Strange noises have been emitting from Scotland’s “most haunted house”, where, secluded among trees and by the banks of Loch Ness, the self-proclaimed wickedest man on Earth performed his dark arts.

There’s the tap, tap, tap of chisel repeatedly hitting sandstone, the clash of metal against metal, and the occasional grunt as 350kg of hand-cut curved granite lintel is heaved onto a 12-feet-high wall.

Piece by piece, with remarkable attention to historic detail, using traditional skills and with more than a little help from avid followers of the early-20th century occultist Aleister Crowley – including some prepared to pay £40 for a stone retrieved from its charred remains –Boleskine House on the south banks of Loch Ness is slowly emerging, phoenix-like, from the ashes.

Eventually, the Highland home of the “Great Beast 666” and a secluded base for his bewildering and dark rituals will have risen again, faithfully reconstructed to look as it would have done in Crowley’s time.

However, instead of Satantic ritual, Boleskine House – known as the “House of the Unholy” due to its links with another owner, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page – will be offering far more gentle yoga sessions on the lawn, art exhibitions, music and film screenings, and food and drink events.

It all sounds quite a leap from the days when Crowley, then aged just 25, bought the 18th-century hunting lodge 21 miles south of Inverness, perhaps attracted by claims it was built on the site of a kirk which caught fire and killed all inside.

Dark practices

ITS secluded location meant he could carry out his dark practices undisturbed, among them a series of rituals known as “the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage” originating from a 15th-century manuscript and involving mystical diagrams and prayers designed to invoke spirits and enable direct communication with God.

Crowley tried for several months to raise the holy guardian angel before quitting the house, apparently having left behind a host of homeless demons which he had gathered around the white walls of the hunting lodge.

Although Crowley’s links with Boleskine House were brief, it has remained a place of pilgrimage to his followers and those with interests in Satanism and the dark arts.

The lodge, built in the 1790s by Colonel Archibald Fraser, was owned by Led Zeppelin guitarist Page in the 1970s, before being gutted by fire in 2015 and further damaged four years later in another blaze. With its period features mostly destroyed, no roof and just piles of rubble left behind, some may have thought it easier – and cheaper – to just to knock it down and start again.

Meanwhile, the restoration itself has prompted rumours to swirl over whether the reborn lodge will provide fresh focus for Crowley’s most avid followers.

The couple overseeing its rebirth insist that is not the intention. “It will be a place that is inclusive and welcoming to all, who can engage with heritage, learn about history, and enjoy the great outdoors,” says Keith Readdy, who bought the house with wife Kyra in July 2019, before placing it into the care of the Boleskine House Foundation.

“People will read a book from our library while enjoying a coffee, relax their mind with yoga on the garden, learn about flora and wildlife in a nature workshop, or simply come to see the impressive manor house of the Frasers and Aleister Crowley.

“We have a holistic vision for Boleskine House. We hope for it to be more than just a plain old visitor attraction.”

Satanist fears

PLANNING permission and listed building consent was granted in December for the restoration of the

fire-ravaged house and development of

10 holiday units. Councillors backed the plans after being told they should ignore objections that it could become a magnet for Satanists as they were not legitimate planning considerations.

Construction costs have been put at £1.1 million but much more will be needed to cover a range of other expenses. To help, foundation supporters have splashed out on lumps of sandstone and granite retrieved from the site at £40 each, sponsored decorative stones to feature in the building at up to £1,786, and helped clear away countless wheelbarrows of rubble and tackle overgrown gardens.

“We hope to bring the building back to its look in the late-19th and early-20th century,” says Readdy.

But, with such an uncomfortable history to the building, why do it at all? “We believe Boleskine House is important because it is one of the only very historic and well-known manor houses around Loch Ness,” he adds. “So, revitalising it as a historic landmark will bring great economic benefit to the local area.

“In a post-Covid climate, it is important now more than ever that land in areas of outstanding natural beauty can be accessed by the public to help facilitate health and wellbeing that the bucolic setting of Loch Ness has to offer.”

The foundation has previously stressed the house was not intended as a place of “pilgrimage and ritual”, and that while the previous owners were part of the story of the property, they did not “directly influence its future use”.

As for local concerns that the renewed B-listed property might attract followers of Satanic cults, dark arts and black magic, he adds: “I hope the site will one day welcome many educational and recreational events: art exhibitions, music and film screenings, food and beverage pairings, and presentations on history and the humanities.”