Brent Swancer October 22, 2021
Hauntings come in all shapes and sizes, and they are always mysterious enough as it is. Yet while many of these feature fleeting phenomena witnessed sporadically by a smattering of individuals, others prove to be much more potent and persistent than others. In some cases, the weirdness comes hard and fast, and one such case involves a very active and interactive entity that was witnessed by numerous people and held a whole street in awe and wonder.
The setting for this rather strange tale is a quiet street in the city of Cardiff, Wales, where in the 1980s a man by the name of John Matthews owned a modest backstreet lawn mower repair center called Mower Services. They had never had any problems at the location until one day when strange things began to happen, starting one afternoon when John and a friend Ian were working on a mower. As they went about their repairs, their concentration was shattered by the bang of what sounded like a rock hitting the sheet metal roof of the garage. Another bang followed, then another, and the irate John ran outside to confront what he thought were kids fooling around, but no one was outside. In fact, the quiet street was completely empty. At the time it was pretty odd, but he thought nothing of it at first, still convinced that the kids had somehow managed to run away down the narrow street fast enough to escape detection, but this was only the beginning of what would prove to be a bizarre series of paranormal events.
The following day, Ian was in the workshop when he noticed some spanners on the wall start to swing, which was pretty weird since there was no wind there and no explanation. Nevertheless, Ian just reached out to stop the swinging and continued with his work. Right away they began swinging again, and as Ian examined the mysteriously swinging spanners trying to figure out what was going on, a wrench went flying from a nearby shelf. No sooner had he whipped around to see it land, a stone suddenly hit him in the chest and tumbled to the floor. Slightly annoyed, as well as not a little spooked, he picked the rock up and tossed it into the corner of the garage, and after several moments it came flying right back towards him. He threw the stone again, and once again it came flying back, and the startled Ian did this several more times, each time the stone returning, before calling out to John to come see what was happening. John would say of it:
One day 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 thing and many people threw stones into that corner, or nuts and bolts, and nine times out of ten they had something back.
They kept it quiet and tried not to let word to get out about this strange phenomenon, afraid that it would scare off customers, but they did tell a lot of their friends, who came to witness the rock throwing for themselves, as well as other strange things like moving or swinging objects. One of their friends, known only as Pat, says of the first time he was introduced to the phenomena:
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.”
At this time, there was nothing particularly menacing about it all, just the sense that there was a very playful, sometimes mischievous, almost child-like force lurking in there, and they began to call the entity Pete. It would would reportedly get up to all sorts of mischief, such as hide people’s belongings, throw all sorts of things, and play catch with those who threw things at it. On most occasions it seemed as if it was playing games, with one of its favorites being to hide someone’s belongings, then toss them onto the floor when the person got tired of looking for them, the objects seeming to materialize from nowhere. It also became obvious that Pete understood what was being said to it. On one occasion a paperclip dropped from out of nowhere onto John’s desk as he sat there with a colleague going over paperwork, and when he asked Pete for more a whole box fell out of thin air. John explains of this and what happened next:
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.
It was not only in the garage and the office that these phenomena happened, but in John’s home as well, which was right next door. Objects would often appear from nowhere or be thrown from shelves, and Pete seemed to play its games here as well. It also seemed to enjoy playing with children’s toys, especially the Rubik’s Cube, although it broke them just as often, one time ripping the head off of an action figure. One thing that Pete became known for was causing objects to materialize out of thin air on demand. One day, John asked his wife for a banana, and before she could even react, one plopped down right in front of him. When asked for a fork or spoon, one would either fall from nowhere or come shooting across the floor. Pete would also get rid of things he didn’t like. The entity apparently hated oranges, and every time they tried to put them in the house they would be tossed out the window. In the workshop Pete proved to be especially useful, with it becoming common practice for them to ask for a wrench, spanner, or other equipment and have it promptly clatter down in front of them. Sometimes it would subvert what was actually asked of it in clever ways, showing that it was quite smart. Indeed, it constantly acted in clever ways, and one of the shop workers, John’s brother in law, Fred, would say of it:
Over the years that we were there, playing, I should say playing because we used to play with it, 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. 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.
One day, John got it into his head to see what would happen when he asked for money, and it seems to have worked. He explains:
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. On average we’d be getting about five pound a month, pound coins, that’s an average mind, sometimes it could be more sometimes it could be less. 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!
At one point, John called in a David Fontana, a university professor with an interest in the paranormal, who came to investigate for himself and would not go away disappointed. Indeed, Pete made itself known right away. Fontana would say of what he witnessed:
Most of my visits were unannounced, so they didn’t know that I was coming at any particular time. 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. 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.
With Fontana’s involvement, the story began hitting the news, but rather than chase away customers, they actually started pulling in more business than ever before, with droves of curiosity seekers showing up to see the strange phenomena for themselves and usually succeeding. The bizarre goings on were witnessed by customers, two priests from a nearby church, and an insurance assessor, who would say of what he experienced:
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.
Even hardcore skeptics were going away baffled, and it became one of the biggest poltergeist cases in UK history. In the meanwhile, Pete continued his pranks and tricks for years, which were observed by numerous witnesses, but through all of this the entity itself was never actually seen. They all speculated on what or who the obvious spirit actually was, but Pete remained silent whenever asked for some sign of the answer to this question. Then one day, it began appearing on occasion to Fred, the only one who it would ever show itself to. Fred would describe the entity:
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. You can imagine he was all grey. No face, but the face was there. It’s hard to explain. 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.
After this, it seems that Pete became absolutely obsessed with Fred, following him around everywhere and focusing most of the phenomena around him. Even when the shop was moved to another area, it stayed behind to be in Fred’s house. It got so persistent, and the phenomena grew so much in intensity, that Fred and his wife finally moved away. After this, the paranormal activity just seems to have melted away, and there have been no occurrences in the area since. We are left to wonder what was going on here? What sort of haunting was this? Where did this entity come from and what did it want? The haunting was certainly witnessed by many people and was very persistent, prolonged, and interactive, but what did it spring from and why did it start and stop so suddenly? These are question which only Pete the Poltergeist knows the answers to, and he’s not talking.