Corby Castle, although a comparatively modern building, incorporates an ancient pele tower, which no doubt set the tone for its tradition of ‘the Radiant Boy of Corby’.
Mrs Catherine Crowe, who in The Night-Side of Nature (1848) gives several examples of luminous ghosts, says, ‘To these instances I will add an account of the ghost seen in C— castle, copied from the handwriting of C— M— H— in a book of manuscript extracts, dated C— castle, December 22, 1824, and furnished to me by a friend of the family.’
The castle had a ‘haunted room’, part of the old house, adjoining the pele tower. It used to have an old-fashioned bed and dark furniture, but so many complaints were made by those who slept there that these had been replaced with lighter modern versions to relieve the gloom. ‘But’, adds the writer, evidently the owner of Corby, ‘I regret to say I did not succeed in banishing the nocturnal visiter [sic], which still continues to disturb our friends.’
He gives an account of the apparition’s having been seen by a clergyman, taken from his own journal, written at the time of the occurrence. On 8 September 1803, among the guests at Corby was the Revd Henry A— of Redburgh, and rector of Greystoke, with his wife. They were supposed to have remained several days, but, on the morning after their arrival, Mr A—, who was extremely agitated, said that they absolutely must leave. All attempts to dissuade them failed, and as soon as breakfast was over they went.
Some time later, Mr A— told the writer what had happened, saying:
Soon after we went to bed, we fell asleep: it might have been between one and two in the morning when I awoke. I observed that the fire was totally extinguished; but although … 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 away towards the side of the chimney, where it is obvious there is no possible egress, and entirely disappeared. I found myself 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, who was acquainted with some of the family and friends of Mr A—, still alive at the time of writing, says, ‘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.’
According to T. F. Thiselton Dyer nearly fifty years later, there was a tradition in the family at Corby that the person who saw the Radiant Boy would rise to the summit of power, but then die a violent death. He goes on to give as ‘an instance of this strange belief’ the appearance of ‘this spectre’ to the statesman Lord Castlereagh, who later committed suicide. However, he appears to be confusing the Radiant Boy of Corby with the similar apparition seen by Castlereagh, some say at KNEBWORTH HOUSE, Hertfordshire, but, according to Mrs Crowe in Ghost Stories and Family Legends (1859), when he was staying in Ireland.