Watch out! That harmless-looking gent in the fez over there, riding his go-cart in the parade with all the other Shriners, may secretly be planning to eat your brain! Don't laugh. Over the years there have been some awfully strange things said about the "secret societies," the fraternal organizations such as the Masons and the Odd Fellows.
They have been accused of everything from being an affiliate of the Ku Klux Klan to wreaking havoc in the Vatican Banking System to holding potlucks with the Devil himself. Since members-only meetings are held in secret, no one can prove any of this, of course. And the societies can do nothing more than roll their collective eyes and deny it.
One fascinating theory, outlined in Jonathan Vankin's book Conspiracies, Cover-ups & Crimes: Political Manipulations and Mind Control in America (Paragon House, 1991), points to the Order of Free and Accepted Masons as the reconnaissance team for an impending alien invasion of the earth, following which we all be slaves and/or breakfast. This theory states that when the secret groups first began in the Middle Ages, their purpose was actually to combat the alien invaders, who looked just like everyone else and were up to no good. These sensational accusations, which seem to be inspired by too many late-night movies, are nothing new.
What kicked anti-Masonic paranoia into high gear? A lodge member, William Morgan, wanted to publish the rituals once and for all, to prove there was nothing to fear. He disappeared and was never heard from again. "To this day no one knows what happened to him," explains John Cooper, secretary of the Masonic Grand Lodge in San Francisco. "But it was sufficient to cause an explosion against Freemasonry."
So who knows? Are they evil or are they harmless? A bunch of sweet old guys acting goofy once a week or an assembly of little green men in disguise? There's really only one way to find out: Join up and see for yourself.
From the Jan. 25-31, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent
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