Depths of... Secret Societies



I’m Annie Rauwerda, and I started @depthsofwikipedia on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok to highlight my favorite trivia and internet rabbit holes. I partnered with Bullish Studio to round up bizarre trivia about a new topic each week.

First of all, thanks to all of you that came to my comedy show at Caveat last week!!!! I had so much fun meeting so many of you, and I'm sure I'll do similar events in the future.

After the show, I hung out in NYC for a bit before heading upstate to dogsit at my boyfriend's parents' house. It's so peaceful up here!! I went on a run past these Westchester County cows who appear to have a perfect life.

In other news, I was also on the podcast "25 Months" — which comes out today! I talked to some big-time TikTokers, Jack Neel and Tejas Hullur, about being a student, being a creator, and not feeling like a creator.

Anyway, this week's topic: secret societies!

More like "not-so-secret" societies, but whatever!

There’s something so devilishly ironic about a secret society that has its own Wikipedia page and a large and public online following.

Porn ‘n Chicken: Yale University had a secret society that ate chicken and watched porn. When the administration tried to discontinue the club, it announced a plan to make its own pornographic film, creating a media uproar. The porno was never released, but the club sold the rights of the story to Comedy Central for a TV movie, released in 2002, which fictionalized the group’s experiences.

Order of the Occult Hand: It was as if an occult hand had snuck the same phrase into everything! A group of journalists formed a secret club whose goal was getting the phrase “it was as if an occult hand had” in print as much as possible — as a big inside joke.

The Illuminati Δ: *Cue X-Files theme* What does the Illuminati even do? Mind control... even of Bob Dylan! The Super Bowl Halftime show. Like many celebrities, Eminem is in it, and he wants to get out. When CNN asked Lady Gaga if she was a brainwashed puppet of the Illuminati, she, understandably, gave a weird answer. Theorists believe that the Illuminati infiltrates the government... and My Little Pony.

In reality, the Illuminati has a long and complicated history. Right-wing populists adopted the theory in the Cold War era, using apocalyptic threats of "Godless communism" to fuel anti-globalist movements. The theories continue to this day, promoted by social media and Youtube intellectuals. But the Illuminati (plural of the Latin word “Illuminatus,” the unusually enlightened) was once a bona fide secret society in Bavaria from 1776 until 1790, when Bavaria’s Charles Theodore outlawed the group. The Illuminati: CONFIRMED! 

The elitist brotherhood embraced science and free-thinking, opposed the Catholic Church, and used secret rituals. Read about the Bavarian Illuminati here, and if you'd like to wade into the massive and fascinating article on modern-day theories, it's here. It's such a rabbit hole! See also: Freemasonry

Cicada 3301: Between 2012 and 2014, this organization posted puzzles online to 4chan and Twitter to recruit codebreakers. It has been called "the most elaborate and mysterious puzzle of the internet age" and is listed as one of the "top 5 eeriest, unsolved mysteries of the internet" by The Washington Post. There has been quite a bit of speculation as to its actual function. Many have speculated that the puzzles are a recruitment tool for the NSA, CIA, MI6, a "Masonic conspiracy" or a cyber mercenary group.

Secret Society of Happy People: A vaguely menacing group that advocates for expressions of happiness. They petitioned for a holiday called “Admit You’re Happy Day” and have a motto of “Don’t Even Think of Raining on My Parade.” Their Facebook group is over 50,000 people strong (not so secret?) and features motivational #SmileStarters — painfully corny quotes with just a handful of likes. They're so bad they're good, and I'm obsessed with the way they dance on the line between irony and earnestness. The posts resemble the deliberately post-ironic tour de force that is @afffirmations.

Stray links

Honorable mention tweets

That's all for today! As always, feel free to forward this to a friend and send your thoughts to [email protected]. I really like your emails!