"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

MSA's Richard E. Fletcher Announces Retirement

(Photo: From left: Judy Fletcher, Nicolas Cage, Darlene Alban,
and Richard E. Fletcher, at the premier of
National Treasure: Book of Secrets in New York City in December 2007)

M:.W:. Brother Richard Fletcher has announced his resignation as Executive Secretary of the Masonic Service Association of North America, to be effective at the close if the MSA's annual meeting in Denver next February. He has served with great devotion in this position since 1987.

Dick Fletcher has been a tireless advocate for the fraternity. He is a Past Grand Master of Vermont and a 33° Scottish Rite Mason, and he came to MSA after a long career in banking. Under almost a quarter century of his leadership, the MSA established the Masonic Information Center, "Operation Phone Home" providing prepaid calling cards to overseas military personnel, and created the Twain Award, to reward excellence in Masonic awareness among individual lodges in North America. His travel schedule would be daunting for men half his age, and he attends dozens of grand lodge sessions each year, often with his lovely wife Judy. I seem to see them everywhere I go. His departure marks the end of an era for MSA, and I personally wish Dick and Judy a happy and well-earned retirement.

The MMSA was created in 1919 to provide services to its member Grand Lodges that they would find difficult to provide for themselves. It is the one organization that provides a national voice for mainstream Freemasonry in North America, and is a commission of the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America.

The Executive Commission is accepting resumes and proposals from interested individuals who seek to fill the executive secretary's position.

M:.W:. Thomas Galyen, Chairman of Recruitment, MSAofNA
9112 Fern Cove East
Olmsted Falls, OH 44138
Email: tophat97@aol.com

Don't know about the MSA? Have a look at this video from their website.

Remnant Trust Document Collection Moves to Northern Indiana

The Remnant Trust, an Indiana public education foundation that shares a collection of more than 1,100 original and first edition works dealing with the topics of liberty and dignity, will conduct community open houses in its new Winona Lake, Indiana location on December 4 and 5, 2010.

The Remnant Trust has moved its headquarters from Jeffersonville in southeast Indiana up to Winona Lake in the north-central part of the state, on the campus of Grace College and Theological Seminary. The Trust has moved into the former Billy Sunday Museum space (which has itself moved, as well).

The Remnant Trust’s collection includes the Emancipation Proclamation and writings from authors like Thomas Paine, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, John Milton and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It owns some of the first copies of the Magna Carta, early printings of the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and one of only two existing copies of the ancient Book of Enoch. (The photo above is of the 1777 third Dunlap printing of the Declaration of Independence, and the only known copy in a private collection). The collections will be on public display at select times at Grace and will tour other universities around the country. The collection is often loaned to colleges, universities, and other institutions for display and research by students, faculty, scholars and the general public.

As for ardent Billy Sunday enthusiasts, Grace College moved their exhibit over the summer, and provides tours of the nearby Billy Sunday home, which is still furnished exactly as his widow, Helen "Ma" Sunday, left it. Sunday was an early 20th century firebrand evangelical preacher, whose biggest accomplishment was promoting the passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919, starting Prohibition. Have a toast with your favorite adult beverage next Sunday (appropriately) December 6th, which is the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.

Brad Meltzer's Decoded Airs Thursday

Last December, Alice and I were hired to develop a ten episode series for the History Channel. Tentatively titled, "Decoded" (not our choice - it came with the project), the idea was to explore some of the more mysterious monuments, buildings and artifacts in America, from a different point of view. Our concept was to borrow from the structure of the classic James Burke PBS series "Connections" to show how one seemingly insignificant thought or idea or symbol led to another and another, to finally get you to the Statue of Liberty, and so on. We spent three months providing research, stories and episode outlines, and novelist Brad Meltzer ("Book of Fate") was hired to headline the show.

The result begins to air this week. "Brad Meltzer's Decoded" begins Thursday, December 2nd at 10PM. The first episode centers around the missing White House cornerstone.

From an article in today's Washington Times:

In 1792, the very first piece of the White House was laid down in a Masonic ceremony. Within 24 hours, it mysteriously went missing. For over 200 years, everyone from Harry S. Truman to Barbara Bush has looked for it, but to no avail.

Truman literally tore up the White House looking for it. He went as far as gutting the entire interior of the presidential home to search for the long lost relic. “It's the first piece of the White House and how is that no none knows where it is,” asks Meltzer.

What was so special about the first cornerstone? Was it hollow? I so, what was inside, a time capsule or maybe something of even more historical significance?

The series premiere attempts to answer those riveting questions. And there’s even an appearance by history’s most notorious secret society, the Masons.

The Freemasons are central to the plot of the premiere episode, and it was an idea that grew out of the suggestion from the head of the network. “I owe the whole show to the Masons. The head of the History Channel read my book (“Book of Lies”) and said, ‘we should do a show about this,’” recounts Meltzer.

“What I want to accomplish with ‘Decoded’ is to separate what’s truth and what’s myth. Freemasons are always portrayed as bad guys but they were incredibly helpful, they couldn’t have been easier to work with,” recalls Meltzer.

“What I want to accomplish with ‘Decoded’ is to separate what’s truth and what’s myth. Freemasons are always portrayed as bad guys but they were incredibly helpful, they couldn’t have been easier to work with,” recalls Meltzer.

Along for the historical cold case adventure is an investigative field team of comprised of an attorney, Scott Rolle, a mechanical engineer, Christine McKinley, and a journalist, Buddy Levy. Meltzer appears in more of an explanatory and narrative role while the research team beats the streets for clues.

“I didn’t want to be on TV at all. Who wants to see me? Trust me, there’s no one nerdier in regards to geeky historical mysteries than me, you don’t need me on screen,” explains Meltzer.

The subject matter of each episode increasingly gets better and better with upcoming stories about the mummified body of John Wilkes Booth, secret codes transmitted between Thomas Jefferson and Lewis and Clark and the true meaning behind the torch of the Statue of Liberty.

