You Never Heard Of!


Radiant Boys, according to the Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, are "The glowing ghosts of boys who have been murdered by their mothers, whose appearance portends ill luck and violent death. Radiant boys appear in the folklore of England and Europe, possibly originating with the Kindermorderinn (children murdered by their mothers) of Germanic folklore." [1] The northern English counties of Cumberland and Northumberland are said to be particularly haunted by Radiant Boys.

One of the most famous encounters with a Radiant Boy occurred in the last years of the 18th century to a man who was, at that time, called Captain Robert Stewart.

Stationed in Ireland, Captain Stewart was out hunting when he was caught in a terrible storm. He sought shelter at a country gentleman's manse, and he was welcomed by the master of the house. Unfortunately, the country house was already packed with guests; the butler was forced to give him a small, dark room with only piled cloaks and blankets for a mattress. For some reason, the servant built up the fire in the hearth to a rather alarming extent.

The make-shift bed was good enough for the exhausted Stewart. After taking a bit of fuel off the roaring fire, he 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. [2]

Captain Stewart believed himself to be the butt of a practical joke, and he fully intended to leave in the morning. The mansion owner assured him that he had nothing to do with it, and each guest in turn denied having pulled a prank. The Irish gentleman then asked the butler -- a fellow named Hamilton -- which room Stewart had slept in.

"Well, sir," the butler replied, "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."

The gentleman explained that the room was haunted by the Radiant Boy, and that anyone who saw him would obtain great power, but would die a violent death at the height of his fame and influence.

Captain Robert Stewart later became Lord Castlereagh, second Marquis of Londonderry, due to the death of his older brother. He entered the British House of Commons, becoming chief sectretary of Ireland, and later secretary of state and foreign secretary. In his later years Lord Castlereagh feared he was going mad, and, in April 1822, depressed by overwork and many responsibilities, he cut his own throat with a penknife.

Was this the Radiant Boy's curse? It took three decades to come to fruition if it was.

The famous (or infamous) author, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, claimed that the house Lord Castlereagh stayed at was Knebworth, the seat of the Lytton family. Bulwer-Lytton had his own stories about the Radiant Boy, but the writer was fond of lodging guests in the "haunted" room, then sneaking up at night, dressed as the Boy, to frighten them. It is thus difficult to take him seriously. [3]

Catherine Crowe mentions Lord Castlereagh's encounter in passing in The Night-Side of Nature. She adds: "Dr. Kerner [a German occultist] mentions a similar fact, wherein an advocate and his wife were awakened by a noise and a light, and saw a beautiful child enveloped by the sort of glory that is seen surrounding the heads of saints. It disappeared, and they never had a repetition of the phenomenon, which they afterward heard was believed to recur every seven years in that house, and to be connected with the cruel murder of a child by its mother." [4]

Ms. Crowe also tells of the Radiant Boy of Corby Castle, Cumberland. A manuscript concerning the apparition was given to her by a friend of the family that owned the estate.

On the eight of September, 1803, a couple described as "the Rev. Henry A_____, of Redburgh, and rector of Greystoke, with Mrs. A_____, his wife," came to Corby Castle, fully prepared to stay for several days. However, on the morning after their arrival, they called for their carriage and left abruptly. Only much later, when visiting the Redburgh area, did the family learn from the Reverend Mr. A_____ what happened that night:

"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 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 for some minutes, fixing his eyes upon me with a mild and benevolent expression. He then glided gently away toward 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." [5]

Nothing bad seemed to happen to the rector of Greystoke, for he was still repeating the tale twenty years later.


1. Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits (New York, NY: Facts on File, 1992).

2. Ingram, John H. True Ghost Stories: Haunted Homes and Family Legends of Great Britain (Bristol, England: Siena, 1998 [1886]), pp. 49-50.

3. Cohen, Daniel. Encyclopedia of Ghosts (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1984), p. 299.

4. Crowe, Catherine. The Night-Side of Nature (Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: Aquarian Press, 1986 [1848]), p. 323.

5. Ibid., p. 325.

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