This is episode five of the first series. I've tried to make the transcript as accurate as I can. According to Wikipedia it was first broadcast in May 1996. This is such a great episode. Fred looks like he's a bit of a wag. But John and Pat are so straightforward and down to earth, it's hard to disbelieve their testimony.
John, Workshop Owner: Well at first we tried to hide it, we would never tell anybody outside because it would frighten customers away. Whether it affected the business, I don’t think so. I don’t think it had any much effect on the business at all. It affected me. I saw things that I never ever expected to see in my life happening, and I am pretty sceptic about it all.
Pat, John’s wife: There’s got to be something, somewhere there’s got to be an explanation, because what I’ve witnessed it’s been fantastic. I know there are horrible things do happen, but with us it was amazing. It was happy. It brought a lot of happiness into the shop.
Fred, Mechanic: I believe in god. And if there’s a god there’s a ghost.
Narrator: David Fontana is professor of psychology at Cardiff University. He’s also a very prominent figure in paranormal research in this country. Indeed he is the current President for the Society of Psychical Research. He has become personally involved in one of the most remarkable series of paranormal activities ever to have occurred in this country.
David Fontana, Professor of Psychology: I was privileged in this sense in fact to see so many things over such a long period of time and even brought a colleague of mine along so we had two people watching what was happening. She also was able to see a number of these phenomena. And we were quite certain there was no trickery involved, there was no question of this.
Narrator: These events have taken place in Cardiff over the last five or six years. They may involve a spirit a presence a persona - it’s difficult to know what word to use - which seems to have a child-like playful personality. Formally he’s called the Cardiff poltergeist, that is to say, a disembodied spirit. But tfo those who’ve come in contact with him, he’s known affectionately as Pete. And they do seem to feel a genuine affection for Pete. He is if you like the ET of the spirit world: playful, mischievous, whimsical, friendly.
John, Workshop Owner: One day I think it was Ian was standing at the bench, and something hit him on the chest if I remember right and it dropped on the floor. He picked it up and just threw it back into one of the corners of the room. And immediately, a missile of some sort, I think it was the same thing, came straight back at him, and hit the wall behind his head. So he looked at me and I looked at him, and he picked up another missile and he just threw it back again. And instantly back it came again. And this became a regular - he played with it then for ten minutes, fifteen minutes. But this became a regular item and many people threw stones into that corner, or nuts and bolts, and nine times out of ten they had something back.
Pat: Well John said to me, he said, “You let me know if you see anything odd or you know, strange.” So I said “Right.” Well the next thing, as he said that, I heard “ping… ping.” and John looked at me and said “That’s the start of it.” Well I said “What is it?” and he said, “Believe it or not, it’s stones.” And I said, “Well where is it coming from?” and he said, “Well come into the workshop and I’ll show you.” And we went to the workshop and he pointed out a certain part of the workshop and it was up in the corner and he said “Pick up a stone and throw it.” Well I picked up the stone, and as I threw it, one came hurling straight back at me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I said “I say”. He said, “Look on the wall.” So I looked on the wall and John had all these on a rack, all these different size spanners. He said “Look at the spanners.” One spanner was swinging back and forth, then another was swinging back and forth, and before I realised, the whole lot was swinging back and forth. So I just started laughing and I said, “John,” I said, “We’ve got something strange in this place.” He said “I know,” he said, “That’s what I’ve been telling you.” But he said, “For a long time it happened in the other building but I thought it was the boys fooling around.”
John: There was an office upstairs above us, and one day a paper clip landed on the bench. So Richard picked it up and he said “That’s a bit mean, Pete, have you got any more?” With that, a whole box of paperclips landed on the fire, BANG. Never bounced, just ‘Bang.’ So we just look at one another, and Richard says “What about some paper to go with it?” And down behind us floats a sheet of paper. When we look at it, it’s a stationery order. So I went and saw the chap upstairs, and I said “Is this yours?” And he says, “It’s my stationery order, I made it out this morning.” And I said “Are these your box of clips?” “Well,” he said, “They’re the same ones we use.” So where they came from or how they got from his office to my workshop I don’t know.
