Famous Undead Freemasons - Dracula???

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin Lahners

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research.

Abraham Stoker was born near Dublin, Ireland on November 8, 1847. He graduated from Trinity College with honors in mathematics. In 1872, Stoker is best remembered for Dracula, The Undead. Published in 1897 to mixed reviews, it is now considered a classic of gothic literature. The title character, Count Dracula, endures to this day as one of the most sinister monsters of horror. Dracula is a centuries-old vampire and a Transylvanian nobleman. He inhabits a decaying castle in the Carpathian Mountains. 

The novel begins with Jonathan Harker, a young London solicitor (a lawyer) traveling to Transylvania to help a rich nobleman, Count Dracula, purchase an estate in England. Dracula is planning to immigrate to England, and wants Harker to help him with all the legal details. Harker is at first impressed by Dracula's suave politeness, but is soon creeped out by the Count's uncanny ability to communicate with wolves and by the lack of servants in the Count's huge castle. Soon after, Harker realizes that he's a prisoner.

One evening, he attempts to escape, only to be discovered and seduced/almost devoured by three brides of Dracula. Dracula rescues him at the last minute, and Harker realizes that Dracula is only keeping him alive to finish the real estate transaction. Harker decides to make a break for it and only barely escapes from the castle alive. He's not able to head straight back to England, though. He comes down with a severe case of brain fever because of the shock and spends many weeks recuperating in a convent in the countryside in Hungary.

Back in England, Harker's fiancée, Mina, is hanging out with her best friend Lucy in a seaside town. Mina's worried about Jonathan and wonders why she hasn't heard from him in so long, but Lucy can only think about her own suitors. She gets three marriage proposals in the same day by three friends: Dr. John Seward, a doctor who runs a mental hospital; Quincey Morris, an American; and Arthur Holmwood, the son of Lord Godalming. She accepts the proposal of Arthur Holmwood. Even though Quincey Morris and Dr. Seward are disappointed, they still stay friends with Holmwood.

Meanwhile, Dracula has arrived in England but hasn't shown himself yet. A patient in Dr. Seward's hospital, Renfield, continually captures and eats insects, spiders, and birds and says that the "Master" is coming soon. Lucy starts acting weird—she seems to be losing blood, but no one knows where the blood's going. Her fiancé, Lord Arthur Holmwood, gets worried, and Dr. Seward sends for his friend and mentor, Van Helsing, to check her out.

Van Helsing realizes that there's a vampire involved. He's a scientist and doctor, but he's also well-versed in the occult, so he knows what to do to kill vampires. Even after giving her multiple blood transfusions, they're not able to save Lucy, and she dies. But Van Helsing knows she's not really dead. The four men break into her tomb and catch vampire Lucy coming back from a foray in the neighboring village. They stabbed her in the heart and cut off her head to ensure she’s really dead.

Mina finally hears from Jonathan and goes to Budapest to pick him up. They get married at the convent where he's been recovering from his illness and come back to England. Harker, Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, Morris, and Holmwood all swear to get rid of Dracula once and for all. Mina has to hide in Dr. Seward's office at the hospital while the men go vampire-hunting. Unfortunately, Renfield knows about Dracula and invites him into the building (vampires can't enter a building unless they've been invited), and he starts drinking Mina's blood. The men come back in time to find her being force-fed some of Dracula's blood.

Now they must kill Dracula quickly, or Mina will turn into a vampire as Lucy did. Dracula leads them on a spectacular chase back to Transylvania, where they finally catch up to him and kill him. Mina is saved. Quincey Morris gets stabbed and dies during the final confrontation.

Stoker was possibly a member of the
  Golden Dawn and the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia and was rumored to have been initiated into a masonic lodge in Dublin. The Grand Lodge of Ireland has no record of his membership and the SRIA has no record of his membership either. However, Stoker was familiar with Freemasonry. Sir Henry Irving employed Stoker as his business manager. Irving was considered to be one of Britain’s greatest stage actors. He took over management of the Lyceum theatre in 1878, and under Irving’s management, it became famous worldwide for the quality of its theatrical productions. Stoker would claim that he based Dracula on Irving. Irving was the first stage actor in history to be knighted in 1895. Irving was initiated into Jerusalem Lodge No. 197 in 1877 in London. Stoker’s brother Sir William Thornley Stoker, 1st Baronet, was also a Freemason.

Dracula deals with several themes: Good Versus Evil or (Darkness Versus Light), The limits of scientific knowledge versus the supernatural, Salvation and Damnation, Masculinity and Femininity, and the consequences of Modernization.

Many have said that there are masonic themes in Dracula, however specific quotes are hard to find. In chapter 2 the Count says to Jonathan Harker, "Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own will!" In The Lair of the White Worm by Stoker, there is a more masonic phrase: "We two are, I take it, tiled. So that there come no wrong or harm to anyone else in the enlargement of the bounds of our confidence!"

Dracula has been portrayed by many actors, such as Bela Lugosi, Gary Oldman, Lon Chaney Jr, and Christopher Lee. Lon Chaney Jr has been listed as a Freemason on several Grand Lodge sites. Here is a brief biography of Bro. Chaney Jr.

Brother Lon Chaney Jr.

Lon real name was Creighton Tull Chaney (February 10, 1906 – July 12, 1973), known by his stage name Lon Chaney Jr., was an American actor known for playing Larry Talbot in the 1941 film The Wolf Man and its various crossovers, as well as portraying other monsters such as The Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster, and Count Alucard (son of Dracula) in numerous horror films produced by Universal Studios. He also portrayed Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men (1939). Originally referenced in films as Creighton Chaney, he was later credited as "Lon Chaney Jr." in 1935, and after 1941's Man-Made Monster, beginning as early as The Wolf Man later that same year, he was almost always billed under his more famous father's name as Lon Chaney. Chaney had English, French and Irish ancestry, and his career in movies and television spanned four decades, from 1931 to 1971.

Chaney was married twice and had two sons, Lon Ralph Chaney (born July 3, 1928) and Ronald Creighton Chaney (born March 18, 1930), both now deceased. He was survived by a grandson, Ron Chaney, who attended film conventions and discussed his grandfather's life and film career.

Chaney was well-liked by some co-workers – "sweet" is the adjective that most commonly emerges from those who acted with, and liked him – yet he was capable of intense dislikes. For instance, he and frequent co-star Evelyn Ankers did not get along at all despite their on-camera chemistry. He was also known to befriend younger actors and stand up for older ones who Chaney felt were belittled by the studios. One example was that of William Farnum, a major silent star who played a bit part in The Mummy's Curse. According to co-star Peter Coe, Chaney demanded that Farnum be given his own chair on the set and be treated with respect, or else he would walk off the picture.

