Connect with us

History

ISRAEL’S GREATEST SPY WHO WAS HANGED IN SYRIA

Published

on

This is the story of Eli Cohen, Israel’s greatest spy.

From the creation of Israel through, the present day, Syria has been one, if not the most, implacable of Israel’s enemies. From 1948 until 1967, Syria fired mortar shells from the Syrian-occupied Golan Hei settlements of the Upper Galilee below. For 19 years, Jewish settlements in the north were under constant threat of Syrian guns.

advert

Today, one can see the former Syrian bunkers that remain on the Golan Heights from 1967 (as well as the tanks from 1973). Israel has had a quiet northern border on the Golan with the exception of some occasional fallout from the Syrian civil war for more than 40 years. At times before the civil war, the Syrians used Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to harass Israel the way they used to from the Golan Heights. Since 1992, the Golan has been up for discussion in the peace talks, but it strikes a very emotional chord among Israelis due to its historic and strategic significance, in addition to its natural beauty.

When the Golan was captured in 1967, at almost the end of the Six-Day War, settlers in the north could finally feel relieved. Much of the credit for Israel’s ability to capture the Golan was due to Eli Cohen, Israel’s greatest spy.

Cohen (middle) at the Golan Heights

The Golan is not only important for its military significance. It also provides 30% of Israel’s water sources. The three major tributaries of the upper Jordan River – the Dan, the Baniyas, and the Hatzbani – all originate in the Golan. The melting winter snows produce a huge run-off of water which makes the Golan a beautifully verdant area in the late winter and spring and irrigates the Hula and Jordan Valleys below. Its waters flow into the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret) and south to the Dead Sea.

The Kinneret supplies Israel with most of its water needs. In the 1960s, Israel developed a national water carrier that diverted water from the Kinneret into a pipeline that irrigated much of the country – and especially Israel’s arid south.

Israel tried to obtain the cooperation of her Arab neighbors for the plan, but the Arabs would not agree, even when the United States tried to use its diplomatic leverage for the furtherance of the plan. The Arabs would have none of it and decided to “divert the sources of the Jordan River which originated in Arab-held territory.” In this way, the Arabs hoped to deprive Israel of the waters she would need for her national growth.

Syria brought hydraulic engineers and diversion equipment to actualize the scheme. This coincided with the continuance of Palestinian terrorist infiltrators arriving from the Syrian border, along with a continual flow of Soviet technical assistance to Syria. “Israel’s defense planners urgently needed reliable intelligence on the scope of the water diversion project – engineering plans, diagrams, maps, and other data – and up-to-the-minute assessments of Soviet influence in the Syrian capital, as well as detailed information on plans for the modernization, equipping, and retraining of Syrian forces.” Eli Cohen was the man for the job.

Eli Cohen was born in Alexandria, Egypt, on December 26, 1924. “His parents, Syrian Jews from the thriving town of Aleppo, had always instilled in their educationally minded son the traditions of the Jewish people, of Zionism, and of the culture of Syria’s Jewish community, in particular.”

In 1949, his parents and three brothers moved to Israel while Eli remained in Egypt to coordinate Jewish and Zionist activities there. We may recall the Egyptian-Jewish spies from the Operation Susannah fiasco. They were caught spying for Israel in 1953 and some of them were hanged. A number were only released 14 years later, after the 1967 War. While Eli was not directly involved with the Operation Susannah spies, he was involved with pro-Israel activity, and he was brutally questioned by Egypt’s Intelligence Services.

Even after the blown operation led to the demise of the Operation Susannah spies, Eli Cohen left Egypt for Israel to undergo intensive espionage training in the summer of 1955. He even trained at the same facility “that had served as home to his doomed Susannah compatriots in 1953.” He returned to Egypt in 1956 but was suspected immediately and was placed under surveillance. At the beginning of the 1956 War, when Israel occupied the Sinai, Eli Cohen was detained by the Egyptian authorities, and was expelled from Egypt along with the remainder of Alexandrian Jews at the end of the war. He arrived in Israel on February 8, 1957.

Eli Cohen, at 29, offered his services to the Israeli Intelligence Services but was rebuked twice. He wasn’t even drafted into regular service but was “placed in a reserve Israeli Air Force formation as a logistics clerk.” Perhaps he wasn’t allowed into the security service due to his Military Intelligence evaluation some years before. “The agency concluded that Cohen had a high IQ, great bravery, a phenomenal memory, and the ability to keep a secret; but the tests also showed that ‘in spite of his modest appearance, he has an exaggerated sense of self-importance,’ and ‘a lot of internal tension.’ Cohen, the results indicated, ‘does not always evaluate danger correctly, and is liable to assume risks beyond those which are necessary.’”

On August 31, 1959, he married a beautiful Iraqi-born Jew, Nadia Majald. He worked as an accountant. Employment was not always steady, and he soon had to rely more on Nadia to help support their marriage, which would quickly lead to children. They would eventually have three children.

By 1960, however, Israeli Intelligence was ready to take another look at Eli Cohen. Eli, after all, was born in an Arab country, had oriental features, was known to be selfless and fearless in pursuit of a cause, and had knowledge of Arabic, English, and French. The border with Syria was heating up as well.

One day in 1960 Israeli Intelligence approached him about working for them again. At first, he refused. But within a month he had lost his Tel Aviv-based accountancy job. When Intelligence came by a second time, he jumped at it. “His training was extensive and exhaustive. He was taught high-speed evasive driving techniques, Weapons proficiency (especially with a wide variety of small arms), topography, map reading, sabotage, and, most importantly, radio transmissions and cryptography. These skills were instrumental in ensuring the safety and survival of one Kamal Amin Ta’abet: Eli Cohen’s new identity. One of the most difficult tasks for Eli Cohen was to learn the intricate and unmistakable phonetic tune of Syrian Arabic; prior to his intelligence training, his Egyptian accent was undeniable.” His trainer was an Iraqi-born Jew who had extensive experience training operatives in speaking Arabic and the traditions and Muslim customs.