Narrator: There are countless stories of Pete playing games like that with anything lying around. He is obsessed with stones.
John: Every day, and this went on for five years, almost every day, one period of time you could ask for money. Just give us money, Pete! And pennies, two pence pieces, five pence pieces, and pound coins on occasions used to come. Never fifty pence, I don’t know why. Mainly pennies and two pennies. And in one hour we, I, collected sixty eight pence in an hour, just saying “Send me some more money, send me some more money.” And it would appear from nowhere, just dropping around you in different parts of the workshop.
Fred: Now we’d been here two years, and on average we’re getting about five pound a month, pound coins, that’s an average mind, sometimes it could be more sometimes it could be less. Now the last time that we ever had any was yesterday. I remember once I was drinking a cup of tea after washing the dishes I’m looking out the window and there’s a pound coin in the cup, plop! And the noise on the cup, my wife said “What’s that?!” And I said, “We’re rich again!”
Allan, Salesman: Once Fred started getting this money, you know money was being planted on his windscreen, and he was finding money. We all felt, why should Fred be the only one that gets the money, we only get pennies and Fred gets fivers, sort of thing. So we found that whatever journey we took, I mean there was a bookmakers just round the corner and from time to time people would pop round there and perhaps have a bet, and there was a television in the canteen where they could watch the race, like. And we would walk round to the bookies and perhaps catch up with Fred and talk to him on the way back, and we’d all be looking on the floor as we went, not finding anything at all, and suddenly on the way back Fred would say “Oh look at that!” and there’d be a fiver laying up against the wall. We all said “Why is it Fred?” We’d just looked there and there was nothing there, and Fred looks there, and there it is.
Narrator: Pete it seems even liked to play with children’s toys. Sometimes with destructive results.
John: We were talking to one of our customers and the next day she brought in a Rubik Cube and some other toys. One of the items actually was an Action Man. And the next day we put them on the… she said “Let him play with these.” So we put them on the shelf for him to play with. And the next day we came in, and the Action Man, the head was ripped off and it was all in pieces on the floor.
Pat: The Rubik Cube, it used to love the Rubik Cube. You never actually saw it happen, but we put it up in the corner and one of the reps would be there, and we’d say “Right now, we’ll have a go at the Rubik Cube,” see if we could do it ourselves, first. Not one of us could do it. Then we had like a code, B for Blue and so forth like, and we’d be in the coffee room having a cup of coffee, and we’d mess it all up, and within seconds, somebody would look, and it’d be all done. Amazing, absolutely amazing.
Allan: We then decided to write down the sequence of the nine facing squares, B for Blue, O for Orange, R for Red, G for Green, that sort of thing. And write down the sequence. And because it was a sort of pile of lawnmowers stretched out across, anyone would physically have to climb over to get to this Rubik Cube, it would take someone quite some time to do it. But every time we changed this sequence it would always finish up with blue, orange, yellow across the top, which we interpreted as B, O, Y: boy.
Narrator: But what is quite remarkable, is the kind of expression which people use who’ve had encounters with Pete. There’s profound affection, even love. It’s almost as if he’s become a household pet.
Pat: I used to write to it, and I asked it… we named it Pete, why I don’t know, Pete came into our heads. So I used to write to it every day, on a bit of paper, ask its name. Is it John, is it Allan and so forth. And I would leave it till the following morning. When I’d come in, there’d be ‘NO’ written right across the page. I even asked it to do my football coupon one week! And there were all these big crosses all the way down, you couldn’t send it. It was like a child, you know.
Fred: I remember once I was doing the washing up. I do the washing up in my house believe it or not! My wife does the polishing and the ironing, and I do the washing up. And I’m washing the dishes and I’m looking out through the front window, which looks down the street. I’ve come to the last plate, as you might say, washed that. My hands are soaking wet. And splash! There’s an orange come from nowhere, straight into the bowl of water, I’m covered from head to foot in soapsuds. Now we cannot have an orange in our house. Pete, as we call him, does not like oranges. You can have tangerines, apples, pears, bananas, anything. But an orange, no.
