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Corby Castle


Corby Castle lies on the banks of the river Eden, not far from Carlisle. The castle was the seat of the Howard family and is haunted by a spirit known as the radiant boy who has been sighted infrequently. The apparition haunts a room in the oldest part of the castle, which is reached by a passage running through a wall.

An often-quoted sighting was made by the rector of Greystoke, although there is no date to follow up the story. Sometime after 1.00am in the morning whilst staying overnight at the castle, the rector awoke to see a glimmer in the centre of the room. The glimmer gradually increased in strength to a bright light and then formed into a boy with golden locks of hair. After watching the rector for a short while the spectre glided to the chimney and vanished.

Traditionally the radiant boy was associated with the Howard family, if seen by a family member that person would rise to a position of great power but meet a terrible end.

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Ian Topham

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Ian Topham
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Re: Corby Castle

In The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain (1897), John Ingram refers to 'The Night Side Of Nature, or, Ghosts and Ghost Seers' by Catherine Crowe.

The apparition of a "Radiant Boy," as it is called, is not uncommon in the history of haunted buildings, as various sections of this work will show. Dr. Kerner, the great German authority on spectral affairs, cites an instance of one of these apparitions which was believed to appear only once in seven years, and to be connected in some way with the murder of a child by its mother. Mrs. Crowe, in her Night Side of Nature t refers to the well-known tradition that C(orby ?) Castle, Cumberland, is haunted by a spirit of this description. A friend of the familv owning this ancient dwelling is authority for the following account of an appearance of the ghostly visitant : it is copied from a manuscript volume, and it is dated C Castle, December 22nd,

1824 : "In order to introduce my readers to the haunted room, I will mention that it forms part of the old house, with windows looking into the court, which, in early times, was deemed a necessary security against an enemy. It adjoins a tower built by the Eomans for
defence ; for C was, properly, more a border tower than a castle of any consideration. There is a winding staircase in this tower, and the walls are from eight to ten feet thick.

"When the times became more peaceable, our ancestors enlarged the arrow-slit windows, and added to that part of the building which looks towards the river Eden ; the view of which, with its beautiful banks, we now enjoy. But many additions and alterations have been made since that.

"To return to the room in question ; I must observe that it is by no means remote or solitary, being surrounded on all sides by chambers that are constantly inhabited. It is accessible by a passage cut through a wall eight feet in thickness, and its dimensions are twenty-one by eighteen. One side of the wainscoting is covered with tapestry, the remainder is decorated with old family pictures, and some ancient pieces of embroidery, probably the handiwork of nuns. Over a press, which has doors of Venetian glass, is an ancient oaken figure, with a battle-axe in his hand, which was one of those formerly placed on the walls of the city of Carlisle, to represent guards. There used to be also an old-fashioned bed and some dark furniture in this room; but so many were the complaints of those who slept there, that I was induced to replace some of these articles of furniture by more modern ones, in the hope of removing a certain air of gloom, which I thought might have given rise to the unaccountable reports of apparitions and extraordinary noises which were constantly reaching us. But I regret to say I did not succeed in banishing the nocturnal visitor, which still continues to disturb our friends.

"I shall pass over numerous instances, and select one as being especially remarkable, from the circumstance of the apparition having been seen by a clergyman well known and highly respected in this county, who, not six weeks ago, repeated the circumstances to a company of twenty persons, amongst whom were some who had
previously been entire disbelievers in such appearances.

"The best way of giving you these particulars, will be by subjoining an extract from my journal, entered at the time the event occurred.

"Sept. 8, 1803. Amongst other guests invited to C Castle, came the Rev. Henry A. of Redburgh, and rector of Greystoke, with Mrs. A., his wife, who was a Miss S., of Ulverstone. According to previous arrangements, they were to have remained with us some days ; hut their visit was cut short in a very unexpected manner. On the morning after their arrival we were all assembled at breakfast, when a chaise and four dashed up to the door in such haste that it knocked down part of the fence of my flower-garden. Our curiosity was, of course, awakened to know who could be arriving at so early an hour ; when, happening to turn my eyes towards Mr. A., I observed that he appeared extremely agitated. ' It is our carriage ! ' said he : ' I am very sorry, but we must absolutely leave you this morning.'

"We naturally felt and expressed considerable surprise, as well as regret, at this unexpected departure ; representing that we had invited Colonel and Mrs. S., some friends whom Mr. A. particularly desired to meet, to dine with us on that day. Our expostulations, however, were vain ; the breakfast was no sooner over than they departed, leaving us in consternation to conjecture what could possibly have occasioned so sudden an alteration in their arrangements. I really felt quite uneasy lest anything should have given them offence; and we reviewed all the occurrences of the preceding evening, in order to discover, if offence there was, whence it had arisen. But our pains were vain; and alter talking a great deal about it for some days, other circumstances banished the matter from our minds.

