What do you think of when you hear the words "secret society?" How about secret handshakes? Secret codes? Secret meeting places that only those who are members of said secret society know of?
There are secret societies everywhere. Some are fun. Some are weird and unusual. Members of some secret societies meet on college campuses. Members of other secret societies meet in underground tunnels. Some secret societies are comprised of a handful of regular people while others are comprised of hundreds of the world's most powerful people. And then there are some societies whose membership numbers are into the thousands.
Like I said earlier, there are a lot of secret societies. Some of these societies want their activities and rituals to be kept as hush-hush as possible, while others don't care about that so much. We've probably all heard of the Illuminati and which celebrity is rumored to be a member. But while some believe that the Illuminati is the most dangerous secret organization out there, there are others that many have never heard of but are potentially just as dangerous (if you believe in that sort of stuff, of course).
If you're curious about these secret societies, some of which have the power to rule the world, just check out this list of 15 of the most exclusive secret societies that aren't the Illuminati. Please note that the Illuminati is not included on this list because it's too well-known.
15 The Skull And Bones
The Skull and Bones society was originally known as the Eulogian Club and it was founded by a group of students at Yale University in 1832, following a feud with other debating societies on campus. The society's membership includes distinguished heads of state, captains of industry, and directors of covert agencies. The founders of the CIA, as well as John Kerry and former U.S. presidents George Bush and William Taft are allegedly believed to be or have been members. The Skull and Bones meets twice a week in a building known as the "Tomb" where they are believed to carry out rituals that follow Masonic rites. The initiation ceremony requires new members to lie naked in coffins and tell others about their deepest and darkest sexual secrets. The Skull and Bones is feared because they are purported to have been involved in the Kennedy assassination.
14 The Molly Maguires
The Molly Maguires took cross-dressing to another level. A secret organization with Irish origins that was exported to the U.S. by Irish immigrants during the 1870's, the all-male Molly Maguires received their name due to the members wearing women's clothing to disguise themselves while they committed many illegal crimes. Most of their crimes consisted of arson and death threats, but perhaps their greatest crime was when they killed 24 foremen and supervisors in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. The group met its end at the hands of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, hired by mining companies, who planted a mole among their ranks. Following a string of trials, 20 of the Molly Maguires were executed by hanging.
13 The Elders Of Zion
Perhaps the most infamous and widely distributed antisemitic publication of the modern era is the Protocols of The Elders of Zion. The Protocols is a Russian document that was originally printed in a newspaper run by Henry Ford in the 1920's, claiming to describe a Jewish plan for global domination. Even though it was exposed as nothing more than an elaborate hoax, it didn't stop anti-Semitics from believing in its words. The various portions were compiled into a book called The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem. A book that Adolf Hitler would read and be influenced from in his quest to exterminate the Jews. Many anti-Semitic theorists around the world still believe that the Protocols is a factual document and that the Jews are still attempting to take over the world.
12 Bohemian Grove
The Bohemian Grove takes escaping from life to another level. For two weeks in July, some of the richest and most powerful men in the world (which allegedly includes Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan) converge upon the Bohemian Grove campground in Monte Carlo, California for heavy-drinking, confidential talks, and various rituals. They meet like this annually so they can temporarily escape the uncivilized interests of average citizens. A spokesperson for the Bohemian Grove says that men who gather at the campground "share a passion for the outdoors, music, and theater.” But, it's not all fun and games. Many believe that the Bohemian Grove have much more sinister plans plotted, which wouldn't be a totally implausible conspiracy theory.
11 Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn
One of the largest single influences on 20th-century Western occultism is the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, commonly shortened to the Golden Dawn. The Golden Dawn was a magical order formed in Great Britain that was active during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The members devoted themselves to the study and practice of spiritual development, paranormal activities, metaphysics, and more. Alleged members included Bram Stoker and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creators of Dracula and Sherlock Holmes, respectively. While none of the temples of the Golden Dawn survived past the 1970's, multiple organizations have since revived its instructions and rituals, and many present-day concepts concerning rituals, such as Wicca, drew influence from the Golden Dawn.
10 The Order Of The Nine Angles
The Order of the Nine Angles was founded in the 1960's, but it wasn't until two decades later that it received public awareness. The Order is a satanic cult that originated out of the UK. It follows the ways of traditional Satanism and Neo-Nazi principles. In 1988, the group began producing its own journal published known as Fenrir and later started forming alliances with other Neo-Nazi Satanist groups all over the world. During the 2000's, the cult advanced their purpose by taking advantage of the Internet and disseminating their beliefs over the web. Members are ordered to disengage themselves from society, espouse political extremism and violent behavior, perpetrate crimes, and even carry out human sacrifices.
9 Ordo Templi Orientis
Ordo Templi Orientis can either be translated as Order of the Temple of the East or Order of the Oriental Templars, depending on the translation. It's both a fraternal and religious organization founded at the start of the 20th century that follows the Law of Thelma. The Law of Thelma tells followers to "do as thou wilt," and Thelemites, as adherents to the Law of Thelma call themselves, desire to uphold the Law as the greatest fundamental measure of human understanding. New members must perform all the necessary rituals in order to get into the organization. Occultist Aleister Crowley was the best-known member of the Ordo. He wrote the Book of the Law in 1094 and revised the rituals the order followed to adhere them to the Law of Thelma.
