Secret societies, and the sense of mystery and exclusivity that they evoke, have been around for centuries. Why exactly secret societies have to be ‘secret’ in the first place is one of the biggest questions about the practise. The common belief is that, as the societies are so often made up of influential and powerful members of society, they were – and still are – plotting to change civilisation via overthrow or infiltration of the Church or the government. Another speculated reason for the secrecy of these societies involves common purported trends of worshipping a fabricated deity, or else worshipping a known figure, good or evil, in a way that would be disallowed by conventional religions.
These two potential explanations for the secrecy of the ‘secret’ society, along with the bizarre rituals which they perform and the extraordinary hazings that new members must endure, creates an understandable aura of uncertainty and fear around almost any given secret society. However, some are more feared than others; those with proven insidious aims, horrific rituals, or an incredibly powerful known membership base are those which are renowned and dreaded the world over. This article lists five such societies, and the practices and beliefs which see them inspiring so much fear.
4. Gang 36
Gang 36 is not your typical secret society — in fact, it more closely resembles a mob, or simply a notorious gang — but it is a secret society nonetheless. The Malaysian society is the most feared secret society in the country, and one of the most feared worldwide. There are an abundance of similar gangs in Malaysia today. The gangs, or secret societies, develop from the gatherings of young people with an inclination towards violence, gradually becoming more organised — installing fees to guarantee members’ protection, electing leaders, until they become full-blown societies, known and feared throughout the country. Gang 36 is the most powerful of these societies.
It was originally made up of Chinese men who were predominantly gangsters, but was overtaken in ownership by the greater number of Indian members. The society’s criminal activity has escalated in recent years, and the change in ownership is thought to be as a result of the founding members’ reluctance to get their hands dirty. The society today is very much multi-racial, and while there are still Chinese members, they tend to play the role of investors as opposed to activists. The money they invest in the Gang’s activities allows them to make huge profits through criminal and violent operations.
3. The Knights of the Golden Circle
The Knights of the Golden Circle are, in plain terms, an American pro-slavery secret society that was first established in the mid-nineteenth century. The fully-established society was originally comprised of Southern sympathisers in North America during the Civil War. The first branch of the society was set up in 1854 by Dr. George W. L. Bickley in Cincinnati.
The order gradually moved to the South, where it was extremely well-received. The society’s original aim was to establish a force that would colonize the northern part of Mexico, in order to aid the pro-slavery population, but at the advent of the Civil War it moved its attention to supporting the South. The Knights of the Golden Circle vehemently opposed the abolition of slavery, and while going through several reorganizations in the 1860s (becoming the Order of the American Knights, and then the Order of the Sons of Liberty), their aims remained steadfast.
Several extreme members of the various branches of the secret society also threatened a radical revolt in the Old Northwest as a means of ending the war and bringing about the outcome they sought.
2. The Order of the Skull & Bones
The only college-based secret society on this list is Yale’s Order of the Skull & Bones, which is no less feared for the youth of its members. Such is the level of both fear and secrecy around the society that there are countless conspiracies concerning its actions, and it has been blamed for a variety of occurrences, including the assassination of President Kennedy and the creation of the nuclear bomb.
The fears surrounding this society’s power are exacerbated by the incredibly high number of rumoured alumni that went on to become powerful figures worldwide, such as members of the Rockefeller family and George W. Bush.
The secret society was originally founded in 1832 by a Yale student, William Russell, after he had spent a year in Germany and was exposed to European organizations and secret societies. Members of the Order worship a fake goddess named Eulogia, and select the societal elite – those from the richest and most politically powerful families – as its members. The society is one of the most heavily veiled in the world, which has perhaps led to the hype surrounding its goings-on. It is said that members have hatched schemes for world domination, and that one of the society’s rituals of initiation is for a new member to lie naked in a coffin and disclose details about their sexual encounters and habits. The society is suspected of having raided the coffin of Apache warrior Geronimo, and stealing his skull and two bones to put on display at their headquarters.
1. The Freemasons
The Freemasons is one of the world’s oldest and most intriguing secret societies. While the first instance of what is recognised as the modern day Freemasons society was set up in England in 1717, evidence of the Masonic Fraternity seems to date incredibly far back: The language and symbols involved in its rituals look to be derived from the stonemasons’ guild during the Middle Ages, and the earliest written reference to the society on record date from the mid-1300s.
While the society is extolled for placing importance on the rights of the individual and standing for self-improvement and social betterment, it is also vehemently opposed for its belief in a pre-Christian spiritual wisdom, which it protects at all costs. This level of devotion and form of worship, along with the fact that the society has included numerous powerful members including Mozart and a multitude of US presidents, leads some to fear the perhaps supernatural means whereby members might be obtaining this power.
The society protects its members fiercely, offering lifelong protection at all costs and punishing its enemies.