10 Things You Might Not Know About the Illuminati

eric1513/iStock via Getty Images Plus
eric1513/iStock via Getty Images Plus

If you're a proponent of conspiracy theories, you might believe that there's a secret organization that covertly controls every aspect of society, from the banks, to the government, and even our entertainment industries. Yes, we're talking about the Illuminati, a group that supposedly consists of the world’s most powerful people. Beyonce and Jay-Z are rumored to be members (along with a host of other celebrities), and the group is said to be behind some of the last century’s most historically important events, like the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But what exactly is the Illuminati—and do they even exist? Let’s dive in to a brief history of this notorious and mysterious group.

1. The Illuminati was once a real organization.

Though there were a number of early Illuminati-like groups, things really kicked off with the Bavarian Illuminati, a secret society founded on May 1, 1776, in what was then known as the Electorate of Bavaria (part of modern-day Germany). The group was founded by Adam Weishaupt, a philosopher and professor at the University of Ingolstadt. At the school—which was heavily influenced by Jesuit doctrine—Weishaupt (a former Jesuit) had a hard time finding acceptance for his secular and liberal thinking. He wanted to connect with like-minded free-thinkers, so he decided to start his own secret society, and The Order of the Illuminati was born.

2. The Illuminati's goal was to encourage a rational society.

While there are differing descriptions of the group’s stated goals, the Illuminati's main mission was in line with the values of the Enlightenment: The group sought to promote rational thinking and knowledge. Weishaupt said that current systems "leave us under the dominion of political and religious prejudices," whereas the Illuminati “frees ... from all religious prejudices; cultivates the social virtues; and animates them by a great, a feasible, and speedy prospect of universal happiness, in a state of liberty and moral equality, freed from the obstacles which subordination, rank, and riches, continually throw in our way.”

3. The Illuminati wasn't always called the Illuminati.

Originally, Weishaupt called his group the “Perfectibilists.” However, the founder quickly realized how silly that sounded and tried out a few other names, including The Bee Order (yes, really), before eventually landing on The Order of the Illuminati.

4. The Illuminati had strict membership requirements.

The Illuminati were an exclusive group of rich, successful men; no women or Jews were admitted into their ranks. Five men, all from the University of Ingolstadt, attended that first meeting in 1776. Any new members had to be vetted and approved by the existing group. Membership requirements included being well-educated and wealthy, having a strong reputation, and coming from a good family. They also had to be 30 years old or younger—the group believed anyone older to be too conservative and rigid in their ways. The group grew quickly, though, in part because the first members joined the Freemasons, another group for independent thinkers, to recruit other men—and, at its largest, had up to 2000 members, including doctors, lawyers, politicians, and intellectuals.

5. Members of the Illuminati worked their way through levels of enlightenment.

After joining, members of The Order of the Illuminati worked their way through a series of “levels” to show their progress toward enlightenment. Originally, the Illuminati had three different “levels of enlightenment” that members could achieve: novices, minervals, and illuminated minervals. (The Owl of Minerva was the group’s original symbol; Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom, and the Owl of Minerva symbolizes intelligence and wisdom and was a popular icon of independent, progressive thinkers of the era.)

However, a few years after its founding, a member named Baron von Knigge revised the system into as many as 13 levels, also known as “degrees,” which were then grouped into three classes. Von Knigge had been a member of the Freemasons before turning to the Illuminati, and his system was based on that of his former group. Reaching the highest level meant a member had achieved “philosophical illumination,” according to National Geographic, and he was given the title of “king.”

6. Members of the Illuminati used pseudonyms.

All Illuminati members were given pseudonyms that represented historical or important figures. For example, Weishaupt was known as “Spartacus” and von Knigge as “Philo.” Correspondence was written in cipher and even things like town names were replaced with an arbitrary word. It’s said that when the government raided member’s homes after shutting down the organization, instructions for making invisible ink were found.