Intelligence created a completely new identity for him. Kamal Amin Ta’abet (also called Tabas in some sources) was born in Beirut, Lebanon, to Syrian Muslim parents. His father’s name was Amin Ta’abet, and his mother’s Sa’adia Ibrahim. According to his fictional biography, in 1948 “the family moved to Argentina, where they opened a successful textile business.” Kamal Amin Ta’abet’s (Eli Cohen) return to Syria would ostensibly be the fulfillment of a lifelong patriotic dream.

In early 1961, Chaim Herzog, Chief of Military Intelligence and later president of Israel, signed the document authorizing Cohen’s use as a spy. He was driven to the airport, where his wife Nadia saw him off. She understood from him that he would be working for the Ministry of Defense, but she didn’t know where or in what capacity. She was told he would be completely safe, and she believed that until his capture in 1965.

Eli Cohen was first sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to establish his cover as a Syrian emigre. He soon established himself in the social and cultural life of the Syrian community of Buenos Aires and was known as a wealthy businessman who was generous, tipped well, and loved the nightlife. He soon became accepted, well-liked, and respected, and made contacts with politicians, diplomats, and military officials working out of the Syrian Embassy. One of them was Colonel Amin al-Hafaz, a supporter of the secular-leftist Ba’ath party.

advert

Cohen’s contacts, nurtured through a string of lavish dinner parties, social occasions, and friendships with those in high places, led to invitations to visit Damascus and to set up a business venture there. He was promised support in any venture he might wish to undertake, and the generous sums of cash that he appeared to possess appealed to the unscrupulous who thought he could provide “grease” to their financial ambitions, as well as patriotic Syrians who hoped for an infusion of foreign capital into the Syrian state.

Nine months later, in late 1961, Eli came back to Israel for a visit with his wife Nadia. But he spent most of his time in Tel Aviv “perfecting his cover and being briefed on Aman’s requirements of him in Syria, as well as last-minute intelligence data needed for his mission.” His success in effectively penetrating the Syrian social and political/diplomatic/military strata already wildly exceeded Aman’s expectations of him

Cohen arrived in Damascus in February 1962, posing as a businessman from Argentina who had returned to his native land. At the end of 1961, Syria dissolved its union with Egypt, which had lasted a mere three years. The Ba’ath party was rising to power and Eli Cohen wanted to be there when it took power. He carefully cultivated contacts with the Ba’ath leadership, which included the Syrian military attaché in Argentina, General Amin al-Hafaz. He continued his social life, spending a lot of time in cafes listening to political gossip. He also held parties at his home, which turned into orgies for high-placed Syrian ministers, businessmen, and others, who used Eli’s apartment “for assignations with various women, including Defense Ministry secretaries, airline hostesses, and Syrian singing stars.” At these parties such highly-placed officials would “talk freely of their work and army plans. Eli, who would feign intoxication, remained sober and listened carefully.”

In addition to providing loans to government officials and acting as an avid host, he was asked for advice by government officials, who were often intoxicated by the alcohol he freely provided. Eli himself was not above the spicier part of a spy’s life either. “The ‘husband hunters’ among the Damascus rich and influential flocked to the handsome Ta’abet, hoping that their almond eyes, Byzantine beauty, and olive skin would secure a future of wealth and power: He became the most sought-after bachelor in the Syrian capital. He did not object, in fact, to the idea of a ladies’ man’s reputation. He had seventeen lovers in Syria, all dazzling beauties with a fair degree of family power.” Eli hoped as did Israeli Intelligence – that these women “would help him escape in time of crisis.”

With time he was taken even more into the confidence of the highest echelons of power. He became a confidante of George Saif, high up in the Ministry of Information. “The complete trust Cohen enjoyed among his unwitting informants is illustrated by the following incident, which might have serious consequences for the Israeli agents.

One day Cohen was sitting in Saif’s office reading a classified document while the Syrian was on the phone. One of the ministry’s directors entered the room unannounced.

‘How is it that you dare allow a stranger to read a classified document?’ he angrily asked Saif.

Saif calmly replied, ‘There’s nothing to worry about. He’s a trusted friend.’”

When the Ba’ath took power in 1963, Eli was firmly entrenched in Syrian high society. Meanwhile, every few days he transmitted important information to his Israeli handlers via a radio transmitter he had hidden in his room.

Periodically Eli would return to Israel to speak with his Israeli handlers and visit his wife and small children. Altogether, he returned to Israel three times between 1962 and 1965.

The Syrian project to divert water from the headwaters of the Jordan away from Israel was mentioned already in the above introduction. Eli was friends with two highly placed Army officers, Colonels Hatoum and Dali, who were fully informed about the scheme. In early 1964, Eli was able to radio Tel Aviv that the channel was being dug along the entire length of the Syrian Heights to receive the diverted flow of the Baniyas River – one of Jordan’s major sources – and empty into Jordanian territory.” Eli carefully spelled out all the details of the project and passed them on to Israeli Intelligence. Due to this information, the Israeli Air Force was able to obliterate the Syrian plans for the diversion scheme by shelling and bombing the bulldozers and other equipment used for the scheme in early 1964.

Eli’s connections enabled him to be taken to the Golan Heights – a major strategic asset for Syria from 1948-67. As we saw, the Syrians continually harassed Israel’s northern settlements from 1948-67. The Golan Heights defenses were top-secret and closed only to top military staff. “Nevertheless, Kamal Amin Ta’abet (Eli Cohen) succeeded in visiting every position. With senior staff officers acting as guides, Eli Cohen was provided an in-depth intelligence briefing of monumental proportions.” They even photographed Eli on the Golan Heights, looking over into Israel, alongside the most high-ranking Syrian officers. He remembered and passed on to Israeli Intelligence the “positioning of every Syrian gun, trench, and machine-gun nest in each Golan Heights fortification; tank traps, designed to impede any Israeli attack, were also identified and memorized for future targeting.”

