For the readers who are interested in true crime or spooky history, you may be familiar with the name Aleister Crowley.
Sometimes called The Great Beast 666, Crowley was a famous occultist and magic practitioner. He lived a colorful life, having been born into a wealthy British family, studying at some of the best schools, along with time spent as a mountaineer and a poet. However, he is best known for his occultist practices and his book The Book of the Law, which outlined the foundation of his new religion, Thelema.
Over the years, he gathered many followers, and after World War I, they moved to the Sicilian town of Cefalù. He purchased a large residence and turned the building into the Abbey of Thelema.
Crowley filled the home with hundreds of French paintings and covered the walls with frescos of Thelemite deities and symbols. The building’s main room was where the followers often held their rituals and sacrifices. In the master bedroom, pictures of demonic faces and snakes covered the walls. This room was referred to as The Chamber of Nightmares.
Crowley and his followers resided in the Abbey for three years from 1920 and 1923. They spent their days high on drugs, practicing magic, participating in orgies, and worshipping their various deities. The Abbey was a breeding ground for hedonistic behavior, but the party came to an end when the husband of British model, Betty May, died at the Abbey. He had contracted a bacterial infection when he drank from a local spring. Betty believed Crowley was to blame even though he had cautioned against drinking the water. She fled to London and exposed the Thelemites’ practices to the world. Word reached Benito Mussolini, and he forced Crowley to leave the country.
After his departure, the locals went in and covered the demonic paintings throughout the residence. However, in 1955, filmmaker Kenneth Anger uncovered many of them while filming a documentary on the Abbey. The locals left the house to rot and made no effort to recover the creations after Anger left.
Now, the Abbey of Thelema is a decaying relic of a forgotten cult. The building’s roof has collapsed in some places, and overall the structure is ready to tumble at any moment. Yet, despite this precarious state, the property was listed for $1.6 million in 2010. If you ever wanted to own a piece of dark history, here’s your chance.
- Aleister Crowley [Britannica]
- Abbey of Thelema [The Vintage News]
- Feature Picture [Wikimedia]