I make no claims or promises for the show. Our participation ended after the initial episode proposals, but if it stays even a little bit close to what we offered, it should be something more involving than the same old hoary "map in the streets of Washington" fare.

West Virginia Masons Blocked From Performing Funeral For Ohio Brother

The Masonic Crusade website reports that a West Virginia resident who belonged to an Ohio lodge passed away, and that West Virginia Masons were barred from performing a Masonic funeral service for him.

That is the result of grand lodge politics and the ongoing battle over the expulsion of Past Grand Master Frank Haas.

A team of Ohio Masons came across the state line and performed a funeral service for the well respected brother, so his family did not have suffer from this tawdry bickering. But West Virginia Masons were not allowed to participate in the service.

In the name of all that is right and proper, brethren—would somebody please blink and bring this madness to an end?

The civil trial between Haas and the Grand Lodge of West Virginia begins December 6th.

Monday, November 29, 2010

New Light on Mozart's Financial Woes

An article in yesterday's New York Times discusses new research into the financial woes of Brother Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's at the end of his life, and it seems he was sued by a fellow Mason.

From Scholar Has Theory on Mozart the Debtor By Danial J. Wakin:

(A)n aristocratic friend and fellow Freemason, Prince Karl Lichnowsky, had sued Mozart over a debt and won a judgment of 1,435 florins and 32 kreutzer in Austrian currency of the time (nearly twice Mozart’s yearly income) weeks before the composer died.


Mozart scholar, Peter Hoyt, has come up with a theory about the details: that the judgment stemmed from a loan of 1,000 thalers in Prussian currency made on May 2, 1789, the day the prince and his coach departed Berlin without Mozart, leaving him in need of money for his own transportation.

If true, the conclusion could add depth and texture to our understanding of Mozart’s anxieties over financial problems at the end of his life and of his reception during one of his last journeys. At the least, the research shows the nearly obsessive attention scholars pay to the most minute aspects of Mozart’s life.

“It gives us a concrete picture of the misery level that Mozart lived with in the last two and a half years of his life,” Mr. Hoyt said in a recent interview. He said he hoped the theory would narrow the focus for other scholars to find documents connected to the loan.

Mozart expressed financial desperation in letters of the time, and scholars have long sought to interpret their tone. Was he being deliberately theatrical? Did they reflect some other anguish?

“Without your help, the honor, peace of mind and perhaps the life itself of your friend and brother Mason will perish,” Mozart wrote to another Freemason, Michael Puchberg, in July 1789. The research, Mr. Hoyt said, “ratchets up our understanding of how desperate his letters really were.”

Sunday, November 28, 2010

For Those of Us Who Still Read Books


Trying To Bring Old Masters Scotch to Indianapolis

Indianapolis Masons...

Indiana is one of those states that does not allow legal mail order liquor sales, so I am attempting to find an Indianapolis liquor distributor who can order Lombard's Old Masters Scotch Whisky. I will be working on it this week. My reason for posting this here is that if a large order can be placed at once, perhaps it will be a more attractive proposition for a local distributor.

If you are in central Indiana and are interested in having a bottle or two, please send me a note with the subject line Old Masters in it to hodapp@aol.com, let me know how many, and I will add it to the tally, along with letting you know what the per bottle/case cost will be.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Poll Results: Is your lodge building an election polling place?

New Hampshire Lodge Features Mozart's Masonic Music

Freemason Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was initiated into the “Zur Wohltätigkeit” (“Beneficence”) Lodge in Vienna, Austria in 1784. Mozart also attended the meetings of another lodge, "Zur wahren Eintracht" ("True Concord"). An imperial decree in Austria in the wake of the Illuminati scandal (the Freimaurerpatent, "Masonic Decree" of December 11, 1785) consolidated his lodge "Zur Wohltätigkeit" with two others to become "Zur Neugekrönten Hoffnung" (New Crowned Hope). His father Leopold also joined the fraternity in 1785.

In the following years, Mozart wrote several pieces of music specifically for use in Masonic ceremonies. Unfortunately, they are obscure works, rarely performed, and almost never heard in connection with the ceremonies they were intended.

Mozart's specifically Masonic music includes:

- Lied (song) "Gesellenreise," K. 468, "for use at installation of new journeymen" (1785)

- Cantata for tenor and male chorus Die Maurerfreude ("The Mason's Joy"), K. 471 (1785)

- Masonic Funeral Music (Maurerische Trauermusik), K. 477/479a (1785)

- Two songs, K. 483 and K. 484, to celebrate the opening oflodge "Zur Neugekrönten Hoffnung" (1786)

- Cantata for tenor and piano, Die ihr die unermesslichen Weltalls Schöpfer ehrt, K. 619 (1791)

- The Little Masonic Cantata, (Kleine Freimaurer-Kantate, K. 623 (1791)

The last includes the passage, "Oh You, Our New Leaders," written for the installation of the officers of a newly constituted Lodge and was sung at the closing of the ceremonies. He completed the work on November 15th, 1791, conducting the first performance just three days later. Within two weeks, Mozart had died.

Oh you our new leaders,
We thank you now for all your faith.
Oh lead us ever on paths of virtue,
That all rejoice in the chain that ties us,
The chain that ties us unto better men
And giveth sweetness to life's chalice,
Gives sweetness to the cup of life.

And on the rungs of truth
Let us approach the throne of Wisdom,
That we may reach its holiness,
And that we of her crown may be worthy,
Of we with Charity drive out
The jealousy of the profane.

The holy adjuration we also vow:
To strive for perfection of our great temple,
To strive for perfection of our building great,
To strive for perfection of the temple, like you.

St. John’s Lodge No. 1, F.&A.M., of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, chartered in 1736, is the oldest Lodge in continuous existence in North America. The lodge will celebrate its 275th anniversary in June 2011.

