The Curious Case of Gef The Foul Mouthed Mongoose

Some stories are so out there, so wacked out and weird, that they beggar belief. Into this category must go the case of Gef the Talking Mongoose – mongoose, that’s a sort of weasel, ferret type thing.

(And just so you know I’m not pulling your leg, here’s Gef’s Wikipedia page)

Isle of Man (kinda, sorta part of the U.K) residents James Irving and family first came into contact with Gef in September of 1931 when they saw a small, yellow, ferret-like creature in their farmyard. Not long after, the puzzled family heard strange vocalizations coming from behind the walls of their house – far as I can make out, these walls had two layers, one of brick or stone and then, a few inches in front of that, a layer of wood, and it is in these few inches of space that Gef supposedly made his home. Gef soon graduated from blurting out incomprehensible noises to speaking in fully articulated words after the family started reading him nursery rhymes, as you do when you find a talking ferret living behind the walls of your house! At first the reclusive yet attention seeking creature merely repeated what he heard, but being an especially smart mongoose-ferret-weasel he soon learned to converse fluently with the family, and proceeded to tell them that he had been born in India in 1850 and had somehow made his way to the UK, perhaps by cleverly secreting himself in a shipment of curry powder – there is no record of whether or not he told this story with an Indian accent so his country of origin remains debatable.

According to the Irvings, Gef was wont to swear at everyone in a high pitched voice, and some times hurled objects all over the house. He did, however, have his good qualities; for example, he often hunted rabbits and brought them home for Mrs. Irving to cook. He also kept the family entertained by singing to them in what I can only assume was a nice sharp tenor. Apparently Gef’s repertoire included hymns, Spanish folk songs ( he must have stopped there on his way over from India ) and the kind of limericks that would make even Billy Connolly blush. Gef was supposedly also very fond of performing a song called Carolina Moon, though I find this last claim hard to take as I  looked around YouTube and couldn’t find any videos of Gef performing this particular number. The only one I could find performing it was some 1920s chick called Annette Hanshaw, who I must admit does sound a bit like a weasel but has no noticeable Indian accent.

When not holding discussions or musical soirees at the Irving farm, Gef was fond of hanging around the local bus depot, where he would spy on the workers, yell insults at them, then run away giggling evilly. Not happy with limiting himself to insult, Gef also developed a habit of stealing sandwiches from the workers’ lunchboxes. Apart from pilfered sandwiches, Gef was also partial to chocolate, bananas and sausages, though these latter items he obtained honestly from the Irving family in exchange for his services as singer, raconteur and provedore of dead bunnies.

This unlikely situation went on for several years and drew hordes of journalists and photographers to the Isle of Man, but in spite of all the attention and several years of Gef-mania no photos of any value were ever produced. The only physical evidence presented was some hair, and some paw prints and bite marks on plasticine. A naturalist ( I think that’s one of those people who likes to play volleyball naked ) by the name of F.Martin Duncan examined the fur and found it to be not only dog hair, but exactly the same kind of dog hair one would expect from a sheepdog, which, funnily enough, was exactly the kind of dog that the family owned! The paw prints were also rather suspect, with Duncan declaring that they were probably fake as they did not bear the usual folds and creases to be found in animal skin – and if there is one thing this deranged exhibitionist would know about it is skin, so I, for one, must take his word for it. The bite marks were not identifiable, though Duncan did think them definitely not those of a mongoose and possibly those of a dog. This anomaly can, however, be explained through yet another of Gef’s talents – shape shifting. According to Mr. Irving, he once saw a creature resembling a large cat with tiger-like stripes in his yard, and when he mentioned this to Gef the latter informed him that what he had seen was none other than Gef himself (though I am more inclined to think it a sighting of that rare creature, the orange tabby) And if Gef could change into a Garfield look-alike, why not a dog? Or an armadillo, for that matter?

The occasional outsider aside, the only people who ever actually saw Gef were Irving, his wife and his daughters, and even though some photographs exist most of them seem to show something that doesn’t really resemble any animal such as a yellow weasel, more like a lump of fur. Though for the most part weaselly, Gef reportedly had human like hands and feet, neither of which are seen in any of the following photographs…

In this one, all I can see is a bunch of weeds, or junk of some sort, but word has it that buried somewhere in the midst of all that is a certain famous mongoose…


This one is the best of a poor lot, but while it looks like an animal of some sort, I can’t help notice that it seems to have at least two colors in its fur and is lacking the human hands…

And here we have a photo of one of the Irving daughters, the unfortunately named Voirrey, standing in front of the farmhouse. You will notice that conspicuous by his absence is a certain small, yellow-haired, Indian gentleman.

Here’s another of young Voirrey. I don’t know why she’s looking into the lamp – perhaps when not hanging out between walls Gef hung out inside lamps!


There are theories as to what was going on, and one states that the women of the family didn’t much like being stuck out in the sticks and fabricated the entire thing in order to have an excuse to go back to civilization proper, and the daughter most involved in all this, Voirrey, was reputed to be adept at ventriloquism. The father must have had some involvement, though, as he claimed to have seen the creature many times and even felt it grip his fingers in its tiny, human-like hands. In fact, dad kept a diary on the entire thing and was without a doubt the greatest recipient of attention from the whole thing, though Voirrey also got her share of media attention. Eventually, though, the family got sick of all the attention brought down upon them by their famous lodger and decided to sell the farm. The trigger-happy jerk who bought the place later claimed to have shot and killed Gef, though Voirrey examined the body and said that, whatever it was, it was definitely not The Ferret Formerly Known As Gef.

So what was this Gef, this weasel-ferret-mongoose thing that swore like a sailor and sang like an angel? A strange, one-off freak of nature? A poltergeist? The ghost of a lost Indian tourist? Does a clue lie in the fact that when James Irving became ill Gef’s appearances became rare and when he finally died they ceased altogether? Does young Voirrey’s supposed skill with ventriloquism have any bearing on all this? Hell, I don’t know, but if I’m ever in the Isle of Man I’ll be keeping a close eye on my sandwiches – but only in case someone steals them and then blames the entire thing on a certain walking, talking, singing, 1930s sensation called Gef.

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