The Abandoned Mansion That Keeps Bursting Into Flames
Updated: Jan 25
It's still standing after being baptised by Aleister Crowley, housing Jimmy Page, and surviving unexplained fires...
As I stared at the skeleton of Boleskine House, with its rib cage cracked open to reveal its smoked-out and blackened insides, I thought about all the tragedies that took place within...
We pulled up off-road to the foot of a hill surrounded by towering pines. As if on cue, Ozzy Osbourne wailed from the depth of my memories...
Mr. Crowley. What went down in your head?
To the right of us was the wrong side of Loch Ness, eerily still and reflecting the gloomy sky above, and lying peacefully alongside it was a graveyard.
Oh, Mr. Crowley. Did you talk to the dead?
To the left of us were dark woods and a well, pouring from the foot of the hill over jagged rocks and rotting roots. I could see there was no clear cut path to the ruined remains that perched atop, and I was wearing brown knee-high boots as if I were excavating a site in 1920. My heels dug into the mud as I scuffled up the hill, and as I reached the top, the pristine white walls of the mansion crept into view, pure and innocent - like a porcelain doll encasing a demonic spirit-kind-of-innocent.
...Mr Charming, did you think you were pure?
The Boleskine House holds dark secrets, some we may never uncover. If walls could talk, this one would whisper to you late at night, keeping you awake with all the ungodly mistakes you've made.
It is known as the historic home of Aleister Crowley, an English Writer, Occultist and the self-proclaimed “wickedest Man in the World”, who had ownership of the 22-acre property from 1899 to 1913. Crowley was infamous in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century for openly practicing black magic and with rituals involving all things rock'n'roll. Leading Led Zepplin's guitarist Jimmy Page, a collector of Crowley merchandise and lover of the occult, to later snap it up in 1970.
The famed rockstar, however, spent very little time at the estate, so bequeathed the B-listed property to his friend Malcolm Dent. Dent was a sceptic, yet couldn't help but get spooked by the unexplained activity such as chairs switching places, rugs rolling up on their own, doors slamming open and closed, glimpses of ghostly apparitions, and the most terrifying of them all - the sound of a wild animal snorting and banging outside his bedroom door which, when Dent dared to open the door in haste, was nowhere to be seen.
He also researched the history of his abode to conclude that the rumbling he often heard in the hall was supposedly the decapitated head of Lord Lovat, even though he was executed in London. Dent believed that "above Boleskine there's a place called Errogie which is supposed to be the geographical centre of the Highlands. Boleskine was then the nearest consecrated ground to Errogie and it's thought his soul, or part of it, ended here."
What bothered him the most, however, were the crazed-Crowley and Page fans who were relentless in their attempts to break in or defile the grounds. After Dent packed his bags, the house fell to ruin until the MacGillivray family moved in to what they claimed to be a bad state in 1992. They lived here happily without a sniff of the supernatural until 2002, when it was taken over by a Dutch family to use as a holiday home.
What happened next still remains unexplained - on 23 December 2015, the family returned from their Christmas shopping to find their home up in flames. Firefighters were called from Foyers and Inverness to tackle the fire that perished 60% of the manor.
This was not the first time the site had been known to burst into flames. There have been several accounts of unexplained fires dating back to the 10th Century, but how many of these are true is uncertain. Before Boleskine House, there stood the parish of Boleskine. Formed in the 13th Century, the site comprised of a graveyard and kirk - which mysteriously caught fire during congregation, burning everyone trapped inside alive.
Another legend that lingered in the village at this time involved the graveyard that I had caught resting at the edge of the loch. It was said to be the responsibility of Thomas Houston, one of the Ministers who ran the parish. The legend goes he had the exhausting task of hastily laying animated corpses back to rest after a devious warlock in the village had woken the dead.
Did Crowley learn of this tale and perhaps try to reenact it? He did have access to the graveyard through a secret passage that ran from the house. The tunnel dates back to 1760 when it was a hunting lodge for a colonel; later developed by the Fraser family whom Crowley purchased the house from in 1899 . Perhaps Crowley used the tunnel for his supposed demonic rituals or maybe to throw some mad illegal raves like a goth Great Gatsby?
