Sunday, August 9, 2020

FIVE STATES THAT ALMOST EXISTED

It doesn't take an in depth knowledge of American history to know that after the Revolutionary War, the colonies became the original 13 states. Then over time, more and more territories become states with 1912 giving us New Mexico and Arizona to make the 48 states. It stayed that way until 1959 when Alaska and Hawaii were added to make today's total of 50 states.

But, along the way, there were 5 more areas proposed as states to be added to the union that lost out. Here, in chronological order, are 5 contenders that did not make the final approval.

1. Franklin

The State of Franklin was created shortly after the Revolutionary War in what is now eastern Tennessee. At the time, the wild and mountainous region was part of western North Carolina and home to over 5,000 settlers. Tensions began in 1784 when the North Carolina state legislature withdrew state militias from the area and attempted to give the land to the federal government. Under constant threat of Native American attacks and feeling abandoned by their government, the frustrated settlers of the area declared their counties to be a new American state. They appointed the audacious John Sevier, a politician and soldier who had gained fame fighting the Cherokee, as their governor. In an attempt to gain Benjamin Franklin’s support for the cause, they claimed to name their state after him. Franklin responded with a polite letter but offered no public support.

After petitioning Congress for admission to the newly formed United States, Franklin fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed for statehood. Even though it failed to gain admission to the United States, the rogue territory continued to exist as an independent republic with its own courts, legislature, taxes and constitution. In 1788, Sevier made a risky bid for aid from the Spanish and was quickly arrested on charges of treason. The proposed state of Franklin soon collapsed and was reclaimed by North Carolina. Its lands formed the Southwest Territory, which became the state of Tennessee. Sevier escaped serious punishment for his actions and, thanks in part to his legendary reputation as the leader of Franklin, went on to become Tennessee’s first governor.

2. Deseret

Probably the best known of the proposed to be a state but never made it category is Deseret. This was a western state proposed by Mormon settlers in 1849. The land area included what is parts of modern-day California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming and Idaho. As proposed, it would become the largest state in the Union. In addition to the problem of its enormous size being reason to derail its path to statehood, the controversial Mormon practice of polygamy figured strongly in the decision. Opposition was strong, and anti-polygamy activists portrayed Deseret as a move to create a Mormon theocracy within the United States. President Zachary Taylor attempted to combine Deseret and the newly formed state of California, but the plan collapsed when Deseret’s delegate failed to arrive at the state constitutional congress on time due to a misunderstanding. The final blow to Deseret’s statehood chances came in 1850 when a compromise led to the creation of the Utah Territory, with Mormon leader Brigham Young as its first governor.

 Although the attempt to establish a super-state fell by the wayside, for years a group of Mormon elders secretly met after each Utah Territory General Assembly and ratified new laws under the name “Deseret.” It was only with the arrival of the railroad—and with it many non-Mormon settlers—that the dream of the sprawling state was officially abandoned.

 3. Sequoyah

The plan to form the state of Sequoyah began in the early 1900s during a meeting of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw and Seminole Native American nations. At the time, the eastern part of what would later become Oklahoma encompassed the Indian Territory, a region populated by some 60,000 indigenous people. In 1905, the nations held a convention in Muskogee, where they drafted a proposal to turn the Oklahoma and Indian Territories into two individual states. Their new state, dubbed Sequoyah after the creator of the Cherokee writing system, had a proposed 48 counties and represented an attempt to maintain some degree of Native American self-governance over the Indian Territory.

The proposed constitution was expansive and included many progressive ideas, including anti-trust laws and restrictions on child labor. Still, it ultimately failed in the U.S. Congress, which balked at adding two new western states. Instead, the Indian Territory was incorporated into the new state of Oklahoma in 1907. Nevertheless, many of Sequoyah’s principles lived on. Several states directly copied its constitution’s novel ethics laws, and the Cherokee Nation continues to call its yearly conference on Native American issues the State of Sequoyah.

