Spook season is upon us, and from haunted forests and corn mazes to a concert production of Sweeney Todd, there are so many Halloween-themed events to choose from. But when it comes to creepy good fun, nothing in this world — or even perhaps the next — beats a ghost tour. Especially if that tour happens to be of a century-old Masonic temple riddled with secret passageways and decorated top to bottom with the secret signs and symbols of an ancient fraternity.
Tanya Vandesteeg of Historical Haunts Memphis doesn't like to call it a secret society, though. "We like to call it a society that has secrets," she says.
The Masonic Temple at the corner of Court and Fourth was built in 1914, and, like most grand old lodges, it's a time capsule, filled with art and architectural detail. Masonic degrees are often theatrical, meaning entire floors were built to house spectacles, and ballrooms are a common feature.
"Back in 1914, it was the place to be," Vandesteeg says.
Today it's haunted by the spirits of past lodge officers. Full-body apparitions have been seen, voices and footsteps have been heard.
"Our favorite ghost story is about Uncle Billy, a custodian who lived on the property," Vandesteeg says. "Before he died, he whispered into his best friend's ear about a hidden treasure buried under one of the tiles in the foyer.
"You get to see the secret passages and chambers," Vandesteeg says. "There are a lot of mysteries we're unveiling."
How much will visitors learn about Freemasonry? "When you enter the top floor, you'll get the chance to reflect on what it would be like to be a brother going into the initiation process," Vandesteeg says. "On the fifth floor, the York Rite had built a mountain with a waterfall and an underground passageway."