'Dalby Spook' mongoose mystery back in the spotlight
13 January 2010
By JACKIE TURLEY
THE case of a Manx mystery which made headlines around the world is to reopen more than 70 years after the first claimed sighting.
Speculation has surrounded the case of the Dalby Spook — a talking mongoose called Gef — since a 13-year-old girl is said to have first seen it in 1931.
Now, Christopher Josiffe, a cataloguer at London University's Senate Library, is carrying out new research into the case and he is appealing for Islanders to help uncover the truth.
'I have never been able to decide whether Gef was a hoax, or a genuine — if unexplained — phenomenon,' he said.
'Accordingly, I would be very interested if any of your readers knew the Irving family.
'For instance, did they seem to be publicity-seekers or did they ever charge admission for visitors to Doarlish Cashen?'
>> The Story of Gef
Much research has already been carried out since the Irving family, living in a cottage at Doarlish Cashen, heard strange sounds coming from behind panelling in the house.
It is claimed James and Margaret Irving's daughter, Voirrey, befriended a creature with yellow fur, bushy tail and flat snout, and which introduced himself as 'Gef, an extra clever mongoose from Delhi'.
Gef could sing as well as talk and, with Voirrey's tuition, his vocabulary grew rapidly. He roamed the area to relate gossip back to the Irvings.
He had many traits linked to poltergeists — an uneven temper, was prone to throwing objects at people and made exaggerated claims about his powers.
Reports of Gef ended when the Irvings left Doarish Cashen in 1935.
The next owner, a Mr Graham, said he snared and killed a strange-looking animal.
Legendary paranormal investigator Harry Price was one of a number of researchers who travelled to the Island in the 1930s to probe the strange affair.
As part of his investigation, he had three pawprints made by Gef in plasticine and an impression of his teeth marks evaluated by the Natural History Museum, but they were not matched to any animal.
Mr Price failed to come to any conclusion as to the truth or otherwise of the sightings.
Part of Mr Josiffe's job involves cataloguing books for the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature.
His interest in the case was aroused after looking at the books, letters, photos and other material contained in the library and its archives.
In fact, there is so much material that he has not managed to work his way through the whole collection yet.
He said: 'An interview with Voirrey Irving in the 1970s indicated that she still maintained Gef to have been genuine, but that he had not brought good luck to her family and she rather wished he had not come to stay with them.
'My impression, from reading the archived material, is that the Irvings did not benefit from the publicity; rather, that they were disturbed by gangs of sightseers who made their lives a misery.
'It has been suggested that the whole episode was an elaborate hoax perpetrated by the daughter, Voirrey — but I cannot imagine that she could have hoaxed her father and mother, both of whom seem perfectly sincere in their belief in Gef.
'James Irving, the father, sent Harry Price a diary consisting of Gef's activities over several years.'
He added: 'I am inclined to regard the case as a poltergeist manifestation, similar in some ways to, for instance the Enfield Poltergeist case in the 1970s — objects being hurled around, knocking and scratching sounds, a voice which begins by just making animal noises but quickly "learns" human speech.
'In both cases a teenage girl was the focus for the events.'
Mr Josiffe plans to gain enough information to give a lecture on the subject at Treadwells, a bookshop specialising in cultural history and esoteric belief, in London's Covent Garden.
He said: 'I realise that there will now be very few people still alive who are able to recall these events, given that they took place in the 1930s.
'Accordingly, it may well be that my only hope of any recollections will be from people recalling what their parents told them.'