7. The Illuminati were exposed by one of their own.

The original Bavarian Illuminati was in existence for less than a decade, from 1776 to 1785. A former member named Joseph Utzschneider was responsible for shutting them down. Utzschneider wrote a letter to the Grand Duchess of Bavaria that outed the group and their progressive beliefs (though it’s likely some of his claims were exaggerated). The Grand Duchess told her husband, the Duke of Bavaria, who first issued an edict in 1784 that banned the creation of any society not previously authorized by law, and then followed that up a year later with a new rule in 1785 that explicitly banned the secret society, and in 1787, membership was made punishable by death. The group was disbanded and Weishaupt was banished from Bavaria. According to most experts, this was the end of the Illuminati, though there are hundreds of conspiracy theories that suggest the group is very much still alive and running.

8. Conspiracy theories about the Illuminati began almost as soon as the order was shut down.

In 1797, physicist, mathematician, and later-in-life conspiracy theorist John Robison published a book called Proofs of a Conspiracy, in which he accused The Order of the Illuminati of infiltrating the Freemasons and helping to start the French Revolution.

This book eventually made its way to George Washington, a Master Mason, who had just wrapped up his time as president. After reading it, Washington wrote a letter intending to dispel the threat of the Illuminati, though his simply addressing the group only stoked conspiracy theories.

Similar writings and accusations followed, and public chatter about Illuminati conspiracies would die down and flare up again throughout the next centuries. There are dozens if not hundreds of conspiracy theories claiming that The Order of the Illuminati is still very much alive and well, and that they’re quietly working under the radar to establish a New World Order (the idea that a small group of very powerful people are working behind the scenes to put in place an authoritarian government that would rule the whole world). There is zero proof of that.

9. According to conspiracy theories, some of the world's biggest stars and historical figures are members of the Illuminati.

There are rumors that some of the world’s biggest pop stars and Hollywood celebrities are actually members of the Illuminati. Dr. Dre, Madonna, Bono, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Eminem, Whitney Houston, Katy Perry ... the list goes on, but at the top sit Jay-Z and Beyoncé. In all of these cases, it’s speculated that these stars owe their success to the help of the secret organization. (It’s relevant to note here that Beyoncé shut down those rumors in the first verse of her 2016 song “Formation”: “Y’all haters corny with that Illuminati mess.”) And it’s not just modern-day entertainers; historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Henry Kissinger, Winston Churchill, and John D. Rockefeller are rumored to have been involved with the Illuminati, too.

10. Rumor has it the Illuminati headquarters is located at Denver International Airport.

Since opening in 1995—more than a year late and $2 billion over budget—the Denver International Airport has found itself at the center of a variety of Illuminati-related conspiracy theories. The airport has a time capsule set to be opened in 2094 that’s emblazoned with icons of a Masonic square and compass, a symbol of the Freemasons—and, by conspiratorial extension, the Illuminati. There are also plaques stating that DEN was funded by the "New World Airport Commission" (hmmm, sounds an awful lot like New World Order, doesn’t it?) and rumors that the airport sits above a secret, underground Illuminati headquarters where the world’s elite will live after the apocalypse. The whole thing is wild speculation, but DEN has leaned into the theories—check out its #DENFILES website for some fun information.

Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40)

- Keurig K-Cafe Special Edition; $190 (save $30)

- Ninja OS301 Foodi 10-in-1 Pressure Cooker and Air Fryer; $125 (save $75)

- Nespresso Vertuo Next Coffee and Espresso Machine by Breville; $120 (save $60)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75)

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $80 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10)

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $16 (save $11)

- HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

- Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31)

- TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

- Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

- Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30)

Video games

Sony

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening; $40 (save $20)

- Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity; $50 (save $10)

- Marvel's Avengers; $25 (save $33)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

- BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

- The Sims 4; $24 (save $20)

- God of Warfor PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

- Days Gonefor PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

- Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250)

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $335 (save $64)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $120 (save $79)

- Seneo Wireless Charger, 3 in 1 Wireless Charging Station; $16 (save $10)

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

- DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Headphones and speakers

Beats/Amazon

- Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones; $120 (Save $80)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $169 (save $50)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Powerbeats Pro Wireless Earphones; $175 (save $75)

- JBL Boombox; $280 (save $120)

Movies and TV

HBO/Amazon

- Game of Thrones: The Complete Series; $115 (save $89)

- Jurassic World 5-Movie Set; $23 (save $37)

- Deadwood: The Complete Series; $42 (save $28)

- Back to the Future Trilogy; $15 (save $21)

