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A sketch of Gef

In 1931 the Irving family, farmers near the hamlet of Dalby on the Isle of Man started to hear scratching from behind the walls. The farmhouse was made of stone, but inside lined with timber with a gap between so it was not uncommon for small rodents to get into the cavity.

What was uncommon was that creature spoke, he introduced himself as Gef and said he was a Mongoose born in New Delhi in 1852.

At first Gef had been somewhat hostile to the Irving’s, but soon they were able to make piece and become friends. Gef would turn out the gas fire if the family fell asleep, chase away foxes coming on to their land and other small jobs.

For the next few years Gef became something of a minor celebrity, the Irving’s, James and Margaret and their teenage daughter Voirrey entertained both scientists from leading institutions and ghost hunters alike.

While Gef would speak to all of the family he was closest to Voirrey and to James. Many suspected that in fact Gef’s high whiney voice was actually Voirrey herself, however she denied this right up until her death in 2005. Plus others on the island had claimed to have heard Gef talk, at times when Voirrey wasn’t anywhere near.

Voirrey did take some photographs of Gef, but they didn’t really show anything. While opinion, among those who believed in Gef, was split as to what he actually was. He himself said he was both an “earthbound spirit” and “A extra special Mongoose”. Although some more skeptical thought that he was a split in the personality of James Irving, or a carefully orchestrated stunt by the family to make money.

One thing to address here is the elephant in the room, or rather the mongoose on the island. The fact that Gef was said to be a mongoose was not odd. In the late c19, around 30 or so years after Gef claimed to be born, a landowner on the island who had spent time in India imported Mongoose to control rats on his farm.

With no predators the mongoose thrived although since the 1970s they have been in decline, but at the time mongoose were if not common known to be on the island.

However the physical description of Gef was not that of the type of mongoose found on in India or on Man. He was said to be small reddish with a striped bushy tail. That description fits a Ring-Tailled Mongoose, but they are only found in one place, Madagascar.

Hair samples supposedly of Gef turned out to be from the Irving’s sheepdog while some casts of his footprints were made and the results were inconclusive.

James Irving became ill during the early 1940s and Gef stopped talking. Margaret and Voirrey were forced to sell the farm after his death in 1945, at a loss because of superstition surrounding Gef, and moved to the mainland.

Leslie Graham the man who bought the Irving’s farm claimed to have shot Gef in 1946 after a mongoose was bothering his chickens, however the body he displayed was very large black and white mongoose. Nothing like Gef was supposed to be.

Not long after the farmhouse was deserted and fell into ruin. Although even today people still venture to Man to try and find evidence of The Dalby Spook. As one local put it: “When you have Meerkats selling insurance on TV why not a talking Mongoose?”