United We Stand

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

September 11, 2001 I was angry, I cried, I was distraught, I was confused and countless other emotions that most Americans felt. It was the worst day in my lifetime of attacks on the American homeland. 

September 12, 2001 I woke up as most American’s did and tried to begin to figure out what happened in New York City, Washington DC and Shanksville, PA. From coast to coast we united as one country, as Americans. We weren’t white, black, hispanic, asian, native american or other ethnicities, we were simply AMERICANS.

People flocked to church to pray for those lost in the attacks, blood drives were going full force, flags were flying from every big and small town, members of both parties in the United States Congress gathered on the capitol steps to sing together. Our first responders were our heroes as they selflessly rushed into the crash sites to help others, and so many of them gave their lives doing so. People flooded recruiting stations to sign up for the military, such as United States Army Sergeant Major Thomas P. Payne, who was recently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for gallantry in Iraq.

We stood side by side with a determination to pull our country together in a show of unity that I hadn’t seen before in my lifetime or since. United we stood.

19 years later, our country is bitterly divided along ethnic lines, political parties, rural vs urban vs suburban, young vs old, etc. What happened to that feeling of September 12, 2001? Divided we fall.

I won’t get into deep speculation of why we are so divided. My view is 24/7 news channels, social media, the decline of social capital in our communities, and more is just a small part of the problem.

But I belong to an organization that brings men together of every race, of every religion and from every status of life. We meet in a lodge where you can check all of those differences at the door and enter a sanctuary where every person is absolutely equal with one another. A warm handshake (before COVID), a sincere greeting and a deep sense of caring for each other await you. Of course I am speaking of Freemasonry.

Freemasonry absolutely has the framework that can help solve so many of the world's trevails today. You enter a lodge, engage with other brothers, learning from them, helping them, all the while being on the level with them. You leave the lodge a better person and go back into the greater world and apply those principles we talk about and learn about in our degrees. You are instantly part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

So I challenge all of us as Freemasons to use those lessons and put them to work in your community, at home, in your place of worship, on the job and as you use social media. Be the example and others will soon begin to take notice and your positive influence will rub off on them.

Be a light in the darkness. United we stand.


WB Gregory J. Knott is a founding member and Senior Contributor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana. He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philathes Society. He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and serves as its Secretary. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters. You can contact him at gknott63@gmail.com

The Badge of a Mason

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Daniel Lee

Within our Craft, it is universally accepted that a man is first made a Mason in his heart.  I am certainly no exception, however before I was ever made a Mason, I was a cop.  I joined the Cranston, Rhode Island Police Department in 2004 as a rookie patrolman, and remain working there today as a detective assigned to the department’s Special Victims Unit.  After joining Harmony Lodge #9 F&AM in Cranston, Rhode Island in 2010, I was quickly struck by the similarities between Freemasonry and law enforcement— both advocate its members practice moral rectitude, be fair in their dealings with others, treat people as equals, and keep their passions and behavior within acceptable boundaries.  Two Brotherhoods not unalike.  And it is because of the teachings and philosophies that Freemasonry and law enforcement share that I always sought out places where the two would intersect, and I often reflect on ways I can apply my Masonic working tools to my vocation.  I found this to be the “light” of which I was in search.  

That “light” shined a little brighter in January 2019, when I was reading through a Cranston Police Department Retirees Association newsletter that was distributed amongst the department’s active members.  I happened upon a short article written by retired Cranston Police Sergeant and historian James Ignasher about a Cranston Police Chief’s badge engraved with the Masonic square and compass on its back.  This was astounding to me, in that while I enjoyed a multitude of times where my profession and the Craft would converge, none ever incorporated my own police department.  The detective in me took over, and I needed to find out more.

Chief James G. Miller, 1929

                                                                                                                        City of Cranston Police Department  

                                                                                         Note the difference in style of the badge being worn and the Masonic badge.  


The badge, it turns out, belonged to James G. Miller (1876-1941), whose career with the Cranston Police spanned over four decades.  Before Cranston was formally incorporated as a city and had a municipal police force, it was an agricultural town of about 1,500 residents patrolled by a variety of constables working under the supervision of an elected Town Sergeant.  Miller, who was born and raised in the Blackstone area of Massachusetts, worked as one of these constables beginning in the late 1890s, and when the city did officially establish its police force in 1910, Miller was one of the original ten patrolmen sworn into it.  By 1912, Miller was serving as the department’s first detective.  

