5 Secret Societies You’ve Never Heard Of

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Candles making one flame
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We all know of the Freemasons and the ever-mysterious Illuminati, but throughout history, plenty of other secret societies have flourished under the radar. The western U.S. is home to a long-running, low-key historical society with a unique and eccentric ethos, while northern Spain’s historic food culture has been kept alive through selective supper clubs for more than a century. Though their stories don’t often get told, these clandestine groups have nonetheless left their own obscure marks. Read on to learn about five little-known secret societies.

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Order of the Occult Hand

Secret societies typically conjure a dark air of mystery, but the Order of the Occult Hand illustrates the fun side of underground organizations. Its origins can be traced to 1965, when Joseph Flanders, a crime reporter for the Charlotte News, wrote an article about the shooting of a local millworker. “It was as if an occult hand had reached down from above and moved the players like pawns upon some giant chessboard,” Flanders wrote. His colleagues, the legend goes, found the flowery description so funny, they formed the Order of the Occult Hand, a secret society dedicated to sneaking “it was as if an occult hand,” or a similar phrase, into their work. 

The mission quickly spread among journalism circles in Charlotte and beyond. By the early 1970s, the mischievous media conspiracy was becoming so prevalent that the Boston Herald reportedly banned “occult hand” from the paper. Over the years, the phrase continued to show up in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. In 2004, writer James Janega published a thorough exposé of the Order in the Chicago Tribune, and in 2006, journalist Paul Greenberg, a long-running member of the society, copped to creating a new secret phrase that went into circulation, even as the “occult hand” keeps going

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