Show Notes: Aleister Crowley’s Life and Renee Pagel’s Murder in Michigan

This show, “Michigan and other Mayhem”, is a sort of factual, slightly comical, always earnest podcast about interesting stuff in Michigan and around the world. It is done by two sisters-in-law (Ali and Jenn) that like to talk about random interesting stories.  Expect cults, mysteries, murder, fast-talking, and a couple of mental palate cleansers… and cuss words.  Those happen on this show, a lot.

Episode 26: Aleister Crowley and Renee Pagel’s Murder

Click here to listen to Episode 26

Aleister Crowley (Suggested by Scott)

He was once known as “The Wickedest Man in the World” and the “Master of Darkness”.

Aleister Crowley was born to the name Edward Alexander Crowley, in England, on October 12, 1875.  His father, the other Edward Crowley, was an engineer but he retired early because his family’s brewing business, Alton Ales, was successful financially.

Aleister’s mom, Emily Berth Bishop, was troubled by her son who liked to push boundaries and shock people.  The couple was religious, following the fundamentalist Christian Plymouth Brethren religion. They also had a baby daughter who died in 1880, leaving Aleister to be raised as an only child.

Aleister was sent to a Christian boarding school at the age of eight, then switched to a preparatory school in Cambridge, run by a reverend that Crowley considered a sadist.  Reverend Henry d’Arcy Champney, accused sadist, quit his post at Cambridge to join the Plymouth Brethren movement.  There is the rumor that once while voting in parliament elections Reverend Champney crossed out the candidate’s names and wrote in “I vote for King Jesus”.

Aleister’s father, Edward, died of tongue cancer in 1887, when Aleister was 11 years old.  Aleister had looked up to Edward and was devastated by the loss.  He also had inherited 1/3 of his father’s wealth. Aleister started acting up in school and was being harshly punished by Henry Champney. (That’s where the sadism accusations are probably coming from.) Crowley left school when he began to suffer from albuminuria, which is the medical term for blood in your urine.

Aleister goes to a couple more schools but he is hating them.  He is starting to rebel against his devout Christian upbringing. Aleister starts smoking, masturbating, and receiving sexually transmitted diseases from prostitutes. However, he does stay with the church.

A Brethren church tutor is sent to live with Aleister, and he begins to attend a school called Eastbourne College.  Here Aleister showed interest in chess, mountain climbing, and poetry, a theme that continuous through the rest of his life.  He joins a mountaineering club and starts climbing everywhere. He joined a chess club and had some of his poetry published.

It is in 1895, at age 20, that he starts to go by the name Aleister instead of Edward. While on vacation in Stockholm, in December 1896, Aleister had a mystical experience. It was hypothesized that it was triggered by his first homosexual experience, allowing Aleister to recognize he was bisexual.  He kept having sex with female prostitutes, which by now had given him both syphilis and gonorrhea.  Homosexuality was illegal in England at the time, but Aleister did enter into a relationship with a man.

Aleister goes to Russia in 1897, saying that he wants to learn Russian and look into a diplomatic career there.  It has been suggested by biographers that Aleister went to Russia on an intelligence gathering mission, after being employed by the British Secret Service.  The idea is that he was recruited into service while Aleister was a student at Cambridge.

In October of 1897, he becomes briefly ill and that triggers him.  Aleister realizes his mortality and begins to think that life is futile.  Aleister starts looking into the occult.

Aleister left Cambridge with good grades but no degree in 1898, at age 23.  He then joins an occult society called the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” known as “Golden Dawn” for short.  They are dedicated to the exercise of the occult, metaphysics, and the paranormal practices. They’re known as the Magic Order, which sounds like it might be a name they gave themselves.

The two biographers claim he joined Golden Dawn as he was commanded by the British secret service to keep an eye on the group’s leader, Samuel Mathers.

Aleister’s roommate was another Golden Dawn member, Allan Bennett, who lived with him as his personal magical tutor. Together they practiced ceremonial magic while also doing a lot of drugs.  Aleister publishes one hundred copies of one of his poems as well as publishes a collection of erotic poetry. Allan Bennet then leaves to study Buddhism in Asia.

The next year, 1899, Aleister moves to Scotland. He falls in love with the culture, names himself “Laird of Boleskine” and starts wearing traditional Scottish clothing. He publishes more poetry.

He was not a popular guy and his own chapter of Golden Dawn in London had refused to admit him to the Second Order.  He had a bad reputation due to his what was seen as a lack of morality in his sexual adventures and he had feuds with other members. Golden Dawn didn’t have a problem with his bisexuality, just that he was loud about it. To get in, he traveled to Paris to meet with the cult leader, Samuel Mathers, and he was the one to initiate Aleister.

