INVERNESS, Scotland – The UK’s occult community has been intrigued recently by the revelation of plans to renovate Aleister Crowley’s former home at Boleskine, on the shores of Loch Ness. The house – also formerly owned by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page – was badly damaged by fire in 2015.
The house and the district in which it lies have a long and interesting history: Minister Thomas Houston is said to have had the depressing task, in the 16-1700s, of replacing reanimated corpses back in their graves after an aspiring local necromancer raised them.
Boleskine itself was built in the 1760s as a hunting lodge, by a Colonel Archibald Fraser, and is said to have been placed on the site of the kirk, which burned down killing everyone inside. A tunnel linked the house to the graveyard and the house is also supposed to be spiritually connected to Errogie, the alleged geographical centre of the Highlands.
In 1899 Aleister Crowley purchased the house from the Fraser family, apparently in order to make the most of its secluded position and undertake the Abramelin ritual. Crowley wrote that:
…the first essential [for the ritual] is a house in a more or less secluded situation. There should be a door opening to the north from the room of which you make your oratory. Outside this door, you construct a terrace covered with fine river sand. This ends in a ‘lodge’ where the spirits may congregate.
However, Crowley’s life during his time at Boleskine was predictably turbulent and he later claimed that his magical experiments had got out of hand. Equally predictably, rumours about goings-on at Boleskine were rife around the neighbourhood, fuelled by tragedies such as the death of the children of Crowley’s head keeper, Hugh Gillies.
Crowley himself left the house in 1913, moving to a cottage near Falkirk. But the dark reputation of Boleskine continued, with a further owner, Major Edward Grant, committing suicide by shotgun in what had once been Crowley’s bedroom. In 1969 the house was rented for a few months by the film-maker Kenneth Anger, and subsequently by Page, who bought it in 1970.
Despite being interested in Crowley, however, Page spent little time there in practice, leaving the house in the custody of his friend Malcolm Dent. Boleskine needed substantial repairs: there had already been one fire there and parts of the property were derelict.
Initially a sceptic, Dent experienced paranormal phenomena and spent what he referred to as ‘the most terrifying night of my life’ at Boleskine: he described a sound like a wild animal outside the door all night. Dent evidently had nerves of steel, because he not only remained at the house but brought up his family there. Meanwhile, Page made substantial efforts to have the property restored to its heyday, and commissioned a set of murals to resemble those at another of Crowley’s properties, that of Thelema in Sicily.
In 1991 the house was sold to the MacGillivray family, who opened it as a hotel. Annette MacGillivray is on record as saying, when queried about supernatural phenomena over the decade of their residence, that there had been “absolutely none. I am a non-believer and didn’t listen to all that rubbish. We had a great time there.”
Her husband died in 2002 and the house passed into private ownership for a time, but then was largely destroyed by the 2015 fire, which seems to have started in the kitchen. No-one was in the house at the time.
Annette MacGillivray said at the time that the damage was so extensive that it, “is unlikely it will ever be rebuilt unless there is someone out there with an interest in the occult wanting to spend a lot of money.”
Her words, however, appear to have been prophetic, as the ruined property was put on the market in April in 2019.
Initial rumours throughout the occult community were that the current main incarnation of the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) had bought it, but although the OTO are said to be highly supportive of this most recent development, Boleskine has now apparently been bought by four parties, who wish to remain anonymous. A GoFund Me campaign has been launched.
The OTO website states that:
“The new owners have confirmed to us that they wish to restore the house and eventually open parts of the house and its surrounding gardens to the public as a heritage landmark. The new owners wish to honor Crowley’s legacy as part of the estate’s history. They intend to cooperate with O.T.O. to provide opportunities for access to the house and land in a way which has hitherto not been possible.
The new owners intend to transfer ownership of the estate to a public charity so that it can be preserved for many generations to come. O.T.O. intends to cooperate with the charity in the coming weeks, months and years as this exciting project gets underway.
Private fundraising efforts have been launched to help start the renovation. Once the public charity is established and formal agreement has been reached, O.T.O. will provide an opportunity for interested parties to make US-tax-exempt donations specifically dedicated to support this project, in full compliance with non-profit rules and regulations. No funds from O.T.O.’s operating budget (member dues, fees, and general donations) will be allocated to the project.
The official website for the project can be found at www.boleskinehouse.org.”
It’s been noted that this is the same kind of organisational structure as the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle: multiple owners in order to prevent one single person having too much power over the organisation, and to protect the property from developers. The new owners are looking for funding in the region of £1.2 million and it’s to be hoped that their efforts will once more restore Boleskine to its former, if eerie, glory.