Chaney had run-ins with actor Frank Reicher (whom he nearly strangled on camera in The Mummy's Ghost ) and director Robert Siodmak (over whose head Chaney broke a vase). Actor Robert Stack claimed in his 1980 autobiography that Chaney and drinking buddy Broderick Crawford were known as "the monsters" around the Universal Pictures lot because of their drunken behavior that frequently resulted in bloodshed.

Chaney died of heart failure at age 67 on July 12, 1973 in San Clemente, California. His body was donated for medical research. Chaney's corpse was dissected by medical students.

He was honored by appearing as the Wolf Man on one of a 1997 series of United States postage stamps depicting movie monsters. His grandson Ron Chaney Jr. frequently appears as a guest at horror movie conventions.

So there you have it. Dracula was based upon Sir Henry Irving and portrayed by Lon Chaney Jr. (Both Freemasons). Stoker might have been a Freemason, (I doubt this highly), and the novel does deal with some Masonic themes. Therefore, Dracula is obviously the most famous Undead “Freemason” on our membership rolls.


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

Peggy Sue and the Freemasons

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Steven L. Harrison 33˚, FMLR

In the 1986 movie Peggy Sue Got Married, Kathleen Turner plays an adult who attends her high school reunion, suffers from a major case of the vapors, and is transported back in time. She lands back in 1960, when she was a high school senior, with a chance to start anew, correct old mistakes, and perhaps make a few new ones.

During the ensuing do-wop-laced couple of hours, Peggy Sue reassesses her early relationship with her boyfriend-become-husband/ex-husband Charlie, played by Nicholas Cage.  She forms a friendship with an ostracized high school geek and plants his turbocharged brain with coming attractions like the moon landing and gizmos such as microwave ovens, pocket calculators, and digital watches he could invent to become rich and famous. Then, as an inspired young inventor herself, she manufactures the world's first pair of pantyhose.

After her requisite fling with a laconic motorcycle-riding rebel-with-a-cause-poet, she runs off to visit her time-warp resurrected grandparents. There, she comes clean about her time-traveling escapade. The understanding Gram and Gramps believe her. Sort of. She confesses she misses her children and wants to go back.

So, what's a gal to do in order to time-hop back to the future without a DeLorean? I'm glad you asked. Grandpa has the solution. He'll hustle her off to his Lodge where they have just the ceremony for that.

They arrive at the Lodge building which on the outside is a conical structure resembling a Crazy Cup Ice Cream stand, but on the inside is almost certainly a genuine Masonic Lodge, replete with dozens of grayscale portraits of real-life Past Masters… just like the ones in your Lodge.

"What does Grandma think you do at these meetings," asks the wide-eyed Peggy Sue.

"Stag parties and poker games," quips Gramps. Well, there goes one of our secrets.

The Brothers are suited in royal-purple robes with gold-colored fringe and embroidery. Accessories include a cornucopia of hats. What appear to be more lower-ranking Brothers wear black drooping Renaissance hats while others have elaborate royal-purple pyramid shaped headgear. Gramps, probably being something like a Past Poo-Bah, has a purple rectangular block-shaped headpiece with what appear to be four doorknobs on the top corners. 

Peggy Sue gasps, "Grandpa, do you have to wear that hat?"

Gramps adjusts the hat moving it to the perfect position, "Wouldn't be a Lodge without hats." Another secret revealed.

Inside the Lodge room, the head Muckety-Muck sits in a familiar setting behind a podium elevated to a level three steps up. Opposite him, we see the customary sight of two columns. Not surprisingly, an altar stands in the center of the room.

A Brother informs Peggy Sue the Lodge was founded by a time-traveler (as was my own Lodge, but I digress). The ceremony begins with the resident musician playing Beautiful Dreamer on a mandolin. A black-hatted Brother steps to the altar, breaks an egg into a chalice, and completes the concoction with an elixir of red goop. He follows this with the sign of the degree which is thus made: the hands are crossed palm-inward in front of the face with the thumbs touching the nose. The hands are then flapped vigorously with the Brother staring upward, symbolic of a prospective time-traveler flying off to a new epoch. The gesture draws a snicker from Peggy Sue – a reaction we may all have seen from our wives during open ceremonies. Three raps from the symbolic East brings the already standing Brothers to order as he enjoins the "Lord of the Universe, Ruler of Light, King of the Sun" to guide Peggy Sue, clad in a gold robe,  forward in time.

Chaos reigns as the scene fills with thunder and lightning. The Lodge goes dark, Peggy Sue disappears and when the light returns a Brother yells, "Let's play cards!"

Any well-educated Mason would recognize the faults in this rendition of the Time Travel Ceremony – something I cannot discuss in this public forum.  That would lead the Brother to recognize it would not have worked as presented. Instead, when the Lodge was dark Charlie (remember Charlie?) swept in, grabbed Peggy Sue, and whisked her away.

The adventure culminates with Peggy Sue waking up from her fainting spell, securely returned to 1986. In an "aaaawwwwwwwwww" moment Peggy and her ex-husband reconcile leaving the door open for Charlie… a.k.a. Nick Cage… a.k.a. Benjamin Franklin Gates… to go off on his own quest where he discovers the Freemasons are the stewards of a great National Treasure.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and 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. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.

Famous American Freemason: Brother Harry Houdini - Revisit

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason

“My brain is the key that sets my mind free.”

Every day, the boy’s boss, the local locksmith, went to get a few beers over the lunch hour.  Most days, he didn’t leave the boy alone with a hulking, surly giant, but one day he did.  There was no question that the boy was afraid.  The man was the ugliest, most terrifying looking character the boy had ever seen, with a bristly beard, a mean disposition, and an jagged scar that ran down the side of his face.  And this man—a criminal and prisoner—was wearing heavy handcuffs.  The sheriff had brought his prisoner, handcuffs and all, into the shop because he’d broken his key off in the lock, and there was no way to get the handcuffs off. 

Because the sheriff and his prisoner had arrived near the lunch hour, the locksmith instructed the boy to get a hacksaw and cut the handcuffs off while he and the sheriff went out for a drink.  The boy frantically sawed away at the hardened metal cuffs, breaking several saw blades in the process.  The last broken blade had very nearly cut the man’s hand, earning the boy a sharp, ominous threat from the man.  In nearly an hour, the boy hadn’t made even a dent in the cuffs, and his boss was due back in a few minutes.  The boy didn’t like the idea of setting this man loose in a store that sold, among other things, pistols and derringers, but times were hard then.   He was lucky to have a job, and his desire to please his employer was stronger than his fear of the man.