One of the more famous aspects of his spying regarded a trip he took to the Golan Heights. As the Syrian Army officer explained to Eli the fortifications the Syrian Army had built, Eli suggested that the Syrians plant trees there to deceive the Israelis into thinking it was unfortified, as well as to provide shade and beauty for the soldiers stationed there. The Syrian officer readily agreed – and Eli immediately passed the information on to Israel. Based on the eucalyptus trees, Israel knew exactly where the Syrian fortifications were.

Eli’s friendship with Amin al-Hafez proved very valuable. After Hafez became Prime Minister, Eli was even considered to be named the Syrian Deputy Minister of Defense.

Cohen's last transmitted message before he was caught

But changes were taking place in the Syrian Government that alarmed Eli. In addition, the commander of Syrian Intelligence, Colonel Ahmed Su’edani trusted no one and disliked Eli. Eli expressed his fear and wish to terminate his assignment in Syria during his last visit to Israel in November 1964. Still, Israeli Intelligence asked him to return to Syria one more time. The information he had been providing them for years was too good to forego.

Eli did go back to Syria, but his behavior changed. He became far less careful in his transmissions to Israel, sometimes calling once or even twice a day – and almost always at the same time, at 8:30 in the morning. The transmissions became longer as well. Some attributed this to a sense of cockiness (despite the fears he had expressed in November 1964), due to the ability and ease he had moved about in the highest echelons of Syrian power. Others have attributed the carelessness to an almost suicidal tendency – perhaps, it was later surmised, he had been in the undercover world too long, but knew he couldn’t get out of it. Because of that, perhaps he was just tired of the whole charade.

Cohen shortly before he was publicly hanged in the Marjeh Square Damascus (May 18, 1965)

The Syrians and their Russian advisers were alarmed by the intelligence that was seeping out of the country. The highly vigilant Russian security experts, equipped with very sensitive technical intelligence-gathering equipment, pinpointed the source of the transmissions in the Syrian capital– and it was Eli’s home. On January 24, 1965, Syrian intelligence broke into his home in the middle of a transmission. The leading figure in the break-in was the head of Syrian Intelligence, Colonel Ahmed Su’edani – Eli’s nemesis.

Eli was caught in the act and there was nothing he could do. He was tortured, but he wouldn’t give away any incriminating information about Israel. His captors later remarked on his noble bearing and his courage despite the horrific Syrian interrogation methods.

He then underwent a show trial, as the Operation Susannah spies had in Egypt 12 years before., Like them, his verdict was predetermined.

World leaders, wealthy individuals, the Israeli government, the pope, and others all intervened on his behalf. To no avail. He was hanged on May 18, 1965. He wrote a last letter to his wife before he mounted the scaffold to a seething crowd. The execution was broadcast on Syrian television. After his execution, a white parchment filled with anti-Zionist writing was put on his body, and he was left hanging for six hours.

After he was hanged his body was left in the square for another six hours

Eli Cohen provided an incredible amount of intelligence data to the Israeli Army over a period of three years. In 1967, the Israelis were able to conquer the Golan Heights in two days – in part due to the intelligence, he provided. As Intelligence Chief Meir Amit said, Eli “succeeded far beyond the capabilities of most other men.”

What is perhaps most amazing about Eli Cohen is that he was genuinely liked – even loved – by so many of the top Syrian leaders. He had an input into and an impact on Syrian national defense and was privy to almost all their secrets. He genuinely fit into life in the Syrian capital, and he was never suspected of being a spy until almost the very end.

Cohen's wristwatch was recovered by Mossad many yreas after his execution

It is for these reasons Eli Cohen is known as Israel’s greatest spy. In 2019, Netflix created the series The Spy starring Sacha Baron Cohen to tell his story.

The Israeli government and Cohen’s widow have for many years sought the return of Eli’s body. The Syrians have consistently refused to do so.

For news and events coverage, photo features, contributions and adverts contact us via:
Phone: +2348029115783
WhatsApp: +2347037611903
Follow us via:
Facebook: @Words and Shots
Instagram: @words_and_shots
Twitter: @wordsandshots

History

SECRET SOCIETIES THAT LEFT THEIR MARKS ON HISTORY

Published

on

Throughout history, men and women have formed secret groups, gathering behind closed doors in pursuit of shared ideals. They might have used unexpected methods to get what they wanted.

Some attempted magic, others turned to violence, and many, in fact, got caught and persecuted for the things they did. Yet still, secret societies continue to meet in private today — perhaps there’s even one in your hometown.

20. The Knights of Malta

Not every secret society is about the occult, magic, or the dark arts. The Knights of Malta — founded in the year 1048 — had noble aims from the start.

20. The Knights of Malta

Whitworth Porter/Wikimedia Commons | {{CC-PD-Mark}}

Members would take care of anyone making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, regardless of the person’s faith. The Pope ordered them to aid any Christians who needed protection along the way, too. Things have changed somewhat since 1048, though.

The Knights of Malta is still going strong today

Nowadays, the Knights of Malta have a much different focus. Its 13,500 members across 120 countries focus on charitable causes in general.

The Knights of Malta is still going strong today

Reg Speller/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Their motto is “Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum” — nurturing, witnessing, and protecting the faith and serving the poor and the sick. Considering their focus on charity, it makes sense that Nelson Mandela was once part of the organization.

19. Freemasons

So many rumors surround the Freemasons — possibly the least secret “secret society” in history. This makes sense, considering how old and storied the organization is. The Freemasons emerged in Europe in the midst of the Middle Ages, a time when craftspeople were arranged into regional guilds.

