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Boleskine House is the dark heart of new thriller

By Margaret Chrystall

WRITER Neil Spring remembers exactly where he first heard about Boleskine House which lies at the heart of his latest thriller.

“Three years ago I was in the gym on a running machine, looked up and saw a big white house burning on a BBC report.

“I thought ‘Where’s that?’, got home and found Boleskine House online and its very intriguing, mysterious history.”

For most people, that knowledge and the reputation of Satanist Aleister Crowley who lived there might have been off-putting. But Neil’s paperback The Burning House set at Boleskine House has just been published and – like his earlier novels – he classes it as a thriller with elements of horror.

“It’s obviously a house that has attracted a great deal of rumour and I wanted to explore how more fanatical personalities would come to that place and how it would affect them.”

“I think the book is a piece of horror and some people have reviewed it as a psychological thriller. But I like people to come to that in their own way.”

Place is something that sparks Neil’s imagination.

“I’m about halfway through my next book called The Haunted Shore set in Suffolk about a stretch of shoreline which by local legend there were all sorts of rumours around, including Nazi invasions.

“I was there last weekend and for me, the way into a story is often about the place.

“Then the characters tend to step forward.

“In The Burning House, my heroine Clara stepped forward as someone who has gone to this Highland village because she thinks it is a safe haven. It turns out to be anything but.”

Neil spent a lot of time looking into the life of Aleister Crowley.

Neil said: “His name is synonymous with evil and Boleskine House itself is seen as his magical lair. People regard him as the wickedest man in the world and all that, but I think he was also a misunderstood figure – it seems to me he was a man out of his time. And he gradually intrudes his way into the story.”

Neil visited Boleskine and had his own instant reaction to the place.

“I went to Loch Ness – it is so beautiful – and started asking around about Boleskine.

“At the hotel I stayed at, I was approached by somebody working there who said to me ‘If you are intent on visiting that place tomorrow I hope you don’t mind if I say a prayer for you tonight’.

There was a very unsettling feel to Boleskine. The whole place has a very menacing brooding air.

“I can’t get away from the fact that there was an eerieness about the property that disturbed me and the person I visited with.”

Neil spring's new thriller.
Neil spring's new thriller.

Neil’s steps towards becoming a writer began at university and his thesis as part of his politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) degree at Somerville College, Oxford.

“I read into the philosophy of religion because I was interested in the nature of reality, our questions, our beliefs and that led me to write my thesis about the significance of so-called paranormal events.”

Neil laughed: “There were obviously a few raised eyebrows at my suggested thesis. But I wrote it anyway and it was well-received and that led me into writing fiction.”

In some ways Neil had the dream entry into his writing career – his first book was snapped up by a publisher and was quickly made into a film. He even appears briefly in the film which is coming out in America soon, having already been seen on ITV as a series called The Ghost Hunters.

He laughed: “I had a cameo in it. I just play somebody walking past on the street!”

And it is possible that The Burning House may also appear on screen.

Neil said: “We have had some interest in this book becoming a film actually, but no deal has been done yet anywhere. I just think Boleskine and Loch Ness is the perfect setting for a mystery drama that would play out well on TV.”

The Burning House (Quercus £7.99) is out in paperback now.

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