REVIEW: Gef! The Strange Tale of an Extra-Special Talking Mongoose by Christopher Josiffe

Gef! The Strange Tale of an Extra-Special Talking Mongoose by Christopher Josiffe
Published: Strange Attractor Press
Format: Paperback
Length: 404
Published: 2017
Author Goodreads, Website, and Twitter

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Synopsis via Goodreads: During the mid-1930s, British and overseas newspapers were full of incredible stories about Gef, a ‘talking mongoose’ or ‘man-weasel’ who had allegedly appeared in the home of the Irvings, a farming family in a remote district of the Isle of Man. The creature was said to have the ability to talk in several languages, to sing, to steal objects from nearby farms and to eavesdrop on local people. Despite written reports, magazine articles, books, several photographs, fur samples and paw prints, voluminous correspondence and signed witness statements, there is still no consensus as to what was really happening to the Irving family.

Was it a hoax? Mental illness? A poltergeist?

In this book lecturer Christopher Josiffe pulls together 7 years’ worth of research, photographs (many previously unseen), interviews with surviving witnesses and visits to the site to present the first examination of the case for 70 years.

Review

 

 

If you thought the synopsis sounded weird, I promise that Christopher Josiffe’s Gef! The Strange Tale of an Extra-Special Talking Mongoose by Christopher Josiffe (2017) will make the most surrealist of subjects appear straightforward and dry.

Doarlish Cashen on the Isle of Man

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything so bizarre from start to finish as this amusing exposé of Gef, a so-called ‘talking mongoose’ that lived in the walls of a farmhouse on the Isle of Man during the 1930s. As a fan of cryptozoology, Gef has for many years been my personal favourite unexplained mystery.

Gef appeared randomly one day to the Irving family, (father James, mother Margaret, and teenage daughter Voirrey) at their isolated farmhouse Doarlish Cashen during the 1930s. It all began with scratching from inside the walls before evolving to strained vocal sounds and gargling to eventual spoken language in a pitch higher than a typical human voice. Gef’s initial vocal disturbances to the Irvings was nothing short of terrifying, but over time he became a relatively accepted member of the family despite living out of sight in the dark corners of their home. In fact, Gef often refused to appear or speak to anyone outside of the Irving family. The rest of the Irvings’ experiences with Gef consisted of continuous chatty conversation from a disembodied voice that ate their food, stole objects from other resident’s of the village, and occasionally threw small objects at James Irving. Other than a few questionable photographs, there isn’t any proof that Gef actually existed. But peculiarly, a number of people claimed to have heard and, in some cases, witnessed Gef’s physical form for themselves.

Before reading Josiffe’s book I knew of Gef from old paranormal forums I used to frequent and the occasional night long hunt through various websites and blogs to find any potentially new Gef information. There was something about this particular case that was just so odd and honestly, a bit creepy. I needed more information about Gef but I felt I had milked dry all of the resources the internet had available. During a random Gef search one day I stumbled upon Josiffe’s book and it was like finding out your favourite novel was being turned into a movie. I was thrilled to find out that there wasn’t only a book on my favourite talking mongoose, but also another individual with an unexplained fascination with him.

“I am not a spirit,” Gef declared. “I am just a little, extra clever mongoose.” (pg 145)

Supposed photograph of Gef taken by Voirrey

Josiffe went above and beyond what I expected of this book. I had no idea how many 1930s interviews, letters, newspaper clippings and written reports existed surrounding the ‘Dalby spook’, and how many experts visited the Irvings to gather evidence in the hopes of proving the existence of Gef (including famed paranormal researcher Harry Price). Josiffe approached the Gef narrative by taking the reader through the entire journey from beginning to end without any bias or attempt at swaying the reader’s opinion in one direction or another. And I feel that this is what made the book enjoyable. The story of Gef is so fun and charming and at times quite scary. It needs to be told by someone who isn’t suspicious of the Gef phenomenon, but by someone who loves the Gef story. And I think Josiffe was perfect for this role.

It isn’t until the last few chapters that Josiffe gathers all of the various pieces of evidence in the Gef saga and asks the important question of what Gef was and whether he existed as a physical being, as some sort of poltergeist or familiar, or if he was completely fabricated by the Irving family. As easy as it may be to say it was all a work of compelling storytelling, it’s actually quite difficult to point a finger at a particular member of the family who could have had a logical motive. The author explores other instances of similar hauntings as well as folk tales from cultures with trickster-like spirits like Gef and various theories that have been proposed throughout the years in an attempt at explaining what exactly happened at the isolated Isle of Man farmhouse.

Supposed self-portrait by Gef

One thing can be agreed upon, both in the 1930s and today: something was going on at Doarlish Cashen. Whether it was a hoax, a ghost, or a real mongoose who had somehow developed the ability to speak Josiffe leaves it up to the reader to decide. If you are even slightly intrigued then I recommend diving into the bizarre world of Gef and swimming through the extensive evidence that Josiffe puts forth with clarity and neverending intrigue. I absolutely loved this book. I know it’s one that I will return to again and again. Thank you Josiffe for feeding my Gef obsession by giving this dusty old mystery a breath of fresh air and a whole lot of love.

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