There had been a good reason his father had arranged the apprenticeship for the boy with the locksmith and a good reason the locksmith had taken the boy on—he was good with locks.  As a youngster, he used to lock and unlock all the cabinets and cupboards in his house using a small common tool—a buttonhook.  In fact, he was notorious for being the little boy who’d unlocked the doors of all the shops in his hometown one evening.  That day when he failed to saw off the handcuffs, he decided that if he couldn’t defeat the cuffs by hacking them off, maybe he could pick the locks.  That was not what his employer had asked him to do, but it was the only alternative he knew. 

He clipped off a piece of piano wire and fashioned it into an appropriately sized tool.  Then he paused.  The last thing he wanted was for this criminal to see what he was about to do. 

“Do you mind looking the other way?” he asked gently. 

“Like hell I can,” the man responded. 

After the boy worked on the first cuff for about a minute, it suddenly clicked open.  It took him half that time to open the second cuff. 

The locksmith and the sheriff returned just as he was finishing.  The prisoner was still sitting there, stunned at what the boy had done.  He picked up the cuffs and looked them over carefully.  When the locksmith suddenly realized the boy hadn’t cut the cuffs off, he took them from the giant and looked at them in amazement. 

“That is good work, Ehrich.  That is damned good work.”

Ehrich would go on to become a great locksmith, the best the world has ever seen.  There wasn’t any kind of lock that he couldn’t defeat, but he specialized in handcuffs.  He opened locks and handcuffs all over the world.  He escaped from many unusual situations—he was locked in prison cells, mailbags, straight-jackets, and coffins.  He could even escape being locked in a large milk can filled to the top with water.  And nobody ever knew his secret. 

Well, that’s not exactly correct.  Ehrich was forced to reveal something to the prisoner that day.  He’d seen a great secret which made that young boy into a world famous man and an iconic figure.  Ehrich said of the prisoner years later, “He is the only person in the world besides my wife who knows how I open locks, and I have never heard from him since.”

That  boy would grow into the man known the world over by a single name—Houdini.

Ehrich Weisz was born on March 24, 1874, in Budapest, Hungary, to Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weisz and Cecilia Steiner Weisz.  Hoping to secure a better life for his family, Mayer immigrated to America and changed his last name to Weiss.

Through a friend, Weiss gained a job serving as a rabbi to a small Jewish congregation in Appleton, Wisconsin. His family followed him to America in 1876.  Because Mayer Weiss’s religious views were considered old-fashioned by the Appleton congregation, he was dismissed from his position. The family moved to Milwaukee when Ehrich was about eight.   The times were difficult. From a young age, Ehrich helped out by working.  He sold newspapers and shined shoes to help support the family. When he was not working, Ehrich practiced acrobatic stunts.  His first public performance was when he was nine years old.  He hung on a trapeze suspended from a tree while wearing red socks made by his mother. He billed himself as “Ehrich, the Prince of the Air.”

At age twelve, Ehrich ran away from home, hopping a freight car to Kansas City. A year later, he re-joined his family, who were by then living in New York City but still struggling to survive.  In New York, Ehrich and his younger brother, Theo, began to pursue their interest in magic. Ehrich’s idol was the great French magician Robert Houdin. When Ehrich started performing magic, he added an “i” to the end and began billing himself as “Houdini.” He undoubtedly got the “Harry” because it sounded much like his childhood nickname Ehrie.

Harry Houdini began his professional career at age seventeen, doing magic shows in music halls, at sideshows, and at the amusement park on New York’s Coney Island.  It wasn’t unusual for him to perform twenty shows each day. For a short time, he worked with Theo, billed as the Houdini Brothers.  But when Harry met Beatrice “Bess” Raymond, a teenager who was also attempting a career in show business, she joined the act as Harry’s new partner, and Theo started a solo career as a magician under the name “Hardeen.”  Harry and Bess married in 1894, remaining devoted companions and partners for the rest of their lives.

In 1895, the Houdinis joined the Welsh Brothers Circus. Harry did magic while Bess sang and danced.  Together they performed a trick called “Metamorphosis,” where Harry and Bess switched places in a locked trunk. Harry wasn’t satisfied with his small act.  He continued to work on new tricks and to develop his showmanship. He also became an expert at escaping handcuffs. Arriving in a new town, Houdini would claim he could escape from any handcuffs the local police had—and he did.  These publicity stunts were excellent advertising for his shows.  Houdini offered $100 to anyone who could provide handcuffs he couldn’t get out of, but he never had to pay that reward.

As his name and reputation spread, Houdini decided to take his show on the road to Europe.  In 1900, Harry and Bess sailed to England with no bookings and only enough money to survive a week, but Houdini was able to get an engagement at a London theater.  After one particularly successful stunt, he found himself booked solid.  Sold-out shows followed all over Europe.  Wherever he went, he repeated the stunt.  He called upon local police to restrain him in any way they could think up, but he escaped from all of them.

By the time Houdini returned to the United States in 1905, he was an international celebrity. Among the stunts performed in America were escaping from prison cells, squirming from straitjackets while suspended upside-down, and jumping into rivers from bridges while chained and handcuffed. 

His death-defying stunts and showmanship also extended to his famous milk can escape.  Houdini was cuffed and shackled, lowered into an oversized milk can that was filled to overflowing with water, and then hidden by a curtain.  Before he submerged himself and the can was sealed, he would ask the audience members to take a deep breath and hold it as long as they could.  As the members of the audience, red-faced, could hold their breath no longer, they realized that if they were in the milk can, they would be drowning, and yet Houdini remained trapped.  Hidden behind his curtain, Houdini was able to escape in three minutes, but he frequently stayed behind the curtain for much longer to make his re-appearance all the more dramatic.

Harry and Bess lived in a large house they purchased in New York when they weren’t traveling. They never had children, but Harry’s mother lived with them until she died in 1913.  Her death was the greatest tragedy of his life.  For weeks afterward, he made almost daily visits to the cemetery.  He said in a speech to the Magician’s Club, “It seemed the end of the world when she was taken from me.” Eventually, Houdini was able to return to work, but he continued to mourn his mother for the rest of his life.

