Monday, 8 May 2017

Ghost Hunters - Ripples in Time

Another episode. If sceptical you could put the first section down to unfamiliarity with a place and possible illness (she feels very cold on a hot day). But the second, with four witnesses, seems harder to dismiss. You can read a blog post from one of the experients himself on And Sometimes He's So Nameless. He makes the interesting point that after a while you are merely telling the story of your story, rather than truly remembering the incident itself. But he and his friends made the sensible point of writing down their experiences independently immediately after they happened.

Ripples in Time.

Chris Jensen-Romer: I’d always laughed at people who saw ghosts as being insane. I’d made jokes about our friends who said they had psychic powers. And this was the thing which suddenly shocked me into completely reordering my own mental universe.

Axel Johnston:  It’s still the most real psychical experience I’ve ever had.

Narrator: Is it possible to travel in time? To step through the curtain of our daily life and find ourselves in a completely different time and place – different scenes, different people, different landscape? It is of course the very stuff of science fiction. But could it ever happen in real life? It’s a question that’s fuelled scientific controversy for decades, and indeed it still does. But there are people who would claim to know the answer: it is possible, it has happened to them. One of them is no less a person than the famous psychiatrist and philosopher Carl Jung. In the 1930s he was travelling in Italy and he went to visit the tomb of a Roman Empress in Ravenna. In his account of the episode he describes how he became aware of a strange atmosphere in the place – an unexplained mild blue light everywhere. But what caught his attention was the remarkable beauty of a series of mosaics depicting maritime scenes. He stood in front of them and discussed them with his companion for twenty or thirty minutes. On leaving the mausoleum they tried to buy postcards of them. But surprisingly there were none. Later on he asked a friend visiting Ravenna to obtain pictures for him. It was then that he learnt the truth. The mosaics simply did not exist. These are the mosaics that were in the mausoleum at the time of Jung’s visit: nothing like the ones he described. The mosaics of Jung and his companion discussed, infused with that strange pale blue light, had existed once, but then been destroyed by fire several hundred years earlier. Jung came to believe that he had indeed travelled in time and witnessed the building as it was in the time of the empress herself, fully 1400 years earlier.
Mary Rose Barrington is a paranormal investigator who has become deeply involved in these ripples in time, where people seem to walk out of one world into another time and place. She has studied the Jung case in detail and believes there are extraordinary similarities with another case that occurred in this country. It involves the Bartons. They were a couple who ran a famous, much talked-out bookshop in the ‘50s, who often spent their leisure time walking in the Surrey hills. On one of these walks they believe they travelled back in time to another landscape.

Irina Barton: Before we left the flat in the morning, I had been extremely depressed and didn’t want to go for the walk. And unknown to me, he’d felt the same but we neither mentioned it, we thought it would just spoil the day.

Narrator: By some strange compulsion they still don’t understand, they travelled on beyond the spot they had intended, and eventually stopped in the village of Wotton Hatch. Once there they decided to visit the tomb of John Evelyn, the famous 17th Century diarist.

IB: We were rather surprised to find the gate of the tomb open, which we’d never found before. And so we looked round that, spent a lot of time investigating the memorials and the inscriptions and all the other bits that make up a very beautiful tomb. And then we left the church, walked down to the gate, and as we came out of the gate almost immediately we turned onto a path that was totally overgrown with vegetation. And then we began to climb this path – it was a very narrow path, we had to go single file to go up it. And we climbed up, up, up, up. And then we came out at the t… at a point, at a clearing, with the straight path, and a clearing behind it, and wooded trees behind that. And then on the path, along the path, was a seat, a backless seat. And Eric said “Why don’t we sit on this seat, as we spent so much time in the church, let’s sit on the seat and have our lunch now.” It was about ten to twelve, twelve o’clock. I could only say that the depression was by now very, very overwhelming. I just couldn’t eat the sandwiches. The only comfort came from the sound of a woodman and a dog howling. What it sounded like, down in the valley. And as I was crumbling the bread and throwing it to the birds, there was suddenly a total silence. Not one bird was singing. I could still hear the wood chopper and the dog, but that was all. Everything went absolutely still.