"It was not till we some time afterwards visited the part of the county in which Mr. A. resides, that we learnt the real cause of his sudden departure from C. The relation of the fact, as it here follows, is in his own words:

"Soon after we went to bed, we fell asleep : it might he between one and two in the morning when I awoke. I observed that the fire was totally extinguished ; but although that was the case, and we had no light, I saw a glimmer in the centre of the room, which suddenly increased to a bright flame. I looked out, apprehending that something had caught fire ; when, to my amazement, I beheld a beautiful boy, clothed in white, with bright locks resembling gold, standing by my bedside, in which position he remained some minutes, fixing his eyes upon me with a mild and benevolent expression. He then glided gently towards the side of the chimney, where it is obvious there is no possible egress, and entirely disappeared. I found myself again in total darkness, and all remained quiet until the usual hour of rising. I declare this to be a true account of what I saw at C Castle, upon my word as a clergyman.' "

Mrs. Crowe, in alluding to this story in her above-mentioned book, remarks that she was acquainted with some of the family and several of the friends of the Rev. Henry A , who, she continues, " is still alive, though now an old man; and I can most positively assert that his own conviction with regard to the nature of this appearance has remained ever unshaken. The circumstance made a lasting impression upon his mind, and he never willingly speaks of it ; but when he does, it is always with the greatest seriousness, and he never
shrinks from avowing his belief that what he saw admits of no other interpretation than the one he then put upon it."

As a pendant to this narrative it will be appropriate to relate the story of " The Radiant Boy," so well known in traditionary lore as having appeared to the second Marquis of Londonderry, better known as Lord Castlereagh, whilst on a visit to a gentleman resident in the north of Ireland. The time of this visit would appear to have been about the end of the last century. The story has been variously detailed by different writers, but in the following account, derived from Mrs. Crowe's Ghost Stories, it is less romantically told than usual, and, consequently, has a greater air of vraisemblance. In this form it is stated to have been obtained from a member of the Marquis's family :

"Captain Stewart, afterwards Lord Castlereagh," reads the account, " when he was a young man, happened to be quartered in Ireland. He was fond of sport, and one day the pursuit of game carried him so far that he lost his way. The weather, too, had become very rough, and in this strait he presented himself at the door of a gentleman's house, and, sending in his card, requested shelter for the night. The hospitality of the Irish country gentry is proverbial ; the master of the house received him warmly, said he feared he could not make him so comfortable as he could have wished, his house being full of visitors already added to which, some strangers, driven by the inclemency of the nigbt, hod sought shelter before him; but that such accommo- dation as he could give he was heartily welcome to : whereupon he called his butler, and, committing his guest to his good offices, told him he must put him up somewhere, and do the best he could for him. There was no lady, the gentleman being a widower.

"Captain Stewart found the house crammed, and a very jolly party it was. His host invited him to stay, and promised him good shooting if he would prolong his visit a few days ; and, in fine, he thought himself extremely fortunate to have fallen into such pleasant
quarters.

"At length, after an agreeable evening, they all retired to bed, and the butler conducted him to a large room almost divested of furniture, but with a blazing peat fire in the grate, and a shake-down on the floor, composed of cloaks and other heterogeneous materials. Nevertheless, to the tired limbs of Captain Stewart, who had had a hard day's shooting, it looked very inviting; but, before he lay down, he thought it advisable to take off some of the fire, which was blazing up the chimney in what he thought an alarming manner. Having done this, he stretched h'mseif upon the couch, and soon fell asleep.

"He believed he had slept about a couple of hours when he awoke suddenly, and was startled by such a vivid light in the room that he thought it was on fire ; but on turning to look at the grate he saw the fire was out* though it was from the chimney the light proceeded.
He sat up in bed, trying to discover what it was, when he perceived, gradually disclosing itself, the form of a beautiful naked boy, surrounded by a dazzling radiance. The boy looked at him earnestly, and then the vision faded, and all was dark. Captain Stewart, so far from supposing what he had seen to be of a spiritual nature, had no doubt that the host, or the visitors, had been amusing themselves at his expense, and trying to frighten him. Accordingly, he felt indignant at the liberty ; and, on the following morning, when he appeared at breakfast, he took care to evince his displeasure by the reserve of his demeanour, and by announcing his intention to depart immediately. The host expostulated, reminding him of his promise to stay and shoot. Captain Stewart coldly excused him- self, and, at length, the gentleman seeing something was wrong, took him aside and pressed for an explanation ; whereupon Captain Stewart, without entering into particulars, said that he had been made the victim of a sort of practical joking that he thought quite unwarrantable with a stranger.

"The gentleman considered this not impossible amongst a parcel of thoughtless young men > and appealed to them to make an apology ; but one and all, on their honour, denied the impeachment. Suddenly a thought seemed to strike him ; he clapt his hand to his forehead, uttered an exclamation, and rang the bell. ' Hamilton/ said he to the butler, c where did Captain Stewart sleep last night ? '

" ' Well, Sir,' replied the man, in an apologetic tone.

* you know every place was full the gentlemen were lying on the floor three or four in a room so I gave him the Boy's Room ; but I lit a blazing fire to keep him from coming out.'

" ' You were very wrong,' said the host ; ' you know I have positively forbidden you to put anyone there, and have taken the furniture out of the room to insure its not being occupied.' Then retiring with Captain Stewart, he informed him very gravely of the nature of the phenomenon he had seen; and at length, being pressed for further information, he confessed that there existed a tradition in his family that whomever the Radiant Boy appeared to would rise to the summit of a violent death ; * and I must say,' he added, * the records that have been kept of his appearance go to confirm this persuasion.' "

It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader that subsequently Lord Castlereagh became head of the Government, and, finally, perished by his own hand.



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