Partly as a result of his mother’s death, Houdini renewed an early interest in spiritualism, the ability to communicate with the dead. Houdini wanted to believe that such communication was possible, but after many years of tricking people, he knew a trick when he saw one.  He went on a crusade against phony spiritualists.  He felt they were profiting by preying on people who, in their mourning, wished for nothing more than to talk again with their departed relatives.  He often passed up better-paying opportunities to lecture on the subject, and he unmasked many frauds in the cities he visited.  In his own act, Houdini often recreated many of the tricks the charlatans used to trick people at a séance into believing they were making contact with spirits from beyond the grave.   Houdini had a standing offer of $10,000 to anyone who could produce a result in a séance that he couldn’t reproduce himself using magic and trickery.  No one ever collected that reward either.

Houdini did believe contact with the dead was possible, but he didn’t believe that most of the mediums claiming to be able to make that contact were legitimate.  Because of his interest in spiritualism, Houdini developed a close friendship with the creator of Sherlock Holmes, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a true believer in spiritualism.  In fact, Doyle was convinced that Houdini employed psychic powers to perform his remarkable escapes.  Houdini denied that he had such powers.  He even tried to explain to Doyle how he actually did some of the things he was able to do, but Doyle didn’t believe him.  Eventually, this rift over spiritualism and psychic ability ended their friendship.

When America entered the First World War, Houdini attempted to enlist in the army, but at forty-three, he was rejected as being too old. Unable to fight, Houdini found other ways to serve.  He entertained the troops by performing free shows and organized Liberty Bond shows to help finance the war.

In the fall of 1926, Houdini put together a new show and took it on the road. It was an elaborate, two-and-a-half-hour show that required Houdini to be on stage almost the entire time. The highlight of the show was the Chinese water torture escape, which had become one of Houdini’s most famous stunts.  In that escape, Houdini’s hands and feet were bound while he was lowered, upside down, into a glass tank filled with water.  The tour seemed plagued by bad luck from the beginning.  The first bad luck was when Bess contracted food poisoning. Houdini stayed awake all night by her side. By the time they reached the next town, Houdini had gone three nights in a row without sleep. Then, during another show, he broke his ankle during the Chinese water torture escape.  Houdini was used to working with injuries and completed the show, but the pain from his ankle was excruciating, and he was awake all night.  Even so, the show must go on, and the tour proceeded.

Houdini stuck to his schedule, which included giving a lecture at McGill University.  The next day, several students from the lecture were chatting with Houdini in his dressing room.  One of the students, an amateur boxer, asked if it was true that Houdini could withstand any blow to his body above the waist. Houdini admitted that it was true and, despite his weakened condition, gave the student permission to test him.  As Houdini began to rise from the couch where he was sitting, the student dealt him several sharp punches in the stomach before he had time to tighten his abdomen.  The blows caused Houdini a great deal of pain, which persisted until his show that afternoon.

The next day, he was no better.   By then, he was also suffering from chills and sweating.  Houdini performed two shows, and the company moved on to Detroit, Michigan.  Still in pain and feeling worse all the time, Houdini finally saw a doctor, who urged him to go immediately to the hospital, but he refused.  Only after completing the show did Houdini finally agree to go to the hospital.  He was in bad shape.  When the doctors operated on him, they found that his appendix had burst, causing peritonitis, a usually fatal disease in the age before antibiotics.

Houdini was given little hope of surviving even after a second operation. Realizing he was near death, Houdini shared a secret message with Bess to be used as proof of his identity in the event that he was able to communicate with her from beyond the grave. Harry Houdini died on Halloween, 1926.  Despite annual séances on the anniversary of his death, Bess was never able to contact him.  She died in 1943. 

Without question, Houdini was one of the greatest magicians and showmen in history.  He continues to fascinate magic aficionados.   His famous tricks have been done over and over by many of the talented magicians that followed.  Some of the tricks have been updated and modernized over time, but by their death defying nature alone, they are still very much identifiable as belonging to Houdini.  The great magicians who have kept Houdini’s spirit alive by continuing to bring these illusions and tricks to new audiences do so not to outdo Houdini but to honor his great mastery of the craft.

Brother Harry Houdini became a Mason in St. Cecile Lodge No. 568, New York, New York, in 1923.  He received his Entered Apprentice Degrees on July 17 and his Fellow Craft Degree on July 31.  He was raised a Master Mason on August 21, 1923.  He became a life member on October 30, 1923.   He was also a member of the Shrine Temple.

~Excerpt from Todd E. Creason's award winning book Famous American Freemasons Volume II

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is member of Homer Lodge No. 199, and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL). He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, and Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL). You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

May Brotherly Love Prevail and Every Moral and Social Virtue Cement Us

by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
RW:. Bro. Daniel Lort

These are words from the title, in many cases, we either don’t take note of or “tune out” when we hear them or some variation thereof, recited during the closing of every Symbolic Lodge regardless of jurisdiction.

I think we all have a good idea of what moral virtue is. Social virtue? Perhaps not so much. The definition of social virtue addresses the need for us to respect the rights and freedoms of others, establish peace and harmony (anyone recognize “harmony” from our ritual?).

These original words, coined by Bro. Francis Bellamy, when he wrote our Pledge of Allegiance and amended after his death by adding “under God,”--“One nation, under God, indivisible...” should most certainly give us pause as we look with wide eyes at our Nation and the world today. Social unrest, pandemic, and natural disasters the likes of which we have never seen in one short period of time. The world remains on edge as COVID-19 continues to rear its ugly head, and we, domestically, seem to be literally fighting for our lives to get ahead of it.

Political polarization has gripped our Nation with a firmer hand than in many generations. Discussions among our Brethren often deteriorate to the point of anger or hurt feelings. During the Civil War era, there are many references of Freemasons confronted with a Brother against Brother scenario, often ending well. One such act of kindness was documented during the First Battle of Bull Run in July of 1861. Union Col. W. H. Raynor was critically wounded and suffered many indignities at the hands of his Confederate captors. Near-death, he was rescued by Confederate soldier J. H. Lemon, given ice for his head wound and offered money. As Col. Raynor thanked his captor for his kindness, Lemon addressed the Masonic pin on the Colonel’s shirt, saying, “I can only hope to get the same treatment from your men if I ever fall into their hands. If you relieve the distresses of a suffering Brother Mason when in your power, I shall be well paid.” History is full of renditions such as this. We would be well rewarded if we were to mimic these acts of kindness in our current times.