Three years later, in 1915, Detective James Miller became Brother James Miller, as he joined Doric Lodge #38 in Cranston (Initiated:  February 10, 1915; Passed:  May 12, 1915; Raised:  May 26, 1915; and Signed By-Laws:  June 9, 1915).

Constable James Miller, 1898
Town of Cranston

Some fourteen years after signing the Doric Lodge #38 by-laws, Brother Miller completed his accession through the ranks of the police department, and in 1929 he was named as the sixth Chief of the Cranston Police.  During his tenure as the city’s top cop, Brother Miller was known for his compassion and innovated, forward thinking.  There are practices put in place by Brother Miller that are still used to this day. 

Brother James G. Miller’s grave in Pocasset Cemetery, Cranston.

Which now brings us to his Chief’s badge with the square and compass.  Based on what is known of the Cranston Police during the period of Brother Miller’s time as Chief, the pictured badge did not fit the specifications set forth by the city or police department.  The inconsistent styling of this badge vis-à-vis what was issued to and worn by members of the Cranston Police at that time would lead one to believe that the Masonic badge was what is commonly referred to as a “presentation badge,” or a gift not necessarily meant for every day wear, but for display or as a keepsake.  

Armed with that knowledge, this detective was led to the voluminous archives of Doric Lodge #38, which are now maintained by Harmony Lodge #9, in search of any evidence of when or why this badge was presented to Brother Chief Miller.  Much to my dismay, after a long and thorough search through the minutes and records of Doric Lodge from 1929 to 1941, I did not locate any entry that would allude to the badge being presented to him in or by his own lodge.  And with no discernible markings on the badge by its craftsman, its origins remain somewhat mysterious.

Death Notice of James Miller recorded in the minutes of Doric Lodge #38 (with a misprint of the actual date of death). 

Note the short biography, which was out of the ordinary for death notices recorded in the lodge minutes during that period.

Brother James Miller’s name amongst other brethren in the Doric Lodge #38 necrology from 1941.  Again, note the distinction of his time as Police Chief.

My search for light, however, was not entirely fruitless.  I did locate an entry in the records of Doric Lodge commemorating the death of Brother Miller.  Unlike the other death announcements in the lodge records around the time of Brother Miller’s death, his entry was accompanied by a short biography: “Brother Miller was appointed to the Cranston Police as a special patrolman in 1898 and was later appointed to the regular force and in 1913 became the departments [sic] inspector in charge of all investigations.  In January 1929, he became chief of the Department and served as such until his death.”  The uniqueness of this entry reflects the admiration and respect that the lodge had for Brother Miller and his position within the Cranston Police Department, and is an appropriate tribute to a life of service spent in the quarries of Freemasonry and in the protection of the citizens of Rhode Island.  

Additionally, I discovered that besides Brother Miller, two others of the original ten patrolmen sworn into the Cranston Police upon its formation in 1910 would take the oath and obligation of a Master Mason:  Officer Henry Clay Debow joined Doric Lodge #38 in 1920 and Officer George Smith joined Jenks Lodge #24 in 1922.

Captain Henry Clay Debow, 1929

He was one of the original ten patrolman sworn into the City of Cranston Police Department upon its formation in 1910.  He later joined Doric Lodge #38 in 1920. 

It is said that after Chief Miller’s death in 1941, Brother Debow, an ardent outdoorsman, was tapped to be the next Cranston Police Chief.  Debow however declined the position, due in large part to his desire to remain on the night shift so as not to interfere with the hunting and fishing that he enjoyed during the day time.

Brother Debow, who was raised on farm in New Brunswick, Canada, became a Cranston constable in 1903.  As the Cranston’s city police force was formed in 1910, he too was an original member.  Aside from working along side Brother Miller as a detective, Brother Debow was the first member of the police department to hold the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain.  Ever the outdoorsman, Brother Debow was tapped to replace Brother Miller as Chief upon his passing, but elected to defer that appointment to stay on the over night so as to not interfere with his hunting and fishing that he enjoyed during the day time.  Brother Debow was the first member of the Cranston Police, and possibly the state, to use a dog (his loyal Irish setter, Lady) to track and capture a fugitive.

Brother Henry Clay Debow’s grave in Pocasset Cemetery, Cranston.

Close to a century separates the time that Brothers and fellow Cranston Police Officers Miller, Debow and Smith, and I took our respective oaths—one on the Masonic altar and the other to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution on behalf of its citizens.  Both the City of Cranston and its police department have grown exponentially in the past 110 years.  Upon some personal introspection into my membership in both Freemasonry and law enforcement, I pray that I continue the legacy of applying Masonic teachings usefully to policing.  There may not be a more appropriate time in the history of policing in this country than now.