8 Bilderberg Group
Like the Bohemian Grove, the Bilderberg Group is comprised of the world's most elite and influential people. Every year since 1954, 120-150 of the most powerful men in the world from various fields such as finance, business, and media, meet in a certain hotel to discuss the global agenda at hand. Many conspiracy theorists wonder about the influence the group has on the world's affairs, due to the secretive nature of the meetings. The Bilderberg Group has been accused of being involved in the world's biggest terrorist attacks. Denis Healey, one of the founders of the group, was quoted as saying, "To say we were striving for a one-world government is exaggerated, but not wholly unfair."
7 Thule Society
There are a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding Nazi Germany. One particular theory surrounds the Thule Society. Originally a study group known as "The Study Group for Germanic Antiquity," the society was formed as an attempt to return Germany to its former glory in the aftermath of World War 1. The name "Thule" is the same name as a fictional northern country in Greek legend who Nazi mystics believe to have been the home of the Aryan race. One must undergo a blood declaration of faith and swear that no Jewish blood flows through his veins or his wife's veins and that none of his ancestors were of the "colored races" before they can be admitted into the society. The Thule Society had little interest in the occult and supernatural forces and were much more invested in fighting against Jews and Communism.
6 The Knights Templar
If you've seen The Da Vinci Code, National Treasure, and/or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, there's a good chance you've heard the name The Knights Templar before. The Christian military brotherhood was formed at the beginning of the twelfth century with the purpose of safeguarding pilgrims as they trekked through the Holy Land. More and more knights would join the cause and the reputation of the Knights Templar spread. However, when the Holy Land was lost in the Crusades, support for the organization began dwindling. The knights were eventually tortured into giving false confessions and executed at the orders of King Philip IV of France. While in popular culture it is believed that the Knights Templar were in possession of sacred Christian artifacts like the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant, there is no concrete evidence of this.
5 The Rosicrucians
Perhaps one of the most powerful secret societies in the world is the Rosicrucians. It emerged early in the 17th century and claimed to show people a secret esoteric order from which they could learn from and follow. In doing so, new Rosicrucians could gain invaluable wisdom into nature, the physical world, and the spiritual world. It is believed that the Rosicrucians use occult magic to engender not only a spiritual transformation but a global transformation. Conspiracy theorists believe that the group founded the Invisible College, the Freemasons, and the Illuminati, and were the driving force behind every serious revolution in modern history. Others think that Rosicrucianism is all one big hoax and that none of it is real.
Freemasonry is unique in the fact that it isn't just one organization but multiple fraternal organizations. Freemasonry was created with the union of several smaller societies into a "lodge" in London in 1717. A Lodge is the basic unit of Freemasonry which is overseen by a Grand Lodge. Each Grand Lodge is independent of each other, and not all of them necessarily recognize each other as a true Lodge. Freemasons, or Masons as they are sometimes known, supposedly use secret handshakes to greet one another, perform odd rituals, and follow a complicated chain of command in which members can move up through as they obtain experience and esteem within the organization. Many secret societies, including a few on this list, draw influence from Freemasonry in some way.
3 Improved Order Of The Red Men
Some might accuse the Improved Order of Red Men of cultural appropriation. The organization was formed in the 1800's. Some of the members were former members of the Sons of Liberty, who were responsible for the Boston Tea Party. Much how they dressed up like Indians for that little rebellion against England, the members of the Improved Order also dressed up like they were Indians and formed tribes. In addition, they also followed many of the Native American rituals. Interestingly enough, they barred real Native Americans from joining the group. In 1974, only whites were allowed to become members of the order. Claiming to have 500,000 men in their organization in 1935, that number has dropped severely to 15,000.
Members of the Assassins, or the Hashshashin, may have been regular farmers by day, but at night, they were fearful killers. The Assassins were notorious for their fearless attitudes, not afraid to cut down their targets despite the security detail that surrounded them. Over the course of three centuries, the Assassins executed viziers, sultans, leaders of the Crusades, and more. Between 1090 and 1296, more than eight Grand Masters ruled over the group. But the Assassins would lose much of their power at the hands of the Mongols, who essentially destroyed the group in Syria and Iran, forcing the killers to disperse into the East and into Europe. The complete destruction of the Assassins came in 1272 by the Mamluk Sultan Baybars.
1 Ashoka's Nine Unknown Men
According to some, this is the world's most powerful society. If you couldn't guess from the society's name, there are only nine members in it, which is what makes people think this small group is so strong. It's India's only known secret society and quite possibly its oldest. In 270 B.C., King Ashoka formed the group comprised of only nine men and gave them the key to everything in the world. Each of the members was bestowed a topic of specialty, such as alchemy or communication with aliens, and guard their information from anyone who wanted to use it for bad intentions. Supposedly, these books survived into the modern era and are being constantly updated; and if they were to fall into the wrong hands, it would spell the end of life as we know it.
Sources: huffingtonpost, express, indiatimes, smithsonianmag, washingtonpost, theatlantic