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Down in the huge cellar vaults of Schwerin Palace lives the mystical Petermännchen (little Peter). He is said to be a small, good-natured goblin with a grim look and there are many legends surrounding his character. Several hundred stories can be told about Schwerin Castle's poltergeist, probably making Schwerin Castle one of the most "legendary" places in Germany.
As a watchman and guardian of the palace, he was supposed to reward the good and honest, whereas he punished and expelled thieves and intruders with his mean tricks - even the mighty Wallenstein.
Equipped with lantern, sword and keys, little Peter woke good soldiers when they fell asleep during their night watch to prevent them from punishment.
Petermännchen used to change the colour of his clothes according to events going to happen. Most of the times he was dressed in grey, but when there was a war he put on red garments, and he wore black whenever someone died
With the lakes and islands it is no surprise that people settled in the area of the city of Schwerin for thousands of years. Graves from 3000 years BC have been found inside the cities limits. The earliest traces of a fortress on the island of Schwerin Castle date back to 942. The slavic tribe of the Obotriten lived here. In 1160 the area was conquered by Duke Henry "the Lion" and became christianized during the following centuries. Most stories about the identity of Little Peter seem to relate to that time, when the old rulers and old religions vanished. There are four main stories explaining where Little Peter came from.
In 1897 a court musician named Karl Meyer saw Little Peter dressed in black. The ghost was standing on the iron bridge that connects the castle island and the castle gardens. Two weeks later the young prince Friedrich Wilhelm - son of Grand Duke Friedrich Franz II - drowned in the North Sea. He commanded a torpedo boat, which overturned and sank in a sudden storm on September 22nd.
In December 1913 a big part of the Castle including the famous Golden Hall burned down. Firefighters from Rostock and Hamburg were called and brought to Schwerin via train just in time to get control of the fire. Some traces of the fire can still be seen today in the unrestored rooms. It is said that one of the young princesses later told, that she saw the figure of Little Peter moving about through the flames in red. In Juli 1914 the First World War started and ended in 1918, which was also the end of monarchy and of the rule of the Grand Dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
The last notable sighting was in 1930. A policeman who was on duty at night reported, that a small figure walked past him on the castle bridge dressed strangely and wearing a hat. When the officer tried to address the stranger, he would quickly walk into the castle gardens and vanished there.
There are many people living in Schwerin, who know stories about the Poltergeist Petermännchen at Schwerin Castle. And there are quite a few, who can tell that they saw flickering dim lights moving behind the castle windows. Especially in one of the towers there are sightings of candle light and a shadow moving. Might that be Little Peter? Who knows.