The mystery of Doarlish Cashen and its Dalby Spook (a.k.a. Gef the Talking Mongoose, the Little Man-Weasel, the Eighth Wonder of the World etc etc) captured the imaginations of Manx people and was a regular feature in the Island’s newspapers at the time. (Interestingly, the Quatermass, Stone Tape and Beasts script writer Nigel Kneale lived on the Isle of Man as a boy during Gef’s heyday; his father was the owner and editor of the Herald newspaper. It is quite evident that the fantastic tale of the Dalby Spook made an impression on the young Kneale, and evidence for this may be discerned in certain elements of his work, most notably the six-part TV series Beasts).
I shall write more about Kneale and Gef elsewhere, but for now, I wish to highlight a couple of ‘copycat’ news reports from the Isle of Man’s media.
It was inevitable, perhaps, that other parts of the Island wanted in on the Spook action, and were envious of all the attention that was being garnered by the rural parish of Patrick, and its tiny village of Dalby in particular.
So it is that we read of apossible rival to Gef, a Douglas Spook, even some 10 years after Gef’s heyday. The Talking Mongoose had clearly not been forgotten.
This Spook had apparently appeared in the house of “a family of hawkers” whose sleep was disturbed by “heavy knocking,” a “clinking sound like someone counting money,” and later, by the apparition of a ”
little old lady” who was seen by Mr Isaac Walton, the head of the household:
“I came wide awake all of a sudden,” he told the reporter, “There was no curtain on the window and the room wasn’t dark because it was a fine, light night. I just turned my head and saw a little old woman coming from the door to the head of my bed.”
Unfortunately for himself, Mr Walton had locked himself in his bedroom before retiring for the night. So he was not only puzzled as to how this spectral lady could have entered his room, but was also in a state of some fright.
The apparition was described as being dressed all in black, with an old-fashioned bonnet and having a pale, white face with white hair showing underneath the bonnet. After approaching the unfortunate Isaac Walton’s bed, she walked towards
the window, peered out, and then disappeared through the locked door.
Such was Mr Walton’s shock that he told the Ramsey Courier reporter “If you had stabbed me with a knife you would’ have drawn blood” – a curiously violent image but one that graphically alludes to his having been ‘drained of blood’ during his terrifying experience.
Quite understandably, the family refused to stay in the house that night, and when they returned the following day, were rewarded by an “unearthly scream” in the middle of the night, which had the effect of causing them to seek alternative accommodation.
This apparition, and the peculiar sounds heard by the family, whilst not being unimpressive, are more standard ghost fare. One can’t really view the little old lady dressed in black with the Irvings’ all-talking, all-singing mongoose, whose vocabulary of swear words was matched only by his knowledge of other languages than English (or Manx).
And it must be said that another rival to Dalby’s Spook, the so-called Ramsey Spook, did not have the same charisma and je ne sais quoi as our lad Gef. The Ramsey Spook was at least contemporaneous with Gef, this report appearing in the Isle of Man Examiner in May 1936 (just a few weeks after the publication of Price and Lambert’s The Haunting of Cashen’s Gap).
The Ramsey Spook had manifested in a convalescent home situated at St Trinian’s, Grove Mount (sadly not the St Trinians – if only it had been, Ramsey’s contender would perhaps have given Gef a run for his money).
According to the Examiner report (which began “Have you heard of the Ramsey spook?”), the primary – nay, the only – supernatural activity observed by both patients and Matron (a Mrs Barrar) was that of the rest home’s front door bell, ringing persistently. (One is reminded of the bells of Borley Rectory, originally designed as a means to summon the servants, continuously ringing, even when the wires had been severed by one of Harry Price’s investigators).
One reads the Examiner report eagerly, in hopes of further and perhaps more chilling phenomena. But no – although the writer is most keen to emphasise “It is not an electric bell.” The bell had been inspected by “[a] gentleman, interested in psychic matters” but, whilst he had “inspected the bell and the wiring very thoroughly” he could “find absolutely no fault in it.”
And whilst it is pleasing that news of Gef and his extraordinary antics had encouraged Manx residents elsewhere on the Island to keep a look out for any spooky carryings-on in their own locales, one can only feel that the Irving family, and their Dalby and Glen Maye neighbours, had been rewarded with by far the more entertaining Spook of these three.