We screamed the house down and slammed the power button...
I first learnt about creepy Crowley through the radio when I was 13 years old. It's an awkward age, as anyone who's managed to survive puberty relatively unscathed would know. I was treading between the path of an obscured version of Christianity, by attending a small strange parish at the edge of my village, and the path of my Celtic ancestors - who had a healthy interest in herbal remedies but were smeared with the label of Witches. Needless to say, I'm at a happy medium being agnostic, whilst still choosing to shove a garlic clove in my ear whenever I suffer from earache.
Every school night, unbeknownst to my parents, I lay in bed with my headphones hooked up to the radio, gearing up for my favorite radio show on Kerrang! known as The Night Before. Each night, they delved into heated debates about the mysteries of the universe and on one particular night, they announced they would be playing a recording from Mr. Crowley himself in three nights time. It would be a snippet of one of his infamous rituals that attempted to conjure up the Dukes of Hell.
My holy little soul was shook. I had grown up watching horror films and documentaries on everything from Bigfoot to Area 51 because my dad was a cool dad (Mum, if you're reading this, it's probably the first you've learnt of this but just think of how well I've turned out!).
My father always taught me to question everything with his favorite saying: "Believe half of what you hear, half of what you see, and everything you feel." This may make him sound like a conspiracy theorist, but he's actually just a spiritual yet sceptical man. Hence, agnostic.
Call it blood memory, but my interest in the ancient and mysterious returned in an instant. I rushed to corded phone to call my best mate, who came from a very lovely Catholic family, to join me for what some would have said to be a Satanic Sleepover. On Friday night, we sat upon my bed with the radio between us listening to the eerie call of Crowley. We lasted about thirty seconds in before the lights coincidentally flickered and we screamed the house down and slammed the power button.
Suffice to say, the radio show was cancelled shortly afterwards, maybe due to a lack of funding for being controversial or, more likely, due to the numerous calls from concerned parents of traumatised school kids.
From a pig-farm scandal, to a Major's shotgun suicide, to a jilted lover left alone to wonder the halls blind - the walls spoke of sadness.
As I stared at the skeleton of Boleskine House, with it's rib-cage cracked open to reveal its smoked-out and blackened insides, I thought about all the tragedies that took place within. From a pig-farm scandal, to a Major's shotgun suicide, to a jilted lover left alone to wonder the halls blind - the walls spoke of sadness. Yet the empty bottles of whiskey and Buckfast strewn across the lawn speak otherwise. Perhaps left by local teens wanting to drink with its demons before it gets cleaned up by a wealthy European buyer for half a million.
There was not a soul in sight, only signs such as empty bottles and a camper chair fixed into the dirt to admire the stunning view of Loch Ness and the hills of Inverness. Aleister Crowley bought Boleskine House in 1899 to seclude himself and perform magic from The Book of Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage - poorly translated from being watered down from the mix of German, Hebrew, and French versions by his mentor, founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers.
Sometime during this period Mathers called Crowley to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in Paris. It is believed he left without dispelling the “12 Kings and Dukes of Hell” he had summoned, and many locals are convinced the horrors that followed were caused by the evil spirits left behind. Crowley himself, never one to admit a mistake, even conceded that the rituals he had performed at Boleskine House had gotten out of hand.
So did Crowley cause the string of tragedies that followed his exiting of the manor house in 1913 (to favour a cosy cottage near Falkirk)? Did he leave the door of Boleskine House open through his supposed demonic-conjuring rituals, as if stated in Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act 1: "Hell is empty. And all the devils are here.”
Do the horrors run deeper, as Crowley had suspected when he picked Boleskine as the ideal place for his reckless rituals? Something, somewhere, buried thick in the mud that my heels were now sinking into?
Or is it simply lore - stories sewn together from fearful villagers and hardcore rock fans who listened to their vinyls backwards?
We may never get the answers, and the secrets of Boleskine House will remain with the silence of its walls. Either way, I'm grateful to clean my boots off, knowing I fed my childhood curiosity of the mystery behind the man who scared the crap out of me at thirteen. As we drove off, I cranked the car radio up to hear the final lines crooned by Ozzy.
Was it polemically sent?
I wanna know what you meant
I wanna know...