Easton and Berlin are two of the towns on the Chesapeake Ghost Walks that have lodges built by the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows (IOOF) and both are reportedly haunted. Maybe “haunted” is the wrong word. Mystical better describes these buildings.
The Odd Fellows (IOOF) is a fraternal organization that was founded in England in the 1600s. At that time people in society were class conscious and few helped their neighbors. When people got sick or their loved ones died, they were left to fend for themselves. Many didn’t have enough money to bury their own dead.
The Odd Fellows stepped up and pooled their money and resources together so that they could help people in need. Since this attitude was converse to the way society thought at the time, they considered themselves “odd” — thus the name.
Like the Masons, the Odd Fellows have their symbols, secrets and mystery. The 3 linked chain symbolizes Friendship, Love and Truth and that symbol typically appears over or near the doorway entering the meeting area.
The IOOF tended to build their lodges with retail space on the ground floor to draw rent that helped pay for the meeting space above. This is the design of both the Easton and Berlin lodges that house Clay Bakers and the yarn shop respectively. But unlike the Masons the IOOF were the first to accept women into their ranks, and the first to build homes for orphans and the elderly.
Membership was Divided into Varying Degrees
Membership is divided into degrees based on the degree to which the member has demonstrated the mission by leaving his own life behind and serving others in need. There is even a private club named “The Ancient Mystic Order of Samaritans.”
Ritual practice enhances the energy in a place. Joint ritual practice magnifies and re-energizes that energy. When this happens a door opens to another realm, and that’s when we can sense spirits or presences.
Skeletons in their Closets
The mantra of the Odd Fellows is to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.”
My friend Bob, who is an appraiser in Easton said that when he was brought in to inspect the Easton IOOF lodge he and the others with him were shown a drawer in a dias on the floor. When the drawer was opened, there was a human skeleton in it all laid out nice-like. Bob wondered what kind of weird ritual went on in that meeting hall. After hearing this I did a little research and found that other lodges had skeletons or clusters of human bones.
In a lodge in Philadelphia, workers renovating the old building started to tear out plaster walls to replace with dry wall and skeletons fell out – skeletons that were sealed into the walks when the building was built. While the IOOF keeps its secrets and doesn’t reveal the purpose of the skeletons, experts have suggested the skeletons have something to do with the vow each member takes to help others, specifically to bury the dead.
There are small private cemeteries all over the Shore that are owned by the Odd Fellows. It’s likely these were created by the IOOF to bury people whose families had no money. You wouldn’t know that they were owned and maintained by the Odd Fellows unless you looked up the tax records. What a remarkable gift to the community.
Many of these IOOF lodges are bound to have some kind of residual energy left in it from when the member practiced these rituals. I the ritual of the first degree, the candidate is bound in chains then blindfolded. The others form a mock funeral procession where the candidate is the deceased. When the blindfold is removed, the candidate comes face to face with a real human skeleton that is illuminated by lit torches on either side and he is invited to meditate on death. For the candidate will be dying to his old way of life and vowing to help those in need, welcome the traveler, educate the orphans and bury the dead.
The Odd Fellows Hall in Easton – Elevator Drama
The folks who work at Clay Bakers admit there is a presence there – some spirit who occasionally makes itself known. One of the staff members has been touched – a brush against the arm. Another says there have been odd noises from areas where no one is present. The basement is particularly strong with the sense of a spirit presence. They’ve on occasion had psychics and medium there as customers, and during or after the pottery session they’ve said that there are spirits present.
But the most unusual thing is that the elevator that runs to the apartments above the retail store evidently runs at will. Tenants complained that it will be running all night long at odd hours of the morning. When they’ve searched for who is riding the elevator, there is no indication that any person has been in the hallways. The door to the outside is locked to non-residents. Who is riding the elevator? Attempts to repair the elevator have been futile because the elevator engineers can’t find anything wrong with it.
All agree, however that the Odd Fellows Hall in Easton is a happy place, a peaceful place and a comfortable place to be. Why wouldn’t it be if the presence of Odd Fellows were about? They, after all were the good guys who spent their lives helping others.
Famous Odd Fellows – Winston Churchill, Wyatt Earp, Charlie Chaplin, Ulysses Grant, Franklin D. Roosavelt, Red Skelton, Burl Ives, Eleanor Roosavelt and Georgia Dwelle, first female African-American Physician.