There’s nothing like a ghost story for Christmas so we thought we’d bring you one and who better to focus on than The Great Beast the man who put a curse on Hastings – Aleister Crowley.
We wrote a feature all about Crowley earlier this year and you can find it here… https://www.hastingsinfocus.co.uk/2020/07/28/crowleys-curse-you-can-check-out-any-time-you-like-but-you-can-never-leave/
Crowley spent his final days, in poverty, living in a boarding house just off The Ridge, it was called Netherwood and sat where Netherwood Close is today.
Famously he is said to have cursed the town. His curse says that if you have lived in Hastings you can never leave and if you try you will always come back. The only way to truly leave is to take with you a stone with a hole from the beach.
Crowley died in 1947, Netherwood ceased to be a boarding house around 1970 and once closed it quickly acquired a spooky reputation and fell into disrepair and dilapidation.
Young people would clamber over its high fences to explore the grounds and even tough it was eventually demolished in a book called The Tregerthen Horror by Paul Newman the claim is made that: “Crowley may have been dead, but his spirit hovered around Hastings. A newspaper report on his deserted room being hung with mysterious, oppressive paintings like ‘totem poles’, the purpose of which could not be understood.
“The magician had long passed on, yet his eerie, slightly childish devices lingered like vestiges of an arcane purpose beyond resurrection.”
But what if Netherwood had not been demolished? What if, like other houses where Crowley lived throughout his life, it had remained standing would people still have been fearful of it? Would young people have dared each other to enter its grounds, or spend a night in its ruins?
Or worse! If the site had been redeveloped, into a hotel say, could people in Hastings have been facing the same concerns of the residents of the communities around the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland where developers want to convert the ruin of Crowley’s former home Boleskine House into ten ‘holiday units’ with guided tours of the grounds.
Local people are worried the development could become popular as a site for Satanist pilgrimage and objectors to the development say are concerned for children and vulnerable adults in the area and fear it will ‘become a major Satanic temple.’
The fire-damaged mansion, dubbed ‘the most notorious home in the Highlands’, was Crowley’s home for many years.
In 2015, a major fire devastated the B-listed Georgian building, stripping out the interior and collapsing the roof.
Keith Readdy bought Boleskine House on the banks of Loch Ness with wife Kyra in July 2019 before placing it into the care of a charitable foundation. Other notable owners have included Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin who owned it during the 1970s.
Objector Naomi King said she is worried that if the development goes ahead ‘the place will become a major Satanic temple and a hub for Satanist abusers from across the world to visit’. She claims her comments on the council’s planning portal had been ‘sanitised’ – with all references to Satanism removed.
The planning application, lodged under the mansion house’s Gaelic name of Baile Os Ceann, includes a proposal to create ten holiday ‘twin units’ on the site with a reception area, storage and car parking as well as reinstatement and alterations to the main house and the installation of a sewage treatment plant.
Guided tours of parts of the main building and grounds are planned.
Trustees of the Boleskine House Foundation have vehemently denied the claims that it will attract Satanists and the objections that have been lodged have prompted the foundation to issue a robust defence of its planning application. It says: ‘The charity has been formed to safeguard the future of the Boleskine House Estate so that it is secured for the local, national and international communities that value it as a place of historical significance.
‘The Boleskine House Foundation’s ambition for Boleskine House is to conserve and to sympathetically rebuild the Category B Listed structure back to residential use, while also allowing limited guided tours of the impressive public rooms and external grounds.
‘The purpose of the guided tours being to answer the present public interest in the fascinating history of the site as well as to promote the ethos of historic building conservation.
‘The house’s previous proprietors, most notably, parliamentary diplomat Archibald Campbell Fraser of Lovat, mountaineer and esoteric author Aleister Crowley and rock and roll musician Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame, are all a part of the story of the place but they do not directly influence its future use.
‘There is no intention for the house to become a place of pilgrimage or ritual, nefarious or otherwise.”
Crowley has been called ‘the wickedest man in the world’ and labeled a Satanist by the popular press and even though it’s more than 70 years since he died Crowley has remained a highly influential figure and continues to be considered ‘a prophet in Thelema’, an occult social and spiritual philosophy he developed in the early 1900s. He believed himself to be the prophet of a new age.
Main photo shows Boleskine House, near Loch Ness where Crowley lived.