Eric Barton: Then Irene, my wife, turned to me and said, “Is it cold?” Cold? - it was a very hot day. I said “No, certainly not.” And she said, “Feel my arm.” And it was icy cold.

IB: And I saw, standing in the clearing behind, three men. And I went to turn round to look at them, and I realised I’d seen them through the back of my head. I’d say they were wearing a sort of cape, a black… they were all three of them entirely in black. The centre one was most definitely a clergyman, because he had a clerical collar on. And he had a smaller rimmed hat. The outer two men had a larger black rimmed hat. And I would have said that they were, as I say, late 18th, early 19th century. Looking back on it, at the time of course you don’t think like that. You just see the figures, or whatever, and accept them. You don’t say to yourself, “Oh I’m seeing three figures from the 18th or 19th century” you just don’t. I have no idea why one would have a visitation of figures from any period, at any time like that and in a place like that, because it was out of place, apart from out of time.

Narrator: Very disturbed by this forbidding apparition, they hurried on for a while along the lonely path, and then laid down and fell asleep on the edge of a field. They have only a faint recollection how they eventually made their way back to Dorking station to get back to London. Eric was so disturbed by the experience that on the following Sunday he decided to return to Wotton, and retrace the path of their walk, to unravel exactly what had happened. But it seemed that the landscape they’d walked through no longer existed.

EB: Reaching the church, Evelyn’s church, the doors were opening and people were coming out.

IB: So he stopped a man who was coming out of the church and said to him, “Are you familiar with this area?” He said “Yes indeed, I am.” And Eric said, ”Well can you tell me where..” and he described the landscape that we had been in. And this man said, “No, there’s nothing like that round here.” And Eric said, “Well, alright then, forget the landscape, where is there a backless seat on the edge of a path?”

EB: When I asked him about the bench, he said there were no benches as far… he KNEW there was no bench in the whole of this area, at all. No bench.

Narrator: So what can have happened to the landscape they’d walked through? The path and the park bench and the valley. Mary Rose Barrington was convinced that the key to this experience lay in the connection with John Evelyn’s tomb.

Mary Rose Barrington, Paranormal Investigator: Well John Evelyn is the gentleman lying in that tomb, and he is famous for having written a diary in the 17th century, commenting on political and social situation. And among his diary entries is a reference to three gentlemen, one of whom was a priest and they were all to be executed for treason against the king, and he was very upset about this, and he happens to mention it in a diary entry. In the same time as he’s talking about having been to the church in Wotton.

Narrator: The diary entry was for the 15th of march, 1696. And Evelyn wrote of his concern, and I quote, for three unhappy wretches, of which one is a priest, executed with a squeak, for attempting to assassinate the king.

MRB: So I wondered whether Irina might not have been in effect seeing some landscape initiated through the eyes of Evelyn, in much the same way as the famous psychiatrist CJ Jung seems once  to have got into the mind of a Roman empress, when he saw some mosaics.

Narrator: But nothing in the paranormal is simple and straightforward. Both Irina and Mary Rose Barrington have come up with a second theory. It still involves time travel, but to a different time and place. It seems that on the 19th of July, 1873, Bishop Wilberforce was riding through this very countryside, on his way to Wotton House indeed, to make up a quarrel with the Evelyn of the time. He was slightly ahead of his two companions when he was thrown from his horse and died. Strangely enough it has many resemblances with the shape of the landscape through which the Bartons remember walking. So what did Irina witness? Was it the men about to hang, that worried Evelyn so much on that March day in 1696, or was it the sudden dramatic death of the clergyman Wilberforce in 1873?
 But there is a vital clue, a railway track. The Bartons distinctly remember crossing a single track railway. In 1954, at the time of their experience, this was a double track railway, as now. Of course at the time of Evelyn’s diary there was no railway at all. But in 1873, the time of Wilberforce’s death, it would have been a single track railway. And as we’ve said, nothing in the paranormal is simple. By visiting Evelyn’s tomb, could the Bartons have linked the two events in some extraordinary way?