19. Freemasons

Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

It wasn’t until 1717 that the Freemasons morphed into its current iteration. That’s when four branches from London joined together, and the group expanded to the rest of the continent and the Americas.

The Freemasons’ secret handshake

What started as a fraternity for craftsmen is now a bit more mysterious to non-members. The Freemasons are ostensibly about charity work and social networking. However, rumors swirl that the group is plagued with bullies, nepotism, and a refusal to change with the times.

The Freemasons' secret handshake

Gracie Films

People also suspect that the Freemasons have a secret handshake, but they won’t show it to anyone outside of their six million members. The Freemasons were given the honor of being parodied by The Simpsons in an episode that saw Homer join the “Stonecutters.”

18. The Molly Maguires

An organization made up of Irish immigrants in 19th-century America might sound innocent enough. But the Molly Maguires had sinister aims that the all-male membership carried out while dressed as women — hence the name.

18. The Molly Maguires

Tamm Productions

In the 1870s they allegedly completed their most notorious job of all: assassinating 24 foremen and supervisors working in the Pennsylvania coal mines. The subsequent investigation led to 20 suspected members of the Molly Maguires getting convicted.

The Molly Maguies came to a bloody end

The Molly Maguires supposedly had their hand in arson and threat-making as well — but it was the two dozen murders that finished the organization off. A mole infiltrated the group, leading to the arrests of the 20 suspected members.

The Molly Maguies came to a bloody end

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper

All of the men received death sentences and were hanged. As time has gone on, though, some remember the Maguires positively as being dedicated to labor and unions despite their unforgivable alleged crimes.

17. The School of Night

London in the late 16th century set the scene for some of humankind’s greatest writers to create their finest works. But they didn’t spend all of their time at their desks with pens in hand. Instead, some authors gathered in the School of Night.

17. The School of Night

duncan1890/Getty Images

It was a society that explored atheism and alchemy, all illegal subjects of conversation at the time. In fact, if you didn’t believe in God back then, you could have found yourself charged with treason.

The School of Night was once called The School of Atheism

Playwright Christopher Marlowe — the top tragedy writer of his time and an inspiration to William Shakespeare — was said to be a member of the School of Night. Other members supposedly included Sir Walter Raleigh, George Chapman, Matthew Roydon, and Thomas Harriot.

The School of Night was once called The School of Atheism

Corpus Christi College

Marlowe faced charges for writing a text deemed to be heretical, but before he could face any kind of trial, he died under suspicious circumstances in 1853. After that, no one knows what happened to the School of Night.

16. Order of the Temple of the East

The Order of the Temple of the East — or Ordo Templi Orientis — used the Freemasons as its inspiration, but it operated on a completely different belief structure. Its eventual leader was occultist Aleister Crowley, who taught members the tenets of Thelema, an ideology he created himself.

16. Order of the Temple of the East

Arnold Genthe

He incorporated mysticism, contributing to some very strange rituals performed by the society — supposedly to this day. A gathering of the Order of the Temple of the East incorporates two components — gnostic mass and magic ceremonies.

Ordo Templi Orientis

Gnostic mass mimics Catholic mass, but attendees don extravagant get-ups to worship. And then there are the rituals, which range from conjuring spirits to tantric love-making and encouraging out-of-body experiences called astral projections.

Ordo Templi Orientis

Hereward Carrington, Sylvan Muldoon

Perhaps even more surprising, the society still exists today, although the locations of their lodges remain largely unknown to non-members. The latest branch to continue Crowley’s teachings is the Caliphate O.T.O., which was incorporated in 1979.

15. The Calves’ Head Club

To understand The Calves’ Head Club, you need to brush up on English history. Here’s the basics: King Charles I married a Roman Catholic French princess in 1626, a union that angered his Protestant subjects. In response to rising opposition, he dissolved Parliament and eventually incited civil war in England.

15. The Calves’ Head Club

Anthony van Dyck/Wikimedia Commons | {{PD-Art}}

Headed up by Oliver Cromwell, Parliamentarians later defeated the monarchy and in 1648 Charles I was facing charges of treason. The following year, King Charles I was executed by beheading, and Oliver Cromwell seized power.

Games of Thrones in real life

The highly controversial Calves’ Head Club came to be after Charles I’s execution. On the anniversary of his slaying, the group gathered for a grotesque celebration of his demise. Members would first decapitate a calf — a representation of the former king — then prepare it and eat it.

Games of Thrones in real life

Gonzales Coques/Wikimedia Common | {{PD-Art}}

Their behavior was treasonous to the monarchy, which returned to power in 1659. Eventually, the Calves’ Head Club disappeared, with the last record of its existence coming in 1734 when a riot about their tasteless ways brought an end to proceedings.

14. Bilderberg Meetings

The Bilderberg Meetings started in 1954 when 11 Americans traveled to the Hotel de Bilderberg in Oosterbeek in the Netherlands. There, they met with 50 people from 11 Western European nations.

14. Bilderberg Meetings

Pvt pauline/Wikimedia Commons | {{CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED}}

Among the attendees, apparently, were a prime minister, a royal, and a one-time CIA leader. As its website describes, “The Bilderberg Meeting is a forum for informal discussions about major issues.” The meetings are exclusive, invitation-only affairs,

The Bilderberg Meetings happen every year

The latest Bilderberg Meeting took place in Lisbon, Portugal, in May 2023. The list of attendees was published on its website, and the topics discussed during the meeting included AI, banking systems, and the situation in Ukraine. But historically, the details of the meetings were kept secret from the public.

The Bilderberg Meetings happen every year

Jean Beaufort | {{CC0 Public Domain}}

Naturally, the secrecy around the meetings has made for many conspiracy theories about the organization. Some people wonder if the group gathers to plan for world domination, or even to sway the global economy.

