Awesome or Off-Putting is a weekly delve into cryptozoology, ufology, medical marvels, scientific wonders, secret societies, government conspiracies, cults, ghosts, myths, ancient artifacts, religion, strange facts or just the plain unexplainable.
This week: Myths
It's Halloween week, so it's only fitting hecklerspray push a particularly strange tale through your computer screens and into all your ghastly living rooms and web-covered cubicles. The story's of a mongoose given the ability to speak by the hand of the devil. Or something. Technically we're not exactly sure whose hand let Gef the mongoose talk, but we've narrowed it down to the lord of all darkness, or the same company that made Steven Hawking's computerised voice simulator.
We lean towards the latter.
The year is 1931. The place is the isle of Man in the Irish sea, more specifically the farmhouse of a family named Irving. In September of that year they began to hear unsettling noises emanating from their attic. They described the initial noises as hissing, spitting, growling and barking. The ruckus soon turned to gurgling which the family described as sounding eerily like the sound a baby might make.
A voice was developing, a voice described as being: "Two octaves above the human voice, and very clear and distinct." It started speaking by imitating the words and animal calls of James Irving, the man of the house. Before long it was structuring entire sentences of its own choosing. The creature is said to have introduced himself to the family, saying that his name was Gef, and that he was "a little clever, extraclever mongoose." The family's young daughter saw Gef on a few occasions, and the mother also saw him once. All Mr. Irving ever saw was a blur whipping by, or the tip of a tail rounding a corner.
Gef gave the family a bit of a backstory, too. He said he'd originally been born on June 7, 1852 in Delhi, India, but left there because he'd been "…chased by the natives." No explanation was ever given as to how he ended up in Ireland.
The mongoose generally remained hidden in the walls of the family's house, or out in their garden. By all accounts he was friendly, and had a penchant for practical jokes. One of the Irving parents (sources differ as to which) was even allowed to touch the creature, but not see him. The fur was described as very soft, and upon petting Gef, the parent's finger was accidentally cut on his sharp teeth. When noticing this, Gef told the person to "Go and point some ointment on it."
The creature is also reported to have wandered about the island spying on neighbours, and reporting back to the Irvings on local activities. Gef's story began to catch on in the local press, causing quite a commotion with reporters. In 1935 a paranormal investigator named Harry Price even came out to catch a glimpse of the creature, but with little to no success. Price speaks of this in a book:
"The mongoose problem obsessed our minds and made sleep difficult. Was the whole affair a fraud from A to Z? Was it a plot (lasting four years) to fool the countryside? If so, what was the motive? Were the Irvings engaged in a clever and picturesque conspiracy? Was there any sort of animal at all? Was there any real evidence whatsoever that Gef had been heard? These and similar questions raced through my brain. If a plot, then the Irvings were consummate actors. There was no apparent motive, and no financial gain. In the early days it was said that Voirrey [the Irving's young daughter] was a natural ventriloquist – whatever that is – and responsible for the Gef impersonation. But the Irvings state that Gef has been heard while Voirrey was under observation; in fact, the three members of the Irving Family have, in turn, been absent from home while Gef was said to manifest."
Eventually the Irvings left the farm, and the fate of the mongoose is uncertain. Some time later the farmer who purchased the property actually shot a mongoose, a mongoose some believe to be Gef. Others believe the chatty animal simply moved with the family to a new location, but nothing is known for sure.
[story by Shawn Lindseth]