4 of the Most Sinister Secret Societies (You May Not Have Heard Of)

Warning: the following post contains written graphic descriptions of violence.

Most of us have heard of secret societies, from sinister to benevolent. From academic to elusive. It’s likely you’ve heard of the Illuminati, a secret society supposedly pulling the strings on many global issues and events. It’s likely you’ve heard of the Freemasons, of which there are stories ranging from terrifying to charitable. But what of the ones you haven’t heard of? Below are some of the most sinister secret societies you may not have heard of.

Thule Society

Emblem of the Thule Society.

Emblem of the Thule Society.

The Thule Society is less sinister in its practices than many other secret societies listed here. On their dossier is a failed kidnapping of a politician. However, it is the ideologies and its influence that cause it to be placed on this list. The Thule Society espoused and possibly led to the formation of many Nazi ideologies. It is somewhat difficult to find reliable sources of information on the Thule Society. There are Thule websites listing the benefits of Nazism. Others on the Thule Society reveal how Hitler got his ideas from aliens. However, we do know this society was formed in 1918 in the wake of World War I. It followed another secret society in Germany, the Germanenorden, which had similarly occultist views. It split from the Germanenorden, however, as its own secret society.

The signer hereby swears to the best of his knowledge and belief that no Jewish or coloured blood flows in either his or in his wife’s veins, and that among their ancestors are no members of the coloured races
— Thule Blood Declaration of Faith

Hans Frank and Rudolf Hess, both prominent members of the later Nazi Party were members of the Thule Society. Other members of the party were invited to speak at or attend meetings. There is no evidence that Hitler himself never attended any meetings and it said he had little time for occultist ideologies. The Thule Society was obsessed with the idea of the Aryan race and racial purity. They hated Jews and communists. They believed in the Hollow Earth Theory and that Aryans were a race from a lost continent, possibly Atlantis.


Hamatsa shaman, 1923.

Hamatsa shaman, 1923.

The Hamatsa originates amongst the Kwakiutl-speaking peoples of British Columbia, Canada. The presence of this secret society is explained by the story of the cannibal chief Baxbaxwalanuksiwe. Four brothers on a hunt were set to go to a land where smoke from the villages and homes were all different colors. Brown smoke was for the bear, white for the whale. They were told red smoke was the color of cannibals. The brothers were given a smooth pebble, a wood comb, fish oil, and mountain goat wool to throw at the cannibals one at a time if they were to meet them. In their journey, they finally came upon a place with red smoke. They were chased by a monstrous giant, the cannibal chief. The eldest brother threw the smooth pebble, which turned into a mountain, slowing down the giant. The next brother threw the comb, which turned into a dense forest. The next threw the fish oil, which became a lake, and the last brother threw the goat wool, which became a dense fog. They made it home and tricked the cannibal by pretending to be dead. The cannibal wanted to eat them, but their father insisted the cannibal must hear a story before devouring the dead brothers. He lulled the cannibal to sleep and the brothers were able to kill and burn the cannibal and his family. Their ashes became mosquitoes and other biting insects.

Franz Boas studied the society in the late 19th century. According to him, the cannibal society, the Hamatsa, was one of the four societies of the tribe (the others being war, magic, and afterlife). It is unclear if the ritual cannibalism of the Hamatsa is real or symbolic. A young man, approximately 25 years old, is abducted and initiated into the Hamatsa society. The initiate is taught rituals of the society. He fasts and bathes in icy waters.  He becomes the cannibal chief Baxbaxwalanuksiwe at the winter dance festival, biting members of the audience while the story is told. The cannibal initiate will then be tamed by other members of the Hamatsa society. He will eat human flesh from mummified corpses.


Duk-duk dancers, 1913.

Duk-duk dancers, 1913.