UPDATE:  In July, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation and that state authorities do not have the authority to prosecute criminal cases involving Native Americans. The 5-to-4 decision, potentially one of the most consequential legal victories for Native Americans in decades, could have far-reaching implications for the people who live in the court affirmed Indian Country. The lands include much of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-biggest city.

4. Absaroka

Often called the state that never was, Absaroka arose from the political discontent of the Great Depression and in particular Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. The movement for statehood began in 1939 in Sheridan, Wyoming. Frustrated with the U.S. government, a group of politicians and businessmen led by A.R. Swickard, a former baseball player, hatched a plan to create a new state they called Absaroka. The would-be state included large areas of Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota, and encompassed famous landmarks such as the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. Swickard appointed himself governor and began hearing grievances from the “citizens” of his state. To gather support, he distributed Absaroka license plates and photos of the first (and subsequently last) Miss Absaroka.

Despite its initial popularity, the statehood movement’s novelty quickly wore off, and an official proposal for secession was never drafted. The story survives today largely thanks to the Federal Writers’ Project—ironically, one of FDR’s New Deal programs—which chronicled the Absaroka phenomenon while compiling travel guides to the American West.

5. Jefferson

The bold scheme to form the state of Jefferson began in 1941 when a group of copper mining counties in northern California and southern Oregon became fed up with insufficient government funding for their highways. In a slightly tongue-in-cheek gesture, the residents of the area decided to form a new state. A newspaper contest provided the name of Jefferson, and the group went so far as to elect a judge named John Childs as its first governor. They even adopted a state flag emblazoned with a large “XX”—a reference to the double-crossing politics that had led to their secession. In a show of Jefferson pride, a group of men armed with hunting rifles blockaded the highway between Oregon and California and gave bewildered motorists a flyer that read: “You are now entering Jefferson.”

Unfortunately for the aspiring Jeffersonians, other events ultimately overshadowed their act of secession. Just three days after Judge Childs’ inauguration on December 4, 1941—which was accompanied by a parade and widespread media coverage—the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. In the ensuing buildup to World War II, plans for the new state of Jefferson fell by the wayside.

And there you have it…5 states that almost existed.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

13 of the World's Most Common Superstitions and Their Bizarre Origins part 2 of 2

This week is part 2 of my 2-part blog about superstitions and their origins. Last week I covered number one through six (in no particular order). Now, let's take a look at the rest of the list.

7. Crossing your fingers:

This one has two meanings with numerous possibilities about the origin of the "good luck" version. Some theories say that crossed fingers were used by early Christians to identify each other when their religion was still illegal in the Roman empire, that crossed fingers were a way to ward off witches, and that medieval archers crossed their fingers when pulling their bow back for better accuracy. The other version—the idea that crossing your fingers means you don't believe what you say and are lying—may have also originated from a belief in witches. It was believed that the act of crossing your fingers was a way to swear an oath to the devil without actually giving up your soul.

8. Toasting with water:

Raising a glass in celebration should be a show of good faith regardless of what is in the glass. However, if it's water, the opposite is true. When toasting someone with water, it actually means you're wishing death upon them. The ancient Greeks were the first to warn of this practice, as they would only toast with water to honor the dead. This belief stemmed from the myths that drinking the water from the River Lethe served to help the souls of the Underworld pass on.

9. Being third on a match:

Historical origins for this superstition are set in World War I. It was a conventional wisdom among soldiers in the trenches that if you kept a match lit long enough for three people to light their cigarette from it, the enemy would spot the flame and determine your position. Soldiers brought the belief back with them, but there's evidence to suggest that after the war, match companies rather cynically helped popularize the superstition to sell more matches.

10. Stepping on a crack will break your mother's back:

It's been popularly suggested that this superstitious saying has evolved from a more racist 19th-century version of the rhyme, but historians suggest that both versions probably came about at the same time. The rhyme is likely an American formulation of a long-held British superstition in which stepping on pavement cracks represents crossing other unseen lines that will have bad consequences.

