THE Irving family were sitting down to dinner one autumn evening, when they heard spitting and growling sounds coming from behind their walls.
As the days went on, the noises were more akin to a child singing nursery rhymes. Then, the family say, the culprit introduced himself: he was a talking mongoose named Gef.
It may sound extremely far-fetched, but in 1931 the Irvings, who lived in a remote farmhouse called Cashen’s Gap on the Isle of Man, believed they were haunted by a talking mongoose.
The theories that were thrown around about Gef were crazy: he was a figment of the Irvings’ imagination; a mongoose that had been possessed by a poltergeist; or a real talking animal.
The story gripped the nation at the time.
Several ghost hunters and journalists visited the Irvings’ home in an attempt to uncover the mystery, with one reporter even saying the creature had given him tips for the races.
Here, Sun Online takes a look at the strange events of a mongoose, reportedly, repeatedly threatening a family, by swearing and throwing objects at them.
‘I am extra, extra clever, but not always kind’
Initially, the Irvings – Jim, Margaret and their 13 year old daughter Voirrey – thought the sounds coming from behind the walls were rats.
Jim lay down traps and poison but the noises continued. One day, he tried to scare the creature by growling at the wall like a dog, and to his surprise it growled right back at him.
Soon, it was singing nursery rhymes in an eerie, childlike manner, before coming out and introducing itself a few days later.
Voirrey described the creature as being the size of a small rat, with yellow fur and a large, bushy tail.
The animal said it was a mongoose called Gef, who had been born in New Delhi, India, was then hunted, before escaping to the Isle of Man.
He told them he was an “earthbound spirit” and a “ghost in the form of a mongoose”. However, more chillingly, he warned that he was “extra, extra clever, but not always kind.”
Initially, Gef assumed the role of being a pet that also took on household jobs. The Irvings said Gef guarded their house, let them know guests were arriving, told people that if one of them left the fire on, before going downstairs to put it out.
However, his warnings about being cruel were right.
Gef would often lose his temper at the Irvings, calling Jim a “fat-headed gnome” and even threatening to kill them all.
Voirrey was scared of Gef and slept in her parents’ bed to avoid being alone in the dark with him. However, the mongoose didn’t take kindly to this, telling Jim: “I’ll follow her wherever you put her”.
One night, when the family tried to barricade the bedroom door with chairs and boxes so he couldn’t get in, Gef made the door bulge until it crashed open.
Strange voices echoing through the walls
A report in local paper alerted members of the public to the strange events and it wasn’t long before paranormal investigators and national and international reporters, descended on Cashen’s Gap to catch a glimpse of the mysterious mongoose.
Although he usually only appeared to the Irvings, a couple of reporters claimed to have seen Gef, with one even telling his boss that the creature had given him a tip for the races.
Other visitors said they could hear strange voices echoing through the walls. Many paranormal investigators said this was likely to be poltergeist activity connected to teenager Voirrey.
However, sceptics accused Voirrey of ventriloquism, saying the odd noises and voices seemed to come from where she was standing.
And footprints, stains on the wall and hair samples claimed by the family to be concrete evidence of Gef were identified as belonging to the Irvings’ sheepdog, and they were accused of deception.
One psychologist who staying with the Irvings for a week said he didn’t believe the family were deceitful, putting Gef down to Jim having a split personality.
Another theory was that the family had developed mental health problems due to their circumstances. Once rich and living in Wavertree, Liverpool, they moved to Cashen’s Gap after Jim’s piano importing business collapsed.
The house had no electricity and no telephone, and the family, who didn’t fit in with the locals and only had a gramophone for entertainment, were extremely isolated.
‘I wish Gef had left us alone’
In July 1935, well-known paranormal investigator Harry Price went to Cashen’s Gap, and later published a book called The Haunting of Cashen’s Gap.
He avoided saying he believed the story, and never encountered Gef himself, but also admitted that he could not find a motive for the family to have lied about the events.
“I agree that the whole family must be mixed up in it but there still remains the question of motive. It certainly is not to draw people to Cashen’s Gap, because they do their utmost to keep them away…the motive for the imposture lies much deeper than mere publicity,” he wrote at the time.
When Jim died in 1945, Margaret and Voirrey left their home and moved to the mainland, selling the farm to a man called Leslie Graham.
Strangely, in 1947 Leslie trapped and killed an animal that seemed to be “neither ferret, stoat, nor weasel”, adding that it matched descriptions of Gef.
A few years on, he too left Cashen’s Gap, and the farmhouse was demolished.
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As an adult, Voirrey maintained that the family’s story had been true.
In 1970, a journalist from FATE magazine tracked her down, interviewing her about her unusual experiences with Gef.
“Yes, there was a little animal who talked and did all those other things,” she said. “He said he was a mongoose and we should call him Gef… But I do wish he had let us alone.”
She died in 2005, and took the real secret of Gef to the grave with her, leaving this strange tale an enduring mystery.