“Half-mongoose, half-weasel” – yes it’s Jack, the Dalby Spook

Mona’s Herald, Tuesday 8th March, 1932

This clipping from a Manx newspaper, Mona’s Herald,  gives us a insight into the early stages of the Gef story’s development. At this point, in the first few months after Gef’s first appearances, he is not yet ‘Gef’ but ‘Jack’ – note, also, the favoured Manx term by which he was (and still is) known on the Island – the ‘Dalby Spook.’ His more well-known moniker, ‘Gef the Talking Mongoose,’ was coined later by a mainland journalist.

We may also note that at this early stage, Gef’s (or Jack’s) physical identity is not fixed – here he is descried as a “strange animal, half mongoose, half weasel.” Indeed, the idea of the Spook as a chimeric, shape-shifting entity was to be strengthened in later months, as James Irving (and others) described his appearance as, variously, that of a polecat, a squirrel, a large cat (as well as a weasel or a mongoose).

The father and son mentioned in the article are Charles and Arthur Morrison, the former being a wealthy Liverpool businessman who worked at the Cotton Exchange, one of James Irving’s oldest friends. He was given the alias of ‘Northwood’ in Harry Price and R.S. Lambert’s The Haunting of Cashen’s Gap, just as Price’s investigator, Captain Harold Dennis was disguised as ‘Captain MacDonald.’

Charles Morrison steadfastly insisted on his old friend Irving being an entirely honest and trustworthy witness, whose word could be relied upon – even when making these most fantastical and outlandish claims about a talking, singing animal living  behind their walls and occasionally making an appearance inside and outside the house.