“Lawyers Are: A learned gentleman who rescues your estate from your enemies and keeps it himself” – Henry Brougham
Rosewarne Wollas (“Lower” in Cornish) was a manor house in rugged, coastal Cornwall built in 1225, and housed many generations of the aristocratic De Rosewarne family, until the reign of James I (1566-1625), right about the time of the unification of the Scottish and English crowns. As it turns out, the final De Rosewarne to own the estate was a bit of a financial screw-up. The last lord of the manor was tangled in financial difficulties as he was busy “endeavouring, without sufficient means, to support the dignity of his family” (Hartland, 1890, p224). Across the generations, I hear you, brother.
It didn’t particularly help De Rosewarne that his attorney and financial advisor was a certain Ezekiel Grosse, who turned out to be neither a good financial advisor and likely a fairly shoddy attorney. Suspiciously, when De Rosewarne finally ran out of cash, Rosewarne Manor was snapped up at a bargain price by none other than Ezekiel Grosse, who many believe to have been less than honest with his client from the beginning. Nonetheless, Grosse now had himself a fancy estate in Camborne, a mere stone’s throw from the lovely beaches of St. Ives. Word to the wise. If your lawyer and accountant expresses an interest in purchasing your real estate, have somebody else review the books first. Not to pile hate on the legal profession, but Samuel Taylor Coleridge said it best when “He saw a lawyer killing a viper on a dunghill hard by his own stable; And the Devil smiled, for it put him in mind of Cain and his brother Abel”. Having successfully bilked De Rosenware of his property, Grosse wasted no time settling in, and absent the concept of karma and conscience, figured he’s secured a pretty good deal for himself.
Of course, real estate transactions on a 500 year old property inevitably involve a measure of preternatural comings and goings, and Grosse’s acquisition of Rosewarne Manor was no exception. Some blame the faerie folk, which Cornwall is thick with, and others the ghost of a disgruntled De Rosewarne relative, but needless to say, weirdness inevitably ensued, attributable to various supernatural critters with puzzlingly retributional interests.
Ezekiel Grosse had scarcely made Rosewarne his dwelling-place, before he was alarmed by noises, at ﬁrst of an unearthly character, and subsequently, one very dark night, by the appearance of the ghost himself in the form of a worn and aged man. The ﬁrst appearance was in the park, but he subsequently repeated his visits in the house, but always after dark. Ezekiel Grosse was not a man to be terriﬁed at triﬂes, and for some time he paid but slight attention to his nocturnal visitor. Howbeit the repetition of visits, and certain mysterious indications on the part of the spectre, became annoying to Ezekiel. One night, when seated in his ofﬁce examining some deeds, and being rather irritable, having lost an important suit, his visitor approached him, making some strange indications which the lawyer could not understand. Ezekiel suddenly exclaimed, “In the name of God, what wantest thou?” (Hunt, 1865, p286).
It rarely pays to be peevish and impatient with a persistent phantasm. They have all the time in the afterlife, so to speak, and relatively nothing to lose except for eternal boredom. Ezekiel was in no mood for visitations of the spectral variety. Until of course, the preternatural critter made an interesting proposal, one a man generally driven by avarice could not fail to ignore. Not for long at any rate. When a ghost offers you gold, you’ve got to listen. The incorporeal critter told Grosse that there was gold buried in them thar’ hills, a secret stash of De Rosewarne treasure that had long lay hidden. The ghost was quite insistent and essentially demanded that Ezekiel get his act together and follow him to the designated location. The specter led Grosse to a deolate cairn and instructed him to dig. Deep in the ground, Grosse unearthed a bronze urn, filled to the brim with ancient gold coins. Over time, Ezekiel revisited the treasure trove, carefully emptying the windfall in small amount, so as not to arouse undue suspicion. The ghost of course gave all the usual warnings about greed and the implications for your eternal soul, but a bird in the hand is worth two in the Lake of Fire. Upon his discovery of the treasure, the ghost respectfully stopped his nightly visitation. Maybe I’m a glass half-empty kind of guy, but I always worry when the drumbeat stops.