But perhaps my greatest take away from this research project is this:  Freemasonry is local.  We as Masons justifiably boast about our Brothers who founded this nation, who became President, who are in Hollywood, or who compete in the professional sports arena.  But there are countless Brothers who impact their own local communities.  Men like Jim Miller, Clay Debow, and George Smith.  Three out of the first ten members of my police department were members of our fraternity.  That’s actually a greater percentage of signers of the Declaration of Independence and about the same percentage of U.S. Presidents who were Freemasons.  I would encourage every Brother to go out and discover what impact Freemasonry had on their local communities.  Or better yet, to go make that impact themselves.


Brother Daniel Lee has been a member of Harmony Lodge #9, F&AM in Cranston, Rhode Island since 2010.  He received his 32nd Degree from the Valley of Providence, and is the Vice President of Rhode Island Chapter #1 of the International Police Square & Compass Club.  He has served with the Cranston, Rhode Island Police Department since 2004, and is currently assigned to the Special Victims Unit as a Detective.  He resides in Rhode Island with his wife, son, and daughter, and enjoys SCUBA diving.  He can be reached at DanLee81@hotmail.com

Worshipful Brother Robert Smalls

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
WB Darin A. Lahners 

Worshipful Brother Robert Smalls was born on April 5, 1839 in Beaufort, South Carolina to Lydia Polite, a woman who was enslaved to Henry McKee, who was most likely Robert’s father. He grew up in Beaufort, in the fields. As Robert was favored over other slaves, his mother began to worry that he might not understand the harsh realities of Slavery, especially those that work in the fields. Robert’s mothers asked for him to work in the fields and to witness the whipping of slaves at “the whipping post”. When he was 12, his mother requested that Smalls’ master send him to Charleston, South Carolina. There he was hired out as a laborer for one dollar per week, with the rest of the wage going to his mother. He worked in a hotel and as a lamplighter on the streets of Charleston, finally finding work on Charleston’s docks. He worked as a longshoreman, a rigger, a sail maker, and finally worked his way into becoming a wheelman or helmsman. As a result, he gained tremendous knowledge about Charleston harbor.

At the age of 17, Bro. Smalls married Hannah Jones, an enslaved Hotel maid. She was 22 and already had two daughters. Their first child together, Elizabeth Lydia Smalls, was born in February 1858. They had a son three years later, Robert Jr, who passed away at the age of two. Robert was determined to pay for their freedom by purchasing them outright, but at the cost of $800 dollars (roughly $22,764 in today’s currency), it would take him decades to reach that goal. He had only managed to save $100 dollars.

In April 1861, the American Civil War began with the Battle of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. In the fall of 1861, Bro. Smalls was assigned to work as a wheelman on the CSS Planter, a lightly armed military transport ship. The Planter’s duties were to deliver orders, troops, supplies, to survey waterways, and to lay mines. Smalls was entrusted to pilot the Planter throughout the Harbor, as well as on area rivers and along the South Carolina, Georgia and Florida coastlines. Smalls could see the line of Union ships blockading the Harbor seven miles away and began to hatch an escape plan.

On May 12, 1862, the Planter travelled 10 miles southwest to Coles Island, which was home to a confederate post that was being dismantled. The ship picked up 4 large cannon and returned to Charleston where the crew loaded 200lb of ammunition and 20 cord of firewood onto the ship. The evening of May 12, 1862, the Planter’s three confederate officers disembarked to spend the night in Charleston, leaving Bro. Smalls and the crew on board. Before the officers departed, Smalls requested permission to allow the crew’s families to visit them, which was approved provided that the families left before curfew.

When the families arrived, Smalls and the crew revealed the plan to them. Smalls had discussed the plan with his wife beforehand, to which she said: “It is a risk, dear, but you and I, and our little ones must be free. I will go, for where you die, I will die.” The other women were not informed and were frightened at executing the plan. They started to cry out of fear. The men attempted to quiet them with mixed success. At curfew, the family members returned home with the instructions to be at Southern Wharf and another wharf to be picked up for the escape attempt. Around 3am, Smalls put on a captain’s uniform and wore a straw hat similar to the captain’s and the Planter departed. After stopping to pick up his and the other crew member’s families, Smalls piloted the Planter past five confederate forts with no issue, as he gave the correct signals at checkpoints as Smalls had copied the captain’s mannerisms along with wearing his straw hat, it was enough to fool the soldiers manning the various checkpoints. Around 4:30 am, Smalls approached Fort Sumter.

