Ghosts, like people, come in all styles and varieties. There are stories of evil, wicked, nasty, malevolent spirits as well as shy, retiring, you-don’t-bother-me-and-I-won’t-bother-you types. There are spooks, specters, poltergeists, revenants, pareidolia, and camera flaws. Then, as with people, there are the odd-balls- the ones that just don’t seem to fit in. My favorite of these was Gef, the talking mongoose.
This occurred in 1931 at Doarlish Cashen (Cashen’s Gap), a farmhouse near Dalby, on the Isle of Man. The Irvings, the family occupying the farmhouse, began hearing scratchings and scrabblings like a rat in the walls. Eventually the unseen animal began spitting like a ferret, growling like a dog and gurgling like a baby. Imagine the Irvings’ consternation when the critter displayed an ability to speak, and introduced itself as Gef, a mongoose, born in New Delhi in 1856. How Gef arrived on the Isle Of Man, he, or it, didn’t say. Nor did he provide any clues as to how he made it to four times the life expectancy of the average mongoose, if that’s what he was, since he claimed at various times to be “an extra extra clever mongoose”, an “Earthbound spirit” and “a ghost in the form of a weasel”.
Many researchers suspected that Gef was a poltergeist, and indeed the Irving’s daughter Voirrey was at the right age for that sort of thing. If a poltergeist, Gef was rather a nice one. He often talked and joked with the family, and would occasionally leave small game, mostly rabbits, on their doorstep for dinner. He would never allow anyone but Voirrey to see him, however, and if he didn’t like you, you could count on being insulted, or pelted with pebbles. He liked to spy on the neighbors and relate choice stories to the Irvings. I imagine this could have made Mrs. Irving the queen of the Dalby gossips, were she so inclined.
Among those who researched the “Dalby Spook” were Harry Price, famous for his book on Borley Rectory (the most haunted house in England) and Dr. Nandor Fodor, the noted parapsychologist, who did pioneering research into poltergeist phenomena. Naturalist F. Martin Duncan was given a hair supposedly belonging to Gef, but identified it as from a dog. Reginald Pocock of the Natural History Museum was supplied with plasticine casts of Gef’s paw prints (including his very human-like hands) and toothmarks. He was unable to match them to any known animal including a mongoose.
The Irvings sold Doarlish Cashen in 1937, to Leslie Graham, a local farmer. In 1946 Graham claimed to have shot and killed Gef (perhaps to remove the stigma of the farm being haunted) but Voirrey denied his story, since the carcass he displayed was too large and the wrong color for Gef.
A mongoose, a poltergeist, or a ghost in the form of a weasel- no one ever did figure out what Gef was. I know what I would like to believe- that he was “an extra extra clever mongoose”.