11. Tossing spilled salt over your left shoulder:

You've probably seen some people do this, but do you really need to be tossing seasoning at the dinner table? According to superstition, if you don't, the devil standing over your shoulder is sure to stick around. The basis for this superstition is as practical as it is religious, as salt was once considered extremely valuable—in some cultures it was actually a form of money. Only someone under the influence of evil would waste such a priceless resource. Tossing it over your left shoulder and into the devil's face prevents further temptation.

12. Knocking on wood:

Have you ever told a friend you're hoping for some good news? Or that you really hope something terrible doesn't happen? You better find the nearest wooden table or chair and knock twice, or else you're going to be in for a bad time. That's because early pagans believed that trees contained fairies, spirits, and other mystical creatures. By knocking on wood, they believed these creatures would grant them good luck or even keep evil spirits from influencing their lives.

13. The number 13:

And finally, the number thirteen itself. Friday the thirteenth is considered the unluckiest day of the year. Most tall buildings are built without a designated thirteenth floor. Of the infinite combinations of numbers in existence, why is thirteen so universally feared? Norse mythology is the culprit. In one legend, Loki, the god of mischief, was the thirteenth guest at a feast in Valhalla and caused the death of Balder, god of light and purity. The evils of thirteen later became associated with the Last Supper, as Judas was the thirteenth guest.

 I could have eliminated one of the superstitions and restricted the list to only twelve, but presenting a list of thirteen superstitions seemed more appropriate.  :) 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

13 Of The World's Most Common Superstitions And Their Bizarre Origins part 1of2

I have another multi-part blog for you.  This week is part 1 of 2 presenting a look at superstitions and their origins. I was going to save this for a Friday the thirteenth blog, but that next date dedicated to superstitions isn't until November. I'm sharing six of the superstitions this week and will conclude next with the remaining seven.

Some people are very superstitious and believe the ancient myths about good and bad luck. However, for the most part those who really worry about broken mirrors and stepping on cracks don't know where those beliefs come from.

Let's take a look at the wild explanations behind these commonly held superstitions.

1. Opening an umbrella indoors:
This superstition has somewhat recent origins. Umbrellas were much more cumbersome objects than they are now. People in the 19th and early 20th centuries viewed opening the bulky, sharp-pointed objects indoors as a safety hazard to everybody in the room. Over time, this evolved from a safety concern to a more general sign of bad luck.

2. Walking under a ladder:
The suspicion about walking under ladders goes all the way back to ancient Egypt. In that culture, triangles had magical symbolism and supposedly supernatural properties. The triangle shape that formed by leaning a ladder against a wall allegedly created an area that would trap both living and dead souls. Passing through that triangle had to be avoided. Bits of this belief continued throughout history. It eventually became considered bad luck rather than soul-stealing.

3. Breaking a mirror:
We can thank the ancient Greeks for the superstition about breaking a mirror causing seven years of bad luck. Like Narcissus, many Greeks looked at their reflections in the water. Over time, a superstition developed that distortions in the water reflecting their image were symbolic of distortions of the soul. As mirrors became more widely used, this superstition evolved and eventually became associated with the number seven, which has numerological significance in Judaism and Christianity.

4. A black cat crossing your path:
This is another superstition that goes back to ancient Egypt, where cats had religious significance and were thought to have supernatural powers. The interesting thing about the black cat superstition is that it represents different things in different places. In the U.S., a black cat crossing your path is bad luck. In England, black cats are considered good luck—a belief given some validity when King Charles I was charged with high treason the day after his favorite black cat died.

5. Hanging a horseshoe:
An old Irish legend tells of St. Dunstan, a blacksmith who was visited by the devil in search of horseshoes. Dunstan decided to nail a searing hot horseshoe to his hoof, removing it only when the devil agreed to avoid any place marked with one. A more grounded explanation comes from the ancient Greeks, as they believed iron's flame-resistant properties made the metal magical. They also shaped the horseshoes to resemble the crescent moon, a symbol of good luck and fertility.