The crew started to be afraid, asking Smalls to give wide berth to the Fort. Smalls told them that such behavior might raise suspicion of the soldiers manning the guns at the Fort. He piloted the ship along the normal course at a slow cruising speed, pretending as if they were just out for a leisurely cruise. When the Fort gave the challenge signal, Smalls responded with the correct hand signals. There was a long pause and Smalls started to think he’d soon be on the receiving end of a cannon barrage. However, the Fort replied back with the all-clear and the Planter continued on its way. Rather than turn east towards Morris Island, Smalls steered the ship straight towards the Union ships blockading the Harbor. Smalls ordered all the confederate flags lowered and replaced them with white bedsheets that his wife had brought with her. This raised the alarm that something was amiss, but the Planter was already outside of Cannon range.

The Planter was seen by the USS Onward, which began to ready its cannons to fire upon the Planter. Luckily, a crewmember on the USS Onward noticed the white flag of surrender flying on the Planter. The Captain of the USS Onward, John Fredrick Nickels, boarded the Planter at which point Smalls asked for a United States Flag to fly. Smalls surrendered the Planter to Nickels, exclaiming "Good morning, sir! I've brought you some of the old United States guns, sir!" Smalls escape proved especially beneficial to the union navy. Along with the artillery pieces that the Planter was hauling, the captains codebook with the signals for each check point, along with maps of the mines laid in Charleston Harbor were invaluable, as was Smalls expertise of the surrounding waters. The United States also learned that Coles Island had been abandoned by Confederate forces, which allowed the United States to capture the island

Word of Smalls escape quickly spread throughout the North via newspapers accounts. In the South, the Newspapers demanded disciplinary action for the officers who left Smalls and his crew alone aboard the ship. The U.S. Congress passed a bill awarding Smalls and his crew prize money for CSS Planter. Smalls was awarded 1500 dollars (roughly $38415 in today’s currency). Smalls was sent to Washington DC to help persuade President Lincoln and War Secretary Stanton to allow men of color to fight for the Union. Due to Smalls effort, Stanton signed an order allowing 5000 African Americans to serve the union at Port Royal, and they were organized into the 1st and 2nd South Carolina Regiments (Colored).

Smalls quickly started serving the Union Navy out of Port Royal, South Carolina and piloted many navy vessels, until he was transferred to the Army in March 1863. Smalls took part in 17 major engagements during the war. Some of his heroic actions include: He was made pilot of the ironclad USS Keokuk and took part in the attack on Fort Sumter on April 7, 1863. The Keokuk took major damage and sank the next morning. Smalls and much of the crew moved to the USS Ironside and the fleet returned to Hilton Head. On Dec. 1, 1863, Smalls was piloting the Planter on Folly Island Creek when Confederate gun batteries at Secessionville fired upon the vessel. The captain, James Nickerson, fled the pilot house for the coal bunker, but Smalls stayed at his post and piloted the ship to safety.

In May 1864, Smalls was an unofficial delegate to the Republican National Convention in Baltimore. Later that spring, he was in Philadelphia while the Planter was getting overhauled. While in Philadelphia, Smalls was in a streetcar and was ordered to give up his seat to a white passenger. Rather than ride on the open overflow platform, Smalls left the streetcar. The humiliation of Smalls, a heroic veteran, was referenced in a debate that resulted in the State legislature’s passing a bill which integrated public transport in Pennsylvania in 1867.

After the civil war, Smalls returned to Beaufort. There he became a property owner, and purchased several properties, including a two-story building to be used as a school for African-American children. He also opened a store with a Philadelphia business man, which served the needs of freedmen. He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1868, moving to the Senate in 1870 after being elected to fill a vacancy. In 1874, Smalls was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served from 1875 to 1879 and then from 1882 to 1887 all while being threatened by the South Carolina “Red Shirts” which was a branch of the Klu Klux Klan. His political career was centered on promoting children’s welfare, education and African-American rights. He famously said in 1895: “My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be equal of any people anywhere, all they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”

Smalls passed away in 1915 at the age of 75 due to malaria and diabetes. In 2004, the Defense Department named a ship for Smalls. The USAV Maj. Gen. Robert Smalls is a Kuroda-class logistics support vessel operated by the U.S. Army. It is the first Army ship to be named after an African-American. Robert Smalls was a member and a Past Master of The Sons of Beaufort Lodge #36 PHA in Beaufort, South Carolina.


