Author Bill Loomis Explores City’s Past in “Secret Societies in Detroit”

From 20,000 Masons marching in the Thanksgiving Day Parade to the violence of the Purple Gang to a young Coleman Young being questioned by the HUAC, Bill Loomis illuminates the famous and lesser-known clubs that are part of Detroit’s history.

Courtesy of the author
Courtesy of the author

Secret societies have a rich history in Detroit. In his latest book, “Secret Societies in Detroit,” writer Bill Loomis goes inside the secret world of these groups, from the lesser-known clubs to the more famous (and infamous) organizations.

Here is a passage from the book’s introduction that will provide some insight into “Secret Societies in Detroit”:

“Many, if not most, of the clubs were secret, requiring passwords, secret handshakes, symbols and guarded meetings closed to the public because people, men mostly, loved belonging to a secret, exclusive group. Sometimes secrecy was much more serious. Secret clubs were formed during wartimes, like the Civil War or World War II, out of real fear and distrust of strangers and even neighbors. Just belonging to the club could be considered treason. Saying the wrong thing to the wrong person could get you hanged.

Not all of the groups in this book began in Detroit. Several were national movements that also found a home in Detroit and made an impact. Some causes were noble, but too many were despicable. Courage and virtuous behavior for noble causes lasted much longer than ‘great’ acts for low causes. Followers were seldom as committed or willing to make sacrifices as leaders believed; in most cases, the followers either didn’t exist or were no-shows. 

In any case, these groups were a way many people dealt with the world in the past and are an aspect of human nature worthy of revisiting.”

Listen: Bill Loomis on why he wrote “Secret Societies in Detroit.”

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  • Ann Delisi
    Ann Delisi hosts Essential Music, the Essential Conversations podcast series and the Essential Cooking broadcast and podcast. Born and raised in the Motor City, Ann is a broadcaster, interviewer, producer, music host, storyteller and proud Detroiter.