6. Saying "God Bless You" when someone sneezes:
Saying "God bless you" has its origins in the Middle Ages and is associated with the black plague. Since sneezes often foretold much more serious illness, people thought a sneeze was a sign that the soul was trying to escape the body. By offering a blessing, they hoped God would spare the person the illness and their soul could remain with their body just a little bit longer.

Be sure to check back next week when I present the remaining seven superstitions and their origins in part 2 of my 2-part blog.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Where Did Those Expressions Come From (part 3 of 3)

Here is the final installment of my 3 part series on historical trivia—Where Did Those Expressions Come From.  These are listed in alphabetical N through Z.

Nick Of Time:  How did we get the expression 'in the nick of time'?
Back in the days of medieval times, a tally was used to register attendance at colleges and churches. The tally was a wooden stick and attendance was indicated by a nick or notch in it. The person who arrived on time had his attendance 'nicked', therefore arriving 'in the nick of time.'

On The Carpet:  How did being called 'on the carpet' come to mean a reprimand?
Originally, only the boss's office had a carpet, the other offices didn't. So, to be called 'on the carpet' meant to be called to the boss's office and this usually meant a reprimand.

Pup Tent:  How did the 'pup tent' get that name?
These smaller than normal tents were named by the Union soldiers in the Civil War. When they were given to the soldiers, they looked so much like dog kennels that one of the men stuck his head out and began to bark. The idea caught on and soon the whole camp was barking. The tents were called dog tents with that name soon morphing into 'pup tent'.

Quarter (no quarter):  Why do we say we give 'no quarter' when we mean to show no mercy?
Originally, to give quarter meant to send conquered enemy soldiers to a special section or quarter where they remained until their fate was determined. They could be set free, ransomed, or enslaved. If they were killed instead, they were given 'no quarter'.

Red Tape:  Where did governmental delay get the name 'red tape'?
The expression came from England. For centuries, the British government followed the custom of tying up official papers with red tape. The wasted time spent in tying and untying the red tape used to bind the dispatches and document cases led men to pick it as the symbol of useless delay.

Slush Fund:  How did a 'slush fund' get that name?
Aboard a sailing ship, slush was the waste fat from the galley and was used to grease the masts. All extra slush used to be the property of the cook and he didn't have to account for the money he made from selling it. Likewise, a 'slush fund' is money that doesn't need to be accounted for—and often was best not be.

Taxi:  What is the reason a 'taxi' is called that?
The world originally referred to the meter carried by the cab. It was called a taximeter because it measured the fare or tax and cabs equipped with the meters painted taximeter on their doors. This was soon shortened to 'taxi' and in time all cabs were called by that name.

Upper Crust:  Why do we call high society the 'upper crust'?
The crust was long considered the best part of the bread and the upper or top crust was the best part of all. If high society is the best of all, then it's the 'upper crust'.

Volume:  Why is a book called a 'volume'?
Ancient books were written on sheets of paper which were fastened together lengthwise and rolled up like a window shade. 'Volume' is from the Latin volvere meaning to roll up.

Wild Goose Chase:  How did a 'wild goose chase' get that name?
A wild goose chase was once a sort of game, a horse race in which the second and each succeeding horse had to follow the leader accurately and at a definite interval. Since the horses had to keep their positions like geese in flight, the chase was called a 'wild goose chase'. Since this was not a race in which anyone could win, the phrase was adopted to describe a person following a course that led to no goal.

X-Ray:  How did the 'X-ray' get that name?
The ray was first called the Roentgen ray in honor of the scientist who discovered it. But he preferred to call it 'X-ray' because X is the algebraic symbol for the unknown and at that time he did not understand the nature of this ray.