Toys and Games

Amazon

- Awkward Family Photos Greatest Hits; $15 (save $10)

- Exploding Kittens Card Game; $10 (save $10)

- Cards Against Humanity: Hidden Gems Bundle; $14 (save $5)

- LOL Surprise OMG Remix Pop B.B. Fashion Doll; $29 (save $6)

- LEGO Ideas Ship in a Bottle 92177 Expert Building Kit; $56 (save $14)

Furniture

Casper/Amazon

- Casper Sleep Element Queen Mattress; $476 (save $119)

- ZINUS Alexis Deluxe Wood Platform Bed Frame; $135 (save $24)

- ROMOON Dresser Organizer with 5 Drawers; $59 (save $11) 

- AmazonBasics Room Darkening Blackout Window Curtains; $26 (save $5)

- Writing Desk by Caffoz; $119 (save $21)

- SPACE Seating Office Support Managers Chair; $112 (save $116)

- Rivet Globe Stick Table Lamp; $53 (save $17)

- Christopher Knight Home Merel Mid-Century Modern Club Chair; $188 (save $10)

- Walker Edison Furniture Industrial Rectangular Coffee Table; $121 (save $48)

Beauty

Haus/Amazon

- MySmile Teeth Whitening Kit with LED Light; $21 (save $12) 

- Cliganic USDA Organic Lip Balms Set of Six; $6 (save $4)

- HAUS LABORATORIES By Lady Gaga: LE RIOT LIP GLOSS; $7 (save $11)

- Native Deodorant for Men and Women Set of Three; $25 (save $11) 

- BAIMEI Rose Quartz Jade Roller & Gua Sha; $14 (save $3)

- Honest Beauty Clearing Night Serum with Pure Retinol and Salicylic Acid; $20 (save $8)

- WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo and Hair Conditioner Set; $30 (save $5) 

- La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser; $15 (save $5)

- wet n wild Bretman Rock Shadow Palette; $9 (save $6)

- EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Face Sunscreen Moisturizer with Hyaluronic Acid; $25 (save $6)

Clothes

Ganni/Amazon

- Ganni Women's Crispy Jacquard Dress; $200 (save $86) 

- The Drop Women's Maya Silky Slip Skirt; $36 (save $9)

- Steve Madden Women's Editor Boot; $80 (save $30)

- adidas Women's Roguera Cross Trainer; $40 (save $25)

- Line & Dot Women's Elizabeth Sweater; $74 (save $18)

- Levi's Men's Sherpa Trucker Jacket; $57 (save $41)

- Adidas Men's Essentials 3-Stripes Tapered Training Joggers Sweatpants; $28 (save $12)

- Timex Men's Weekender XL 43mm Watch; $32 (save $20)

- Ray-Ban Unisex-Adult Hexagonal Flat Lenses Sunglasses; $108 (save $46) 

- Reebok Men's Flashfilm Train Cross Trainer; $64 (save $16)

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12 Spirited Facts About How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Each year, millions of Americans welcome the holiday season by tuning into their favorite TV specials. For most people, this includes at least one viewing of the 1966 animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Adapted from Dr. Seuss’s equally famous children’s book by legendary animator Chuck Jones, How the Grinch Stole Christmas first aired more than 50 years ago, on December 18, 1966. Here are 12 facts about the TV special that will surely make your heart grow three sizes this holiday season.

1. Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel And Chuck Jones previously worked together on Army training videos.

During World War II, Geisel joined the United States Army Air Forces and served as commander of the Animation Department for the First Motion Picture Unit, a unit tasked with creating various training and pro-war propaganda films. It was here that Geisel soon found himself working closely with Chuck Jones on an instructional cartoon called Private Snafu. Originally classified as for-military-personnel-only, Private Snafu featured a bumbling protagonist who helped illustrate the dos and don’ts of Army safety and security protocols.

2. It was because of their previous working relationship that Ted Geisel agreed to hand over the rights to The Grinch to Chuck Jones.

After several unpleasant encounters in relation to his previous film work—including the removal of his name from credits and instances of pirated redistribution—Geisel became notoriously “anti-Hollywood.” Because of this, he was reluctant to sell the rights to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, when Jones personally approached him about making an adaptation, Geisel relented, knowing he could trust Jones and his vision.

