Lancashire Anomalous Phenomena Investigation Society
The Dalby Spook
aka Gef the Talking Mongoose
Simon Pegg Stole Our Mongoose
Searching For The Eighth Wonder Of The World
(Not the one in Sri Lanka).
Part one - Into the Land of Mist.
In May 2022, LAPIS / CFZ Team Gef finally set foot on the Isle of Man. This followed several failed attempts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During which time, the team sat at home for several years and planned (without going to the pub) while we waited for it to all blow over.
The original idea for the trip, came following an excellent talk by Christopher Josiffe and Chris Hill, on the subject of Gef the Talking Mongoose. This was given at the 2019 Weird Weekend North conference in Rixton-with-Glazebrook, hosted by Glen and Kerry Vaudrey. The conference runs annually (usually in April) and is a veritable feast of all things fortean. See www.weirdweekendnorth.com for more information.
Several pints in the pub after the conference, resulted in the idea for the strangest adventure being born. A trip over the Irish Sea, to search for a mysterious talking mongoose from the 1930’s.
The team, having never been to the island before had great expectations. Three years of pouring over Gef related documents and treating Josiffe’s book GEF! The Strange Tale Of An Extra-special Talking Mongoose (2017) as the holy grail of hunting for the eighth wonder of the world. (Gef’s own description of himself.)
We stepped off the ferry, expecting to find gift shops adorned with Gef merchandise. Tea towels, key rings. The usual tourist tat you pick up when somewhere cashes in on their celebrity creatures (Loch Ness as a prime example). But alas, there was nothing. Not a Gef gimmick in sight. (Isle of Man tourist attractions, we hope you are taking note.)
Our home for both trips (2022 & 2023) was the ominous Eary Cushlin. Now known to us affectionately just as Eary. (Pronounced “Airey” rhymes with Fairy and there will be more about those later) Although “Eerie” would be more appropriate.
A former farmhouse and outward-bound centre, now owned by Manx National Heritage. The property has been lovingly converted into a four-bedroom; self-catering holiday let. The isolated house sits on a rugged cliff top, giving dramatic views over the sea. On a clear day, the Mountains of Mourne can be seen rising above the Northern Irish coastline.
Eary Cushlin was the perfect choice of base for our team of explorers. Access is via a single-track dirt road. Thick pine forest looming on one side, whilst the spectral hill of Cronk ny Arrey Laa towers on the other. The hill was once used as a watch post, with a beacon to provide a warning of dangers to the Island (Culture Vannin, 2019).
There are no neighbours and no phone signal at Eary. Electricity comes from a generator, water from a borehole. Two locked gates, to keep things out (or in) prevent vehicular access, except to residents. This makes for an interesting trip home after the pub, especially if you have told one too many horror stories over dinner. I must admit I did scare myself one night whilst fumbling with the padlock.
There was a camper van parked in the woodland layby. It looked deserted. (We have all seen those type of films.) The padlock code jammed; my torch battery died; it was raining. My husband, Ben laughed at me, so I made him get out of the car and open the gate. I jumped in the driver seat and locked the doors. He wasn’t laughing anymore.
We saw the young couple from the camper van cooking breakfast the next morning. They looked far from axe wielding psychopaths, but you can never be too sure.
The land around Eary is made more mysterious owing to it being used as a place of pilgrimage for centuries. There are remains of an ancient keeill (Manx Gaelic for a chapel) at Lag ny Keeilley. The walk to the keeill passes the house along an old pack horse track. This was once used as a corpse route, to transport bodies to their final resting place. According to Andrew Johnson and Allison Fox in their book, Archaeological Sites of the Isle of Man up to AD 1500 (2017) The last known burial at the site was in the 1800s and was a female resident of Eary Cushlin.
There is a local legend which surrounds Lag ny Keeilley. Fishermen told of strange lights and wailing noises coming from the keeill at night. They became so afraid, that they would not sail into the surrounding waters after dark. One brave soul however did venture out. Upon approaching the shore, he heard the mournful cries and saw the figure of a small child, standing alone on the shingle beach. The child was sobbing pitifully and shouted out “I am the child with no name.”
The fisherman knew of a tale, whereby a woman once gave birth to an unwanted child at the farmhouse of Eary. The child died shortly after taking its first breath. The mother took the unbaptised body to the keeill and buried it in secret.
Upon seeing the crying spectre, the fisherman knew he must christen it by giving it a name. As he did, he threw sea water towards the stricken child. Upon which, it disappeared and was never seen again. (Sophia Morrison – Manx Fairy Tales, 1911).
The route to Lag ny Keeilley is narrow and precarious in places. It winds through heather and bracken, towards the sea. Two of our group (Janet and Paul) walked to the keeill on the 2023 expedition. Despite being experienced hikers, they admitted to it being a relatively difficult trek. Made worse as the moorland was infested with blood sucking ticks. Unfortunately, some of the vampiric insects made it back with the pair and had to be swiftly dispatched back to the underworld.
Eary Cushlin really is the perfect setting for a horror film. In fact, it actually was! The house was used in the 2005 film “The Dark” starring Sean Bean, based on the novel “Sheep” by Simon Maginn.
Our base wasn’t just chosen for its setting, however. The remote farmstead does indeed have a Gef connection.
David Malcolm Irvine was a farmer who acquired the land at Eary in 1907. He found his land overrun by rabbits. There are no foxes on the Island, so he imported several mongooses in 1912 and set them free on the Eary estate to control the rabbit population.
In October 2002, the author and researcher Jenny Randles had her own strange sighting of a mongoose like creature, which she describes in her book Supernatural Isle of Man (2003). Jenny encountered a brownish yellow creature, which looked like a mongoose. The animal crossed the road in front of her, approximately four miles from Gef’s home at Doarlish Cashen. Could this be one of the ancestors of the Eary mongooses or was it Gef himself?
Gef once confessed to Jim Irving that he was afraid of Eary. We are not certain why he was scared. But he referred to the area as “The Land of Mist.” Gef asked Jim if he would dare to go there at nighttime as locals would not. Gef also said that he would go to the Land of Mist when he died. Was Eary Cushlin Gef’s vision of the afterlife?
The Hungarian parapsychologist, Nandor Fodor also visited Eary Cushlin, whilst studying the Gef phenomena, describing the area as “a very gloomy place.”
Both our stays at Eary however have been far from gloomy. The mist that rolls down the hills and covers the house, certainly makes the land of mist live up to its name. But other than that, we found it to be a comfortable and inviting property with all modern conveniences. No signs of ghosts (mongoose, child or otherwise).
Although on our first visit to Eary, we did discover a series of cloven hoof prints in the concrete leading to the back door. Sheep or something else trying to get in one dark, lonely night?