Yankee:  What is the origin of the term 'Yankee'?
The word comes from a nickname for the Dutch—Jan Kaas meaning John Cheese. In pirate days, English sailors adopted the term as a derisive name for the Dutch freebooters. The Dutch settlers in New York (originally New Amsterdam) began to apply it to the English settlers in Connecticut because they believed the Connecticut English to be far more enterprising than ethical. The term spread to the other colonies, though at first it was almost always used to refer with dislike to the citizens of a colony farther north.

Zest:  Why does 'zest' mean enthusiasm?
In its Greek form, zest meant a piece of orange or lemon peel. The addition of a slice of orange or lemon peel adds 'zest' to a drink or dish and makes us more enthusiastic about it.

And there you have it…a three-part small selection of every day expressions and their origins.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Where Did Those Expressions Come From (part 2 of 3)

Last week I gave you a list of 10 bits of historical trivia dealing with those expressions everyone uses, but whose origins have been obscured by time.  This week in part 2 of 3, I'm presenting a list of an additional 13 such expressions, alphabetically A through M.

Annie Oakley: Why do we call a free pass to an event an 'Annie Oakley'?
Free passes were once punched full of holes. Annie Oakley was a famous rifle shot who, as part of her act, would shoot holes in a playing card held by an assistant.

Blurb: What is the origin of the word 'blurb'?
When Gellette Burgess' book, Are You A Bromide, was published, he devised a special dust jacket for 500 presentation copies to be given away at a booksellers' banquet. It was the custom at that time to have the picture of some woman on the jacket of every novel. He featured a sickly-sweet portrait of a young woman and in the accompanying text described her as a Miss Belinda Blurb. From this the usual dust cover jacket 'blow up' of an author and his book came to be called a blurb.

Clerk: How did an office assistant get the name 'clerk'?
At one time only the clergy could read or write so any person with this ability was assumed to be a cleric. From this, the words clerical and cleric were soon shortened to clerk and came to mean written work or one who performed such work.

Dirt Cheap: Why do we say something inexpensive is 'dirt cheap'?
Nothing is of less value. If you gather a big pile of dirt you would not increase your wealth. In fact, you would most likely have to pay someone to haul it away.

Exception Proves The Rule: What is the origin of the expression 'the exception proves the rule'?
Originally the word 'prove' meant 'test.' The phrase merely means that the exception tests the rule, which makes sense and is logical.

Fall Guy: Why do we call a dupe a 'fall guy'?
The word fall not only means to stumble but also to be lured or entrapped. We call a person a fall guy who is entrapped and left to suffer the punishment while the one who did the actual misdeed escapes.

Geronimo: Why do American paratroopers shout 'Geronimo' as they jump?
Several members of the first unit of parachute troops formed at Fort Benning, Georgia, went to see the movie Geronimo. Afterwards, in reference to the mock heroics of their practice jumps, they started calling each other by this name. From this came the paratroopers practice of shouting 'Geronimo' as he leaps from the plane.

Hair Of The Dog: Why is taking a morning-after drink as a hangover cure called taking a 'hair of the dog that bit you'?
The ancients believed one of the best cures for hydrophobia (rabies), or any other disease you might get from a dog bite, consisted of taking a hair of the dog that bit you and putting it in the wound.

Inside Track: Where did we get the expression 'he's got the inside track'?
It came from horse racing. The best position for a horse, the shortest distance around the race track to the finish line, is the one nearest the rail—the inside track.

Jog The Memory: What is the reason we say we 'jog the memory'?
Jog really means shake and when we jog a person's memory, we shake it up.

Killed With Kindness: Where did we get the expression killed with kindness?
This came from the story of Draco, the Athenian legislator, who died because of his popularity. The Greeks used to wave their caps and coats as a sign of approval and when they were extremely enthusiastic they tossed their hats and coats at the object of their enthusiasm. In the 6th century B.C., Draco aroused the enthusiasm of the audience in the theatre of Aegina to such an extent that the entire gathering showered him with caps and coats—and smothered him to death.

