When I was in high school we had packrats. I didn’t know what a packrat was but I knew they were there. You could hear them at night, scrabbling around in the walls or the attic. Packing I suppose. Secreting away little bits of food and cloth in preparation for whatever they thought might be coming. Some sort of ancient packrat legend about the end of days, when the unprepared would freeze in some dark armageddon while only those who had collected enough saltines, fiberglass insulation and pieces of string would survive! We put out a live trap with some peanut butter on the trigger and snapped both of them up in one trap. And. They. Were. ADORABLE.
I loved their little cheeks and hands and their chubby lil tummies. And I felt bad for them. They were just exercising a little foresight. Stocking up for the winter. They only operated at night and really only ate forgotten foods in the back of the pantry, leaving the Gushers and Dunkers completely untouched. Because they had class. I figured that anything that would do us that small courtesy couldn’t be all bad. It could have been way worse. We could have gotten one of those real bad pests. One of those seemingly phantasmal beasts like something out of a Greek myth. One that could turn invisible and speak English and sometimes threaten to kill some of us. We could have gotten Gef.
Gef first revealed himself to the Irving family of Dalby, Isle of Man in September of 1931. It all started when the Irvings began to hear scuttling and scratching in the walls of their home. James, the family patriarch, tried in vain to flush out what he thought was a rat and eventually, in a moment of desperation, began growling and barking like a dog in an attempt to frighten the pest. To his alarm the thing in the wall growled and barked right back at him. After changing his tweed underpants, James tried an experiment. He made other animal noises at the whatever-it-was and sure enough, the thing echoed everything from birds to cows right back at him. James apparently then asked himself, “Hm. How can I make this creepier?” and decided to try and teach the thing some nursery rhymes. It started making gurgling noises “like that of a baby trying to form its first words,” and before long it did just that. It began to speak.
The voice in the walls introduced itself as “Gef” and claimed to be a mongoose from New Delhi. When pressed for more information as to why he was in their home, how he was able to speak, and a hundred other iterations of “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK!?” Gef simply explained that he was “an extra, extra clever mongoose.” And apparently, that was enough for the Irvings. Because this was the English countryside in 1931, and there was honestly still some pretty witchy shit going on out there. ESPECIALLY on an island called the Isle of Man, an island that was clearly named by monsters trying to trick humans into going there.
Word spread, as it will when you live in a town of four families and one of them has a magical cartoon rat running roughshod over the household. James Irving claimed that Gef spent most of his time invisible but, on the rare occasions that he showed himself, appeared as “a little animal resembling a stoat, a ferret or a weasel, yellow in color with a body about nine inches long” and a “long bushy tail speckled with black.” Gef was apparently fond of stealing breakfast sausages and lobbing around bawdy insults and limericks. During the day Gef would allegedly hitch rides on passing motorcars and travel the island collecting gossip on the Irving’s friends and neighbors. By night, he liked to sleep in the room of Voirrey, the Irving’s 13-year-old daughter, for whom he had a particular fondness. But Voirrey was not fond of Gef.
You see, life with Gef was not the pastoral, Miyazaki movie it may seem on the surface. Gef had a bit of a temper. He was known to throw rocks and sand at the Irvings and even hurl objects around the house when upset. Once, Voirrey burst into her parents’ room in the middle of the night screaming that she couldn’t take the noise any more. As the Irvings discussed what to do about the situation, Gef called out, “I’ll follow her wherever you put her!” and threw a jar across the room. But if you think the things he did were scary, the things he said were downright chilling.
When asked about his origins Gef’s answers were meandering, inconsistent and always unsettling. Gef alternately claimed to be an “earthbound spirit” and “a ghost in the form of a mongoose.” Once he cried out, “I am a freak. I have hands and feet, and if you saw me you’d faint. You’d be petrifi ed, mummifi ed, turned to stone or a pillar of salt.” In another, more spirited outburst, the entity known as Gef exclaimed, “I’ll split the atom. I am the fifth dimension! I am the Eighth Wonder of the World!” Which, while admittedly some badass Muhammed Ali shit to say, is about the most appalling thing I can imagine a patch of thin air to cry out in the middle of dinner. Oh except for the time when, in the presence of a local tabloid, he was heard to calmly remark, “I could kill you all but I won’t.” Which he didn’t. Which was nice of him.
The case of Gef the Talking Mongoose whipped up quite the sensation across England, with numerous tabloids coming by the Irving’s in hopes of catching a glimpse of the creature or hearing it speak, with a few claiming to have done just that. The occurrences even caught the eye of Nandor Fodor, a noted parapsychologist and man with the name of a talking mongoose himself. It was during his time investigating the Gef case that Nandor began to construct his theories on poltergeist activity. Hypothesizing that poltergeist activity was the direct manifestation of subconscious turmoil in the mind of the elected party, a theory that is still fairly prevalent today. Nandor suspected that Gef was, in fact, a portion of James Irving’s personality acting out things he would never dare, though later cases would indicate that young Voirrey was more likely the source of psychic turbulence. Even later research would suggest that Gef was obviously some sort of Pokémon. Likely a Grass/ Psychic-type with high intelligence, and really all the Irvings had to do was send in a good trainer with some Ultra Balls and a good Fire-type. It was me. I did that research.
So what the what happened here? Most skeptics are quick to throw this one on the hoax heap, with Voirrey at the center, claiming the girl had a natural gift for ventriloquism and was having fun at the expense of her parents and indeed the entire country. This theory excludes one important factor however. Voirrey was petrifi ed of Gef. Even in her later years she staunchly denied having (consciously) had anything to do with a hoax, and in a rare 1970 interview with FATE Magazine stated, “Yes, there was a little animal who talked and did all those other things. He said he was a mongoose and we should call him Gef but I do wish he had let us alone.”
Could this have been a case of poltergeist activity as Fodor suspected? With one or more of the Irvings contributing to the creation of some sort of turbulent psychic entity? Could we be dealing with a Tulpa?
Some sort of shared hallucination? Or is there a tiny chance that Gef was exactly what he claimed to be? A very extra clever mongoose. Talking animals appear in the mythology of literally every culture on the planet, and England in particular has a rich history of magical creatures and faerie folk. Could the Irvings have been lucky (or unlucky) enough to come face to face with one of the many elemental spirits said to inhabit the British isles? A house hob, perhaps? A brownie? Or something else? Something without a name. Sadly, we likely won’t ever know.
The Irvings moved out of their home sometime in the late 1930s and a man named Mr. Graham moved in. Gef didn’t follow the Irvings and Mr. Graham never reported any strange happenings in the old house. Well, except for one thing. One day in the autumn of 1947, Mr. Graham found a strange animal in one of his traps. It wasn’t quite a weasel and it wasn’t quite a ferret but rather, looked a little like both. It was bout 9 inches long, yellow in color, with black speckles all throughout its long bushy tail.