MRB: What these two events have in common is the priest. Therefore I think they switched from the priest in the Evelyn story to the priest Wilberforce, erm, raking through the centuries so there was a fusion of landscapes.

Narrator: So, in their walk through the woods on that still midsummer day, did the Bartons skate through time, experiencing Evelyn’s concern for the three men, and Bishop Wilberforce’s sudden death, before returning, in a way they still can’t explain, back to the present time?

(Part Two)

Narrator: Now we go back nearly 900 years, to 1103, that was when the monks of Cluny founded the priory here at Thetford in Norfolk. For hundreds of years this was a place of refuge and pilgrimage. During the Middle Ages, people flocked here because of its reputation for healing and miracle cures. Just nine years ago, four young students, who came here quite by chance, believe they witnessed the priory as it was hundreds of years ago.

David Aukhett: The whole thing was emotional, it’s more threatening being the entire place, than the figure, as you said before, the apparition was not that important. It was the emotion, the entire place was scary, the entire place over in that part of the priory anyway. That was the scary thing, I just had to leave the area. And even that night, I was scared, and then for a few nights afterwards I had trouble to sleep.

Narrator: Those four students have returned to Thetford to describe their extraordinary time travel experience, an event which has had a profound effect on all of them. Three of them now pursue scientific careers concerned with the understanding of consciousness and the workings of the mind. Their experience happened late one summer’s evening, as the four were passing through Thetford on their way home.

Chris Jensen-Romer, Parapsychologist: So we pulled into the car park, and wandered through, and it was a very pleasant mild August night. As we walked through we joked and made silly comments, but we were also fairly serious keeping an eye open for the history of the place, and wondering why we’d never come across it. Something else struck us, which was there was no-one here, we would have expected, it was in the middle of a built up area in the middle of a town, we would have expected children, people walking their dogs, people sitting drinking out of bottles.. no one. Very lonely place. Eventually we wandered, splitting up on the way, and gathered again at about this point. And while we were standing here, we were looking at the façade of the building in front of us, and through the small window, well three small windows, just up here, one of us drew attention to someone watching us. And then a few moments later, the person we saw pass across and come down through a staircase. Now I wish to stress this, I know it’s hard to believe, there was a staircase leading up through that archway, to a doorway that you can’t see but which is in the room behind. And so we saw someone coming down the stairs. And somebody remarked, it’s somebody wearing a black sheet – it’s a joker trying to scare us, they’re trying to pretend they’re a ghost. And one of us began to walk forwards on the left, and in fact slowly increased his speed as he got closer and closer, and the figure began to retreat back up the stairs. At which point I shouted “Let’s get him!” and began to run like this.., I came running in. As I ran in, I tried to run up the staircase. I had the impression that I actually went a couple of stairs up the staircase towards a door above us. The figure had by that time retreated back across. Darren came in on my left, and as he came in, he also ran at the stairs. I fell forward and pitched, struck my head, probably about here on the flint wall. Darren also struck himself, though he ran through almost to the back wall. We both ended up on the ground, and I was bleeding. It took us a few seconds to get back up and to look at one another, and to realise that there was no staircase. That not only was the figure not real, but neither was the actual staircase which we had physically attempted to run up. At that moment, everything just went cold for me. I got up, Darren was already out running back towards the car. I staggered back out, joined up with Axel, and we ran. We just ran in sheer fear. And I was questioning my sanity and everybody else’s around me at that point. I really did not understand at all what was going on.

Narrator: None of them had had any previous paranormal experiences. But being scientifically inclined, they all agreed to go off and write down what they’d seen independently of one another. Much of what follows is taken from those accounts.

Axel Johnston, Computer Scientist: Right, this is my account of the vision. It appeared to be a man about five and a half foot tall, judging from how high he appeared to be relative to the archway. And he was wearing a black monk’s habit, in the sort of Dominican style, with the cowl pulled up and his hands clasped within his sleeves in this kind of position, which meant that none of his skin or anything was visible in the light at all, it just was black, with possibly darker face. You know, that’s what I saw.

