Rhodri Marsden's Interesting Objects: Gef the Talking Mongoose
Rhodri Marsden is the Technology Columnist for The Independent; he has also written about crumpets, Captain Beefheart, rude place names and string. He's also a musician who plays in the band Scritti Politti, and won the under-10 piano category at the 1980 Watford Music Festival by playing a piece called "Silver Trumpets" with verve and aplomb.
Saturday 10 May 2014
* Fifty years ago today, parapsychologist Nandor Fodor died in New York. He dedicated his life to investigating paranormal activity, but one of his oddest jobs was on the Isle of Man, hot on the trail of Gef the Talking Mongoose.
* Gef was brought to the world's attention by James Irving, a farmer who lived at Doarlish Cashen, a farmhouse outside the village of Dalby. His story of an "eerie weasel" who had learnt to sing nursery rhymes and engage in conversation was one that journalists of the 1930s found irresistible. Newspapers from the Manchester Daily Dispatch to the Hong Kong Telegraph went big with the story, despite a suspicious lack of corroboration from anyone outside the Irving family – Jim, his wife Margaret, and their daughter Voirrey.
* The early 1930s saw visitors flock to the farmhouse from all over the world. The weasel now claimed to be a mongoose called Geoff (insisting on the spelling G-E-F) and was allegedly capable of shape-shifting, invisibility, food-pilfering and singing the song "Carolina Moon" by Gene Austin. However, while many visitors claimed to have heard voices, Gef only ever seemed visible to Voirrey, a precocious child with a talent for ventriloquism. Yes, ventriloquism.
Voirrey Irving blamed the elusive mongoose for her inability to find a husband
* Cynics of today would laugh at Jim Irving's insistence that Gef "is averse to being photo'd", but Fodor investigated thoroughly, and found other people who said they'd encountered Gef, including a bus conductor who claimed that Gef had once eaten his sandwiches. Fodor considered the Irvings "too sincere and simple" to perpetrate a hoax, and concluded that, on balance, Gef was real.
* Later, in 1952, Fodor revised his opinion, stating that the "mental starvation" of life in a remote farmhouse probably caused the manifestation of Gef, a "split-off part" of Jim Irving's personality. Voirrey was tracked down by a journalist in 1970, but was notably reluctant to talk about Gef, other than blaming the elusive mongoose for her inability to find a husband.
Elephants, rhinos and hippos facing extinction, experts warn
Lynx to be reintroduced into wild in Britain after a 1,300-year absence
Iberian lynx cubs born in the wild bring hope for the world's most endangered feline species
Why you shouldn’t wash your dishes by hand
Amazon tribal chief’s SOS: the white man is destroying everything
- 4 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...