13. Priory of Sion

The Priory of Sion — or Prieuré de Sion — is and is not a secret society. A man named Pierre Plantard founded the fraternal organization in France in 1956. The idea was that was forming a neo-chivalric order — meaning the Priory of Sion was an order of knighthood.

13. Priory of Sion

Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov

So far, so normal. The problem was that Plantard claimed that the Priory of Sion was actually formed as a secret society in 1099 by a knight named Godfrey of Bouillon on Mount Zion in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The history of the Priory of Sion was bogus

To back up that claim about a secret history, Plantard faked a bunch of documents and had them inserted into the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. He also had two encrypted medieval parchments created, complete with references to the Priory of Sion.

The history of the Priory of Sion was bogus

Columbia Pictures

The whole thing was later found to be an elaborate literary hoax, of course. You might even recognize parts of the story from Dan Brown’s famous novel, The Da Vinci Code.

12. The Rosicrucians

The abbreviated tale of the Rosicrucians goes something like this: legendary Founder Christian Rosenkreuz apparently traveled from his native Germany into the Middle East so that he — a mystical philosopher — could gain some esoteric wisdom.

12. The Rosicrucians

T. Schweighart/Wikimedia Commons

According to the story, his studies gave him a greater perspective on the natural world and the universe at large. Upon getting back home, they say, he wanted to share his wisdom with others and set up the Fraternity of the Rose Cross.

The Rosicrucians and the occult

It’s possible, however, that Christian Rosenkreuz never existed and the story is just allegorical. Still, some people were taken in by the idea of a “universal reformation of mankind” via “esoteric truths of the ancient past.” Yet rumors plagued the Rosicrucians since its foundation in the 15th century.

The Rosicrucians and the occult

Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images

Many especially thought this “universal reformation” would actually be via occult methods. Conspiracy theorists have also said the Rosicrucians were behind some of history’s modern uprisings as well as the founding of other prominent secret societies.

11. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn — often shortened to just the Golden Dawn — began gathering in 19th-century London. Group members shared an interest in the occult, magic, and mysticism.

11. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

Wikimedia Commons

If that sounds familiar, it’s no coincidence. Some say that Golden Dawn was the precursor to other supernatural-focused groups on this list, such as the Order of the Temple of the East.

Golden Dawn had its origins in the Freemasons

The Golden Dawn was actually founded by three Freemasons: William Robert Woodman, William Wynn Westcott, and Samuel Liddell Mathers. But unlike other groups, the Golden Dawn also allowed women into their inner circle.

Golden Dawn had its origins in the Freemasons

Bettmann/Getty Images

Famous former members of the Golden Dawn include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and W. B. Yeats. And in 1937 author Israel Regardie published The Golden Dawn: The Original Account of the Teachings, Rites, and Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order — an influential tome that dives deep into the society’s practices.

10. Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World first cropped up on the scene in 1868. Then, just over three decades later, a pair of African-American men weren’t permitted entry into the club’s ranks — and decided to form a splinter group.

10. Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World

Local History Announcements

B. F. Howard and Arthur J. Riggs formed the fittingly titled Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World in 1897. The group is still going to this day.

Moving into the modern world

The founders of the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World ended up creating a club that would become central within Black communities during segregation. It was, apparently, one of the only places where African Americans could gather.

Moving into the modern world

Antler Guard

As society started to integrate, however, the order’s influence faded. But they still fund scholarships, participate in parades, and host community events today. The fact that the fraternal order has a website also suggests they’re not really a secret society, either.

9. The Black Hand

History buffs may be familiar with the work of the Black Hand. In the early 20th century, this revolutionary group hoped to bring together the Slavic people into a single country.

9. The Black Hand

via Wikimedia Commons

To do this, they’d need to break Serbia free from the rule of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which had earlier taken control of the small country by annexation. The official name of the group was Unification or Death.

Unification or Death

The Black Hand decided to free Serbia from Austria-Hungary through military campaigns, but they didn’t plan for the conflict they would arguably create. Their plan was supposedly to assassinate Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand — which Gavrilo Princip did in 1914.

Unification or Death

Bettmann/Getty Images

Right away, the monarchy declared war on Serbia, but each country’s allies decided to join in, and this inter-country war soon became World War I. Because of its alleged connection to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Black Hand may have caused that war.

8. Order of Gimghoul

Peter Droomgole, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student in the mid-19th century, inadvertently inspired the start of a very creepy on-campus society. He vanished from campus in 1833, and legend has it that he died after losing a duel.

8. Order of Gimghoul

Wikimedia Commons

Not only that but his body is said to be entombed on the school grounds. Robert Worth Bingham, Shepard Bryan, William W. Davies, Edward Wray Martin, and Andrew Henry Patterson started the secret society in 1889.

Peter Dromgoole lives on

In the student’s honor, this secret society was first called the Order of Droomgole, but changed the last part to Gimghoul “in accord with midnight and graves and weirdness.” The group supposedly meets on campus at a very creepy, enshrouded castle.

Peter Dromgoole lives on

THE evil fluffyface

Photo evidence of their activities seems to show satanic references, making them even more off-putting. The castle allegedly sits close to Peter Dromgoole’s final resting place — and his ghost supposedly haunts it.

7. Skull and Bones

It’s no secret that some of the brightest minds in the country end up studying at Ivy League institutions. And Yale University just so happens to be one of the most selective — with an acceptance rate of just 4.46 percent in 2022.

7. Skull and Bones

Pictures of Yale clubs and societies (RU 692). Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Therefore, the amount of brilliance packed into the school’s secret Skull and Bones society should be enough to scare the rest of us. Other names for the group include The Order, Order 322, and The Brotherhood of Death.

Bonesmen in the Tomb

No one outside of Skull and Bones really knows the purpose of this society, but there are plenty of theories. Some say that the Bonesmen — who have gone on to become Supreme Court justices, CEOs, and presidents — might influence the CIA or strive for global control.

