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Top 10 Real Life Secret Societies

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Brandon Stuhr Not much is known about these groups, yet they all might be controlling the world from behind the scenes. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for Top 10 Real Life Secret Societies. For this list, we are only considering secret or secretive societies that are known to exist. Special thanks to our user ViolaCello for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Brandon Stuhr

Top 10 Real Life Secret Societies


Not much is known about these groups, yet they all might be controlling the world from behind the scenes. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for top 10 real life secret societies.

For this list, we are only considering secret or secretive societies that are known to exist. So, despite their popularity and influence, myths such as Pierre Plantard’s Priory of Sion and the Elders of Zion are out.

#10: Unification or Death [aka the Black Hand]

The rebel influence is real. The Unification or Death Group – more popularly known as the Black Hand – was founded in 1901 by Serbian military rebels. A military conspiracy group, The Black Hand’s main goal was the unification of all European Slavic people under one country, and they were ready to strike dead any who stood in their way. Having already seen to the murders of Serbia’s royal couple in 1903, the group is also credited with assisting in the start of WWI, as they are rumored to be behind the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

#9: Ḥashshāshīn

Initially founded during the late-11th century, the Hashshashin was an offshoot of Islam known as Nizari Ismailis, with members primarily in Persia and Syria. The fidai class of Hashshashin was famous for their work as covert murderers, and the group saw to the deaths of many viziers, rulers and Crusade leaders – with civilian casualties kept to a minimum thanks to expert planning and preparation. The group’s name is thought to come from a translation of the term “users of hashish,” though there’s little proof that they used hashish regularly. In fact, most of the information regarding the group was lost when their library was torched, which piques our interest as to what secrets were lost in that fire.

#8: Ordo Templi Orientis

It’s time to move away from assassinations and travel to the spiritual side of things. Created as a mystical organization in the early-20th century, Ordo Templi Orientis – or Order of the Temple of the East – was intended to be a secret society similar to Freemasonry in Europe. Sounds plausible, right? Unfortunately, the most notable member was Aleister Crowley, the famous occultist. Crowley became a leader of the organization and used it to popularize a religion based upon philosophical law Thelema. Crowley, incidentally, considered himself the prophet of Thelema. Conflict of interest, anyone? Many religious groups adapted its principles, but critics say O.T.O. resembles a cult, with some even labeling it a “Satanic sex cult.”

#7: Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

Let’s see what Great Britain has to offer in the world of mysticism. Created by Freemasons William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, the Golden Dawn is widely credited as the major influence for Western occultism in the 20th century. Essentially a magical order, the Golden Dawn focused on personal and spiritual development, encouraging members to expand their mind through ritual and divination. Fun fact: though its setup was based on that of Masonic Lodges, women were included on an equal playing field as men – unlike many masonic groups. Hey, women want to be secretive too right?

#6: Knights Templar

Sorry “Assassin’s Creed:” your Knights Templar have nothing to do with the real deal. Initially an order of knights helping travelers on holy journeys, the Knights Templar grew in prominence and fame as their numbers increased. Eventually they became known as the protectors of Christianity, as well as the world’s first bankers. Many theories have risen about the group’s ulterior motives, including speculation that they possessed the blood of Jesus Christ, but those have yet to be proved. Though the group was practically wiped out in a mass arrest on Friday the 13th of October 1307, and was officially disbanded in 1312, a modern Knights Templar society does exist today, though they don’t associate themselves with the original sect.

#5: Order of the Solar Temple

Nothing goes hand in hand with secret societies like murder and deception. The youngest group on our list, The Order of the Solar Temple was created in 1984 by Joseph Di Mambro and Luc Jouret in Switzerland. The Order draws its beliefs from certain sects of the ever-popular Knights Templar; however, perhaps the most prominent idea in the Solar Temple was that the Earth would be subjected to a huge disaster in the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, this resulted in mass murder-suicides of members in Canada and Switzerland beginning in 1994, reportedly so the members could ascend to a higher spiritual plane prior to the catastrophic event.

#4: Bilderberg Group

Sometimes you can be secretive right out in the open. The Bilderberg Group is an annual summit attended by world leaders from various countries as well as experts in fields of economy and marketing. With an original goal of promoting increased U.S.-European relations, it is understood that the Bilderberg Group now meets once a year to discuss free market standards across multiple countries. Though it’s not asecret society in the traditional sense, conspiracy theories surrounding the annual meetings abound due to the lack of press, with one theory starting that the members are lizard aliens in disguise. Whatever’s discussed in these meetings must be secret for a reason, though many are critical of the lack of transparency.

#3: Skull and Bones

Molding the minds of undergrads since 1832, the Skull and Bones is the most prestigious society for senior undergraduates at Yale University. In order to be selected as a Bonesman, you have to show the attributes of being a campus leader. While this not so secret society’s membership has been revealed, their practices are still a mystery. Many politicians have been members of this society, including John Kerry and both George Bush Sr. and George W. Bush. Conspiracy theories claim that the Skull and Bones is designed to breed the political elite or to serve as an incubator for the CIA. But who knows: maybe it’s nothing more than a frat house.

#2: Illuminati

By far the Internet’s favorite secret society, the society we most often refer to as the Illuminati – called the Bavarian Illuminati – originated during the Enlightenment period in 1776 and focused on freethinking ideals. Unfortunately, the Illuminati was outlawed by Charles Theodore of Bavaria. By 1790, the group was seen as radical and disbanded a few years later. Theorists think the group continued to exist underground, manipulating the world’s events and infiltrating governments and corporations worldwide. Proponents claim their lengthy membership list including President Barack Obama, Kanye West, and Angelina Jolie. A fantasy, of course. They couldn’t control everything right underneath our noses...could they?

Before we reveal the existence of our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Rosicrucians
- Sons of Liberty
- Opus Dei
- Knights of the Golden Circle
- Thule Society

#1: Freemasons

Believed by some to be plotting to conquer the planet with a New World Order, using symbols to communicate their ideals, the Masons were officially founded in 1717 London as a decedent of stonemasons. However, rumors suggest the Freemasons were operating in the shadows many years prior, making them one of the longest-lasting secret societies known to the public – though they might not label themselves as such. And, considering they are a “secret society,” their secret handshakes, rituals, and order of ranking are part of popular culture. In reality, their beliefs are based upon shared philosophical ideals of charity, kindness and a general acceptance of one Supreme Being, meaning any members from any religion are welcome in the Lodge.

Do you agree with our list? What real life secret society fascinates you the most? For more not so secretive top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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