sandwiches in a brown paper parcel. The paper was slit open as if by a knife or sharp claws. The sandwiches were missing. I should like to get my hands on that Gef,‟ he said, with clenched fists as he jumped back on his bus.
Jim Irving shows the slit in the matchingboard through which Gef threw a large needle. It is 4inches in depth as shows by the distance between the 2 knives.
Numerous papers, reports and books have been printed over the years although nobody has been able to say precisely what happened at the Irving's farmhouse and what - if anything - Gef was.
Hair samples which Mr Irving claimed Gef had pulled from his own body were deemed by a Zoological Society as that of a dog. Paw-prints were also submitted but it was deemed unlikely they could have come from any living creature - partly due to the difference in size between the front and hind paws, and the lack of imprints demonstrating animal skin of any kind led experts to believe the prints had been made with a stick.
A childhood friend of Voirrey’s claimed Voirrey was a skilled ventriloquist able to ‘throw’ her voice. Others close to the family said Mrs Irving and Voirrey were in cahoots, fed up of living on the lonely farm they tried to convince Mr Irving it was haunted so he’d sell up and they could move.
After Jim died in 1945 Voirrey sold the farm to Leslie Graham and moved to the mainland. Strangely, in 1947 Leslie caught a strange animal in a trap that matched the description of Gef.
In 1970, Walter McGraw, a journalist for Fate magazine, traced Voirrey, and persuaded her to be interviewed. She still maintained that Gef had not been a hoax, but did not look fondly upon him:
“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?”
Gef's self-portrait. Supposedly demonstrated Gef's ability to hold a pencil.
Gef's paw prints
Fact or Fiction?
Besides the obvious entertainment value, the thing I love most about this story is that unlike most Genealogical work I do which requires a proven accuracy and truth, this has remained open to interpretation for nearly 90 years and counting!
Was Voirrey a bored or disgruntled teenager trying to 'one-up' her parents and take the secret to her grave like the Cottingley Fairies girls? Was it an elaborate hoax for financial gain? Shared hysteria, perhaps?
Whatever happened, I love the case of Gef because it's precisely what a great story should be - something you can tell over and over again, and be truly fascinated every time.
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