WB Darin A. Lahners is a Past Master of and Worshipful Master of St. Joseph Lodge No.970 in St. Joseph. He is also a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and of Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL), where he is also a Past Master. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, a charter member of Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and is the current Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign – Urbana (IL). You can reach him by email at darin.lahners@gmail.com


Getting the Phone Call

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

Fellow Midnight Freemason Brian L. Pettice sent me a text and wondered if I would be able to talk with him and Valley of Danville Commander in Chief Sean P. McBride later that afternoon about an idea they had for a project at the Valley. The Valley of Danville was hosting a small reunion that day (in accordance with all public health rules), but I was unable to attend. My son Hayden and I were working on Hayden’s Eagle Scout project trying to finish it up.

After Hayden and I finished up our work, I took off for the afternoon and went to Camp Robert Drake, our local scout camp. Because of the crazy year 2020 has been, like Freemasonry, almost all of the scouting events for the year have been cancelled. This was my first opportunity to visit camp and it was great being back and seeing the scouts enjoying the great outdoors.

Upon returning home, Brian called via FaceTime and said Sean was live at the Valley of Danville reunion with an announcement they wanted me to be able to hear. Sean asked what I was doing next August, 2021 and said I had been elected to receive the 33rd degree of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite at next year’s annual meeting. I was left speechless. It was a great moment. The rush of emotions came over me and I admittedly slightly teared up.

It takes a while to process something like this. I asked myself, what was it I had done to be chosen, when there are so many others who are equally deserving? Whatever the reason, I am extremely both honored and humbled to have been chosen. This fraternity means the world to me. I have met so many amazing fellow Masons from literally all over the world. I have grown both personally and professionally from the experiences I have gained since joining over a decade ago.

Freemasonry isn’t about titles or degrees, it is about using the working tools of the lessons learned for self improvement of the individual man with the expectation that he will go back into the community and make it a better place. My only hope is that I have applied these lessons in my community and helped strengthen it.

I am very much looking forward to next year's annual Scottish Rite NJ meeting in Cleveland. Joining me in receiving the 33rd degree from the Valley of Danville are my brothers Robert Allen Gill and Michael John Puhr. All three of us were officers at the same time in the Danville Lodge of Perfection line, which makes it all the more special.

Thank you to everyone who has helped make my Masonic journey so rich and meaningful.



WB Gregory J. Knott is a founding member and Senior Contributor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana. He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philathes Society. He is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D. and serves as its Secretary. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters. You can contact him at gknott63@gmail.com


Working On Your Rough Ashlar

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor 
Brian L. Pettice, 33°

“Working on my rough ashlar” is a phrase used by Freemasons to mean they are trying to apply the lessons of the fraternity to improve themselves in some way, perhaps morally or spiritually or, hopefully, and most importantly, behaviorally. Freemasons using this phrase are indicating that they are trying to change something about themselves, trying to change how they behave. You have probably heard this or even used said it yourself. But what does it really mean? Do we ever really change ourselves, especially our behavior, or do we just pat ourselves on the back for the “good” men—the perfect ashlars-- we already are?

Let’s look at the ritual. The rough ashlar in the first degree is that “stone taken from the quarry in its rude and natural state” to remind us of our own rude and natural state. The rough ashlar is “made ready” or perfected to be of use to the builder in constructing his temple. How does this happen? For operative masons, the rough ashlar is perfected by subtraction. The common gavel is used to break off the rough and superfluous or unnecessary parts leaving only the beautiful and useful behind. The symbolism is clear, but do we see ourselves in it? Do we see that we are the rude and imperfect rough ashlar that needs to be perfected to fortify and support the building of our own temples? Do we see the rough and superfluous parts that we need to break off and get rid of? Do we see that we have behavior that needs to change? I think an honest look in the mirror will tell us that we don’t.

When you look in the mirror, do you see a man who is full of pride or a Mason who has humility? Do you see a man who clings to and defends his every opinion or a Mason who keeps an open mind? Do you see a man who regularly provokes others to anger or despair or a Mason who is more circumspect? Do you see a man who would fight every fight no matter how petty or a Mason who walks away? Do you see a man who sees things only from his own point of view or a Mason who seeks to understand and easily empathizes with another? Do you see a man who demonizes those with whom he disagrees or a Mason who recognizes that the Divine which lives within him lives within them as well?

So look in the mirror. Do you see the Mason you want to be or the man you don’t? Better yet, look at your Facebook, Twitter, and social media—your post and your comments—do you see there the man that you want people to think of when they think of Freemasonry? If not, get to work with your gavel. Breakoff and subtract those superfluous parts-- your passions and prejudices. Change your behavior and change your heart. Get rid of the rubbish that you need to remove so that the man that you are can become the Mason you want to be.

