The dungeon, as it is called, is near the crypt, but it is entered by a different flight of steps. It is windowless, gloomy, and dark. In it are several skulls and some thigh bones of great size, that must have belonged to gigantic human beings. Above the crypt is a chamber with a Gothic window of two lights, enriched with tracery of the decorative period. This chamber has a Gothic doorway, with wood-moulding resting on two sculptured heads with grotesque faces. It is said to be haunted by the ghost of Rosamond Clifford. Why a legend should have arisen of her haunting a place not in any way connected with her story, no one can tell; unless it is because Creslowe belongs to the Clifford family. The house and manor have had many owners. The Knights Templars once owned it; on the suppression of their order it was given to the Knights Hospitallers, and passed from them at the dissolution of the monasteries to the Crown. It was used as the pasture land of the royal cattle, and it is still wonderfully fertile, and a feeding place for animals that are the finest in the kingdom.
While Creslowe belonged to the Crown, it was given into the custody of a keeper. Sir Harry Vane had in the reign of Charles I. a poor boy waiting on him, whose father had died a bankrupt in the Fleet. Sir Harry begged the place of keeper of Creslowe for this lad, whose name was Cornelius Holland. He deserted his royal master as soon as fortune forsook him, and was rewarded by the Parliament with many lucrative posts. He entered Parliament, proved one of the bitterest enemies that the unfortunate king had, and at length signed his royal master's death warrant. He grew immensely rich, and is accused traditionally of having dismantled and destroyed many of the churches in his neighbourhood. At the Restoration he was excepted by name from the amnesty, and only escaped execution by flying to Lausanne, where he died, universally despised.
Charles II. granted the manor of Creslowe to Thomas, first Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and it continues in his family.
The haunted room has caused much interest; for though Fair Rosamond does not deign to show her lovely face, she is heard distinctly, it is said, by those who venture to sleep in the chamber. She comes from the crypt, and always enters by the Gothic door. After entering she walks about (her steps plainly audible), in a stately manner for some time, a long silk dress sweeping the floor and making a frou-frou as it passes; then she is heard moving quickly, as if struggling violently, and her dress rustles loudly.
The room has been slept in several times with the same result, we are assured, and a very clear and amusing account is given of one nocturnal experience by a gentleman who passed the night there.
We will extract part of his own account of it, from "Abbeys and Castles," Mr. Gunn having abbreviated it from the "Book of Days."
"Having entered the room," he says, "I locked and bolted both doors, carefully examined the whole room, and satisfied myself that there was no living creature in it besides myself, nor any entrance but those I had secured. I got into bed, and with the conviction that I should sleep as usual till six in the morning, I was soon lost in a comfortable slumber. Suddenly I was aroused, and on raising my head to listen I heard a sound, certainly resembling the light soft tread of a lady's footstep, accompanied with the rustling of a silk gown I sprang out of bed and lighted a candle; there was nothing to be seen, and now nothing to be heard. I carefully examined the whole room; I looked under the bed, into the fireplace, up the chimney, and at both the doors, which were fastened as I had left them. I looked at my watch, and it was a few minutes past twelve. As all was now perfectly quiet, I extinguished the candle and entered my bed and soon fell asleep."
"I was again aroused. The noise was now louder than before. It appeared like the violent rustling of a stiff silk dress. I sprang out of bed, darted to the spot where the noise was, and tried to grasp the intruder in my arms. My arms met together, but enclosed nothing. The noise passed to another part of the room, and I followed it, groping near the floor to prevent anything passing under my arms. It was in vain; I could feel nothing - the noise had passed away through the Gothic door, and all was still as death. I lighted a candle, and examined the Gothic door, and there I saw the old monks' faces grinning at my perplexity; but the door was shut and fastened just as I had left it. I again examined the whole room, but could find nothing to account for the noise. I now left the candle burning, though I never sleep comfortably with a light in my room. I got into bed, but felt, it must be acknowledged, not a little perplexed at not being able to detect the cause of the noise, nor to account for the cessation when the candle was lighted."
It is quite possible, nevertheless, that the noise was made by rats, or perhaps birds; sounds in the night and in darkness take all kinds of queer forms. A haunted room once owed its reputation to a snail crawling on the window glass. In fact, mysterious sounds belong to night and sleep, and we never feel inclined to take them on their own representation; we decline also to believe that the rest of poor Rosamond is to be nightly disturbed without the least possible reason or cause.