Bonesmen in the Tomb

Universal Pictures

Making things even creepier, the group meets in a building called the Tomb, a building without windows. This group is now possibly the least-secret secret society as it has been popularized in movies such as The Skulls and The Great Gatsby and TV shows such as The Simpsons.

6. The Grand Orange Lodge

The Grand Orange Lodge drew its name from William of Orange, the Protestant king who defeated the Catholic King James II and took over as ruler of Scotland, England, and Ireland in 1689. Almost 200 years later, the Northern Irish Protestants still revered Orange’s leadership.

6. The Grand Orange Lodge

Godfrey Kneller

So, they formed the Lodge to better protect their fellow worshippers. Its full name is the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland or the Loyal Orange Institution of Scotland. They are still going strong after forming in 1798.

The Grand Orange Lodge marches on

Had Lord Lieutenant of Ireland George William Frederick Villiers not supported the group, the Grand Orange Lodge’s aims might have flown under the radar. Ireland had always been a Catholic stronghold, so having a leader support a Protestant society ruffled some serious feathers.

The Grand Orange Lodge marches on

Ross Goodman/Flickr

These days, the Order is most visible during its yearly marches. The largest of these gatherings usually occurs on July 12, as “The Twelfth” is an Ulster Protestant day of celebrations.

5. Veiled Prophet Organization

A long time ago, business executive and one-time Confederate soldier Charles Slayback had an idea. In 1878 he gathered fellow St. Louis businessmen to build his own secret society. He wanted his city to have a festival like New Orleans did with Mardi Gras.

5. Veiled Prophet Organization

Missouri Historical Society

They just needed a reason to party — and the Veiled Prophet of Khorassan could be a reason for a celebration. This was a mystic based out of St. Louis — or, at least, that’s what Slayback decided to tell people.

The Veiled Prophet Parade and Ball

In reality, the Veiled Prophet story was just meant to be an excuse to celebrate — and to mask negative social realities. At the time, laborers demanded socioeconomic equality and fair working conditions.

The Veiled Prophet Parade and Ball

Harpers Weekly/Wikipedia

So the citywide gathering would perhaps appease them while exalting the elite’s way of life. The first Veiled Prophet Parade and Ball took place in 1878. Perhaps surprisingly, the Veiled Prophet Organization still has parties to this day.

4. The Hashshashin

In the 13th century, a small group of Shia Muslims split from a larger group of their religion’s practitioners because they wanted to create a utopian state. Yet they didn’t have the manpower to make their vision a reality.

4. The Hashshashin

New Regency Productions

So the secret society had to use much more shocking methods to get what they wanted. There is a reason why this group is otherwise known as the Order of Assassins or just the Assassins.

The Order of Assassins

The Hashashin made a name for themselves by staging political assassinations as well as by sending spies over enemy lines. But these operatives had great discretion — enemies would wake up with daggers on their pillows and notes warning them of impending death.

The Order of Assassins

New Regency Productions

Eventually, though, the group was squashed by the Mongols. This group has naturally inspired plenty of popular culture figures and stories, including Assassin’s Creed, Angels and Demons, and the Faceless Men in Game of Thrones.

3. Knights Templar

Things started out well for the Knights Templar. They had a simple mission when founded in the 12th century — to protect Christians as they traveled to the Holy Land. Templar Enlistees had to vow to a chaste lifestyle, which meant they couldn’t swear, gamble, or drink.

3. Knights Templar

Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps this left their heads clear enough to come up with a more lucrative idea. The Knights opened a bank where people could deposit money at home and take it out when they arrived at their pilgrimage destination.

The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon

Once the Crusades ended, the Knights Templar decided to set up in Paris and make their banking business the main focus of their operation. However, they made the mistake of denying King Philip IV of France a loan.

The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon

C. Balossini/De Agostini Picture Library via Getty Images

He then had some society members arrested and tortured. The Knights began making false confessions, implicating themselves in depraved acts. So, the French monarch had dozens burned to death for their supposed wrongdoings.

2. The Knights of the Golden Circle

The Knights of the Golden Circle first formed in 1854 because they wanted the United States to take over the West Indies and Mexico. This would then make the slave states stronger against any threats from the North.

2. The Knights of the Golden Circle

Harpers Weekly

However, the Civil War kicked off in 1861, and the society’s members switched gears. They sided with the Confederacy, so they started organizing themselves into guerrilla armies and ambushing Union soldiers.

The Golden Circle

Interestingly enough, the Knights of the Golden Circle had a bigger impact in Union states, where people pointed the finger at anyone who seemed to sympathize with the South. Even President Franklin Pierce faced accusations of being a secret member of the organization.

The Golden Circle

Mathew Brady

Despite everything, though, none of the Knights’ aims ever came to fruition. Their main objective was to see in the formation of a new country, known as the Golden Circle.

1. The Illuminati

The Illuminati formed on May 1, 1776, bringing together the era’s most forward-thinking politicians and intellectuals. Unlike many other secret societies on this list, though, the Illuminati didn’t require its members to believe in any sort of deity.

1. The Illuminati

Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

This made it a popular society among non-believers. Their inclusion made people wonder if the group actually formed to get rid of religious organizations. The group claimed, “The order of the day is to put an end to the machinations of the purveyors of injustice, to control them without dominating them.”

The Illuminati was outlawed

The Illuminati was eventually outlawed, and it subsequently crumbled internally when a new leader had to replace its founder, Adam Weishaupt. But some believe that the society didn’t actually collapse in the late 1700s.

The Illuminati was outlawed

knollzw

Instead, they believe the Illuminati still operates — and controls all of the governments dotted around the globe. According to this conspiracy theory, the Illuminati now goes by the name of the New World Order.