My Brother, now more than ever, your country needs you to do this. Your fraternity and your lodge need you to do this. Most importantly, YOU need you to do this. If you think that you don’t, what are you doing here?


Strange Times - Two Brothers, Aliens, SkinWalkers, and Inter-dimensional Portals

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

The actual sign outside Skinwalker Ranch

Whether you’re a History Channel junkie or just someone who likes the more fringe shows, e.g., Ancient Aliens, Oak Island, or Unidentified, you might dig this article. About five months ago, I was on the phone with my friend and Brother, Ben Williams. Ben and I share an affinity for all things strange and unusual. Having come to Freemasonry for philosophy and “occult,” we both are into some similar stuff.

This past year, on the History Channel, a new show started. It was all about Skinwalker Ranch. In short, Skinwalker Ranch is said to be the most paranormal spot on the planet. And if that isn’t enough, it’s also the one place on earth that has been examined more than any other, according to the storytellers. Billionaire Robert Bigelow had even acquired the ranch in the 1990s and started an organization called National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS). This group Studied the land for years, and while they never came away with anything concrete, they sure documented some strange things.

“What kind of strange things?” You might ask—Sasquatch, Aliens, UFOs, Interdimensional Portals, Ghosts, and many more. It’s like a paranormal buffet. This new show on History Channel documents the most recent attempt to get to the bottom of what goes on at the ranch. The phenomenon, however, is not just tied to the several hundred acres of the ranch. It’s connected to the entire Uinta Basin in Utah. Most of the basin in the area in question is owned by a group called Adamantium Holdings LLC.

After a few attempts at trying to contact the owners of the property, Ben and I became only slightly frustrated. We decided to go out to the ranch ourselves. So I got a plane ticket, packed my bags, and Ben and I headed out for a weekend of hiking over the harsh Utah basin, where we encountered bizarre things. We were two Brothers on a mission to figure this thing out, and maybe our Masonic knowledge of philosophy and our understanding of the occult would allow us to view these phenomena in a new light.

A view from an undisclosed location overlooking the ranch. Notice that odd formation...

Over three days, Ben and I hiked all over the basin. I took about 500 photographs, hours of electromagnetic field readings, hours of radiation readings, and I recorded the whole time in audio. We will be writing a more extensive article for a new publication called The Esoteric Mason, which will begin publishing later this year. What will go into that magazine is quite a bit more than I can talk about here, and there will be some links so that you can listen to the audio as we hike 7 ½ miles across the Utah basin.

What, however, does Skinwalker Ranch and the paranormal have to do with Freemasonry? Perhaps it’s not so much what these things have to do with Freemasonry, but in the unlikely team-up of two Brothers from two different states, with our own publications and similar interests who would try to get to the bottom of this. I have no problem telling you right now that I believe Ben Williams and myself solved the mystery of the extremely high electromagnetic field readings in the basin.

What could we not explain? Ben and I could not explain some of the strange lights we saw in the sky. I couldn’t explain some of the shadow people that I saw in a field at dusk. We couldn’t explain the piles of animal bones on a section of a cliff. More will be revealed in the future. But for now, I want to let you all know that there is something strange afoot out there. Something I just can’t shake from my head is the rhythmic and low-frequency hum of the landscape in the dead of night. I hear it when I close my eyes.

Keep looking up.


RWB Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focuses on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.

Expect no applause

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks

The 57th point of mind training is clear: a virtuous life is not about me or my self-aggrandizement. In my opinion, the teaching of Shantideva have a lot in common with, and to expand upon, the symbolic understanding of the practice of freemasonry. In attempting to fully live my obligations this year, I realized my eager acceptance to write for the Midnight Freemasons had more to do with my ego (in lay-person’s terms) than service to humanity. Therefore, please accept this post as my humble resignation. There are brothers with far more experience in both freemasonry and mental health to speak to the issues in life, culture, and our craft, than me.

I am grateful to Brothers Johnson, Creason, and Lahners for allowing me a platform to attempt to express how I believe Freemasonry is relevant to men in our current iteration of culture. For the handful of brothers I have come to know through this forum, I am tremendously grateful to have made your acquaintance and we will stay in touch. My aspiration for us all is to use the tools provided to examine our actions with unflinching honesty and to govern ourselves accordingly. SMIB.  