On December 6th, 2010, the officers of St. John's Lodge No. 1 will be installed in a public ceremony. They will be accompanied by Portsmouth Pro Musica, a 50-person chorus, who will perform Mozart's officer installation anthem from the Little Masonic Cantata. The chorus draws its voices from the greater Seacoast area, including New Hampshire, southern Maine, and northern Massachusetts.

The installation will take place on December, 6th at 2:00 pm EST at the Masonic Temple, 351 Middle Street, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The free event is semi-public, and reservations are required. Please contact alan_ammann@hotmail.com for reservations.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Actor Michael Brea Interviewed About Killing His Mother

Actor Michael Brea is under psychological observation in the prison ward of New York's Bellevue Hospital after killing his mother with what has been described in the press as a Masonic sword Tuesday morning. Reporter Matthew Lysiak from the New York Daily News was able to interview him today.

From Michael Brea, bit-part 'Ugly Betty' actor, says, 'I didn't kill her. I killed the demon insider her':

"I was sleeping in my bedroom. God came above my bed and reached his arm to me," said Brea, wearing a light-blue prison jumpsuit and slippers. He told his tale while sitting unhandcuffed on a blue chair behind a wood table.

"I said, 'God, is my time on earth over?' I heard a voice say, 'Yes Michael, today is your last day.' I asked if I could say goodbye to my family."

The 31-year-old Brea said he told no one about the dream, but the following afternoon, he said he received another sign while at the Prince Hall Masonic Temple in Harlem, which he'd joined a week earlier.

There, he said, a man approached and tried to put a curse on him.

"[He] kept trying to put something in my hand but wouldn't show it to me. I kept opening my hand. It was a Freemason pin. I wouldn't touch it," Brea said.

Felt like Neo from 'The Matrix'

He began feeling ill and left, and while riding the train back to Brooklyn, he said, strangers began speaking to him about his mother.

"I felt like Neo from 'The Matrix.' I began hearing voices and feeling powerful," Brea said. "They were asking about the difference between mom and mother. It was a sign."

When he returned to the family's Prospect Heights apartment, the bit-part actor who once appeared on "Ugly Betty," hugged his mother, a God-fearing Haitian immigrant with whom relatives say he had long been very close.

"I knew I would never see my mother again," he said. "I gave her lots of love."

He went to his room and lit candles, placed a dagger and a 3-foot ceremonial Freemason sword by his side.

Investigators said he had stolen the sword from the Masonic lodge, but Brea insisted his father had given it to him when he was a child.

"It's a powerful sword," he said.

Brea also arranged three saint cards around him - including one of Saint Jude holding a sword.

His mother was cooking three chickens in a pot in the kitchen, and Brea was convinced they were a black magic sacrifice. With that, he attacked her with the sword. After describing in detail hacking his mother to death as she screamed for mercy, Brea said he heard cops beating on the door, but knew God would protect him until he had finished his grisly work.

When they finally broke the door down, cops found a trail of bloody footprints and handprints on the walls and floors, and Yannick Brea crumpled on her knees in the bathroom.

Her son stood amid the carnage with the sword in one hand and a Masonic Bible in the other.

"I heard voices telling me how powerful I was, saying 'Oh he's good,'" Brea said.

While recounting the gruesome murder, Brea showed no remorse, and his eyes stayed locked on a reporter.

His intensity only broke for a moment when he said he was thirsty and his mouth was dry. Guards gave him a wet towelette to dab at his lips.

Brea said he is convinced he did the right thing.

"Grand Architect of the Universe means God," he said, referring to an expression neighbors said he shouted as he was being removed from the bloody scene. "I was praising God. To you it might sound silly, but in my culture demons are very real."

Photos in the New York Post showed the murder weapon to be a sword with a wavy "flambard" blade, and not a specifically "Masonic" sword (nor is it a samurai sword, as was reported in early versions of the story). Reports are that he had been initiated in St. John's Lodge No. 29, PHA in Harlem last week, and that he had recently suffered major financial disasters.

Not that any of that matters in the grand scheme of things. A woman is dead at the hands of her own son, who gives every outward appearance of a man who has lost his sanity.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Indianapolis Prince Hall Thanksgiving

Several Broad Ripple Lodge brethren and I again participated in the annual Indianapolis Prince Hall Thanksgiving dinner program. This year more than 1,000 meals were served to the homeless, shut-ins and others who would otherwise not have a Thanksgiving dinner – an annual tradition that began back in 1983. Our lodge members have taken part in this event since 2002, and it's always a packed house.

This morning is always a labor of love, and brethren from PHA lodges and their Eastern Star ladies from all over the city take part in prepping, cooking, packing, cleaning up, answering the phones, and coordinating deliveries. And it's always great to reconnect with folks I haven't seen since the previous year.

Thanks to the Prince Hall Masons of Central Lodge No. 1, Trinity No. 18, Meridian Lodge No. 33, Southern Cross No. 39, Fidelity Lodge No. 55, Sumner A. Furniss No. 61 (and anyone else I might have forgotten!), for all that you do to help the community, and for keeping this program running strong year after year.

Ales of the Revolution

Looking for a special potable to serve among Masonic brethren at your next table lodge (or offsite feast, if your jurisdiction so dictates)? How about beer crafted from the recipes of two of Masonry's most famous brethren, Washington and Franklin?

In 2003, Yards Brewing Company of Philadelphia partnered with the City Tavern — a favorite Philadelphia haunt of the nation's founding fathers — to create Ales of the Revolution, a line of historic beer recreations based on the original recipes of George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. In fact, Yards' brewery is located just a few blocks away from the site of Robert Hair's brewery, where Washington's favorite beer, Philadelphia Porter, was brewed.

From the Yards Brewing Company website:

General Washington's Tavern Porter

Days of debate and deliberation at Independence Hall were often followed by nights of debate and deliberation (and a few libations) at the City Tavern, where our forefathers would gather to exchange revolutionary ideas.

Rich and warming with a deep garnet hue, the molasses-based Tavern Porter reflects Washington's admiration of Philadelphia-style porters and follows a recipe Washington used himself, when brewing beer to satisfy his thirsty field officers.

Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce Ale

Brewed to celebrate Ben's 300th birthday.

Whether Ben Franklin ever said, "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" is up for debate. Some say he said it, others say he didn't. No one knows for sure.

Historical facts or fictions aside, Yards Brewing Company has recreated Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce Ale™ to celebrate Franklin's affinity for fine ales. Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce Ale is based on Franklin's original recipe, which called for spruce essence and molasses, as barley and hops were not readily available at the time.

Also available is Thomas Jefferson's Tavern Ale, based on his own original recipe, which included ingredients specified and grown on his Virginia estate of Monticello.

(H/T to Ken Davis)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Preliminary Rulings in GL of West Virginia v. Frank Haas Case

New developments are surfacing in the upcoming civil court case between the Grand Lodge of West Virginia and Past Grand Master Frank Haas. The judge held a pre-trial conference and made three preliminary rulings, based on her interpretation of the published internal laws of the Grand Lodge of West Virginia:

• The Grand Master did not have the authority to expel a member without trial.

• Grand Lodge had filed a motion to disallow any discussion of race in the case. The judge ruled that race was a pertinent issue in the circumstances as it was a part of the justification for Haas' expulsion (his brief contact as Grand Master with Prince Hall's Grand Master, along with Haas' proposed rule change regarding non-discrimination), and would be allowed to be brought up.

• She ruled that West Virginia's laws do allow the court to force a private organization to abide by its own internal rules.

While laws vary from state to state, every grand master and lineup of grand lodge officers in the U.S. should take careful note of these findings before exercising what they believe to be their supreme authority over members. There really is a higher legal authority beyond our lodge room doors.

The trial is scheduled to begin before the end of November. It is my understanding that the Grand Lodge has spent well over $100,000 in this case so far, which could have all been saved if one of the last four GMs had been willing to blink. Instead of stonewalling and allowing this to continue for more than three years, everyone needs to get back to the work of making Freemasonry in West Virginia the very best it can be.

Meanwhile, Haas was made a Mason in Ohio back in April, and the result of that action has been for the GL of West Virginia to yank recognition of Ohio over it. Rank and file Masons in two states are barred from meeting on the level because of this ongoing quagmire.

Recaps of the expulsion of Past Grand Master Haas in 2007 and the subsequent actions can be found here.

New Books in My Masonic Reading Pile

After almost three non-stop months of road trips, I am finally able to curl up with an accumulating heap of books that have been arriving on the doorstep or that I picked up on the road. Alice has just been stacking the boxes in the corner, and I had my own little unpacking hootenanny this afternoon.

Among them are:

Guess At The Rest: Cracking The Hogarth Code by Elisabeth Soulier-Détis

The Question of Freemasonry and the Founding Fathers by David Barton

The Beauty and Glory of the Day: A Masonic Devotional by Walter William Melnyk

Into Masonic Light by Douglas Wood and Dimitar Mavrov

Masonic Village at Elizabethtown 1910-2010 edited by Lindsay A. de Bien

Observing the Craft: The Pursuit of Excellence in Masonic Labour and Observance by Andrew Hammer

The Vatican Secret Archives by VDH Books

Memorize the Faith (And Most Anything Else): Using the Methods of the Great Catholic Medieval Memory Masters by Kevin Vost

Operative Masonry and the National Cathedral

A CNN piece featuring Joe Alfonso, the head stonemason at Washington, D.C.'s National Cathedral: Sacred Spaces - National Cathedral

Brooklyn Masonic Temple Is Not Exactly Masonic

The Brooklyn Masonic Temple at at Clermont and Lafayette Avenues in Fort Greene, Brooklyn is a familiar concert venue to New Yorkers. Built between 1907-09, it was eventually home to 35 lodges and appendant groups, affiliated with the Grand Lodge of New York F&AM. But in spite of the name, the Brooklyn "Masonic Temple" isn't really "Masonic" anymore, at least, not within the realm of regular, recognized Freemasonry. "Counterfeit" might be a more succinct term.

Architects Austin Lord and James Monroe Hewlett designed a brick, marble and terra cotta exterior that still impresses today. There's no question that they were designing a monumental building for the Ages.

Inside is a 1,000 seat auditorium, two large lodge rooms and one smaller one, along with two banquet halls. The auditorium today is often the setting for local rock concerts.

Unfortunately, the lodges were unable to keep the building, and it was sold in 1977 to an irregular Masonic organization, a "clandestine" grand lodge known as the Empire State Grand Council, Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite Masons Inc. It is a predominantly black, non-Prince Hall group that is unrecognized by the overwhelming majority of legitimate Masonic organizations around the world. Just like its previous owners discovered, the costs of maintaining the building are steep, and it must be rented out on a regular basis to pay the bills. Reports are that the interior is suffering tremendously from lack of upkeep.

Over the years, the Brooklyn Temple was fought over by its new owners, and according to several brothers, there are multiple unrecognized Masonic organizations now operating in the building.

Indeed, Brooklyn is a hotbed of irregular and unrecognized groups calling themselves Freemasons. Brother Oscar Alleyne of Wallkill Lodge No. 627 recently gave a talk on this subject, and reported that there are at least 67 grand lodges operating in New York that are irregular or unrecognized, in addition to the regular and recognized Grand Lodge of New York F&AM and the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York. The vast majority of them are headquartered in one of the five boroughs of New York City. The Phylaxis Society's Commission on Bogus Masonry lists no fewer than eleven "grand lodges," plus a couple of OES groups, at work in Brooklyn alone, and it does not appear to be up to date.

Still, it regularly appears in reviews of concerts that the "Masons" still own the building. True in name only. Unfortunately, Freemasonry and Masonic can't really be trademarked or copyrighted, and anyone who wants to can stick a square and compass on the door and proclaim themselves a lodge, or if they have more grandiose ambitions, a grand lodge.

On the other hand...

