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Gef, the Talking Mongoose

A story about a talking animal from 80 years ago is still intriguing today. You may dismiss it as hokum or maybe even mental illness, but the way it played out leaves us with more questions than answers even today. A family once lived with a mongoose that talked. Or at least, it said it was a mongoose. The rest of the story makes about as much sense.  

One morning in the early 1930s, James Irving of the village of Dalby on the Isle of Man was getting ready to open his daily newspaper when a high-pitched disembodied voice called out impatiently, “Read it out, you fat-headed gnome!” The voice didn’t belong to Irving’s wife Margaret or his teenage daughter Voirrey—the only humans likely to be in the remote farmhouse—but though Irving may have been offended, he wasn’t surprised. He knew the voice belonged to a strange creature called Gef, who, for some time, had been living, largely unseen, in his family’s home.

The mysterious creature first showed up in the Irving residence sometime in 1931, and, according to the accounts of James, Margaret, and Voirrey, initially lived in the walls and, not yet able to speak, imitated a range of animal noises. Quickly, the unseen entity started to pick up human language from the Irvings, and, before long, introduced itself to the family: His name, he said, was “Gef” (pronounced “Jeff”), and he was a mongoose from India.

Yeah, that’s likely. But the story of Gef made it to the newspapers quite a few times. Journalists visited the farm, and one reporter even claimed to have seen the animal. One magazine sent a paranormal investigator out. That investigation found the evidence to be suspect, but is quite lacking in detail compared to what would be done today. Why would anyone concoct so weird a story? Why did newspapers jump on such an unbelievable account? And why did the mongoose say such stupid things? Read about Gef the mongoose at mental_floss.

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