Darren Lorking, Scientific Researcher: We advanced towards the steps, that we could see that the [Christian?,] the figure was standing on. I felt nervous, um, but I was so curious that I had to continue. We walked towards the steps and as we approached the archway I was still convinced the steps were there. The figure had gone, disappeared, presumably up the stairs. Um, I tried to walk up the stairs, but they weren’t there. I just fell over. That’s when I got up and ran.

CJ-R: It’s odd actually, because, er, my drawing doesn’t look much like a cowled monk. What I drew and wrote at the time was “It looks like a person wearing a black sheet or a woman in 18th century dress. And the reason I had the impression of the 18th century dress was that it seemed to be flowing towards the bottom. I do agree that the arms were folded across. And also I noticed there were some dark points almost glittering, like coal, black coal broken in the central area here, which I recorded on my drawing as you can see.

David Aukhett, Clinical Psychologist: The doorway seemed much darker than it should be, and then there was a cloud, smoke or something, which sort of grew and became bright. I didn’t actually see a figure, I just saw a column of smoke, glowing and slowly becoming bigger. And basically that’s when I panicked and fled.

Narrator: From these accounts it’s clear that all four witnessed a strange and inexplicable event, and it triggered off in all four a profound interest in the science of the paranormal, in an effort to come to terms with their experience.

DA: The environment has triggered something in us, and we all see it in our own minds. I mean I don’t think that invalidates it just because...
(another interrupts) …no just because it’s an individual’s perception of it…

DA: Just because I saw a column of smoke, you saw an individual, you saw someone in a habit, that’s all the… maybe the emotions that have been taken at that time.

CJ-R: Well I suppose when you think about it, there are various explanations you could offer beyond the ones we’ve talked about. The idea it’s a recording of the dead abbot or prior, sorry, prior wasn’t it, this recording of him re-enacting. Or, possibly, because we had the thing of the priory being more real as we left it, as if it was becoming, coming into existence around us or somehow very close. Timeslip, I don’t know.

DL: But the physical thing to me was the staircase. I mean I can’t think of any reasonable explanation for that. It’s not a ghost. It’s an inanimate object.

CJ-R: But if you have the ghost of a man on a horse, you have to have the horse. And if you have a ghost of a horse and carriage, you have to have the carriage. The carriage doesn’t have to have a soul or a spirit, but it still appears. And therefore the ghost on the stairs wouldn’t have made sense unless we’d seen the stairs. And so that the stairs might even be added by our own minds to explain how the figure was coming down.

DL: Possibly, yes.

CJ-R: We actually did the window dressing for the experience we were having. Axel what did you think about the place becoming more real as we left?

AJ: I wouldn’t have said it would just be caused by the fear, because it was a lot more.. .this is not an imposing place, it’s not something I’d find imposing

(someone interrupts): But it seemed it at the time

AJ: And I think that was possibly due to, I think the time slip theory does account for that a lot more effectively. Just the fact that we were being -

CJ-R: …as if we were partially slipping back, that we were closer than -

AJ: That’s right, yeah. As though we were much closer to this time period when it happened, when it was a functioning abbey, or a priory rather.

CJ-R: […] there were famous cases. But in many of those, people experience a dreamlike state, an altered state of consciousness, and often felt depressed…

Narrator: has had a powerful effect on the shape of Chris’s life. He is now involved in research into the nature of consciousness. He has also spent some time digging into the history of Thetford, and has come up with a murder story.

CJ-R: What actually happened was in the late 14th Century a prior, who was actually -  those are the prior’s quarters where we saw it, and there was historically a staircase going up at that location. And the prior was murdered by one of his monks, who was from France, who he had refused permission to return to his home territory, so to speak. And the monk repeatedly stabbed the prior in the stomach and chest, and after the death of the prior, within the prior’s quarters, the monk was taken to Norwich castle, where he was branded, his eyes were put out and he was incarcerated for the rest of his life in the dungeon under Norwich castle. This is a matter of historical record, we actually found this out after you’d left. When we actually went to the library and conducted research. But we didn’t know that at the time. And that information was only available, as far as we’d been able to find out, in a late 19th Century book on the history of Thetford, which has a small reference to it. So it’s not a popularly known fact. So there’s no way we could have heard that information and forgotten about it, and then later on, interpreted it because we suddenly realised we were in the right location for the story.