William D. Moore in his 2006 book Masonic temples: freemasonry, ritual architecture, and masculine archetypes, expresses the belief that the Brooklyn Masonic Temple influenced large Masonic temple designs all over the U.S., in style, size and form. Its images and floorplans were widely reprinted in architectural and Masonic publications across the country, and building committees and architects traveled to Brooklyn to see it in person when planning their own buildings during the height of the fraternal building boom from 1910-1929. The Scottish Rite and Shriners were also on major building expansions across the country, but the Brooklyn temple was specifically for blue lodge and York Rite bodies, and you can see its influence - inside and out - in Masonic temples across the country built before the Depression hit. For that and many other reasons, we should all be grateful the building has regular activity and owners who can still keep the doors open, the heat on and the lights burning. Many others have not been so fortunate.

My November Trip Recap

Finally catching up after my November trip. Drove 2,471 road miles; flew 4,800 air miles; visited, spoke at or drove by 6 lodges, one grand lodge, and a dozen bookstores; celebrated my 52nd birthday; and met hundreds of new friends and brethren in 13 days. This was the longest I've been away from Alice in 33 years.

Many, many thanks to all of the lodges and brethren I got to spend time with for their hospitality and kindness. I learn something at every single lodge I visit, and I mean that with all sincerity. Thanks to all of you for the gifts, the lessons, and the fond memories.

The stunning modernist Abraham C. Treichler Lodge No. 682 at the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, PA. About 275 brethren, ladies and guests came out for their annual dinner. Thanks to Tom Labaugh for acting as tour guide for most of the day, and to everyone who was so kind and generous all day long. Must find a way to retire as a Pennsylvania Mason. The Elizabethtown Masonic Village is unbelievable. Downside: Pennsylvania winters.

The War Memorial, "Veteran's Grove," at the Pennsylvania Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, on Veteran's Day 2010

Gettysburg on Veteran's Day 2010

In front of the Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg, Veteran's Day 2010

Good Samaritan Lodge No. 336 on the town square in Gettysburg, PA. I just lucked into their stated meeting night.

"Friend To Friend" Masonic Memorial at Gettysburg cemetery.

Oldest continuously used Masonic building in Pennsylvania, George Washington Lodge No. 143 in Chambersburg, PA. Built in 1823-24. One of the only buildings spared when Confederate soldiers burned the town in 1864.

Newly remodeled lodge room of George Washington Lodge No. 143 in Chambersburg, PA. I first met members of this lodge when I was visiting Waverley Lodge No. 597 in Edinburgh, Scotland three years ago. Members of this lodge just happened to be there that night to demonstrate Pennsylvania's Master Mason ritual.

Grand Lodge of Maryland AF&AM, outside of Baltimore in Cockeysville.
Congratulations to M:.W:. Stephen J. Ponzillo, III, Grand Master, R:.W:. Jerry Piepiora, DGM, and all of the new grand lodge officers. Thanks especially to Jerry for inviting me just to hang out at Grand Lodge. It was a great time.

Grand Lodge of Maryland's Grand Lodge Room. In the hospitality room I met up with a fun group of Pennsylvania Masons who just happened to be staying at the hotel while working at the Baltimore Irish Festival, providing food service for the whole event. Stopped in there Sunday and got a back of the tent tour.

Jerusalem Lodge No: 49 at 396 Main Street in Ridgefield, Connecticut. I lived in Ridgefield briefly from 1963-65. Didn't have time to visit a meeting.

Newport Tower, in Newport, Rhode Island. A Templar church?! A Viking tower?! Or just an old mill?

Harmony Lodge No. 9, Cranston, Rhode Island

Harmony Lodge No. 9, Cranston, Rhode Island. I got to see a public officer's installation the night before I spoke, and I have to say I have never seen a more active lodge anywhere I have been. Their activities list for one month puts many lodges' annual calendars to shame. They even bought me a birthday cake and a fine gift for my 52nd birthday. Their lodge website is the first I have ever encountered with an embedded QR code...

Tri-Town Masonic Center, East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Thanks for a wonderful dinner and a packed house of Masons and their ladies for their Lodge of Instruction night.

Masonic monument at a traffic intersection for Lodge El Sol Naciente No. 113 in Oranjestad, Aruba. I was in Aruba for about 36 hours. Two-thirds of the American Airlines flight from Boston to Miami seemed to be deadheading pilots and attendants. So at least I knew we were okay if the captain ate the bad fish entree.

Lodge El Sol Naciente No. 113 in Oranjestad, Aruba, one of three lodges on the island. Soon to be joined by a fourth that is forming this year.

Lodge room of El Sol Naciente in Oranjestad, Aruba. Brethren came from all of the lodges on the island, flew in from Curacao, and even several were there from Pennsylvania (those guys are everywhere!). My special thanks to Brother Stanley for being the perfect guide to the island all day long, and to his lovely wife and daughter for giving him up for the weekend. It was a great time, and I will be back.

The lodge is closed, and the bar is open. Proof that Masonic halls don't burst into flames when alcohol is served in them.

Changing planes in Miami on the flight back to Boston, I offended a Mom. Her kid asked me three times why I had a fatso tummy, so I told the little fartling it was because I cooked and ate fat children. Keep your brat on a leash or teach him some manners. And as Jeff Naylor offered, the little rodent should have seen me six months ago.

NY Cop Pleads Guilty in Ongoing Royal Order of Jesters Case

Retired sheriff's deputy Michael Lesinski is the fourth public official convicted in connection with the ongoing federal investigation of the Royal Order of Jesters in Buffalo, New York. On November 19, 2010, Lesinski pleaded guilty to concealing a felony.

From "Ex-deputy admits hiding crime" by Dan Herbeck in the Buffalo News:

Michael Lesinski, 50, of Lake View, admitted in federal court that in April 2005, he transported "approximately six or seven" prostitutes from Buffalo Niagara International Airport to a hotel in Niagara Falls, Ont., where the Jesters were having a convention.