Politics is a long-established taboo topic in our lodge rooms. Nothing is a surer bet to pit one against another as the mention of opposing political views. It is said that Freemasons are a fraternity of “gentlemen.” Our Pledge says we must be indivisible, unable to be divided or separated.

Why then are we now seeing Brother pitted against Brother as in a war? Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are awash with divisiveness. And no, I don’t reference random folks. I reference Brother Masons, who have become so entwined in the politics and turmoil of the day that they openly chastise, belittle, and confront each other. Brother against Brother. While Freemasonry has been physically shut down for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have struggled to remain centered as Masons. Sure, we have Zoom, Houseparty, etc. where we can meet virtually. This is certainly helping. We must, however, remember that the refuge of social media is not a sanctuary of anonymity.

Words written on social media carry the same barbs as those spoken in person, perhaps even more so. When things digress to the point that our leaders must issue us guidance on what is and what is not acceptable on social media and remind us of who were are as Masons, then I fear we must look in our mirrors and re-boot our thoughts and how we portray them. In no way am I talking of controlling what we do in our personal lives but am suggesting that we temper what we say and do with respect to our Brothers. We, as Masons, must remember that we hold ourselves to a higher standard and must be leaders amongst ourselves and in our communities. As many say, “Masonry never stops.” Let’s keep that in mind.

I recently heard matter-of-factly about a Brother of 4 years taking a demit from a Concordant body. No explanation. No inquiries as to why. No one knew. Knowing this Brother as active, a good ritualist, a dedicated member of the Fraternity and community, I decided to call him and find out if all was well and what might be troubling him. After some chatting, the truth was revealed. The Brother was offended by things being written on social media and spoken in person in assorted venues. Inflammatory and incendiary language as it relates to our current political situation is not what he is about as a man and as a Mason.

He felt it was in his best interest to distance himself. We are on the verge of losing a good Mason. Indivisible? All I could do was to apologize for the words of others and offer my support.

My Brothers, we must be aware of who we are as Masons and respectful of our Brothers who may not share the same politics as we do.

The election approaches. Now is the time for us to heal. May Brotherly love prevail, and every moral and social virtue cement us.

Be safe, my Brothers.


RW Bro. Lort is a Past Master of Alexandria Lodge #297 in Alexandria Bay, NY, and a dual member of Gasport Lodge #787 in WNY. He is also a member of the NYS Grand Lodge Committee on Charters, Committee on Law Enforcement, as well as others. He is a 32°member of the A.A.S.R Valley of Syracuse, current High Priest of Sackets Harbor Chapter #68, RAM, & a member of the Divan of Media Shrine, in Watertown, NY. RW Bro. Lort is a past DDGM of the Jefferson-Lewis District, Grand Lodge of NY, and currently is a Grand Lodge Regional Asst. Grand Lecturer. He is a retired Law Enforcement officer and enjoys many outdoor activities. He attributes his successes in Freemasonry to his early days in DeMolay in Western NY.

Properly Tiled

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin Lahners

At the opening of our lodges in Illinois, there is the following exchange:

WM: “Brother Junior Deacon, The first great care of Masons when convened?”

Junior Deacon: “To see that the lodge is tiled.”

WM: “You will perform that duty and inform the Tyler that I am about to open BLANK Lodge Number 111, direct him to take due notice and tile accordingly.”

Junior Deacon performs that duty, he returns to his chair, and reports: “The Lodge is Tiled, Worshipful.”

WM: “How Tiled?”

Junior Deacon: “By a Master Mason, armed with the implement of his office.”

WM: “The Tyler’s Station?”

Junior Deacon: “Outside the inner door, with a drawn sword in hand.”

WM: “To guard against the approach of Cowans and Eavesdroppers and see that none pass or repass but such as are duly qualified and have permission.”

Before you decide to email me about revealing the ritual, I want you to know that the Illinois book of Standard Work is not ciphered, and anyone happening upon one would be able to know this part of the ritual, as only the modes of recognition and passwords are not revealed within it. Since it is not ciphered, I have no issue with revealing it here.

Many of our brethren have no problem bringing up the landmarks of Freemasonry whenever someone tries to discuss allowing atheists or women to be Freemasons, but they don’t think twice about violating the 11th landmark which reads: “THE NECESSITY THAT EVERY LODGE, WHEN CONGREGATED, SHOULD BE DULY TILED, is an important Landmark of the Institution, which is never neglected. The necessity of this law arises from the esoteric character of Freemasonry. As a secret Institution, its portals must of course be guarded from the intrusion of the profane, and such a law must therefore always have been in force from the very beginning of the Order. It is therefore properly classed among the most ancient Landmarks. The office of Tiler is wholly independent of any special enactment of Grand or Subordinate Lodges, although these may and do prescribe for him additional duties, which vary in different jurisdictions. But the duty of guarding the door, and keeping off cowans and eavesdroppers, is an ancient one, which constitutes a Landmark for his government.”

What if I told you that a majority of you have violated this landmark time and time again? And I told you that you are contributing to our lodges not being properly tiled. And you have revealed the secrets or Freemasonry over and over and over again, and that you don’t even realize that you have been allowing cowans and eavesdroppers into the lodge room. You’d think I was crazy.

How many of you have had this eerie experience? You’re having a discussion with someone. You look at social media, Facebook is particularly notorious for this, and you see an ad for something that came up in the discussion. I’ve had it happen, time and time and time again. Many of you might not make the connection, many of you might, but the issue is that when you install applications on your phone, and grant them permission to use your microphone, and you carry that phone into the lodge room, you have just allowed cowans and eavesdroppers to enter a tiled lodge. You have done everything that I have just accused you of above.

By this time, I’m pretty sure that most of us in the era of smart phones have violated our obligation to “always conceal and never reveal any of the secret arts, parts or points of the hidden mysteries of Freemasonry which have heretofore, may at this time, or shall at any future period be communicated as such to any person or persons whomsoever.” Every time we bring a smartphone into the lodge, we are revealing the secret arts, parts or points of the hidden mysteries of Freemasonry to the profane. Don’t believe me? Read this: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/2019/12/19/your-smartphone-mobile-device-may-recording-everything-you-say/4403829002/

This is why I found some of the arguments against having virtual meetings so hypocritical. There was a fear among brethren about not being able to tile the online meeting properly. That essentially, we couldn’t insure that the profane wouldn’t infiltrate our online meetings and learn our “secrets”. While these secrets have been widely available on the internet since its invention, that didn’t deter the arguments. Funny that I’ve never heard any similar arguments regarding the use of smartphones in the lodge, especially because they are recording our “secrets”.