Narrator: Is it possible to travel in time? That was the question we started with. Noone would claim that these events provide a complete answer to that question. But they do suggest that time is by no means as simple as the relentless onward ticking of the clock would have us believe. There are, it seems, ripples and discontinuities in time, parallel existences running alongside our own. It would seem possible for any one of us to turn a corner or pass through a door and suddenly find ourselves in a strange and alien world.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Transcript of the Cardiff Poltergeist episode of 'Strange But True'

Another transcription - this is from Strange But True, Series one, Episode one, first broadcast in October 1994. 

Michael Aspel, Narrator: Behind a street in Cardiff, down an alley, the quiet life was about to be shattered.

John: We started in this building about fifteen years ago, repairing all sorts of grass-cutting equipment. And later on we started to sell mowers.

MA: John and Pat Matthews, helped by Pat’s brother Fred, ran a thriving business here, no real worries, just ordinary everyday irritations.

Reconstruction: (Noise from the roof) It’s those blasted kids throwing stones. I’ll go see to them.

MA: John went to catch the young vandals red-handed. But there were no vandals. The stones seemed to be coming from nowhere.

Reconstruction: Pathetic, John, haven’t you got any control over them?
There’s nobody there!
Pull the other one. Come out of thin air, did they?

John: We were baffled that there weren’t any kids around here and nobody that could throw stones. We just couldn’t understand it. We just couldn’t understand where they were coming from.

Fred Cook: I thought he was a nutter to be honest. I thought he was mad. I thought ‘people throwing stones, it’s got to be. Can’t be anything else.’

John: I started to get worried that there was something strange here in this building.

MA: Whatever it was, it was about to move in at Mower Services.

John: I would see little things flying across the room.

Fred: It used to throw stones and things like ball bearings.

Pat: Then suddenly, in this one corner of the shop it got ice, ice cold. And then there was a terrible smell of burning.

MA: Somebody or something seemed to be playing childish tricks, like hiding keys.

Fred: We searched high and low for these keys – it went on for five or ten minutes or so, and then all of a sudden these keys came shooting across the floor.

MA: Then money began appearing.

Pat: Every morning, it got in turns we were having it turns, each had a fiver or a ten pound note, and it was stuck in the ceiling tile.

MA: Unable to believe that one of them wasn’t responsible, the family set up a test.

John: I said to close the doors, both sides, and we’ll see what’s happening.

Reconstruction: Right we’ll settle this once and for all. Hands on the bench. Fingers touching. (The three men are lined up). Right. Come on then – throw us a stone. (One rattles onto the floor).

John: There was no chance of anybody being in that shop except us three.

Reconstruction: Hang on, I think if we’re going to do this as a proper test, we should be writing everything down.

John: With that, a pen dropped. And I started saying things like engine parts.

Reconstruction: What about a plug? (A spark plug falls)

Fred: We knew then, it wasn’t one of us. We were looking at each other and our hands were on the bench.

John: We were there two hours. And I went home and told my wife I had just spent the most fascinating couple of hours in my life. I couldn’t believe it. We were never really afraid of it. It became part of the family.

Fred: We decided we’d name him. We called him Pete the Polt, Pete the Poltergeist.

MA: A poltergeist called Pete? Could there be such a thing? And why was it favouring Mower Services with its attentions? The family needed expert help. They called in David Fontana, a university professor with an interest in the paranormal.

Prof. David Fontana, Psychologist: Most of my visits were unannounced, so they didn’t know that I was coming at any particular time.

MA: With the element of surprise, the professor would surely get to the bottom of what was really happening.

DF: As I entered the workshop, at that very moment a stone was thrown across the room and bounced off a piece of machinery. John was sitting there talking to one of the sales representatives but there was no question that either of them was involved in this. John looked up at me and said “There – see what I mean? He’s greeting you.” I think I was very pleased actually, because it’s so rare for investigators to be there when things actually happen. That made me take things very much more seriously than perhaps I otherwise would.