According to court papers, Lesinski was a member of the Jesters' Buffalo chapter, which included a state judge, a former Lockport police captain and a former state court official. All previously took guilty pleas in the case.

Authorities said Lesinski, who has since retired, was still active as a road deputy at the time of the off-duty incident involving the prostitutes.

"[Lesinski] pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony, which is basically concealment of a felony crime," said Rodney O. Personius, the former deputy's lawyer.

The defense lawyer said Lesinski admits that he knew the women were prostitutes after dropping them off at the Ontario hotel, but he said Lesinski takes the position that he did not know they were prostitutes when he took them across the border into Canada.


Lesinski is the fourth former public official to be convicted of a crime in connection with the Jesters probe, which was conducted by FBI agents and the Western New York Human Trafficking Task Force.

In August 2009, retired State Supreme Court Judge Ronald H. Tills, 74, was sentenced by Skretny to 18 months in prison after admitting that he coordinated the procurement of prostitutes for several Jesters events. Skretny called the former judge's conduct "disgraceful."

Former Lockport Police Capt. John Trowbridge was put on probation for two years after taking a guilty plea in the case, and Michael Stebick, a former Erie County prosecutor and state court law clerk, was sentenced to four years of home confinement after also pleading to a crime.

National leaders of the Jesters, a national organization affiliated with the Masons, have repeatedly said they were shocked to learn that members of the Buffalo chapter were employing prostitutes at their gatherings.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Brooklyn Murder With Masonic References

After conflicting reports on Tuesday, details of a bizarre and tragic murder in New York are coming forth with some strange Masonic references. The suspect, Michael Brea (photo) is referred to as a "low-level Freemason," and he is accused of murdering his own mother with a Masonic sword.

From a story in the New York Post that was revised several times throughout the day:

A hardworking Brooklyn mother was hacked to death early this morning allegedly by her sword-wielding, bit-actor son during a bizarre religious meltdown in which he screamed Bible passages and made obscure references to Freemasonry, police and witnesses said.

Greg Clare, who lives downstairs from victim Yannick Brea, 55, shared with her son Michael Brea, a 31-year-old actor and low-level Freemason who had roles in "Ugly Betty" and the movie "Step Up 3D," said he first heard screams about 1 a.m.

"He kept chanting: ‘Repent! Repent! Repent!’" Clare said, referring to Brea. "He kept asking her if she believed in Jesus Christ, if she believed in God. She was yelling ‘Help me! Help me!’"

Another neighbor said Brea kept calling for the "architect of the universe," a term used by Freemasons to refer to a supreme being. And a police source said the murder weapon was a three-foot ceremonial Masonic sword.

ABC and some other news outlets first reported the sword was a "samurai" sword, and there was no reference to the "architect of the universe." No word yet where Brea was supposedly a member, and the phrase in the article, "low level Freemason," is a curious one. While some reports said the victim suffered head injuries, earlier in the day officers on the scene described an "extremely bloody" situation and said she had been decapitated.

Police tasered Brea and transported him to a nearby hospital for a psychological exam. Brea had no previous arrests, police said. According to his online bio at BelFilm.com, Brea's parents were Haitian, and he enthusiastically adopted Haitian culture. He opened a Subway restaurant in NYC in 2007, and seemed to have a strong public sense of charity. He also has a background in martial arts.

It should be noted that, despite the phrases in the press (and a scene in Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol"), mainstream U.S. Freemasons don't as a rule use a "ceremonial sword" in lodge. The officer who sits outside of the lodge door, known as the Tyler (or Tiler), does guard the entrance with a sword, but general members do not usually own them, or use them in Masonic lodge rituals and ceremonies. However, some appendant organizations, like the Masonic Knights Templar, do use them in their ceremonies, though not in anything that could be remotely considered violent or menacing.

Frankly, anyone can buy a sword with Masonic symbols on it, and they are commonly available all over eBay and the Internet.

It should also be cautiously pointed out that Brooklyn has several irregular, "clandestine" Masonic organizations, including one that purchased the popular, high-profile concert venue, the Brooklyn Masonic Temple. (The group is called The Empire State Grand Council A&A.S.R.M., a predominantly black group with no ties to Prince Hall Freemasonry). The Phylaxis Society's Commission on Bogus Masonry lists no fewer than eleven clandestine "grand lodges," plus a couple of OES "grand chapters," at work in Brooklyn alone.

No one has publicly claimed Brea as a member at this point.


From the New York Daily News on 11/24/2010:

Yannick Brea, 55, was found kneeling - as if offering a final prayer - after she was butchered during her son's demented diatribe about repentance, police said.

"Sinner! Sinner!" howled Michael Brea, a bit-part actor who once appeared on "Ugly Betty," neighbors and police sources said. "You never accepted Jesus!"

The suspect, still in full "fire and brimstone" babble when carried out on a stretcher, was clutching his Bible and a Masonic ceremonial sword when cops busted into a bedroom, police sources said.

"He yelled, 'The greatest architect in the universe!' " - a term sometimes used by Masons for God - while he was being taken away, said neighbor Sydney Clare, 15. "He looked crazy."


Brea's uncle said his nephew, 31, apparently took the ceremonial sword with him while leaving a Masons meeting late Monday night. A rattled Martial Brea said his nephew was typically a smart, quiet man.

"Something happened that made him do it," the uncle told The News. "The Devil entered him."

The swords - typically stainless steel blades with short, black grips - sell online for about $280.

Ponder The Esotericism of This Image

I am certain there is esoteric significance to this disturbing image.

Found in the emergency procedures card on my flight home from Aruba.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Worshipful Brother Jerry T. Cowley

On Friday, my friend and brother, Worshipful Brother Jerry T. Cowley, will be given his 50 year award of gold, in a very unique and special location of his choosing. This might astonish many who know Jerry, as he has the appearance of men half his age, and the youthful exuberance I never possessed even in my teens. He has been a Navy aviator*, and a Past Master of two Masonic lodges, Centre Lodge No. 23, and my own Broad Ripple No. 643, both in Indianapolis. He has been a friend and mentor, not only to me, but to nearly everyone who has joined Broad Ripple for more than 15 years. He has probably signed more petitions than anyone there (including mine in 1998), and has been an inspiration to me for my entire Masonic career.