Brother Erik Marks is a clinical social worker whose usual vocation has been in the field of human services in a wide range of settings since 1990. He was raised in 2017 by his biologically younger Brother and then Worshipful Master in Alpha Lodge in Framingham, MA. You may contact brother Marks by email: erik@StrongGrip.org


100 Years Of Jobs Daughters and The Gavel - “ Honor your past for a brighter future.”

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Michael Laidlaw, 32°

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Jobs Daughters. Founded in 1920 by Mrs. Ethel T. Wead Mick in Omaha, Nebraska. They take their teaching from the story of Job and his trials. And in particular to a reference in the 42nd Chapter that says, "And in all the land were no women found so fair as the Daughters of Job." I had the pleasure of serving as the Master of Ceremonies for my Daughter as she took the Chair of Honored Queen. With that comes a speech, and it is a custom to acquire a gavel. Sending out a few requests, one Brother stepped up and had a gavel made. Here is the expert from the speech.

"We have an extra special gift prepared for you, and this gift also has a story, a story of Brotherhood and obligation. I had contacted a few Brothers and ask them if they knew anybody who could make a gavel for my Daughter, who is preparing to become Honored Queen. Without hesitation and on the other side of the country, Brother Brandon Hale stepped up and said, "I will take care of it." He asked what type of gavel I had in mind. Although I left it entirely up to him for style, I did request he incorporate some nuances of Jobs Daughters. Brother Brandon lives in Virginia, and he has a message for you regarding the gavel:
"There is a maker's mark on the gavel from the Brother who made it. It's for Job's Daughters. The JD print is his mark. It just hit me that it was meant for him to make it. His name is Joseph DiPietro. He has a heart of gold, and I love him like family. "
Brother Brandon had this gavel made, especially for you. The man who made it, Joseph DiPietro, is a Mason; the man handing it to you, Brother Brandon, is also a mason. A story of obligation, for three men who have never met in person, could come together and produce a gavel for their Masonic daughter. Never look at the Jobs Daughters as "just a club" or say, "it's just a ceremony." This act proves there is a much deeper meaning to our Masonic family than just a club. Just as every Mason is my Brother. Every Jobs Daughter is your sister. "

Just a few years prior, my Daughter was embarking on a journey, walking in the same steps as her great Aunt before her. Luckily our Aunt with us the day she was made a Jobs Daughter. But sadly, she never did get to see her great-niece take the gavel in her hands, but, her Spirit lives on. Through my daughter's theme, "Honor your past for a brighter future," and through the Spirit of Freemasonry. The legacy of not only Craft, jobs daughters, but sisterhood and Brotherhood will forever live in the hearts and minds of those who attended that event. And the gavel will forever be a testament to Brother Love, Relief and Truth

- A Jobie Dad, ML

Michael Laidlaw was raised to the Sublime degree in 2011 and is a plural Member of South Pasadena 290 and Southern California Research Lodge where he is Junior Warden and Pop Culture editor for The Fraternal Review Magazine. He is also serving as Senior Steward for Arcadia 278. Michael is an active council member for Jobs Daughters Bethel 210 Arcadia (where his daughter is serving as Honored Queen) and serves on the Grand Lodge of California Youth Orders Committee. He is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason from the Valley Of Pasadena Orient of California where he has completed all three Master Craftsman Courses. Michael is also a member of San Gabriel Valley Chapter No. 100 RAM, Alhambra Council No. 25 CM, and Foothill Commandery No. 63 KT. He also holds Membership in Cinema Grotto and Order of Eastern Star.

We Forgive You

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

I stood curbside at Chicago's O'Hare Airport waiting for my ride. I was there to speak at a Masonic event and another one of the speakers walked up to me and introduced himself as a Brother from Tennessee. I told him I was from Missouri. As we shook hands he said, "Steve, we forgive you."

I knew exactly what he meant. The story, the Missouri side of it, anyway, had come to me in a sort of bull session I had with the Grand Secretary of Missouri at the time, RWB Ron Miller:

Back about 200 years ago… in fact, exactly 200 years ago, the territory that would soon become the state of Missouri had about 100 Brothers who were members of three Lodges spearheading an effort to form a Grand Lodge. The three Lodges were Missouri Lodge 12, Joachim Lodge 25, and St. Charles Lodge 28, all chartered through the Grand Lodge of Tennessee.

Today, the process of creating a new Grand Lodge might be a formal event accompanied by pomp and circumstance. Back then, however, when communication was a lot slower, things were different. The Brothers from those three Lodges got together, decided the time was right, and, presto chango, declared themselves to be a Grand Lodge. No pomp, no circumstance, no muss, no fuss.