MA: Professor Fontana was so convinced that he filed reports on what he called “the responsive poltergeist.” He said it possessed both “intent and the rudimentary intelligence necessary to accomplish this intent.” And he drew diagrams showing how, when objects were thrown into a corner he called ‘the focus of activity’, some force catapulted them back.

DF: You don’t see the things in midair, you hear them hit the wall and clatter to the ground, you look round and the stone is there, but you don’t actually see it in flight. Which, in the sense rather strengthens the idea that nobody’s playing tricks, because if they were, you would see the things in flight.

MA: With Professor Fontana’s reports, the case began to attract attention across Wales.

Pat: I wouldn’t want people to get the wrong idea, and we were afraid that if we started advertising about it, we would frighten customers away.

MA: But the customers kept coming, and so many people became eye witnesses that this became one of the biggest poltergeist cases ever.

Joyce Glenn: I was just as sceptical as everybody else and heard all about this ‘poltergeist’, but I was in the shop one day and little nuts and bolts sort of were just flying around and dropping from nowhere.

MA: After thieves broke into motor services one night, the insurance assessor who came witnessed it too.

Gareth Lucas: When I was there I heard the stones or noises coming from the back of the shop. When I asked them what it was about, I was told “Oh that’s Pete the Poltergeist.” I didn’t really believe him. So I opened the door and looked through, and I could see a stone whizzing around on the floor. There was nobody else out there.

MA: When Gareth Lucas went back to the office and told his story, the other insurance staff not surprisingly laughed. Until a colleague went, and the same happened to him.

Reg Jenkin: Quite to my amazement, small stones and things were flying around and pinging off shelves, and I was able then to go back to the office and confirm his story!

MA: Even the Baptist Church, one of two chapels either side of Mower Services, began to experience poltergeist phenomena.

Rev Mike Fuller: Before I knew anyone else had problems, one evening I was working up here in the office, and stones started hitting the window. I did everything I could to find out what it was – there were no people down there, I went down and looked round. There was nobody there that could throw stones, but when I came back upstairs the whole business continued.

MA: But the minister believes he has an explanation.

Rev Mike Fuller: As a Christian I believe we live in a visible and seen world which has a supernatural dimension wrapped round it.

MA: So what might that supernatural dimension be? Maurice Gross is a leading poltergeist expert. He’s been investigating cases for the past seventeen years.

Maurice Grosse: There are two main theories of poltergeist phenomena. One is that some people have the ability to exteriorise a force which affects their physical surroundings without physical means. And the second theory is interference from outside entities. Now we don’t know what these entities are, but sometimes they appear to be spirits of dead people.

MA: Nobody knew what the Mower Services poltergeist might be, until one day Fred says he saw it.

Fred: We were fixing this mower on the floor, and I looked up and there was a tiny boy.

(reconstruction) John, don’t do anything too violent.
 What are you talking about? I’ll have to be violent to get this thing off.
No, I don’t mean that. Do as I say. Don’t turn round quickly, but look up gently and look up at the shelf behind you, okay?
What are you talking about?
He was up there! On the shelf. A little boy. It must be Pete!

Fred: Half a house brick came hurtling down, and we both panicked with amazement. You can imagine he was all grey. No face, but the face was there. It’s hard to explain. And all you could see was his hand waving.

MA: From then on, the poltergeist never left Fred alone. Last year, Mower Services outgrew its old premises and moved to a new industrial estate. Pete the Poltergeist didn’t follow. He moved in with Fred instead.

Fred: And there’s countless things that happened at home. Pictures tilting in the frames. Spoons being thrown up the stairs. Pound coins. Oh it’s amazing.

MA: Fred Cook and his wife have moved home to escape their unwanted guest. They took the precaution of breaking a piece of pottery that had kept appearing and disappearing. So far there’s been no sign of anything happening again.

Ghost Hunters - The Invisible Intelligence

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.