Narrator: A disembodied spirit, a poltergeist that people love, is pretty weird. But what has to be weirdest of all is that this disembodied spirit appears to have intelligence. It can learn, and adapt to changes in its environment.
David Fontana: Another feature of this case was the poltergeist (for want of a better term) appeared to have been intelligent and to respond to requests for various different objects. In fact John says it seems to have been able to find things like spanners and screwdrivers quicker than he could in workshop. He’d ask for them and they’d clatter onto the workbench beside him.
John: One particular day I thought we’d see how intelligent it is. And I picked up a stone and threw it into the corner, and I did get one straight back. Then I tried another stone, and I pretended to throw the stone, and I didn’t throw it. And it came back! But the next time I did it again, pretended to throw it, and it never threw. So it learnt from that slight little test, that it did learn from what was going on.
Fred: Over the years that we were there, playing, I should say playing because we used to play with it. We used to say “Pete, throw a pound coin,” whatever, and we found that it was very intelligent. If you wanted a plug, we would say a plug, an electric plug that you plug an iron in with or something. But he would throw you a spark plug. In other words he would associate ‘plug’ as being a spark plug. And he was amazing, he’d throw you anything you asked for really. “You must make a note of this,” and he’d throw you a pen. Silly things, like “Stop messing about, Pete, we’ve got to get this together,” and he’d throw you a staple. You know, this sort of thing he would associate with what we were speaking.
Pat: It was so good, I said “My Pete, you’re so clever. There’s one thing you can’t do or get for me,” I said, “and that’s a Rolls Royce.” And as I said that, at my feet, and John was my witness, a Rolls Royce keyring landed at my feet, with ‘R R’ on it. You know, amazing.
Narrator: Pete, the playful poltergeist, first made his presence felt, in all places, a lawnmower repair shop, in a shed in Cardiff. At one stage Pete became totally addicted with these little lawnmower carburettor plates. He just couldn’t resist playing all kinds of tricks with them.
John: Well he went through a period of floats. Floats like this used to appear, and disappear. You’d put them down on a surface and in ten minutes it’d be gone, and you’d usually find them stuck up in the ceiling, or they’d come back. And then so we started playing with them, and putting them in certain positions. One particular day as we were locking up we put one in a position where we could all see it, to see if it would be gone the next morning when we came in. And we locked the door, got in the car, the four of us, and went up the road. We stopped at a shop for one of the chaps to get some cigarettes, Fred, he went in the shop, and as he came out, he was as white as a sheet. And I said “What’s wrong” and he said “Look,” and he opened his hand, and there was change in there, money, and a float, like that. And he said “It’s got to be the one from the shop.” And I said “No I don’t think so.” And he said, “Let’s go back and check.” So we went back to check and we opened the shop, and we pushed the door, and there’s nothing where the float was when we left it, only a matter of ten minutes earlier.
Pat: And this one morning I noticed it first actually, we went in, and I happened to look at the ceiling, and I thought “What’s that stuck in the ceiling?” And there is no way, because we had people trying to do it, there was no way you could push that into the ceiling tiles. Anyway we took it down, and there was a five pound note, all screwed up, stuck on the end and then stuck in the ceiling. And we had this for a week and we’d have a bit of fun with it, we’d say, who’s turn next?
Fred: Well my wife and I locked up the shop bout five o’clock one evening, a beautiful summer’s evening, and we drove home, and we got so far, and I said “We must get some grub, because we’re hungry.” So we called into Safeways on the Cowbridge Road in Cardiff. And I was a bit black with dirt from repairing lawnmowers, and I’m sat in the car and I’m tapping the wheel, and the car’s to the music. With that, there’s a chap next to me, and he’s doing the same, because he must have the same music on. And my window’s open, on my side, and my wife’s gone into Safeways to buy some food. And I look up into the sky and there’s this black mass. Something like a black piece of rag coming towards me. It came through my window, hit the passenger window, my window was open. And five different floats, all on the floor of the car.
Pat: I’d made a sponge. The same thing happened to my sister in law one Sunday. John was talking about lawnmowers and so forth, and I couldn’t believe it. And on the table - I’d made a sponge, it was on the cake stand and everything, and when I turned around there was a carburettor float stuck in the middle of it. And the same thing had happened to my sister in law, so she had the same experience.