Ezekiel Grosse was doing well for himself. He abandoned his law practice and retired to the life of the landed gentry, becoming quite the novelty on the social scene. During a lavish Christmas party Grosse gave at Rosewarne Manor, things took a turn for the macabre.
It was Christmas-eve, and a large gathering there was at Rosewarne. In the hall the ladies and gentlemen were in the full enjoyment of the dance, and in the kitchen all the tenantry and the servants were emulating their superiors. Everything went joyously; and when mirth was in full swing, and Ezekiel felt to the full the influence of wealth, it appeared as if in one moment the chill of death had fallen over every one. The dancers paused, and looked one at another, each one struck with the other’s paleness; and there, in the middle of the hall, every one saw a strange old man looking angrily, but in silence, at Ezekiel Grosse, who was fixed in terror, blank as a statue. No one had seen this old man enter the hall, yet there he was in the midst of them. It was but for a minute, and he was gone. Ezekiel, as if a frozen torrent of water had thawed in an instant, roared with impetuous laughter. “What do you think of that for a Christmas play? There was an old Father Christmas for you! Ha, ha, ha, ha! How frightened you all look! Butler, order the men to hand round the spiced wines On with the dancing, my friends! It was only a trick, ay, and a clever one, which I have put upon you. On with your dancing, my friends.” Notwithstanding his boisterous attempts to restore the spirit of the evening, Ezekiel could not succeed. There was an influence stronger than any which he could command; and one by one, framing sundry excuses, his guests took their departure, every one of them satisfied that all was not right at Rosewarne. From that Christmas-eve Grosse was a changed man (Hartland, 1865, p224).
Sadly, Ezekiel’s friends abandoned him, because when the going gets weird, most reasonable folks run the other way. His impressive accumulation of possessions gave him no joy. Nobody wanted to attend his creepy parties chaperoned by a weird old phantom man. Grosse seemed to age years, and everywhere he went, he saw the old man, and seemed to be mired in the depths of misery. After countless imprecations as to why the ghost haunted him so, the phantom explained that he was a distant ancestor of the De Rosewarne family who had obtained his fortune in less than honest circumstances, thus was condemned to lure others to the heights of sinful pride and avarice. Ezekiel asked for a way out, and was told that if he surrendered his entire wealth to his faithful clerk John Call (the only man to stick beside him all these years), he would be relieved of the curse.
This was, after numerous struggles on the part of Ezekiel to retain his property, or at least some portion of it, legally settled, and John Call became possessor of Rosewarne and the adjoining lands. Grosse was then informed that this evil spirit was one of the ancestors of the Rosewarne, from whom by his fraudulent dealings he obtained the place, and that he was allowed to visit the earth again for the purpose of inflicting the most condign punishment on the avaricious lawyer. His avarice had been gratified, his pride had been pampered to the highest; and then he was made a pitiful spectacle, at whom all men pointed, and no one pitied. He lived on in misery, but it was for a short time. He was found dead; and the country people ever said that his death was a violent one; they spoke of marks on his body, and some even asserted that the spectre of De Rosewarne was seen rejoicing amidst a crowd of devils, as they bore the spirit of Ezekiel over Cam Brea (Rhys, 1921, p315-316).
We could certainly opine on just desserts, the dangers of greed, and facing spectral critters with treasure offers with a certain amount of trepidation, there always being a rather unpleasant catch. Of course, one might just want to attribute this to Cornwall, for as Sabine Baring-Gould once said, “In Cornwall, it is quite possible to take a stride from the richest vegetation into the abomination of desolation. It has been said in mockery that Cornwall does not grow wood enough to make coffins for the people”. This circumstance would seem to lend itself to a certain amount of dissatisfaction among the undead set.
Hartland, Edwin Sidney, 1848-1927. English Fairy And Other Folk Tales. London: The Walton Scott Pub. Co., ltd., 1890.
Hunt, Robert, 1807-1887. Popular Romances of the West of England, Or, The Drolls, Traditions And Superstitions of Old Cornwall. London: John Camden Hotten, 1865.
Rhys, Ernest, 1859-1946. The Haunters & the Haunted: Ghost Stories And Tales of the Supernatural. London: D. O’Connor, 1921.