Skip to main content

Secret societies that may have committed murders

A man with a black mask standing over a desk

By their very definition, secret societies are a shadowy lot. Often centuries old, with arcane rites and rituals, little is known about most of them.

Some can be traced back to labour unions, others are breakaways from major religions, and many are collegiate in origin. Whatever their beginnings, being shrouded in mystery and vows of silence can lead to whispers. And whispers lead to rumours.

Some secret societies are little more than supper clubs, raising money for charity. While others are slightly more nefarious and may have even been directly involved in murder.

Propaganda Due

On 17th June 1982, a man was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge next to the River Thames. It was Roberto Calvi, known as ‘Banchiere di Dio’ or ‘God’s Banker’, an elite and corrupt financier with links to the Pope and the Mafia. His death was not the suicide it initially appeared to be.

Calvi ran a major bank in Italy, Banco Ambrosiano, using it to launder and export currency on behalf of multiple criminal organisations as well as The Vatican. When the Banco Ambrosiano scandal was uncovered, Calvi fled the country - with his secrets and blackmail leverage packed next to his passport.

Calvi was a high-ranking member of Propaganda Due (P2), a rogue and villainous Freemasonic lodge. They nicknamed themselves ‘The Black Friars’ or ‘Frati Neri’. The significance attached to the phrase ‘Blackfriars’ caused some folk at the time to speculate that Calvi's murder was some form of masonic warning.

This isn’t a light rumour, either. P2 master Licio Gelli was formally investigated and very nearly indicted for Calvi’s murder. It’s believed that P2 lost a lot of money in the scandal and blamed Calvi, giving them plenty of motive. Although they were not the only ones.


In its later years, the shady Japanese group known as the ‘Gen'yōsha’ was effectively a legitimate political party. Albeit one not adverse to using crime and criminal means to achieve its goals. In its earlier incarnation, ‘The Black Ocean Society’ was a much more underground fellowship with historical links to the famous military class of the Samurai.

Ultranationalist, right-wing and fiercely anti-Chinese, the Gen'yōsha used violence in their conflict with China, even setting up plans to seize control of Japan and invade Korea to expand the country’s territory in readiness for war against the Chinese. During their time, they were linked with many terrorist attacks and murders.

The US occupation of Japan from 1945 onwards saw the disbandment of the Gen'yōsha. Many older members simply retreated from politics and crime, but a lot of younger members joined various Yakuza throughout Japan and kept the spirit and ideologies of the Gen'yōsha alive.


Originally a stonemason guild, the Freemasons date back some 800 years. The archetypical secret society, their rites and rituals are synonymous with the concept of the secret society. Nowadays there are so many Masonic lodges that it’s believed UK lodges alone boast more than 200,000 members, with nearly six million Freemasons swelling the organisation’s ranks worldwide.

While most lodge activity is asinine, rumours of corruption and conspiracy have plagued the furtive group for centuries.

On 12th September 1826, one William Morgan, who had been imprisoned for theft, was freed from jail by two individuals who claimed to have settled his debt. He was hauled away in a carriage, never to be seen or heard from again. No body was ever discovered, either.

By all accounts, Morgan had recently joined a local Freemasons lodge and had begun making threats about revealing the secrets of The Craft. So it would make sense that those at the lodge - perhaps instructed by higher-ups within the organisation - would seek to silence Morgan.

Whether or not William Morgan was murdered and the killing was sanctioned/carried out by the Freemasons is hard to prove or disprove. All we know for certain is that it was terrible PR for the Masons and led to immense distrust in them.

The Thuggee

These days a thug is a common criminal, not regarded with any esteem. The name comes from the Indian Thuggee, a group of deceivers and swindlers who plied their criminal trade in India between the 13th and 18th centuries.

They may have been known as ‘Thugs’, but they weren’t thuggish. Not as we understand the word now, anyway. The Thuggee were actually a highly-trained squad of assassins who toured the Indian subcontinent robbing and murdering people.

They killed at will, but instead of behaving like a marauding group of villains, they carried themselves more like a cult. Secretive and elusive, they killed in a ritualistic way, strangling victims silently with the fabric noose they wore as part of their clothing.

The Thuggee worshipped the Hindu goddess of destruction and renewal, Kali. This killer cult, gang, mafia or secret society - call them what you will - are believed to have killed more than 30,000 Indians as a sacrifice to Kali.


We’ll start by saying that the ‘new religious movement’ of Thelema hasn't really been accused of any great act of murderous evil by anyone in particular. However, the founder of the esoteric group, Aleister ‘The Beast’ Crowley, very much has.

Revered in the occult world, Crowley was certainly not a follower of others’ rules and famously had little time for societal or legal conventions. In fact, Thelema - just one of the many secret magical groups/movements/religions/cults he set up - was centred around the idea of one’s will being more important than anything else. Including the law. But would that extend to murder? Some claim so.

‘The Curse of Tutankhamun’ has been said to have befallen the team that found the famous ancient pharaoh's tomb back in 1922. In fact, up to 20 people connected to the discovery are thought to have met an untimely end, dying in strange circumstances. Six of those met their maker in London. It’s been theorised that Crowley was behind the ‘curse’.

According to some historians, ‘The Wickedest Man in the World’ orchestrated a slew of ritualistic murders as ‘revenge’ for British archaeologist Howard Carter's discovery of King Tut’s tomb. If true, he committed such acts while establishing Thelema in Britain.

Analysis of Crowley's journals, writings, and novels is said to demonstrate that he was a Jack the Ripper-obsessed copycat killer. One who was only too happy to invoke a mummy’s curse of his own.

Order of the Solar Temple

In 1994, 48 members of the secret Doomsday group, The Order of the Solar Temple, were found dead and burned in Quebec. Subsequent investigations concluded that 15 of the dead committed suicide by ingesting poison. The rest were killed by gunshots and asphyxiation.

Some of the dead were children, so even if there was a voluntary mass suicide aspect to the killings, the children could not have given their expressed permission. As such, their deaths - at the very least - can be considered as murders.