We should always remind ourselves of the ritual which is given when the Tyler is installed into his office. "As the sword is placed in the hands of the Tyler to enable him effectually to guard against the approach of cowans and eavesdroppers, and suffer none to pass or re-pass except such as are duly qualified, so it should admonish us to set a guard over our thoughts, a watch at our lips, and post a sentinel over our actions; thereby preventing the approach of every unworthy thought or deed, and preserving consciences void of offense towards God and towards man." How many of us are remembering these words when we are on our phones, hastily replying to something on social media? I dare say that if we can’t be trusted enough to have alcohol allowed in our Lodge buildings, for fear of how we might act, then why are we trusted with our mobile devices inside of the lodge room where anyone could easily take a video of our proceedings?

If we want to properly tile our lodges, we need to keep our mobile devices outside of it. The Tyler should be collecting them as we enter, much like he insures we are properly clothed when entering the lodge room and he guards the west gate. The fact of the matter is that it’s difficult enough for the Tyler to keep the influences of the profane world outside of the lodge room. It’s even more difficult for the Worshipful Master to run a meeting when everyone is staring at their cellphone. We need to start remembering that there is etiquette to be followed during our events, and that Masonic etiquette should dictate that we should be divested of our phones prior to our entry into the lodge room. It’s the only way to make sure our lodges are properly tiled.

~DALWB 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    

The Last Chance Halloween: Revisit

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Steven L. Harrison 33˚, FMLR

Editors Note: As I was scrolling through Facebook the other day, I came upon a meme which said how many days away Halloween was. I smiled  It's my favorite holiday, you know. It made me also think of this piece written by Ill. Bro. Harrison a few years ago. It plays on Halloween, Magic and Freemasonry. Go ahead and read on...if you dare.

I figured I'd better get upstairs. I didn't want to go to the séance... yes, the séance... and after that the top three floors would be closed — forever. I'd worked in the building three years and never been up there. This was my last chance. With no working elevators, I hoofed it up the stairs and emerged in a dark fourth-floor hallway of the doomed building. My eyes adjusted and I slowly made my way to the rooms in the northwest corner. I opened the door and entered the fabled room. There were no drapes covering the windows and the bright light nearly blinded me. The room was stark and dirty. To my left was a broken wheelchair. A sink jutted out from the far wall. Its basin was stained and dusty. Beneath it was a wastebasket — full. A bed frame with an old mattress was over by the window. All told, the room was disappointing. It just didn't seem... well... as auspicious as it should have, given what had happened there many, many years ago on Halloween.

Halloween and Freemasonry: There are probably many tie-ins what with all the costumes worn in degree work, skulls and other symbols; and that's before the conspiracy theorists weigh in. Occasionally, though, the pairing of the mysterious holiday and Freemasonry brings to mind images of Harry Houdini, a life member of St. Cecile Lodge 568, New York City.

A man of mystery, you could almost say Brother Harry lived Halloween 24/7. Aside from being, arguably, the world's greatest magician and escape artist, Houdini maintained an abiding interest in the paranormal. He did not, however deceitfully promote it as he felt many did. He despised fraudulent seers and mediums and worked tirelessly to expose their chicanery. He felt everything he couldn't expose as being fake must be real.

He made many attempts to communicate with his mother after she died, but found no evidence of
contact. Still, feeling communication with "the other side" was possible, he made a pact with his wife Bessie that the first to die would attempt to contact the other through a coded message. No one knows what the full message was, but part of the pact was that Houdini would open a pair of silver handcuffs they owned. Bessie never received any communication from Houdini after his death, but hundreds of psychics claimed they did. 

On Halloween 1936, the 10th anniversary of his death, she held a final séance in which he failed toappear. After that, Bess declared the search over and said she believed he could not come back, "It is finished." Two years later she created a firestorm in the world of spiritualists when, playing herself in the film Religious Racketeer, she said she did not believe communication with the dead was possible.

During his life the great Houdini did everything he could to separate the fake aspects of spiritualism from what he thought might be real. Shortly before his death he testified before congress against spiritualists and fortune tellers licensed to practice in Washington, DC. So adamant was he that they were charlatans, the hearing broke out in a shouting match and some of the spectators tried to attack Houdini.

On the other hand, still believing there was something to communication with the spiritual world, he worked with Thomas Edison in an attempt to develop a "delicate psychic detecting instrument." The object of the "ghost machine," as it was called, was to be so sensitive it could detect the presence or touch of an ethereal being from another world. There is no evidence the machine was ever built.

On October 26, 1926, Houdini received a painful blow to the stomach in a demonstration at McGill University in Montreal. Contrary to popular opinion, most medical experts believe the blow was unrelated to the appendicitis attack that followed; however, Houdini failed to get treatment thinking the pain in his stomach was due to the punch to his abdomen. After his appearance in Montreal, he traveled to Detroit where he collapsed at the end of a performance. Five days later, on Halloween, Harry Houdini died.

I was standing in a nondescript empty room on the fourth floor of old Grace Hospital in Detroit. The building, once considered progressive and modern, had deteriorated to the point that it would be torn down in a few months. I ran the Information Technology department downstairs and once my group moved out, the wrecking ball would move in. I soaked it all in. Somehow it just didn't seem that special, but shortly several people and the news media — this year including Time Magazine — would gather there as they had done for years on Halloween.

This wasn't just any room. This was the very place where, on October 31, 1926, Brother Harry Houdini died. I took a final look and turned to leave. As I walked away, people filed past me to enter the room for Houdini's last séance.

Houdini, as had been the case on every Halloween in Grace Hospital since he died, did not show up.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and 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. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.

The Scientific Masonic Association - No Dullards Please

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

No, No, No. Stop right now. You don't need to go looking for them online and send in a petition or earmark some money for more annual dues. 😉

They don't exist anymore. This society is outlined in Mackey's Masonic Encyclopedia and has the following entry:

"The German title is Scientifischer Freimaurer Bund. A society founded in 1803 by Fessler, Mossdorf, Fischer, and other distinguished Freemasons, the object being, by the united efforts of its members, to draw up, with the greatest accuracy and care, and from the most authentic sources, a full and complete history of Freemasonry, of its origin and objects, from its first formation to the present day, and also of the various systems or methods of working that have been introduced into the Craft. Such history, together with the evidence upon which it was founded, was to be communicated to worthy and zealous Brethren The members had no peculiar ritual, clothing, or ceremonies; neither were they subjected to any fresh obligation; every just and upright Freemason who had received a liberal education, who was capable of feeling the truth, and desirous of investigating the mysteries of the Order, could become a member of this Society, provided the ballot was unanimous, let him belong to what Grand Lodge he might. But those whose education had not been sufficiently liberal to enable them to assist in those researches were only permitted to attend the meetings as trusty Brethren to receive instruction."