This article was originally published on WMoneyVersed

For news and events coverage, photo features, contributions and adverts contact us via:
Phone: +2348029115783
WhatsApp: +2347037611903
Follow us via:
Facebook: @Words and Shots
Instagram: @words_and_shots
Twitter: @wordsandshots
Continue Reading

History

SPONTANEOUS CHRISTMAS TRUCE THAT TEMPORARILY HALTED WORLD WAR

Published

on

(Image credit: Alamy)

Spontaneous Christmas truce that temporarily halted world war : ‘The war, for that moment, came to a standstill’

During the bleak winter of 1914, amid the mud, blood and chaos of World War One, an extraordinary series of ceasefires spontaneously occurred along the Western Front. In the 1960s the BBC spoke to some of the men who, over that exceptional Christmas period, decided to lay down their arms.

On Christmas Eve 1914, Rifleman Graham Williams, of the 5th London Rifle Brigade, stood out on sentry duty staring out anxiously across the wasteland of no man’s land to the German trenches. He had already endured months of the brutal violence, bloodshed, and destruction that would come to characterize World War One when something remarkable happened.
“All of a sudden, lights appeared along the German trench. And I thought this was a funny thing. And then the Germans started singing ‘Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht’. And I woke up, and all the sentries did the same thing, all woke up the other people to come along and see this and what the Earth is going on,” he recalled, in the BBC radio show Witness History.

The voices carried across the desolation of no man’s land, familiar songs bridging the barrier of language, a musical reminder of a shared humanity. “They finished their carol and we applauded them and we thought we should retaliate in some way. So, we replied with The First Noel.”

It is hard to pinpoint the exact origins of the 1914 Christmas Truce. It seemed to emerge spontaneously in multiple locations along the Western Front. There wasn’t one uniform Christmas Truce but rather several localized events. For some soldiers in trenches, it lasted a couple of hours, in some areas until Boxing Day, and even in isolated pockets to the New Year. While in some parts of the Western Front, it didn’t happen at all. Some 77 British soldiers were still killed in fighting on Christmas Day 1914.

For Col Scott Shepherd, then a junior officer, fighting near the town of Armentières in northern France, it seemed to begin almost by accident. At dawn on Christmas morning, no man’s land was covered in a heavy fog. “The fog was so thick that you couldn’t see your hand in front of you,” he recalled when he returned to the battlefield with the BBC in 1968.

The decision was made to take advantage of the cover provided by the weather to repair their crumbling trenches. But as the soldiers worked filling sandbags and trying to restore the trench parapet, the fog suddenly began to dissipate.

“It lifted astoundingly quickly. And along that line we were suddenly able to see Germans doing exactly the same thing all out in the open. And we just looked at each other for some time and then one or two soldiers went towards them. They met, they shook hands, they swapped cigarettes. They got talking. The war, for that moment, came to a standstill.”

General Walter Congreve, who led the Rifles Brigade, wrote to his wife on Christmas Day, describing the ceasefire as “an extraordinary state of affairs”. Because the trenches were so close, soldiers were able to shout greetings to each other, initiating conversations. “A German shouted out that they wanted a day’s truce and would one come out if he did,” wrote the general. “Very cautiously one of our men lifted himself above the parapet and saw a German doing the same. Both got out, then more… they have been walking about together all day giving each other cigars and singing songs.”

The ceasefires allowed soldiers some respite to recover their dead from no man’s land and give proper burial to fallen comrades. Men who just hours earlier had been trying to kill each other exchanged cigarettes, food and souvenirs from home. There are even reports of impromptu games of football breaking out, with soldiers having a kick about in barren space between the opposing trenches. Col Johannes Niemann, a second lieutenant with the 33rd Saxon Regiment, was one of the soldiers who took part.

“Suddenly a Tommy came with a football… And then began a football match. We marked our goals with our caps. Tommy did also. And we had much kicking. And then, after all, the Germans won the football game 3-2.”

The war resumes

Nothing like this truce would happen again during World War One. Military leaders, who had been caught by surprise by the ceasefires and the unexpected camaraderie that flourished during them, feared they would erode their troops’ willingness to fight, and would undermine the war effort.

On both sides there were orders issued to stop “fraternisation with the enemy” with threats of court marshals. Officers were told to open fire on enemy soldiers who approached the trench and gradually shots began to ring out again along the line. The war resumed its brutality, and as its relentless horrors escalated, the bitterness between opposing nations deepened. The following Christmas, machine gun barrages were deliberately timed to drown out any sound of carol singing to prevent spontaneous truces happening again.

For a brief moment, soldiers on different sides saw each other as fathers, brothers and sons who just longed to go home and return to loved ones

The 1914 Christmas Truce may not have ultimately altered the course of the war, but as historian Dan Snow says in the BBC podcast Voices of the First World War, the fact that it happened at all is miraculous. “The truce was a brief tantalising flash of individual humanity, in a war of bureaucracies, machines and high explosives.”

And it had a profound effect on the men, such as Col Scott Shepherd, who experienced it. For a brief moment, soldiers on different sides saw each other as fathers, brothers and sons who just longed to go home and return to loved ones, rather than as faceless enemies to be killed.

“Several of them spoke English. They rather expressed their dislike… for the whole war in fact. They weren’t aggressive at all. Some of them said they had been to London, been to England, in fact, they gave every indication of being glad to meet us,” he said.

For news and events coverage, photo features, contributions and adverts contact us via:
Phone: +2348029115783
WhatsApp: +2347037611903
Follow us via:
Facebook: @Words and Shots
Instagram: @words_and_shots
Twitter: @wordsandshots
Continue Reading

History

THE BEER FLOOD THAT KILLED MANY IN THE STREET OF LONDON

Published

on

While the concept of a flood of beer filling the streets of your city does not sound frightening at first, the London Beer Flood of 1814 was a terrifying disaster that took eight people’s lives.

