THE TREGERTHEN HORROR: Aleister Crowley, D H Lawrence and Peter Warlock in Cornwall
by Paul Newman
Prior to the World War 2, West Cornwall generated a number of stories of a sinister occult nature. Foremost among them was that the Great Beast, Aleister Crowley, stayed at Zennor and founded a mainly female cult who danced naked around stone circles, took powerful narcotics and held orgies up on the moor.
Crikey! And all my holidays in Boscastle seemed so restrained!
It merits a news item here – thanks Shalakite – because the author’s Aleister Crowley and the Cult of Pan was a serious attempt at the analysis of Crowley’s poetry.
THE TREGERTHEN HORROR
This book is not published yet but is on the brink of being released.
An offbeat investigation into the unexpected death of Katherine Arnold-Forster that took place in May 1938, in the remote hamlet of Tregerthen, near Zennor. The material is unusual and dramatic, covering magic, spying, the Walton murder and centreing on the exploits Aleister Crowley, D.H. Lawrence, Cecil Gray and Peter Warlock, but also including Dylan Thomas, Mary Butts and many well-known writers, mystics and painters. The result of a long and difficult investigation by the author, it is culturally fascinating and will appeal to a very wide readership, showing what lay behind the feverish speculation and introducing a host of outrageous, talented personalities who dropped in on the Cornish scene. It will tell you many things you didn’t know and quite a few others that defy the imagination
Prior to the World War 2, West Cornwall generated a number of stories of a sinister occult nature. Foremost among them was that the Great Beast, Aleister Crowley, stayed at Zennor and founded a mainly female cult who danced naked around stone circles, took powerful narcotics and held orgies up on the moor. This was spread by word of mouth and by numerous ‘horror’ fictions penned by writers like A.L. Rowse, Denys Val Baker, Mary Williams and Frank Baker (who wrote a bizarre roman à clef on the subject). Some maintained this decadent coven was directly or indirectly responsible for the death of Katherine Arnold Forster, the former sweetheart of the poet, Rupert Brooke, who died in mysterious circumstances at an allegedly ‘haunted’ cottage near Zennor Carn in 1938.
In THE TREGERTHEN HORROR, these so-far unsubstantiated rumours are the subject of meticulous investigation by Paul Newman. Initially alerted by an anecdote (preserved in literature and living memory) of Crowley’s influence tragically affecting the lives of a young couple who were living at Zennor, he starts out asking sceptically, “Why has no biographer ever taken this seriously?” But then he meets people who retain a living memory of the incident and is surprised to discover the association with Aleister Crowley and magical activities in Zennor date back to 1917 and the entourage of D.H. Lawrence which included the brilliant yet highly volatile musician, Philip Heseltine, and the babbling psychotherapist and ex-Crowley disciple, Meredith Starr, and his black wife, Lady Mary Stamford, both of whom fasted and undertook occult experiments in mines. Also present was the composer, Cecil Gray, who thought the region a ‘spiritual black country’. Yet he managed to lure the poetess HD away from her husband and into the large house he rented there, resulting in the birth of a child, Perdita, who Gray quickly disowned. Both Gray and Heseltine later became involved with Crowley’s drug-set and performed rituals to ensure the music they composed should attain the immortality they thought it deserved.
THE TREGERTHEN HORROR traces their personal histories, their occult and spiritualist obsessions, in and out of Cornwall, along with those of another group who gathered around Mousehole prior to World War 2 – literary notables like Dylan Thomas, Oswell Blakeston, Frank Baker and artists like Greta Sequeira and the bohemian hostess, Wyn Henderson. Covering their pre-war and post-war lives, it lays bare a series of fantastic incidents involving a society scandal, a haunted cottage, a tragic death, a chronic case of insanity, wartime skulduggery and the sensational Walton Murder that was investigated by Fabian of the Yard.
Over all this intrigue looms the shadow of the 20th century Faust, Aleister Crowley whose magnetic malevolence sprawls and dominates the scene. Initially drawn to the Duchy by his young mistress and illegitimate son, Ataturk, his presence provokes gossip and unease amid the locals. Yet, oddly enough, after his death, his magical impedimenta finds its way back to Cornwall by way of the former spymaster, Cecil Williamson, who opened a Museum of Witchcraft at Boscastle.
Editor of the literary magazine ‘Abraxas’ and author of a definitive ‘History of Terror’ ,’ Aleister Crowley and the Cult of Pan’ and many other titles, Paul Newman’s writings have received much acclaim. His recent novel Galahad (2004) won the Peninsula Prize.
The Tregerthen Horror is printed as a large (8.5 by 11 inches) soft back and is nearly 200 pages long, with many black and white photographs, printed for the first time. Presently it is a small exclusive edition available from the Lulu website and nowhere else.