-Albert G. Mackey
Charles T. McClenachen
Encyclopedia of Freemasonry
Revised Ed. 1920

Over two-hundred years ago, a society was formed to compile an accurate history of our Craft, and it sounds like they had a sound mission and a good start. Accuracy and care--two things invariably missing from much of the research done today. No doubt much of this owing to the Spiritualist Movements across the world, stretching from the late 18th century and on into the early 20th.  In this period, occult orders popped up all over--spurious and "cult" influences of men like the Reverend H.J. Prince in the mid-1840s have trailblazed a path of imagination and bull$%%. And unfortunately, Freemasonry also gets caught up in this--many Masonic rites and orders being created as "spin-offs", with a type of religious prerequisite. These orders do nothing but get grown-up men to believe in fantasy. 

So yes, accuracy and care are important. Authentic Sources! Wow...imagine such a concept. If only we held our "scholars" to the same expectations as laid out above. Our only exceptions are few, our de Hoyos', our Wäges, our Kendalls...

But what about admission into this society? That's quite the "West Gate," isn't it? To be liberally educated... Otherwise, "...sure you can come in and we can teach you."

Today we would call it unbrotherly to keep a man from the Craft based on their education. But in this small "spinoff," they certainly did keep their reigns tight. Perhaps this is why they don't exist anymore. Perhaps it's because Albert Mackey wrote a compiled history of Freemasonry spanning seven volumes and numerous editions. 

One thing is for sure about the Scientific Masonic Association--that Freemasons were concerned with accurate, authentic, and objective historical truth concerning the Fraternity at an early age. I think we should expect some sort of intellectual prowess. Not genius or highfalutin, self-righteous level, but good, solid, smart individuals. Intrinsicly smart, street smart, and academic--this is what I hope for anyway. I leave you with another quote.  
"Because the world at large must continue to recognize the educational as well as the fraternal function of Freemasonry, the lodge, therefore, must have a Masonically intelligent membership."

"No man ever grasped the full significance of the principals of Freemasonry simply by receiving the degrees."

"Trooping through the doors of our preparation rooms we find an ever-increasing company composed of those from whose faces is missing the stamp of high intelligence, in whose eyes the torch of education has lit no fires and whose halting steps are led by friendly suggestion or quickened by the hope of gain."

The Master's Lectures
Fraternity - 1923


RWB Johnson is a Co-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.

Does Freemasonry Develop Talent?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Darin Lahners

Freemasonry does very little to no talent development. For an organization that claims to take good men and make them better, that’s a pretty damning statement. However, I stand by it. In Business, talent development refers to the organizational processes designed to attract, develop, motivate, and retain productive, engaged employees. If a business is to succeed, it has to do this and put a lot of effort into doing this. Otherwise, they will see a large turnover of employees. What is Freemasonry doing to attract, develop, motivate, and retain members? In my own personal experience, very little. Is it any wonder we are struggling with getting new members and retaining the ones we have?

What is Freemasonry doing to attract members? In business, a value proposition is an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to customers. For our Fraternity, it should show what Freemasonry will do for each man individually or why a man should choose Freemasonry over another community organization. While we shouldn’t be joining Freemasonry for mercenary motives, we should be doing a better job of selling ourselves. Instead of saying: “We take good men and make them better”, our value proposition should be listing what we will do to make you a better man and how it relates to the individual.

Until very recently, we relied on campaigns like 2BE1ASK1, and other outdated methods to try to gain membership. In fact, until three Masonic appendant governing bodies, namely the NMJ and SMJ of the AASR and Shiner’s International, decided to sponsor beafreemason.org, there was very little effort put forth in order to attract membership. My Grand Lodge, has an invitation to petition program, but it is not used to its full effectiveness nor is it really being pushed by them as a program that Lodges should be using. Lodges should be using this program to have its members identify their friends, neighbors, and other members of the community that would be active and engaged members. As part of this process, once the invitation is accepted, we should be giving a value proposition for the prospective members. We can no longer rely on our history or reputation as an organization to be an effective recruitment tool.

At my last meeting at St. Joseph #970, as Worshipful Master, I had six "invitation to petition" forms submitted and read, which will be voted on at our next stated meeting. Assuming the vote for these members is favorable, it is my plan to write each of the prospective members a letter, along with a value proposition about how I think Freemasonry can benefit them. I also encouraged members to think about men that they know and encouraged them to do the same. St. Joseph has not had a new member in over two years. If we do not bring in new active and engaged members, we need to seriously start to consider consolidating with another lodge. We continue to lose members due to having them move away from the area, or by having some pass away, and we are not gaining new members to replace that attrition. I doubt that we are the only lodge to experience this problem.

What is Freemasonry doing to develop members? It is my opinion that we are doing very little. Time and time again, Education is not given the same importance as other items on the meeting agenda.  My girlfriend Lisa, who is the incoming Chair for the National Advisors for Chapters and an incoming board member on the Board of Directors for the Association of Talent Development, retweeted this today: "Learning shouldn't be begging for a place at the table, it should be setting the menu." Truer words have never been spoken.  Masonic Education should be the highlight of our stated meetings, not an afterthought. 
Apparently, the majority of us would rather spend a meeting debating how many rolls of toilet paper to buy or (insert your own trivial matter of business) over actually working to improve ourselves.  How in the heck does this make us better men?  It doesn't.  The ugly truth of the matter is that: 
1. Not every man in Freemasonry is a good man
2. Not every man in Freemasonry cares about becoming a better man
3. There are some men in Freemasonry that have no interest in helping their brethren who are good men become better men, and that is why they don't support Masonic Education.

We also do a terrible job of identifying skills that our members might be good at and interested in, and in helping them to use and develop those skills to help not only improve themselves but the lodge or Freemasonry in their area as well. We each have individual skills that we are good at and other areas where we lack skills. One member might be a strong natural leader but not be very good with technology, while another might lack leadership skills but be very good with technology. Doesn’t it make sense to pair these people together in order to have them help each other improve their skills? In most lodges where there is a progressive line, wouldn’t you want to make sure that the members that will be succeeding them are good leaders?

