For more than 40 years, this mysterious figure has ‘haunted’ pubs across the Black Country and Staffordshire, leaving only their calling card – an image of American opera singer and actor Mario Lanza drawn on a beermat accompanied by a quote and often signed simply AJW.
But now, bar staff and regulars at the Beacon Hotel, Sedgley, are one step closer to cracking the mystery of this local enigma – they know what he or she likes to eat for breakfast.
Because, along with beermats featuring newspaper clippings of the historic pub’s staff stuck to them, the mystery customer also left one with a receipt attached from Rob Newey Butchers in Kingswinford, listing home-cured streaky bacon as one of the items.
“He or she must have been in the pub around 12.30pm on Friday, July 15 ,” says general manager, Alex Marchant, who was delighted to find several beermats dedicated to her in reference to the pub’s recent Camra award.
“And, when I checked the CCTV later, I saw a figure get up to leave with what looked like a range of beermats on their table.”
But, despite having captured this famous ‘ghost’ on camera, Alex remains tight-lipped as to this individual’s identity.
She jokes: “I’m not telling anyone who he or she really is – especially not a member of the Press!”
The mystery fan of Mario Lanza – a tenor and Hollywood movie star who died in 1959 – has continued to arouse interest since the first beermats were discovered in the early 1970s.
Over the years, this secretive spectre has displayed a keen interest in local news stories, referring at one time to nearby Woolaston as the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ when there was a large rise in numbers of missing pets there.
As well as being the subject of a documentary by professional filmmaker Barney Snow, AJW even has a Facebook page set up in his or her honour, which currently has 159 members.
And, since many beermats now also include reference to this, along with email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, some local people think it may now be a younger person who has taken up the role of Mario Lanza’s ghostwriter.
But Alex isn’t giving any clues away. “He could be a younger person, he could be older,” she says, before adding with a smile, “but I’m still not telling.”
Have you recently found one of these famous beermats or already own a collection?
Get in touch with us at Sedgleyscene – we’d love to hear your thoughts.