In the immortal words of Groucho Marx, "I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." Luckily for Groucho, there are plenty of organizations whose specific membership requirements make them either tantalizingly elusive, unique, or both. Here are five such clubs from today and yesteryear that you may not have known about.
1. PROJECT STEVE
According to The National Center for Science Education, Creationist groups often put together lists of the (very few) scientists who don't support the theory of evolution as a way to legitimize themselves. So the NCSE decided to fight back with a list of its own: Project Steve. The members of Project Steve—all 1389 of them, as of March 7, 2016—explicitly defend evolution as a scientific fact. They also all happen to be named Steve (or some variation of Steve).
On its website, the NCSE calls Project Steve "a tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition" of making lists of doubtful scientists. "Creationists draw up these lists to try to convince the public that evolution is somehow being rejected by scientists, that it is a 'theory in crisis,'" the NCSE explains. "Not everyone realizes that this claim is unfounded." Because Steves represent around 1 percent of scientists, the project drives home the fact that "that tens of thousands of scientists support evolution," the NCSE writes, and scientific consensus on the matter is overwhelming.
Why Steve? The NCSE was honoring the late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould.
2. THE EJECTION TIE CLUB
WikimediaCommons user Hohum // Public Domain
If you’ve ever used a Martin-Baker ejection seat to escape an aircraft in an emergency, then you’re qualified to join the Ejection Tie Club. According to Martin-Baker, “Every Club member is given a certificate, membership card, patch, tie, pin or a brooch for the women.” Some stories of the Ejection Tie Club members are shared on their website, including the story of Former Captain Gregg O. Hanson, USAF, Ejectee #2298:
“On June 13, 1972, 60 miles northwest of Hanoi North Vietnam, my F-4E was hit by an atoll air to air missile. The jet immediately went out of control. A witness from another aircraft stated that 'from the aft edge of the wing back there was one giant fireball.' Pulling negative G's I used the lower handle to pull myself back into the seat and initiate the ejection. My WSO Lt. Richard Fulton and I both ejected safely. One big thank you. Without Martin-Baker I would have missed my wonderful wife, children, and of course adorable grandchildren.”
Since 1957, there have been over 5800 registered club members. You can read more stories of some of the fortunate survivors here.
3. THE RUBBLE CLUB
After spending months or even years designing a structure that you expect to grace the skyline for generations, architects recognized the necessity of creating a support network for those who have had their work destroyed—and The Rubble Club was born. To gain admittance, there are a few requirements: The architect must still be living; his or her building must have been built with the expectation of permanence; and it must have been deliberately destroyed without the architect’s involvement.
According to The Rubble Club's website, the group was created by Isi Metzstein at an Aberdeen School of Architects external examination dinner in the late '90s. "We don’t want to shame people," Metzstein said. "It’s a very touchy matter whether replacements are the superior or not, it’s subject to the vagaries of public opinion and the architect is never in charge, they are always at the behest of instructions from the client.”
In terms of numbers of members, "There's no actual members list," John Glenday, Rubble Club secretary, told mental_floss in an email. "We are unique in that self-knowledge is the only route to membership!"
4. THE CATERPILLAR CLUB
Those who have used a parachute to survive a disabled aircraft are entitled to contact the parachute maker for a pin and a certificate to validate their admittance into the Caterpillar Club, whose motto is “Life depends on a silken thread.” (Technically, the Caterpillar Club is for those saved by Irvin Parachutes, but no one really makes that distinction anymore.) You’re not allowed in if you had planned on jumping out of the plane, even if there was an accident that caused you to jump before schedule. Membership of the club requires a nominal initiation fee of $10, and although formal efforts to organize into chapters dwindled after the Vietnam War, The Caterpillar Club reports that "thousands of airmen, flyers and passengers have enrolled in this organization."
5. THE 300 CLUB
Wikipedia Commons user Romanm // Public Domain
is reserved for an exclusive group of adventurers who will subject themselves to one of the more physically grueling scenarios one could imagine: Warming yourself up in a 200°F sauna at the Amundsen-Scott research station on Antarctica, and then streaking naked around the nearby ceremonial South Pole (pictured above) while temperatures are -100°F or colder. The "300" name refers to the full range of temperatures your body experiences, and according to The Atlantic, "One participant described the experience of running outside as feeling 'like somebody was hitting me with a tennis racket full of needles.'”
Seeking camaraderie and tradition in the isolation of the South Pole seems to be a natural human instinct. Lawrence Palinkas, an anthropologist at the University of Southern California, told The Atlantic, “Polar expeditioners have always had certain rituals and customs that have involved activities that are somewhat hazardous but also serve the same function of providing a means of bonding together."
It doesn't always reach -100°F in Antarctica, so when it does, would-be 300 Clubbers need to be ready to go. With their Bunny boots (the nickname given to the white government-issued boots for extreme cold) at the ready and hopefully a few friends with flashlights guiding the way, anyone crazy enough to head out into the cold has a shot at joining one of the most exclusive clubs known to man.
BONUS: THE NOT TERRIBLY GOOD CLUB OF GREAT BRITAIN
Stephen Pile’s 1979 bestseller The Book of Heroic Failures included an application for readers to become members of “The Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain,” in which similarly inept people could share stories of their respective failures. The application form asked for “main areas of incompetence,” “subsidiary areas of incompetence,” and “cases of sustained chaos occasioned by any of the above.” You may think that people would shy away from admitting their own failures, but apparently this didn't prevent the group from becoming extremely popular. In his second book, The Return of Heroic Failures, Pile reported that the club needed to be dissolved after over 30,000 people wanted to become members; its success meant it had been "a failure as a failure." If you still want to make it into the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain, your best bet is starting your own unofficial chapter: hoping that no one else shows up and the snacks are terrible.