Lock, Stock, And Barrel: How did lock, stock and barrel come to mean all or everything?
There are 3 parts to a gun—the barrel, the stock, and the firing mechanism called the lock. By listing all 3, the totality of the rifle is reaffirmed—all of it.

Make The Bed: Why do we say we make the bed when we spread the sheets and blankets?
We speak of making the bed rather than fixing it or doing it because beds were once created anew each night from straw thrown on the floor.

Next week I'll share part 3 of 3 for this blog series, another 13 historical trivia phrases about everyday expressions (alphabetically N through Z).

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Where Did Those Expressions Come From pt 1 of 3

Ever wonder about those interesting expressions that have been handed down through the centuries?  Phrases that we all use without giving any thought to where they came from or their original meaning?  Let's take a look at the historical origin of some of these expressions.  Here's a list of ten such expressions, part 1 of a 3 part blog series.

1)  God willing and the Creeks don't rise
This expression was originally in reference to the Native American Creek tribe and not a body of water and is attributable to Benjamin Hawkins, a late 18th century politician.  While in the south, he was requested by the President to return to Washington.  In his response, he wrote, God willing and the Creeks don't rise.  Since he capitalized the word Creeks, it was assumed he was referring to a hostile uprising of the Creek tribe rather than water.

2)  It cost an arm and a leg
Since there weren't any cameras in George Washington's day, the only way to portray someone's image was either through sculpture or painting.  Some paintings of Washington show him standing behind his desk with one arm behind his back while others show both arms and legs.  Prices charged by artists were often calculated according to how many arms and legs were being painted rather than the number of people in the painting.  Therefore, if the subject wanted both arms and legs in the painting, they were told, "Okay, but it will cost an arm and a leg."

3)  Here comes the big wig
As ludicrous as it sounds today, back then men and women took baths only twice a year (usually May after the cold winter and October after a hot summer). Women covered their hair and men shaved their heads and wore wigs. The wealthy could afford good wigs made of wool. Since the wool wigs couldn't be washed, they would hollow out a loaf of bread and put the wig in the shell, then bake it for half an hour.  The heat made the wigs big and fluffy, thus the term big wig.  Today we use the expression when someone appears to be powerful and wealthy.

4)  Chairman of the Board
Many houses in the late 1700s consisted of a large room with only one chair.  A long wide board folded down from the wall and was used for dining.  The head of the household always sat in the chair while everyone else sat on the floor while eating.  To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge and that person was referred to as the chair man.  Today in business, we use the expression Chairman of the Board.

5)  Crack a smile and other related phrases
One result of the lack of personal hygiene back then was that many men and women developed acne scars by adulthood.  Women would spread bee's wax over their faces to smooth out their complexions. If a woman began to stare at another woman's face, she was told to mind your own bee's wax.  If a woman smiled, the wax would crack, hence the term crack a smile.  And when a woman sat too close to the fire the wax would melt, giving us the expression losing face.

6)  Straight laced
Ladies wore corsets which laced up the front.  A proper and dignified woman wore a tightly tied corset and was said to be straight laced.

7)  Not playing with a full deck
Back in the day, a common form of entertainment was playing cards.  When a tax was levied on the cards, it was applicable only to the ace of spades.  To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards and ignore the ace of spades.  Since most card games require all 52 cards, those people were thought to be stupid because they were not playing with a full deck.

8)  Gossip
Long ago, before the creation of mass communication such as phones, radio, and television (and certainly the internet and various social media), politicians sent their assistants to local taverns to get feedback from the public and determine which issues people considered important.  They were told to go sip some ale and listen to people's conversations.  The two words go sip were eventually combined into one word, gossip, when referring to the local opinion.

