Saturday, 20 September 2008

Focus On: Gef The Talking Mongoose

Gef the talking mongoose is another story I once read about in the many weird and wonderful books I somehow accumulated as a child. On a sidenote I really wish I knew what had happened to those...

I don't think I could tell the story better than the following well researched and well written site so I suggest you head on over to Gef: The Eighth Wonder Of The World and read all about this mysterious little creature. But I will "summarise" in my own very long winded fashion!

Gef made his first known appearance in September 1931 on the Isle of Mann in the home of James, Margaret, and daughter Voirrey Irving (13). The first sign of his existence was a scratching sound wall which they, sensibly, thought might be rats in the wall. But soon it began to demonstrate different qualities, making weird sounds before mimicing sounds made by James Irvine. Over time Mr Irvine taught him to speak using the repetition of nursery rhymes.

He introduced himself as Gef, a mongoose from New Delhi, India, who was born in 1852. All three family members caught glimpses of the ever elusive Gef but the only person to ever see him fully was Voirrey who described him as the size of a small rat with yellowish fur and a large bushy tail.

Could Gef be a yellow mongoose as shown to the left? Doubtful as the yellow mongoose comes from southern Africa... and Gef didn't really resemble any known mongoose from India.

Gef was fairly pleasant to the Irvings, especially to James and Voirrey. But he did have a very variable attitude, a lot like a poltergeist or a teenage girl!, and was sometimes aggressive towards Mrs Irving. She was once returning home when someone began throwing stones at her.

"Is that you, Gef?" she called out. "Yes, Maggie the witch woman, the Zulu Woman, the Honolulu woman!" taunted the impertinent mongoose.
He wasn't exactly shy, nor humble, and described himself often including the following little dittys:

"an extra extra clever mongoose",
an "earthbound spirit",
"a ghost in the form of a weasel",
and last, but not least, "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!"

Word got around the island about what was going on and Voirrey was teased about the subject at school. Soon the mainland press had become involved and investigators headed over to the island to see if they couldn't find out a little bit more about the subject.

Sadly Gef was known for his elusiveness and many times wouldn't even make himself known in anyone else's presence. Hair samples were obtained but turned out to be from the family pet, a dog named Mona, and a paw prints were shown to come from no known mammal... except some might be a dog. And finally investigations into his voice seemed to indicate human sounds and Voirrey never seemed too far away whenever his voice was manifested.

Personally I think that the whole incident was a child's prank that got out of Voirrey's hands when her father not only fell for it completely but put the word out to everyone he could about his amazing house guest. Voirrey still maintains Gef was real but indicates that it might have been better if he'd just left them alone.

But here's some interesting little tidbits:

The Irvings left their home in 1937, reportedly having to sell the farm at a loss because it had the reputation of being haunted. In 1946, Leslie Graham, the farmer who had bought their farm, claimed that he had shot and killed Gef. The animal was, however, black and white and much larger than the famous mongoose, and Voirrey Irving was certain that it was not Gef.
He also liked to catch rabbits, would Voirrey really have been able to capture and kill a rabbit without leaving obvious signs of a human hunt? Saving the best until last:
A neighbouring farmer had imported Mongeese to the island 20 years earlier to curb the local rabbit population.
So you never know... perhaps Gef really was just an extra, extra clever mongoose.

Again the ultimate resource for Gef related reading is going to be the marvellous Gef: the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Further Reading

Poltergeists: A Study In Destrutive Haunting - Colin Wilson - Further reading on the related phenomena of poltergeists.

1 comment:

graylien said...

Hi - thanks for linking to my little website about Gef (the 8th wonder of the world). I don't know if you bother with Facebook, but if you do, perhaps you might consider joining my small (but select) group dedicated to the miraculous mongoose -

Nice blog, by the way. It's exactly the sort of blog I'd like to have myself, if only I could find the time...