There are few things better than a secret society. Part of this is because they are secretive and part is in the process of becoming a member and the people who make up the society. Often religion or politics are at the heart of these organizations, but sometimes it's unity. In rare cases, revenge…a secret society out for revenge? Yeah, there are few things better. This list looks at ten of the most famous secret societies and what they are really all about.
This group is made of historic societies that have stood the test of time as well as some that served their purpose and then dissolved. A few of these secret societies have made positive contributions while others breed hate. Just missing the list are The Scotch Cattle, a group of Welsh miners that created a secret society in the 1800s with the purpose of improving poor working conditions. They operated by sending warnings; if ignored, they would show up dressed in cow skins and destroy the enemy's property. They would always leave behind a painted red bull’s head. You always need to leave your mark. This group disbanded after trade unions were formed.
Bizarre, sexual and humorous, you can find whatever you want in secret societies. Here are shocking facts about ten secret societies.
10 Ordo Templi Orientis
Aleister Crowley was a strange dude; essentially he was the real life “Alice” character that Alice Cooper portrays on stage. Actually, he was stranger than that. He was also a member of Ordo Templi Orientis, a mysterious group that believed through occult practices you could rise through the ranks, eventually finding your true identity. Before he died, Crowley was the head of this society and created a manifesto titled Mysteria Mystica Maxima. Not all of their rituals are known, but we know there is an obsession over certain sexual practices. They practice “the magic of masturbation,” adoring the penis as part of their beliefs. There are still various groups active in the United States.
9 The Knights of the Golden Circle
This organization was first formed to annex Mexico and the West Indies in hopes of helping the slave movement. Once the Civil War broke, they had a new mission and supported the Confederates and their fight. The group had many followers, thousands and thousands, including famous members John Wilkes Booth and Jesse James. With their famous leaders and legions of followers, they formed armies and used force to raid Union territories. The group was known to rob anyone passing by. In 1860 they experienced failure trying to invade Mexico, but were successful when they took over part of New Mexico for a while. The Knights of the Golden Circle had a thing for territories named Mexico.
8 The Sons of Liberty
I don’t know if you can categorize this group as “star power” or historic celebrities, but any group that boasts John Hancock, Samuel Adams and Paul Revere as members really needs to be on this list. Prior to the Revolutionary War, these famous historic people and others would meet under an Elm tree in Boston (now known as the Liberty Tree) and discuss their resistance to the status quo. The British were aware of this group and were not fans, labeling them as detractors. How important was this group? During their meetings they formulated the protest of the Stamp Act and the Boston Tea Party. They were outlaws and rebels at the time whose actions bordered on terrorism. This society was the seed of America. Had it not been for that Elm tree it is likely we would not have freedom or Sam Adams beer.
7 Skull and Bones
Some don’t like secret societies, and if this is you there’s a good chance you loathe Skull and Bones, the secret society of Yale made up of campus leaders. Some famous members include George Bush senior, George W. Bush and John Kerry. So, if you also are not fans of politicians you are really unhappy to know this organization exists. There is even something called the Russell Trust Association, a trust managed (and funded) by alumni that finances this group. The organization meets twice a week, but no one knows what they exactly do. I think we know, they are plotting to take over the world. Oh wait, they have already accomplished this.
6 The Freemasons
This group is not really that secretive, that will happen when membership is somewhere around 5 million people. This society was formed to share philosophical ideas and the belief in a supreme being. Famous members include Bob Dole, Henry Ford, Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. Although this group was once accused of occult practices, today they have largely shed this image. What does still exist is that the only way to be inducted is you must be recommended by another mason, and then you have to pass degrees of standing before you reach the coveted “Master Mason.” There are also handshakes and passwords that go along with being part of the Freemasons. Fun Fact: The Stonecutters on The Simpsons is based on this group.
5 The Knights Of The Apocalypse
This society was fun for the whole family. Formed to protect the Catholic Church against the Antichrist, these members were way off their rockers. How did they plan to protect the church? By bringing swords to their workplace and wearing a drawn star on the breast of their clothing. Their founder, Agostino Gabrino, was a diagnosed insane person that waved swords during church services and claimed he was “King Of Glory.” He created rules based on polygamy and only being allowed to marry virgins. Sounds sensible, where do we sign up? Oh, they disbanded after a year and most of the knights ended up in prison. Bummer.
4 The Order Of The Occult Hand
This society was a little different; they weren’t based on religion or politics or really even much of a purpose. To say they were light on goals is an understatement; they just wanted to promote a phrase, no more, no less. The members promoted one phrase: “it was as if an occult hand had.” They put this phrase into whatever media they could find. Where did this originate? It was Joseph Flanders, a reporter that first used the phrase. It started small with friends and then spread to other journalists and people of the media. In 2004 a reporter cracked the gag and it stopped; however, apparently it started again in 2006 when a new phrase was picked. The secret is that to this day no one knows what it is!
3 The Calves’ Head Club
Critics are one thing, but this society really hated King Charles I. This particular club was formed to celebrate his death. Once a year, the members would meet (on the day King Charles I was executed) and have a crazy dinner to celebrate. Among the bizarre traditions there was an axe hung over the dinner space and a menu with calve's head, cod’s head and a boar’s head stuffed with pike and an apple. There was a chant to celebrate the king’s death and they drank from glasses made from the skulls of calves. It goes without saying they burned his autobiography as well. John Milton was the founder (and supported the execution of the king). The dinner lasted from 1660 until 1735 when the evening was met by a mob that almost killed several members.
2 The Bald Knobbers
Another group that liked to wear disguises, The Bald Knobbers were a vigilante group that took the law into their own hands. After the Civil War, southwest Missouri was a mess, with lots of crime. A man by the name of Nat Kinney held meetings on bare mountaintops where they planned their attacks on the evil. They wore horned masks and their coats backward. They beat, whipped and even murdered some of the criminals. Of course, some of the members eventually used their power to cover up their own wrongdoings. In the end 20 members were arrested and four were executed. A year later, Kinney was murdered.
1 The Leopard Society
This secret society, with most members in West Africa, was known for human sacrifice and cannibalism. Members would dress in leopard skin and attack their victims. Using teeth and metal claws they would kill their victims. After, they would use the blood for potions (believed to give them special powers) and eat the meat. It took many years, spanning from World War I to World War II before this group was finally brought down after authorities located their hideout. Many didn’t believe these were humans so some were allowed to watch the executions of the members. I will never look at a leopard in the same way.