There’s a self-governing bit of land, right in the middle of Ireland and Great Britain, run by a lieutenant governor who reports, now and again, to the Lord of Mann, who, at this particular point in time, is Queen Elizabeth II.
Queen Elizabeth II, when she’s not sitting by the fire crocheting her lips, plays with her gang of Pembroke Welsh Corgis in the royal grass, even though the last of them died last year.
The Isle of Mann, however, is more famous for another spectral animal, though most Manxmen and Manxwomen would probably like to forget the association, and would be eager to chase me off the island with their three-legged horror and bunches of ragwort.
In 1935, a paranormal investigator called Harry Price arrived on the Isle of Man to investigate Gef, a talking phantom mongoose.
Ironically, Harry Price was actually the real enigma, and a far more substantial one than Gef.
Price began life with a foot in two distinct camps. On the one rapping ghostly hand he believed in a whole slew of paranormal events and experiences, and was often described as perplexed by things he witnessed. On the other spectral limb he was a debunker of the fraudulent and fake.
But his real genius was knowing when to do which, in order to elevate his own stratospheric status, by writing furiously about every event in order to meet the needs of his insatiable ego.
Though he claimed to have been born in the idylls of Shropshire, in which county he placed his early dramatic work about a poltergeist experience, he was actually born in Holborn in London, and went to school there.
He soon began to pioneer paranormal investigation when no-one else was, and started creating an aura of academic expertise that he curated ferociously, from his earliest space-telegraphy experiments to the exploration of the bizarre mongoose, Gef.
In-between, he joined the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) and, as an accomplished amateur magician, garnered a reputation for debunking mediums who were less than authentic, like Rudi Schneider
Schneider was originally a favorite of Price, and who he first celebrated as a supreme medium who could levitate objects and commune with the dead freely.
Then, a photograph appeared as if by magic, in which Price showed that Schneider was using an arm to dislodge an object that was supposedly moved by psychokinetic energy.
It abruptly ended Schneider’s career but raised Price’s gravitas a little more. This angered the SPR greatly, and a rift began between Price, who many accused of deliberately manipulating the photograph to discredit all involved, and the organization where the experiment had taken place. It was a debacle that Price may or may not have enjoyed.
And he wrote an account of the whole affair.
But the case of Gef must’ve seemed like sweet music to Price’s Barnum-like ears.
Gef had apparently appeared to the Irvings one evening, in their remote farmhouse, and promptly began to talk, and in many languages, in which the small carnivorous mammal seemed fluent. A wonderful note was written by a skeptic of the Gef phenomenon stating that it was quite ridiculous that a mongoose could learn that many languages.
Anyway, Price and his mortal pal Richard Lambert were greeted with a piece of amazing evidence when they entered the Dalby home where Gef ‘lived’. A piece of Gef’s hair.
It was sent to the Natural History Museum to be analysed.
Other moments of Price’s career were confusing, because he was more mercurial in judgement than the spirits of his studies, and it was difficult to know if he would lean in favor or against an experience or person, as was the case with the celebrated medium Eileen Garrett.
Garrett, it was claimed, made spiritual contact with Herbert Carmichael, who’d just managed to crash the R101 airship in France killing himself and forty-eight others, including the Air Minister, many of government officials, and nearly every one of the airship’s designers, and ending instantly the British infatuation with the craft and its development program, forever.