9)  Minding your P's and Q's
In the local taverns, people drank from pint and quart sized containers.  One of the bar maid's jobs was to keep track of which customers were drinking from pints and which from quarts, hence the phrase minding your P's and Q's.

And finally an expression that has often been misinterpreted…

10)  Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey
Back in the day when sailing ships ruled the waves, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons that fired iron cannon balls.  It was necessary to keep a supply of cannon balls near the cannon while at the same time preventing them from rolling around the deck.  The best storage method was a square-based pyramid with one ball perched on four balls resting on nine which sat on sixteen providing a supply of thirty cannon balls stacked in a small area next to the cannon.  There was a problem, though—how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding out from under the others.  The solution was a metal plate called a monkey with sixteen round indentations.  But again, there was a problem.  If the plate was made from iron, the iron cannon balls would quickly rust to it, especially in the damp ocean air.  The solution to the rusting problem was to make brass monkeys.  But still a problem…brass contracts much more and much quicker than iron when it's chilled.  So, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey which means it was literally cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.  Not what you were expecting?  :)

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Secret Societies


Skull and Bones
Secret Societies…Conspiracy Theories…these mysterious entities have been with us ever since mankind formed civilizations.

Secret Societies abound across the face of the planet, touching every race, religion, creed and color of humanity. Some are associated with religion and some with politics. In fact, you can find secret societies embedded in every facet of society. Although there have been many books written and movies produced about conspiracy theories and secret societies, the publication of Dan Brown's book THE DA VINCI CODE and release of the hit movie focused a world wide spotlight on a specific set of conspiracy theories and secret societies galloping across the pages of history.

One such Secret Society is the Freemasons, an organization constantly in a swirl of public attention from books and even an onslaught of television documentaries. They are, perhaps, the most recognized of secret societies with the greatest number of conspiracy theories attached to them due in great part to their longevity, an organization dating back to biblical times formed by stone masons who built things such as the massive temples of the time. The older the organization, the more conspiracy theories that become attached it.

However, other secret societies remain far more elusive from public scrutiny. I recently came across a list of four secret societies (among what is probably hundreds, maybe even thousands) that have not routinely been thrust into public awareness.

The Bohemian Club:
Founded in San Francisco in 1872, the Bohemian Club holds an annual retreat in the redwood forest of northern California at Bohemian Grove.  At this location, they conduct a secret ceremony in front of a giant owl statue.  Only the most powerful men are invited to attend.  Women are prohibited from being members, a situation upheld by the California courts.  Famous members include Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Ordo Templi Orientis:
Founded in the early 20th century by an Austrian chemist.  One of its known members is famed British occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). He revamped the masonic group to focus on a religion he created called Thelema. They believe that mankind's existence is a product of the relationship between the space-time continuum and the principle of life and wisdom. Prospective members must go through a series of secret rituals and initiations before being granted membership.

The Rosicrucians:
Rosicrucianism is a spiritual and cultural movement which arose in Europe in the early 17th century. They have one central belief, that all their members share the same secret wisdom. Their beliefs combine occultism with aspects of popular religion. They're named for their symbol of a rose on a cross.

Skull & Bones:
Founded at Yale university in 1832, it's probably the most famous of the secret societies due in part to such high profile members as three generations of the Bush family, including two presidents—George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.  Skull & Bones have allegedly been a part of many monumental historical events despite the fact that only fifteen Yale students are chosen each year to become members. It's rumored that they took part in the creation of the nuclear bomb. There's also a persistent belief that in 1918, nine years after Geronimo's death, a group of Skull & Bones members dug up his grave and stole his skull, a few miscellaneous bones, and some relics that were also buried with him. The grave raiding party allegedly included Prescott Bush, father and grandfather to the two Bush presidents. Twenty descendants of Geronimo filed a lawsuit against Skull & Bones, Yale University, and the U.S. Government to have the remains returned to them.

There are certainly many more secret organizations functioning and flourishing world-wide in today's society other than these four.