The streets of London and many other cities during this period were narrow and cramped. Many people also lived below the street level, which means that during the beer flood, their homes filled with beer in a matter of minutes.

The London Beer Flood of 1814 led to reforming some safety considerations in the beer brewing process. It is considered one of the first positive responses related to public safety by the industry as a whole.

advertisement

The magnitude of the flood itself is a bit staggering, and the disaster served as a cautionary tale since it occurred.

What Led to the Beer Flood?

The Horse Shoe Brewery was located at the corner of Great Russell Street and Tottenham Court Road. In 1810, the brewery had installed a 22-foot-high wooden fermentation tank to brew porter.

The vat was held together with iron rings and held approximately enough to fill 3,500 barrels of brown porter ale.

On October 17th, 1814, one of the iron rings of the vat failed. This was discovered, but there was no immediate solution to the problem.

Often the rings on beer vats slipped, and there was usually no need to fix the issue quickly. The storehouse clerk, George Crick, even noted that one of the rings had slipped and told someone to deal with it later. Everyone went about their business for an hour or so without worrying about the slipped ring since this event was so common.

Crick was standing on a platform thirty feet above the vat an hour later when the entire tank ruptured. Three hundred twenty thousand gallons of beer flooded the factory and smashed through the wall at the back of the yard.

The beer rush also pulled the stopcock from a neighboring vat, causing this even more beer to be released as well. The flood of beer rushed into St. Giles Rookery, which was, at the time, a London slum full of the poor and the needy. The wave of beer was not only hot and smelly, but it was also fourteen or fifteen feet high.

The beer flood rushed through the area, reaching George and New Street within minutes. Residents on the street were swept along by the force of the beer tsunami. Beer flooded into the basements of tenement buildings, taking the lives of Mary Banfield and her four-year-old daughter Hannah who had just sat down to tea.

An Irish wake for a two-year-old boy was being held nearby, and the flood of beer took Anne Saville’s and four mourners’ lives in their basement tenement.

The beer wave grievously damaged the Tavistock Arms pub, and teenage servant Eleanor Cooper who was washing pots in its yard, lost her life after the beer knocked a nearby wall on top of her. The brewery workers all survived, but many were severely injured.

It was rumored that people in the streets who were not injured or swept away by the flood ran about gathering the beer in whatever containers they could lay hands on and drinking it.

There are unconfirmed reports of people dying of alcohol poisoning related to the frenzy of beer drinking, but this is likely apocryphal information.

The press was no friend to the large Irish population living in the rookery area at the time, and if there had been generalized revelry, it would have been reported about in the most negative of lights.

As there is no report of any type of drunken behavior in the papers, likely, all of these stories are merely tall tales that were added to accounts of the event later.

Watchmen for the area decided to start charging a penny or two to allow people to see the disaster scene, and a stream of Londoners came by over the next few days to pay their respects and gawk at the remnants of the beer tsunami.

The pennies and shillings that were collected for the right to look at the carnage were used to pay for the funerals of those who lost their lives in the flood.

Investigation Into the Flood

The Morning Post reported that the beer flood was “one of the most melancholy accidents we ever remember.”

People who had wandered the streets listening at the windows and doors of basement lodgings, pleading with those who were rushing through the waist-high flood to be quiet so they could listen for the sounds of people trapped in their homes, no doubt hoped for some form of legal action to be taken against the brewery.

A jury was convened to investigate the accident two days later. While there might have been no such attention to a significant industrial accident of this nature in previous times, the times were slowly changing. It likely helped that many young people had lost their lives in the Beer Flood, making the case more pitiable.

The jury looked at the information presented and listened to the testimony of Crick and others who had witnessed the entire incident.

After seeing the site of the tragedy and reviewing the information that had been collected for the investigation, the Beer Flood was ruled an “Act of God.”

As a result, the brewery did not have to pay damages to the victims and was given a waiver from the British Parliament for the excise tax it had lost.

The flood cost the brewery about £23,000. This would be about £1.5 million today. The government’s reprieve regarding the excise tax and compensation that was granted for the lost beer helped save the company.

No such considerations were given to those who had lost their loved ones due to the flood. However, the use of wooden vats in brewing beer was phased out across England’s beer brewing industry within a few years.

Lined concrete vats replaced wooden ones, making the brewing industry slightly safer.

The area where the flood had taken place stank of beer for months after the incident, and cleaning up the mess took weeks. The flood events were largely forgotten by everyone except those who lived in St. Giles Rookery and those who had lost loved ones when the beer wave flooded their part of London.

The casual disregard for the lives of the poor displayed by the Great Beer Flood of 1814 indicates a social attitude that would continue until the 1960s in England.

The Legacy of the Beer Flood of 1814
The brewery did go back into production after the flood, but it closed in 1921. The brewery site has since become The Dominion Theater, which still stands at the location today. Sadly for those who suffered greatly or lost their lives due to the Great Beer Flood of 1814, there is no official memorial or observance for the day of the disaster.

Much like the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 in Boston, this event has faded from everyone’s minds over time.

advertisement

The Holborn Whippet, however, which is a local pub in the area of the flood, does brew an anniversary ale each year to help commemorate the event. But, unfortunately, the tendency of industry to want to sweep these kinds of disasters under the rug has led to many such landmark events being largely forgotten by the public.

The social impact of the unbridled greed, or at best, casual indifference, that many industrialists and businesses showed toward the people who worked for them or lived near their industrial properties cannot be overstated.

The Great Beer Flood of 1814 is just one of many examples of the callous indifference of business owners toward the lives of those they considered their inferiors.

For news and events coverage, photo features, contributions and adverts contact us via:
Phone: +2348029115783
WhatsApp: +2347037611903
Follow us via:
Facebook: @Words and Shots
Instagram: @words_and_shots
Twitter: @wordsandshots
Continue Reading

Trending