Investigating Gef: Pt 3
Nandor Fodor Investigates
Harry Price was not the only psychic researcher to visit Cashen's Gap. Also hot on Gef's trail was Nandor Fodor, Research Officer for the International Institute for Psychical Research.
Fodor was heavily influenced by the theories of Freud, and later became a practising psychoanalyst himself. He pioneered the now-popular theory that poltergeists are not disembodied spirits, but manifestations of conflicts within the subconscious mind.
"In some as yet unknown manner, a part of you may refuse to be confined within your body," he explained in a 1948 magazine article, I Psychoanalyse Ghosts. "It may perform your unconscious desires even though you think you have nothing to do with it. When this happens, you have a Poltergeist".
"Usually it occurs in adolescents, but sometimes it takes place in mentally disturbed adults as well. But you can be sure that where Poltergeists are on the rampage, somebody is sick."
Fodor Dismisses the Fraud Theory
Fodor stayed at Cashen's Gap for a week without seeing so much as a whisker of Gef. However, he put his time to good use interviewing both the Irving family and the locals, and came away convinced that the strange tales he heard were true.
"That the 'something' which is called Gef exists and talks, I hold proved," he wrote in an essay originally published in 1938 and reproduced in his 1952 book: Haunted People: The Story of the Poltergeist down the Centuries. "But as to what it is, opinions may differ. Once we step into the marvellous, reason and logic give us no bearings."
Fodor stated of the Irvings that he found them "sincere, frank and simple" and that "deliberate deception on the part of the whole family cannot be entertained as a solution of the mystery".
"The charge of ventriloquism is best answered by the fact that Gef has been heard when each member of the family has been alternately eliminated," he wrote. "It is sufficient to spend a day at Doarlish Cashen to know that, under their conditions of living, it would be impossible to carry on a ventriloquial imposition over a period of years".
Fodor Dismisses the Poltergeist Theory
If not a fraud, then might Gef be a poltergeist or spiritual entity? Fodor thought not, for three reasons:
- None of the family members were psychic
- Gef exhibited no truly supernormal powers or knowledge, despite occasionally giving the impression that he did
- Gef had been seen, photographed, and touched, and he consistently appeared in the guise of a small furry animal
(In this, incidentally, he differed from Jim Irving, who considered Gef to be "a spirit in animal form".)
"Poltergeists are always invisible," Fodor explained. "Gef never claims to be without an animal form. He eats, drinks and sleeps...he leaves his teeth marks in the butter in the larder and in the fat of the bacon. He catches rabbits and performs various other services for the family. Poltergeists are an unmitigated affliction. Gef is an asset".
"Poltergeist disturbances usually begin just before a young girl or boy in the house reaches the age of puberty. The disturbances die out soon after the critical period. Gef has not faded out. He grows stronger than ever, and he is visibly outgrowing the original affection which bound him to Voirrey Irving, the young daughter of the house."
Fodor's Original Theory of Gef
If not fraud or poltergeist, then might Gef be exactly what he claimed to be: "A little extra, extra clever mongoose?" Fodor thought that he might indeed:
"All the probabilities are against it, but all the evidence is for it," he wrote. "He showed himself as an animal. He had himself photographed as an animal. He has the abnormal hearing, eyesight and suspiciousness of an animal."
"Remarkable animals are known to have existed before Gef. The Eberfield horses could extract cube roots and communicate thoughts by striking in code with their hoofs. Dogs have been taught to read and spell. Birds can speak the human tongue. But never has there been an animal as remarkable as Gef."
"Do I believe in him? I have examined the evidence. I have tried all the possible solutions I could think of. None of them answers the case. All the evidence is in favour of Gef's being a talking animal. I have not seen him. He did not talk to me. He claimed to be an animal. I cannot disprove that claim".
Fodor's Revised Theory of Gef
By the time Haunted People was published in 1952, Fodor had revised his earlier conclusions in favour of a more complex (and frankly more bizarre) theory. While he still considered Gef an animal, he now considered him an animal who had somehow become psychically 'possessed' by "a split-off part" of Jim Irving's personality:
"As I look back, as a psychologist, on my memories of Irving, one fact stands out which my story does not reveal," he wrote. "He was a man who failed in life and whose many passions were too strong to bear this failure with resignation."
"As a commercial traveller, originally, his horizons were too wide, both physically and mentally, to reconcile himself to the cabined and confined life of a sheep and goat farmer in a God-forsaken spot where he was constantly struggling against physical starvation."
"...The problem of mental starvation, for a man of Irving's intelligence, must have been even more serious. There was no way to relieve it by conscious means. So his unconscious took care of the job and produced the strange hybrid of Gef, fitting no category of humans, animals or ghosts, yet having common features with all of them. Had Irving been a student of psychical research, the development of Gef would have proceeded, I believe, on more occult lines."