We also fail when it comes to mentoring. In Illinois, we have something called the intender program. Under this program, each candidate is assigned an experienced Freemason to help them learn their catechisms and to help them through their degrees. I have seen time and time again where the experienced Freemason stops mentoring the individual who is their candidate once that candidate is raised as a Master Mason. This needs to stop. It seems that we’ve forgotten our obligations to aid and support our brethren. When was the last time that you offered to help another member of your lodge with their ritual and floor work outside of a meeting? Or invited them to coffee for a discussion? Or generally, tried to get to know them? Are you taking an active role in trying to mentor and help develop the talents of your brethren? Yes, there might be times where the other member might be unwilling to accept your help or overtures of friendship. In these cases, make sure you’re setting the right example for them to follow. Mentoring another member can be both active and passive.

How many of you have a formal or informal degree team in your area? All of the members of the “team” are the ones called are always called upon to put on degrees, and it’s always the same brothers doing the same parts in the same degrees night after night. This is problematic because the members of the “team” aren’t usually trying to mentor the members that are not on the “team” and they are not encouraging them to learn parts or participate in the degrees. The members that want to learn parts and become members of the “team” often aren’t making their desires known to the degree “team” members. Essentially, a situation is created where you have a small number of people doing work, and because of the perceived clique of “team” members, other members feel that they are not encouraged to learn and participate or feel that they don’t need to learn or participate, because the degree “team” members have it covered. In my particular district, you have some older members of the “team” and when they pass away, there is no one to step up and fill that void. This is just one example of where we are failing to help to develop talent, but also where we have no succession plan in place.

What is Freemasonry doing to motivate and retain members? Our wages of corn, wine, and oil don’t seem to be bringing members to lodge, nor are they helping us retain our members. There have been multiple times where I’ve seen an enthusiastic new Master Mason be forced into a chair due to not having enough active and engaged membership, have them not be given proper instruction about what to do, and then have them approached by a grumpy past master after the meeting who tells them what they did wrong. Is it any wonder we continue to raise candidates and never see them return to lodge? I’ll also take the opportunity to highlight the times as an Area Education Officer, where I’ve seen educational programs ridiculed because the majority of brethren don’t want to take the time to explore our mysteries and symbols. They only seem to care about the stated meeting when they have something to complain about. However, once they’ve decided that they’re done complaining, they want to get the meeting over with. Then they might adjourn to the bar across the street, no doubt to complain about everything they disagreed within the meeting with their fellow complainers. In business, an employee acting like this would be reprimanded, maybe even terminated, for creating a hostile work environment. However, in Freemasonry, it seems to be the norm.

Another major reason for this is that our stated meetings are not run efficiently. In fact, I would argue that the current model of stated meetings is completely and utterly outdated. In my mind, the one thing that the pandemic has proven is that a stated meeting no longer is necessary to handle a majority of the business of the lodge. Almost all of the business can be handled either through email or via a short zoom/skype/webex/google meeting between the members. We need to make a change in the way that we handle business in order to compete for the attention of our members in the current day and age. We are competing with social media, streaming services, sports (our children’s and professional), and other organizations like a church or school board that our members might belong to. If we want to compete, we need to change the way we handle our business.

In changing the way that business is handled, we can free up time during our stated meeting nights that were previously used for business to focus on personal development. You know, actually doing the work of making good men better, instead of just saying that we do. We can use the time to implement skill development workshops, where we can teach leadership, grooming, public speaking, budgeting/personal finance, listening, and believe it or not, learning how to be more sensitive and empathetic. We can also use the time to improve ourselves in Masonry, with Masonic Education programs and working on ritual and floor work. Comradery needs to be built between the members of the lodge so that actually enjoy each other’s company, and want to seek more of it. This can be accomplished by holding festive boards or participating in other activities where the brethren can interact in a social setting outside of the lodge room on stated meeting nights. It seems to be beyond the realm of my comprehension to imagine a time where I could open St. Joseph #970 for a meeting, have a short meeting (15 – 20 minutes max), close the meeting and then adjourn to a festive board, or have the programs like what I mentioned above. Unfortunately, as long as we continue to have poorly run, long, boring, and sometimes toxic meetings, we will continue to lose members.

Not only that, many of us that are providing the energy and manpower to a lodge have become disheartened and unmotivated. I deal with this feeling more than I would like to admit when it comes to Freemasonry. Not only do the above examples show why we are failing to retain members, but also some of the reasons why many of us are becoming unmotivated. Couple this with the ways in which I see brethren mistreat each other within the lodge and on social media. We no longer seem to be practicing the tenet of Brotherly Love. Unfortunately, the Lodge room, which is a place that I consider to be a sacred space (which should be devoid of politics or religion at all times, not just when the gavel has sounded), is no longer sacred to brethren. It seems that many of the brethren have decided that they don’t get enough discussion of these divisive topics on social media, and they need to engage in the same rhetoric within a lodge room. Many of us, myself included, are left bewildered by this when we try to speak good counsel to our brethren and we’re told that the gavel hasn’t sounded, so they can discuss whatever they want. Apparently, I missed the section in the lectures in my degrees that instructed us only to practice Freemasonry between the gavels. Is it any wonder that many of us are lacking motivation, or that we cannot retain our new members?

How do we change this? Freemasonry is local. Ultimately, you can only impact what is happening at your local lodge. Here are some things that you can do to help change your lodge culture and start to develop talent.

1. You need to have allies. If you’re the only one in your lodge that wants to change things, things will not change. You need to have enough brethren on your side to be able to implement change. You need to make sure that all of you have the same vision, and goals. Without this, you will not be able to implement programs to help develop the talents of or educate the brethren within your lodge.

2. You and your allies need to act as role models and mentors. Survey your membership and identify where there are mentorship possibilities, and connect mentors with mentees. Be sure to set an example for the brethren in your lodge.

3. Build a process to support development. Implement programs to help develop the talents of brethren in your lodge. Prioritize lodge education in the meetings. Reduce the waste of meetings so that there is time for these processes.

4. Reinforce our shared values. Remind the brethren why talent development is an important part of taking a good man and making him better. Help the brethren understand why this important and how it will help not only attract but retain members. Use your allies to implement lodge bi-laws to make changes permanent.

5. Be adaptable. Each lodge is unique and has a unique culture. What works for one lodge, might not work for another. Keep trying different approaches to development. Don’t give up when one thing doesn’t work. Note the things that are successful in your programs and the things that are not. Learn from your experiences.

The choice is yours. You can either help be the change or slowly watch your lodge die. I know what I am going to choose. 


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