The term “duk-duk” may have derived from “dekdek,” meaning strong, or “douk,” meaning cruel. Both of these terms apply to the duk-duk secret society of the Tolai people. The Tolai people inhabit islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea. The duk-duk is a secret society amongst them, which acts as the complete law enforcement for their people. The duk-duk is the term for the male masks some of the participants wear, representing male spirits. There are also the tubuan, the female spirits. In the above photo, we see the representations of tubuan, who will give birth to duk-duk spirits. The tubuan all have similar faces, while the duk-duk are represented with faceless masks.

[The duk-duk] travels through the bush visiting each village, and if any man has received wrong at the hands of his neighbour, he pays the duk-duk… to settle the question. [The duk-duk] then goes off to the aggressor’s house, and demands restitution of the stolen goods, or payment for harm done, which if the accused person does not pay, or restore at once, the duk-duk sets fire to his house or in some extreme cases spears the offender… [No] man is allowed to lift a hand against him, but must submit to everything the duk-duk does.
— Powell, 1883.

The purpose of the duk-duk is to carry out justice - acting as judge, jury, and executioner for crimes committed. The duk-duk initiated men (and only men) who would have to pay an entry fee in cowry shells. They would learn secret signs and rituals. The duk-duk would appear on the full moon, having come from the tubuan spirit who birthed them. The festival involved ritualistic dancing and the distinctive masks and cloak of leaves. Women and children were forbidden from looking upon these spirit dancers. The tubuan were considered infallible and the secret society carried out divine justice, even if it involved murder and arson. Today, these practices have largely died out and duk-duk dances are primarily put on for tourists.

Leopard Society

Leopard society emblem. (c) Brooklyn Museum

Leopard society emblem. (c) Brooklyn Museum

In West Africa there existed (and possibly still exists) a sinister secret society called the Leopard Society (also: Leopard Cult or Ekpe). This is an all-male group that dons leopard skins, masks, and steel claws to attack unknowing victims at night. All for the purpose of cannibalizing them. The belief was that cannibalizing the organs and blood of victims was the source of supernatural strength for the cult. They first appeared on the record in the 1870s and killings have been attributed to them as late as the 1980s. Their most prolific killing sprees occurred after World War II, where 81 Leopard murders occurred in Nigeria over a period of two years.

There, on a mat in a house, I found the horribly mutilated body of a fifteen-year-old girl. The neck was torn to ribbons by the teeth and claws of the animal, the intestines were torn out, the pelvis shattered, and one thigh was missing. A part of the thigh, gnawed to the bone, and a piece of the shin-bone lay near the body. It seemed at first glance that only a beast of prey could have treated the girl’s body in this way, but closer investigation brought certain particularities to light which did not fit in with the picture. I observed, for example, that the skin at the edge of the undamaged part of the chest was torn by strangely regular gashes about an inch long. Also the liver had been removed from the body with a clean cut no beast could make. I was struck, too, by a piece of intestine the ends of which appeared to have been smoothly cut off, and, lastly, there was the fracture of the thigh – a classic example of fracture by bending.
— Dr. Werner Junge

At first, most of these murders looked like attacks from their namesakes. However, the steel claws left different cut marks and organs would be removed with precision cuts that could not be made by a wild animal. They seemed to have no preference for their victims, usually preying on lone people at night - a crime of opportunity. However, as the murders continued and patrols and traps were set and a 4pm curfew was implemented, “Leopard Men” would attack during the day or attack very near patrols but were never caught. Many people began to believe that their claims of supernatural ability were true and feared giving information to the police, lest they become a victim. It was only when an officer was able to shoot and kill a Leopard Man that people began to come forward, it having been proven that these were only men. Informants were able to lead police to 70 Leopard Men being arrested, as well as a stone altar where they may have practiced cannibalism or sacrifice.

For cults and societies like these, the keyword is “secret.” For many, this amounts to a secretive membership, but so many secret practices have been leaked to the general public. The above are the sinister secret societies that we know about. What others might be lurking in the darkness, truly living up to their title?