3. Even with Ted Geisel’s approval, the special almost didn’t happen.

By Al Ravenna, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Whereas today’s studios and production companies provide funding for projects of interest, television specials of the past, like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, had to rely on company sponsorship in order to get made. While A Charlie Brown Christmas found its financier in the form of Coca-Cola, How the Grinch Stole Christmas struggled to find a benefactor. With storyboards in hand, Jones pitched the story to more than two dozen potential sponsors—breakfast foods, candy companies, and the like—all without any luck. Down to the wire, Jones finally found his sponsor in an unlikely source: the Foundation for Commercial Banks. “I thought that was very odd, because one of the great lines in there is that the Grinch says, ‘Perhaps Christmas doesn’t come from a store,’” Jones said of the surprise endorsement. “I never thought of a banker endorsing that kind of a line. But they overlooked it, so we went ahead and made the picture.”

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas had a massive budget.

Coming in at over $300,000, or $2.2 million in today’s dollars, the special’s budget was unheard of at the time for a 26-minute cartoon adaptation. For comparison’s sake, A Charlie Brown Christmas’s budget was reported as $96,000, or roughly $722,000 today (and this was after production had gone $20,000 over the original budget).

5. Ted Geisel wrote the song lyrics for the special.

No one had a way with words quite like Dr. Seuss, so Jones felt that Geisel should provide the lyrics to the songs featured in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

6. Fans requested translations of the “Fahoo Foraze” song.

True to his persona’s tongue-twisting trickery, Geisel mimicked sounds of classical Latin in his nonsensical lyrics. After the special aired, viewers wrote to the network requesting translations of the song as they were convinced that the lyrics were, in fact, real Latin phrases.

7. Thurl Ravenscroft didn’t receive credit for his singing of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

The famous voice actor and singer, best known for providing the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, wasn’t recognized for his work in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Because of this, most viewers wrongly assumed that the narrator of the special, Boris Karloff, also sang the piece in question. Upset by this oversight, Geisel personally apologized to Ravenscroft and vowed to make amends. Geisel went on to pen a letter, urging all the major columnists that he knew to help him rectify the mistake by issuing a notice of correction in their publications.

8. Chuck Jones had to find ways to fill out the 26-minute time slot.

Because reading the book out loud only takes about 12 minutes, Jones was faced with the challenge of extending the story. For this, he turned to Max the dog. “That whole center section where Max is tied up to the sleigh, and goes down through the mountainside, and has all those problems getting down there, was good comic business as it turns out,” Jones explained in TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas special, which is a special feature on the movie’s DVD. “But it was all added; it was not part of the book.” Jones would go on to name Max as his favorite character from the special, as he felt that he directly represented the audience.

9. The Grinch’s green coloring was inspired by a rental car.

Warner Home Video

In the original book, the Grinch is illustrated as black and white, with hints of pink and red. Rumor has it that Jones was inspired to give the Grinch his iconic coloring after he rented a car that was painted an ugly shade of green.

10. Ted Geisel thought the Grinch looked like Chuck Jones.

When Geisel first saw Jones’s drawings of the Grinch, he exclaimed, “That doesn’t look like the Grinch, that looks like you!” Jones’s response, according to TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas Special: “Well, it happens.”

11. At one point, the special received a “censored” edit.

Over the years, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been edited in order to shorten its running time (in order to allow for more commercials). However, one edit—which ran for several years—censored the line “You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch” from the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Additionally, the shot in which the Grinch smiles creepily just before approaching the bed filled with young Whos was deemed inappropriate for certain networks and was removed.

12. The special’s success led to both a prequel and a crossover special.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Given the popularity of the Christmas special, two more Grinch tales were produced: Halloween is Grinch Night and The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat. Airing on October 29, 1977, Halloween is Grinch Night tells the story of the Grinch making his way down to Whoville to scare all the Whos on Halloween. In The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat, which aired on May 20, 1982, the Grinch finds himself wanting to renew his mean spirit by picking on the Cat in the Hat. Unlike the original, neither special was deemed a classic. But this is not to say they weren’t well-received; in fact, both went on to win Emmy Awards.