The Skeletal Legacy of Odd Fellows Lurks in Closets and Attics Across America

The Skeletal Legacy of Odd Fellows Lurks in Closets and Attics Across America

The Odd Fellows, like many fraternal organizations, are shrouded in secrecy and steeped in esoteric symbolism. Though they were a charitable staple of many communities throughout America for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, whose purpose was to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan,” little was known about what was happening behind closed doors.

The first Odd Fellows lodges were documented in London in 1730. The fraternity spread to America when the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) was founded in Baltimore in 1819. Industrialism after the Civil War brought with it the “Golden Age of Fraternalism” when as many as 40% of the adult population in America belonged to a fraternal order. The Great Depression and other contributing factors eventually put an end to that, though, when membership was no longer a luxury many could afford. Years of declining memberships saw many Odd Fellows chapters across the country closing their doors.

That’s when people started finding skeletons in closets, attics, and beneath floorboards of defunct lodges, cryptically emblazoned with the letters FLT inside three interlocking rings. Were these the remains of members who didn’t pay their dues? Were the Odd Fellows robbing graves? Was it ritual human sacrifice?

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