This starts issues between the London branch and the founder. Aleister and his mistress, Elaine Simpson, also a member, tried to seize a Golden Dawn temple and take it from the other London lodge members. They were acting on orders from founder Samuel Mathers.  When a court awarded in favor of the other Londoners, it left the three of them, Aleister, Elaine, and Samuel isolated from the rest of the group.

The biographers that mentioned Aleister was placed in the cult of the order of the British Secret Service, said that it was orchestrated.  The failed power move by Samuel stripped him of power. Aleister also published some of the Golden Dawn texts, embarrassing and exposing them.  He also published some of Samuel Mather’s work as his own.

In the next year, 1900, he went through the U.S. to get to Mexico. He kept working on his magical skills while in Mexico. Aleister claimed to have joined the Freemasons during this time. He wrote a play and a series of poems. Aleister also continued to climb mountains.

Remember the biographers with the British Secret Service theories?  It is claimed that Aleister was climbing mountains in Mexico looking for oil, doing service for crown and country. Aleister set up his own Golden Dawn branch in Mexico, called The Lamp of Invisible Light.  (He has some creative naming skills.)

Leaving Mexico, Aleister traveled to Hawaii and had a brief affair with a married woman which sparked another series of poems. (You tickle this dude, emotionally, in any way, he will sprout poetry.)

Aleister moved on to Japan and Hong Kong.  He again met up with former roommate Allan Bennett. Allan was studying Shaivism (Sy-vis-im or Shy-vis-im), which is a form of Hinduism. After hanging out with Allan for a while, Aleister decides to become a Buddhist monk. He traveled through India working to achieve a higher spiritual state.  He developed malaria there.

In 1903, Aleister Crowley married Rose Mundi.  He wrote a series of poems about his love for her.

In 1904 Aleister and Rose travel to Cairo.  Upon arrival, they claim to be a prince and princesses. They have a temple room in their apartment and they begin to invoke the spirits of ancient Egyptian deities.  They’re now studying Islamic mysticism. Rose becomes delirious and starts prophesizing to Aleister.  She tells him the gods are waiting on him.  They find an exhibit, number 666, in a museum that they feel is significant.

Aleister starts hearing a disembodied voice and he begins the transcribe everything that is being said to him. He calls it The Book of the Law. Aleister wrote that humanity was entering a new era and he was to serve as prophet. He then creates his religion, Thelema. The central purpose of Thelema is “Love is the law, love under will.”  Aleister sends copies of the book to several occultists and it is later considered a religion.

Aleister then returns to Boleskine in Scotland.  He began to believe that Samuel Mathers was using magic against him and they stop being friends.

In 1905, Rose gives birth to their daughter, Lilith. Aleister created pornographic writings to amuse his recuperating wife. He published more poetry and climbed more mountains.

During one climb, Aleister argued with some of his party.  He was such an a$$ the climbing party decided to descend the mountain late in the day to leave him behind.  Several men in that party died after falling in the dim light.  Some people in the mountaineering community blamed Aleister for the tragedy.

Aleister then went to India to hunt big game.  He was met by Rose and Lilith.  They had to leave India after Aleister shot and killed a man who was trying to mug them. The family then traveled to China. Aleister used it as an opportunity to smoke opium and work on his religious text.

Lilith and Rose returned to Europe but Aleister went to Shanghai to meet a friend, Elaine Simpson.  They performed rituals trying to contact Aiwass, Aleister’s guide to the spirit world.  He then traveled to Japan, Canada, and the U.S. before heading back to England.

When he arrived back in England, Aleister found out that his daughter, Lilith, had died of typhoid fever in Burma, while heading back home from overseas.  Aleister blamed it on Rose’s alcoholism. He felt he was under intense emotional and physical distress.  He had to undergo several surgical operations. Aleister also had a couple of short-lived affairs.

Rose gave birth to their second daughter, Lola Zaza, in February 1907.

For the next two years, Aleister is writing multiple texts he calls The Holy Books of Thelema. The book creates a religion, Thelema.

His inheritance is starting to run out during this time.  Aleister is hired by an Earl who is a paranoid coke addict, to shield him from witchcraft. Aleister begins taking in students of the occult and magic, for pay. He tries to open his own branch of Golden Dawn. Aleister likes to pack a lot of things into a little time, so he also begins a sadomasochistic affair with Victor Neuburg.

At the end of the two-year period, in 1909, Aleister divorces Rose. She was institutionalized in 1911 due to her alcoholism.

In late 1909, early 1910, Aleister performs a sex magic ritual involving a blood sacrifice and feels like he is truly invoking power.  He worked at eroto-comatose lucidity. This including someone exhausting themselves sexually so that they are in the suspended states of awake/asleep/arousal.

He is sued by Samuel Mathers, over the claims that Aleister wrote of Golden Dawn’s secrets in a publication.  Mathers loses and Aleister gains famous notoriety as a Satanist, which he isn’t, but he loves the rumors.