Jerry is a bubbling font of innovative ideas, and has a cherished belief that lodge should be fun, educational, and most of all, memorable. He has served as Secretary, edited our newsletter, inspired our annual chili cook-off, insisted on picnics and special dinners, organized PM meetings, crafted special awards, created (with WBro. Dick Reed) a unique wooden gavel for each new Master year after year, and encouraged our ongoing relationships with Prince Hall Masons in Indianapolis. I know of few men who have quietly accomplished what he has, without fanfare. He is truly the embodiment of the notion that much can be accomplished when you don't care who gets the credit. His goal is always to help the lodge, support the Master, and encourage others.

Tomorrow he will be awarded his 50 year pin at Crown Hill Cemetery at the gravesite of his grandfather, Bro. Paul Clarke Grimes, who was also a 50 year member of Broad Ripple Lodge. That's the kind of thinking Jerry is known for.

I am proud to call him my friend. Someday I hope to be half the Mason he is.

I am unfortunately on the road this week with no possible way to get back for the event tomorrow. I am with you in spirit, my brother, and will raise a Bombay Sapphire martini to you at 11 AM.

*(I had called him a Navy "pilot", but Jerry informs me that Navy "pilots" putter around with tugboats and such, while "aviator" is a much more appropriate term. The ultimate point is, he was shot off of aircraft carriers strapped into a jet fighter, and managed to plop it back down again on a moving deck more than once, proving it wasn't just an accident. And never once piloted a tug boat. Or hit one, for that matter.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NOT in Brockton Tomorrow, but East Bridgewater

There has been some confusion on my part about where I am speaking Thursday night. It is NOT at the Brockton, Massachusetts Masonic Temple. I WILL be at the Tri-Town Masonic Temple, 38 Franklin Street ( RT27 ), East Bridgewater, MA.

While I am invited by St. George Lodge in Brockton, it will be in East Bridgewater as part of their district Lodge of Instruction.

Time: 7:00 pm - 9:15 pm
Venue: Tri-Town Masonic Building
Contact Person: Wor. James Fotopoulos
Contact Phone: 508.584.8503
Contact E-Mail: jfotopoulos@comcast.net

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Old Masters Scotch Has New US Distributers

Brother Jared Card reports new distributers in the U.S. for Lombard's Old Masters Scotch Whisky:

Friends and Brothers,
I am pleased to let you all know (especially those of you in Texas) that we have just picked up another retailer who is taking orders and shipping the Old Masters Scotch for us. There are now 3 retailers in the USA who have it available and a 4th coming shortly. I know shipping laws differ from state to state and so do retail laws. Please try these 3 locations before letting me know if you are still unsuccessful in obtaining your desired amount of whisky.

1. www.binnys.com Binny's (Chicago)
2. www.worldofliquor.com Bayway World of Liquors (New Jersey)
3. www.wineandliquordepot.com Wine and Liquor Depot (California)

Wine and Liquor Depot should be getting product in the next few days. Feel free to contact them and let them know you want the Old Masters and they should be able to help you out. I have also been informed that they WILL ship to Texas so all you brethren down there looking I hope this will be a solution to our issues. The 4th retailer who will soon have Old Masters is Federal Wine and Spirits in Boston, Mass. If you contact Joe Howell he will be able to give you more details as to when his shipment is arriving. Thank you for all your support and patience. May brotherly love prevail

Contact Jared directly at oldmasterswhisky@gmail.com

Detroit Masonic Temple On The Ropes Again

I have known this for a while, but the news hit papers yesterday. The deal that was the lifeline for the Detroit Masonic Temple has come to an end. The hope was that the Ilitch participation would revitalize the theatres and spur new development in the troubled Cass Corridor, which is off the beaten track from the downtown entertainment centers. An Ilitch-owned casino is just three blocks away from the Temple, and the dream was that the road between the two would be revitalized. Sadly, not in this economy.

Unfortunately, the Scottish Rite and the Shrine both abandoned the magnificent building several years ago, leaving the lodges and York Rite bodies on their own to maintain it, pay the utilities and taxes.

What comes next for the biggest Masonic building in the world is anyone's guess. If you have never visited the Temple, make the effort.

From the Detroit Free Press, "Ilitches' Olympia ends deal with Masonic Temple":

Olympia Entertainment said today it has ended its deal to operate the Masonic Temple, one of Detroit’s oldest show and concert venues, but owners of the facility say they will keep it open.

The entertainment company owned by the Ilitch family said in a statement released late this afternoon that it opted several months ago not to renew a contract to operate the facility after a two-year deal expired.

“During management of the venue, Olympia invested millions of dollars in the operations of the facility, including paying off and restructuring debt on behalf of the Masonic Temple Association,” the company said. “Olympia also worked diligently to book and promote entertainment acts and private events at the venue. We stepped into a very difficult situation and did our best, but unfortunately the business climate did not support continuation of the agreement.”

Olympia said it has continued to help manage and book events since the agreement ended in April. What’s next for the venerable facility that’s hosted shows and concerts, weddings and proms since 1926 wasn’t clear.

The Masonic Temple has two major theaters seating 4,300 and 1,500 respectively and ballrooms for up to 1,000 people.
Members of several Masonic clubs that own the building want to keep it open, said Dr. Bisham Singh, who is worshipful master of the Detroit Lodge No. 2, the city’s oldest Masonic group.
“We are hoping we can continue to have a house for the Masons and continue to host shows in Detroit,” said Singh of Chesterfield Township, a Detroit Medical Center physician.
“There's no truth to us mothballing the building,” said Roger Sobran, president of the Masonic Temple Association.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

November Road Trip

I'm hitting the road in a big way in November, and looking forward to speaking to brethren in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Aruba. Plus I'll be stopping in at the Grand Lodge of Maryland on the 12th and 13th.