When you stop to think about it, any group today could do the same thing; just get together and announce to the world, "Hey, guys, look at us… we're a new Grand Lodge!" There is one catch. The key to becoming a Grand Lodge is not declaration. It's recognition.

Missouri's uppity declaration did not sit well with the Grand Lodge of Tennessee. It responded to Missouri's claim with a resounding, "Oh, no, you're not a Grand Lodge." It seems the three Lodges combined owed their mother Grand Lodge a total of $17, and it refused to recognize them until the debt was paid. Missouri disputed the claim.

In the meantime, other Grand Lodges granted recognition to Missouri, which ultimately settled the issue and gave Missouri the backing to respond to Tennessee, "Oh, yes we are a Grand Lodge." Subsequent correspondence indicates Missouri did not follow its response with, "Nyah, nyah, na nyah, nyah," but the urge to do so may have been strong.

So at least between me and my new friend from Tennessee this two centuries old dispute now appears to have been settled and the Grand Lodge of Missouri and Grand Lodge of Tennessee can let bygones be bygones.

We're still not paying the $17, though.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships is the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35-year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.


Why I am a Shriner

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM
WB Bill Hosler as Webmaster of Mizpah Shrine
I know this won’t be my most popular piece. I know many Brethren have issues with the Shrine. I have too over the years. After a few years of being involved with the inner workings and the politics of a Shrine Center, I left for a few years. But as they say time heals all wounds, and as I began to get to the foundations of our Craft, I finally remembered why I became involved in the Shrine. 

When I first became a Mason, I hadn’t really thought about becoming a Shriner. I thought that maybe someday in the future, but not for a long time. One night after a lodge meeting, I was having dinner and drinks with the Brothers of my lodge in the restaurant of Mizpah Shrine. One of the brethren asked me: “When are you going to become a Shriner?” I laughed and said: "Maybe one day." I had just joined both the York and Scottish Rite. The idea of spending more money to become a Shriner seemed a bit crazy at the moment. After that, I excused myself to use the men’s room. When I returned to me seat there was a signed petition sitting at my place of the table.

One of the Brothers saw me look at the piece of paper, which was a signed petition, and said “We heard you, but we really think you would make a good member. We took up a collection and we paid for your invitation fee. We already turned it in so there is no backing out.” So a few weeks later, I became a Noble of the Mystic Shrine.

I wasn’t an active Shriner by comparison to some Nobles. I joined the “Yoshi” or Young Shriner's group, as well as a local county Shrine club. But majority of my time I served Mizpah Shrine as their webmaster, magazine editor and as a member of the temple’s Public Relations committee. So majority of my work was done sitting at the computer of my home.

The first time I visited a Shriner's hospital I was invited to speak to a group of Shrine Public Relations people at the hospital in Chicago. I had created the first Shriner's email newsletter and I was asked to explain to others how it worked and how the Nobles could start one for their Shrine Center. 

I remember the first time I signed a referral. I was the webmaster for the Shrine. I got a desperate email from a Grandmother. Her eight year old Grandson was playing with a lighter and accidentally set his bed on fire. His parents luckily put out the fire before their trailer burned down and the boys’ brothers and sisters perished in the fire.

The boy was rushed to the local hospital. All of the time he was in the burn unit, the nurses continually scolded this boy, telling him “How bad he was” and “He should be ashamed of himself.” At the same time, his parents were forced to give the hospital money they couldn’t afford before the hospital would even consider treating him. Both parents were making minimum wage, had no insurance and were barely able to feed their kids.

His Grandmother emailed the site begging to see if there was anything the Shriners could do. Within minutes, I, along with the Potentate of the Shrine, was on the phone with that lady. Within a week, that little boy and his parents were on his way to Cincinnati to the Burn hospital. His parents were apprehensive because they were not sure if their old, non-air conditioned van would make it there, let alone find the gas money. We told them we would drive them there in one of our vans and even feed them on the trip. You could tell they were relieved.

The boy was treated and recovered. Didn’t cost his family a cent, because men in funny hats raised money for just such an occasion. I got to meet him a few months later at a Patient Appreciation day. His Mother and Father sought me out and wanted to introduce me to him. He was a skinny little kid with blonde hair and a big smile, He was playing with his siblings. The little guy came up and give a big hug. He had that big smile on his face and he simply said “Thank You”. Being able to impact that child's life (and many other children's lives) in a positive way is the reason I am a Shriner.


WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco, Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this, he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.