There is an occult order called Ordo Templi Orientis (known as OTO for short) and Crowley meets with one of their members, later becoming X Supreme Rex and Sovereign Grand Master General, known as Baphomet for short.  He was considered a leader in this secret society.  The group had a strong focus on sex magic, which Aleister added to, including a ritual based on anal sex.

By 1914 Aleister is in Paris performing a sex ritual that involves lots of drugs and sex.  Aleister writes Liber Agape, a sex magic ritual.  He has a falling out with one of his lovers/disciples, Victor Neuburg, a man he met in 1909.  At the end of their fight, Crowley goes the final distance and magically curses Victor.

Aleister is now living hand-to-mouth. In 1915, as a publicity stunt, he stood in front of the Statue of Liberty and declared Ireland’s independence from Britain. More sex, more drugs, and a move to New Orleans in 1917.  By 1918, Aleister is claiming to experience past life memories.

By 1920, Aleister is back living Europe, both London and Paris and is under attack by tabloids there. He had supported Germany prior to the first World War. Aleister now has a heroin addiction, which took him years to kick. He’s making money by teaching magic, with an emphasis on sex magic.  He’s living in terrible conditions and it is at this time a former follower gives him the name “The Wickedest Man in the World”.

The next years have more moving around the world, more drugs, more sex magic, more writings, and more students. Aleister’s health grows worse and at one point he has to have nasal surgery.  It is speculated that his nasal cavity was destroyed by cocaine use.

During World War II, Aleister was associated with men who were part of the British intelligence service. This is where his biographers are attaching all of their British Secret Service theories. According to some sources, Alesiter claims he came up with the V is for Victory hand sign used by Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Also happening in 1940, is Aleister having increasing issues with his asthma.  He once again becomes addicted to heroin as he tries to deal with the issue. Aleister is still publishing written works during this time.

This continues until late 1947 when Aleister Crowley is confined to his bed in a boarding house in England. He was still receiving visitors until the day he died of pulmonary and cardiac issues at age 72, December 1st, or 5th, 1947.

New York Obituary: http://www.rarenewspapers.com/view/582059

Random facts:

Aleister Crowley’s face can be seen in the collage on the cover of The Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” cover.  He’s in the upper left.

In the 1940’s, Aleister Crowley met a man named Jack Parsons, who was also friends with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.  Parsons was the head of the OTO secret society that Aleister was in, and when he met Hubbard, it irritated Aleister.  Aleister called L. Ron Hubbard a charlatan, even though Parsons claimed that Hubbard was devoted to Thelemism, the religion Aleister created. Despite Aleister Crowley’s open dislike of L. Ron Hubbard, Jack Parsons remained his friend, performing magic rituals together.  However, L. Ron Hubbard had convinced Parsons to pay cash for Hubbard’s yachts in a con game, which later lead to a break in their relationship.

Sex. Magic. Mountains. Irritating Personality. Drugs. Chess. Poetry.

Renee Pagel’s Murder

Renee Pagel’s murder is unsolved.

In 2006 Renee was a teacher who had a student whose father was suffering of kidney failure.  Renee’s mother had died of kidney failure.  Renee decided to donate one of her kidneys to her student’s dad.

At the same time, Renee was either divorcing her husband or had recently completed a divorce. (Jenn had a hard time determining if the divorce was complete. It was confusing.)  Mike was being unreasonable in his demands during the divorce.  He wanted the house, full custody, and $2,000 a month alimony.

Renee’s murder has its own website created by her parents.  They believe her ex-husband, Mike, is responsible for her murder. Renee’s relationship with Mike was Rocky.  He was considered to have anger issues. They also have a Facebook page.

Renee was worried about Mike coming to the hospital while she was vulnerable after the procedure.  She spoke to family and friends about her fear of Mike harming her.

After the surgery, she went to Mike’s house to pick her children up. According to her friends, who witnessed their interaction, Mike threw one of their toddlers at her to catch and she fell ground. Weak from the surgery, she couldn’t fully catch them.

Renee had asked a friend to spend the night with her that night, afraid of what Mike might do.  The friend wasn’t able to come over.

The next morning, Renee was found dead, stabbed to death in her own bed. It was a violent stabbing. The scene had a lot of blood.  A lamp had been knocked over, the blankets were strewn about. Nothing was stolen. The police couldn’t find any evidence about the killer in the house.

Mike denied having anything to do with her murder.  He immediately lawyer-ed up. Mike didn’t even ask how she died.  Mike’s mom was his alibi. None of Mike’s family is cooperating with the police or even contacting them to find out if they can find her murderer.

All suspects but Mike have been cleared of the murder by police.

Their children are grown, and Jenn wonders how they deal with the situation. Ali wonders how the police didn’t find any evidence in the bloody murder scene.

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