The Scotsman published an article about Boleskine House on Thursday 14 July 2005.
They dubbed him “the most evil man in Britain”, regularly writing fictional accounts of his most dastardly exploits, including human sacrifice, devil worship and black magic… To this day, Crowley’s influence is massive. He appeared at No. 74 in a poll of the 100 greatest Britons, just ahead of Robert the Bruce and Bob Geldof.
It’s a far better article than most these days: Those who practice Thelema, the religious philosophy Crowley founded, are still instructed to “face north to Boleskine” when conducting the magical ceremony.
A mysterious man and his Highland home
THE VILLAGE of Foyers is a scenic and tranquil place set within a pine forest on the quiet eastern shores of Loch Ness. With the exception of the Falls of Foyers a short walk away, the town’s only other claim to fame in Scottish history is as one of Samuel Johnson and James Boswell’s stop-offs on their well-documented tour of Scotland in the 1770s.
In the present day a village shop and adjoining café serving excellent home-baking ensures a steady stream of passing trade, and whilst sitting outside enjoying a cup of tea and a scone, there is very little to suggest that you are in one of the most spiritually charged sites in the world, with international renown for a dark history of black magic, occult practises and evil spirits.
Boleskine House lies about a mile north of Foyers, close to the shore and just off the quiet road that hugs the lochside as it heads towards Inverness. From appearances, there is little to distinguish it from the many other estates that lie amongst the hills, however this changed in 1898, when Boleskine House, a pale-pink stucco mansion, was bought by occultist and mystic Aleister Crowley.
The Englishman was one of the most notorious characters of his age. He was a poet, a novelist, a painter and a mountaineer, but it is for his practices in the occult, mysticism and ceremonial magic that he is best known and that earned him the nickname “The Beast”. The tabloid press of the day were fascinated by Crowley. They dubbed him “the most evil man in Britain”, regularly writing fictional accounts of his most dastardly exploits, including human sacrifice, devil worship and black magic.
Crowley was independently wealthy and self-published many of his works. His maxims – “The word of sin is restriction!” and “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” – were later seen as heralding the wave of permissiveness that swept through Western society in the 1950s and 1960s. His face is one of the many on the cover of the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album (top row second from left, next to Mae West.). To this day, Crowley’s influence is massive. He appeared at No. 74 in a poll of the 100 greatest Britons, just ahead of Robert the Bruce and Bob Geldof.
So what attracted Crowley’s larger-than-life personality to the remote confines of the Highlands?
Commentators noted that Crowley enjoyed flirting with high culture, as he felt it reinforced his image and ideas. The Boleskine (pronounced bo-LES-kin) estate came with a title, and he apparently took to calling himself the Laird of Boleskine and wearing a kilt whilst in residence there.
According to Crowley’s writings, however, he bought Boleskine to perform a magical ceremony called the Abramelin operation, an angel-summoning ritual requiring intense and lengthy meditation in a temple or secluded place.
“I had picked out Boleskine for its loneliness. Lord Lovat and Mrs. Fraser-Tyler, my nearest neighbours, were eight miles away, while Grant of Glenmoriston was on the other side of Loch Ness.”
Unfortunately for Crowley and the neighbours, he only succeeded in summoning bad demons.
“I have little doubt that the Abramelin devils, whatever they are, use the place as convenient headquarters and put in some of their spare time in terrifying the natives. No one would pass the house after dark. Folk got into the habit of going round through Strath Errick, a detour of several miles.”
Stories of unexplained – and unconfirmed – mystical occurrences in the area during his residency are numerous. One story tells of a local butcher accidentally cutting off his own hand with a cleaver after reading a note left by Crowley. One tells of the unexplained disappearance of Crowley’s housekeeper. Another tells of a local workman employed by Crowley who lost his mind and attempted to kill him.
Although Crowley left the house in the 1920’s, the geographical significance of Boleskine remains. Those who practice Thelema, the religious philosophy Crowley founded, are still instructed to “face north to Boleskine” when conducting the magical ceremony. Many spiritualists believe that the geography of the area is charged with spiritual energy conducive to occult practice.
Amid rugged scenery, Boleskine House was built in the late 18th century by Archibald Fraser. According to legend, a church once stood on the ancient site. When it caught fire the entire congregation were trapped inside and burned alive, a story Crowley inevitably delighted on propagating.
Although the road north from Foyers is flanked by ancient woodland on either side, you can clearly see an cemetery through the trees and close to the house. It is also said that a tunnel runs between Boleskine House and the graveyard and that Crowley utilized this during his ceremonies.
Since Crowley’s departure from Boleskine, it has had a series of private owners. The musician and Crowley obsessive Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin bought the estate in 1971, and the external grounds can be seen in the Led Zeppelin film The Song Remains the Same. It was during this time that the teenage rites-of-passage in the area became camping in the woods as close to the house as possible for a sleepless night at the mercy of your imagination.
Since Page sold Boleskine in 1992, subsequent owners have evidently ignored the house’s turbulent history and run it as a guest house and a private residence.
Judging by the amount of graffiti in the graveyard next to the house, it is evident that Boleskine still attracts a certain type of tourism for those interested in magic and the occult. However, potential visitors should be warned it is now a private home and unlikely to welcome uninvited guests – paying, spiritual or otherwise.