John: And floats became the order of the day for this thing to play with. It just played around until it got tired of them, and in the end it went onto something else, usually keys. Something different, it changed its whole thing, it said “I’m fed up of that, let’s go onto something else.”
Narrator: Nowadays it appears Pete has moved in with John’s brother in law, Fred, who also used to work in the lawnmower repair shop. Fred is now retired. He’s the only person who claims actually to have seen Pete.
Fred: He was a little boy, dressed in 1940s clothes. And no figure, or face, you could see the outline, and he had a sort of cub cap on his head. And you could see the outline, of his hands, his face, and yet you couldn’t put a face to him. But he was sat on sort of a fixture where we kept spare parts for lawnmowers. Now he looked out of proportion to me. His body compared to his size, his head should have been in the ceiling. It’s hard to explain but he looked really out of proportion. Now this happened several times, I should say four, five times I’ve seen Pete the poltergeist. Now I remember once, now John was doing a lawnmower, doing the engine of the lawnmower, and there was a nut he could not get undone. So he said “Come on over here, Fred, give us a hand.” So I held the lawnmower while he was getting the old spanner on it and really trying to get this nut undone. And I said “Don’t look up now John, but Pete is behind you on the shelf.” With that, John went slowly back to look, and it must have been half a house brick, just come down and it just smashed on the lawnmower. It frightened us. In fact we went out for a smoke afterwards, it was that frightening. Another time I was locking up the shop, and Pete was in our little canteen where we used to have cups of tea, and he was waving to me, just one hand up. No hand, but you could tell he was waving because the sleeve was moving. And I was walking slowly because I was on my own and I was frightened. And I said, “Come on now Pete, I’ve got to go home.” And he’s just vanished. Vanished completely.
Narrator: As we have seen, this story totally defies rational explanation. It leaves us with some stark choices. Either we disbelieve the range of witnesses, or we have some immensely complex questions to answer. Science doesn’t have a great deal to say to help us.
John Fontana: Science is very powerful, very accurate, very precise, within its own areas of definition. But there are mysteries in the world still, there are things we don’t understand, and the good scientist keeps an open mind about these, explores them and then tries to draw some kind of conclusions from them.
Archie Roy, Professor of Astronomy: Science, has been found wanting, although I have to say that in a sense most scientists have not even considered whether paranormal phenomena exist or not. They have simply assumed it doesn’t. And their opinions in fact are worthless. They have not studied the subject. But even when those scientists who have done so, who have spent decades studying it, like Professor William James, or Professor Sir Oliver Lodge - their understanding has been very very limited. And it could be, you see, that if our 21st Century civilisation survives, and if there are still scientists around, it may be that they will have to realise that the understanding of human personality in its non-physical, material aspects, is totally beyond our understanding. Beyond the methods of science as it operates now. That doesn’t mean that there will not be an answer. But it will be something that we cannot envisage now. But then at the beginning of the 20th Century, everything in physics, in a sense, had to be rethought, because of Einstein and Bequerel and radioactivity and relativity and quantum mechanics.
Narrator: So science is struggling to grapple with issues and phenomena which it really is not yet equipped to tackle. It isn’t that science can reject them or prove them to be irrational. A childlike intelligence like Pete the poltergeist is simply beyond the bounds of scientific competence. But there is no denying the response of people who claim to have interacted with it. They claim to have been interacting with an essentially human spirit.
John: I realised that I was seeing something that was… something that other people would never be able to see. And for a while, I felt very privileged. And then later on, I became very blasé about it. And I think by the time it went, I was glad to see it go. And I don’t think I’d like to see him back.
Pat: I’m one of these people, I never ever believed in anything, ever. I’ve got to actually see things to believe it. But after what I’ve witnessed, I don’t know, I feel honoured.
Fred: I find that when you talk about it, things happen. You could go away after making this programme, and I can be inundated with pound coins, even a fiver, a tenner. Whatever Pete decides to give me, he will give me. Which is uncanny. But I’m not sorry, I’m privileged.