Gef, The Talking Mongoose, Is Said To Have Haunted A Farmhouse On The Isle Of Man For Several Years

Hoax? Poltergeist? A real mongoose who somehow learned human speech? Decades after he first appeared to a family that lived in a remote area on the Isle of Man, the mystery of the talking mongoose Gef (pronounced "Jeff") remains just that - a mystery. But for a few years in the 1930s, it was one that received attention from many of Britain's tabloid newspapers, as well as from well-known paranormal researchers and ghost hunters like Harry Price.

The locals called Gef the "Dalby spook." Although some people thought Gef was nothing but a giant hoax, the Irving family was adamant that the creature lived in the walls of their farmhouse and would communicate with them. 

To date, no consensus has been reached about whether or not Gef really existed - or what he actually was if he did.


  • The Irving Family Started Hearing Strange Animal Sounds Coming From Inside Their Farmhouse's Walls
    Photo: Harry Price and Richard Lambert / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Irving Family Started Hearing Strange Animal Sounds Coming From Inside Their Farmhouse's Walls

    James and Margaret Irving lived with their teenage daughter Voirrey in a farmhouse known as Doarlish Cashen, which was located about a mile outside of the tiny village of Dalby on the Isle of Man. The home sat on a hill more than 700 feet above sea level, and because there was no true road leading to the property, the farmhouse was difficult to reach.

    The family had lived there for about 15 years when, in September 1931, they began hearing knocking and tapping that they thought might be coming from a weasel or stoat trapped inside their house's walls. By December, the noises sounded "similar to a baby child beginning to talk," and soon afterward, the Irvings "heard definite words issuing from the walls."

  • More Curious Than Frightened, The Irvings Taught The Creature How To Talk 

    In a 1932 interview with the Manchester Daily Dispatch, James Irving described Gef as "a little animal resembling a stoat, a ferret, or a weasel, yellow in colour with a body about nine inches long. Its long bushy tail is speckled with black."

    At first, the family was curious about the strange creature. When they first heard it trying to speak, they began teaching it simple nursery rhymes. Within a week, the creature was able to repeat the nursery rhymes back to them, and before long, it was able to hold conversations with them. The Isle of Man Examiner reported that "from that time on, this queer body has repeated parts of their conversations, has discussed their private lives with them, and has retailed gossip gleaned from the outside."

    The creature, who introduced himself as "Gef," reportedly learned how to speak multiple languages and liked to sing and tell jokes.

  • Gef Described Himself As Many Things, Including A Ghost In The Form Of A Weasel And A Mongoose
    Photo: Harry Price and Richard Lambert / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Gef Described Himself As Many Things, Including A Ghost In The Form Of A Weasel And A Mongoose

    At various points, Gef told the Irvings that he was a "ghost in the form of a weasel," that he was an "earthbound spirit," and that because his existence was physical, he needed food in order to live. He also informed them, "I am not a spirit. I am just a little extra, extra clever mongoose."

    He told the Irvings he had been born in India on June 7, 1852, and while living in that country, he had been chased and shot at by the residents.

  • Gef May Have Lived In The Farmhouse Walls Long Before The Irvings Bought The Property

    The talking mongoose reportedly once told the Irvings, "For years, I could understand all that was said. I tried to talk, but couldn't, until you taught me."

    So was the creature living on the farmhouse property before the Irvings came to live on the Isle of Man in 1916? Some local folklore suggests that the Doarlish Cashen farm had been the site of some rather eerie goings-on before the family's arrival:

    Some men digging here many years ago unearthed a flat stone covering a funerary urn which contained black ashes. They buried it in the hedge-bank. A long time afterwards, and not extremely long ago, a young man hunting rabbits... thought he saw a rabbit bolting to the hedge. He began pulling away the stones and soil, and while doing so he felt something invisible pushing him back. When this happened a second time, a sudden fear took him and he ran down the hillside till he reached his home.

    What's more, when Irving hired two men to repair the farmhouse before the family moved in, he was told the men refused to stay in the home overnight, as one of them had heard strange noises coming from one of the rooms.

  • Gef Was Initially Hostile Towards The Irving Family

    Gef was quite hostile to the Irvings when they first discovered him; he insulted and terrorized them, and sometimes even threw rocks at them. But the relationship improved over time, and they began treating him as a member of the family. They would leave food out for him, and in return, he would kill rabbits and leave them on their doorstep. He also stuck up for them, offering to slaughter the livestock of any of their enemies, and he was particularly protective of Voirrey.

    Even so, he had a mean streak. James Irving claimed that Gef once told him, "If you are kind to me, I will bring you good luck. If you are not kind, I will kill all your poultry. I can get them wherever you put them." On another occasion, he warned, "You don’t know what damage or harm I might do if I were roused. I could kill you all if I liked, but I won’t."

  • Gef Began To Follow Voirrey Irving Around The House And To School 
    Photo: Harry Price and Richard Lambert / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Gef Began To Follow Voirrey Irving Around The House And To School 

    Voirrey Irving was 13 years old when Gef first appeared. Members of the community reported they often saw her talking to Gef as she walked to school or into the village. No one ever saw Gef himself - the creature reportedly would hide behind a wall or a hedge - but witnesses claimed they heard Gef speak to the girl. 

    At the farmhouse, Gef's attention was also heavily focused on Voirrey. Because of his threatening behavior at the beginning of his interaction with the family, her parents decided to move their daughter's bed into their room in order to protect her. According to James Irving, this sent the creature into a huge tantrum, in which he warned, "I'll follow her, no matter where you move her."

    Because of his fixation on the girl, some thought Gef was a poltergeist, as young children were generally believed to be connected to unexplained paranormal activity. But Gef himself denied being one, reportedly stating, "I am not like one of those." Instead, he claimed, he was more like "an Indian Familiar."