November 10, 2010
Abraham C. Treichler Lodge No. 682, at the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
Ticket Prices are $23 per person. Contact: David W. Berry, Banquet Chairman, dwberry@pademolay.org (717) 367-1536

November 17, 2010
Harmony Lodge #9 in Cranston, Rhode Island
$5.00 Per Master Mason for Masonic presentation & dinner
$10.00 per person for the open-to-the-public presentation.

Private Masonic Presentation 5:30pm
Private Masonic Dinner 6:30pm
Public Meet & Book Signing 7:30pm
Public Presentation 8:00pm

November 18, 2010
St. George Lodge in Brockton, MA

NOTE LOCATION CHANGE: Tri-Town Masonic Temple in East Bridgewater
East Bridgewater, MA
Lodge of Instruction - Masons only

November 20, 2010
Lodge El Sol Naciente No. 113 in Oranjestad, Aruba
Refreshments and hors 'oeuvres will be served. Event begins at 7:30PM.
Masons only - business suit, please
RSVP Anthony Giel at 597-0881

Issue 10 of the Journal of the Masonic Society Coming

Issue 10 of the Journal of the Masonic Society will be landing in mailboxes soon.

Highlights from this issue include:

Wordcraft: How To Build a Solid Masonic paper or Presentation by Randy Williams

France’s New Museum of Freemasonry by Christopher L. Hodapp

Online Catalogs For Masonic Research by Brian Rountree

Secret in the Passage: Casanova’s Reflections on Freemasonry by R. Brad Bunn

Was Freemasonry a Tudor Invention? by Gene Hutloff

A Century of Craft Freemasonry in England by Yasha Beresiner

Perishing on the Rise by Rob Morris

Masonic Treasures: Masonic Marker at Maggie Valley, North Carolina

Deadly Apathy by Michael R. Poll

“Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand” by Christopher L. Hodapp

The Gentleman Mason - our regular column of style, manners, book reviews, tobacciana, and spirits; a report from the Masonic Society's semi-annual meeting in New Orleans in September; news and events from all over the Masonic world; and products from our great advertisers

This issue’s cover features a small portion of a mural depicting the Fellowcraft appearing before King Solomon. It is located in the Cumberland Masonic Temple, built in 1911, in Cumberland, Maryland.

Not a member of the Masonic Society yet? We are the fastest growing Masonic research organization in the world, with members from 17 countries. Membership costs a paltry $39, and you'll get four issues of the very best magazine in Freemasonry; the greatest membership patent you will ever receive, with our trademark wax seal; regular discount offers on books, clothing and more; our private, members-only online forum; and it wouldn't be Masonic without a dues card and pin!

Treat yourself to an early Christmas present and join us at www.themasonicsociety.com.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Grand Lodge of Indiana Library and Museum Workday Sunday 11/7

There will be a work day in the Grand Lodge of Indiana Library and Museum tomorrow, Sunday, November 7, from 9:00 A.M. until 12:00 P.M, at Indiana Freemasons' Hall in downtown Indianapolis. We will work on unpacking boxes and determining what goes up to the sixth floor and what needs to be put on shelves, along with getting the shelved books in their proper order. Coffee and doughnuts on the second floor at 8:30. Please feel free to join us.

Don't forget to change your clocks tonight. Fall back.

Ireland's Freemasons Hit Hard by Banking Crisis

Ireland's Freemasons are among numerous organizations, churches, dioceses, political figures and charities which have lost a fortune on their Bank of Ireland investment shares. At their highest value in February 2007, the shares traded at €18.70 (US$26.24), but they were trading at their lowest point this year yesterday at just 43c (US$0.60).

From the article "Catholic Church loses millions in bank share crash" in the Belfast Telegraph today:

The Masonic Trust Company, which represents the Freemasons and invests money on behalf of Masonic Lodges around Ireland, is nursing one of the biggest investment losses with its shares reduced from a high of €12.7 million (US$17.8 million) to just €338,000 (US$474,000).

The collapse of Irish banks was triggered in 2008 by reckless lending to property developers, combined with an inability of the Irish banking system to adjust its currency by increasing interest rates or devaluing currency, since Ireland is part of the European Union. Bank of Ireland’s bad debt levels are believed to be €7 billion over the last three years. Bank of Ireland escaped total nationalization and emerged from the country's financial crisis as the "best of the country's bad banks" after a bailout from the Irish Government of €3.5 billion (US$4.9 billion) into it earlier this year.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Allied Masonic Degrees "Masonic Week" 2011 Alexandria, VA Feb. 9-13

The official program for Masonic Week 2011 in Alexandria, Virginia is up and running, complete with online hotel reservations. The hotel will again be the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, which does have smoker and dog-friendly accomodations.

The Masonic Society banquet will be Friday, February 11th, at 6:00PM.

The Philalethes Society returns, with a 7:00AM breakfast on Friday.

The Masonic Order of Athelstan & Scarlet Cord will be conferring degrees on Wednesday, and the Operatives will confer degrees on Sunday.

And there's even a terrific new logo, designed by Indiana's own John Bridegroom, too. Now let's all pray really hard for NO SNOW!

A thought for your election day

"Woe unto those who aspire to that which they are unfitted!
Woe unto those who take up a burden which they cannot bear!
Woe unto those who assume duties lightly and afterward neglect them!"

Albert Pike, from the 4th degree of the Scottish Rite SJ

H/T to Brother Jon-Paul Stone

Monday, November 01, 2010

Paul M. Bessel's Site Down?

Brother Paul M. Bessel's extensive website has been down for several days. Hopefully this incredible Masonic research resource will return soon.

I don't seem to have Paul's contact information, but hope all is well with him.

It also appears that the Three Pillars Masonic forum has vanished. That is sad, as it had much good archival information.