Dan Brown's 'Lost Symbol' Prompts Interest in Washington Area Masonic Structures
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Washingtonians, brace yourselves.
In just six days, residents will awaken to find themselves in a changed city. One invaded by Founding Fathers scandal, by fictitious Harvard symbologists, by very short chapters ending in cliffhangers and exclamation points! One to which the tourists will flock, brandishing conspiracy theories. We want the real story, they'll say to helpless docents at the Smithsonian, perhaps, or the Scottish Rite Masonic temple. This is the real story, docents will reply. No, the reeeeal story. Wink wink.
Washington is about to be Dan Browned.
The inciting incident is the release of "The Lost Symbol," the third installment of Brown's mondo-selling adventure zeitgeist, sequel to "Angels & Demons" and "The Da Vinci Code." In "Angels," professor Robert Langdon races through Rome, saving the city from an explosion and uncovering religious secrets that rock Christianity to the core. In "Da Vinci," he races through Paris and London, solving a mysterious death and uncovering religious secrets that rock Christianity to the core.
In "The Lost Symbol," Langdon will be back again, this time racing through Washington. What exactly he'll be doing here is unclear. In the five-plus years Brown has been researching and writing this novel, nary an important plot point has leaked.
This much is known: The initial print run of "The Lost Symbol" is 5 million copies, the largest in Random House history, the publisher claims. Clues found on the novel's recently released cover, combined with decoded messages from the "Da Vinci" jacket and elsewhere ("Is there no help for the widow's son?"), suggest that Freemason history will play a central role.
People. Are. Freaking. Out.
The "Today" show has begun a week-long Dan Brown blitz, featuring Matt Lauer traipsing around the Washington locations expected to appear in the novel. Over on Amazon.com, a corporate notice assured readers that the site is securing its "Lost Symbol" stockpile "under 24-hour guard in its own chain-link enclosure, with two locks requiring two separate people for entry." Facebookers and Twitterers have been feverishly working overtime to decipher the novel-related clues -- such as "AOFACFSOA FSZWBEIC EIOA ZOHSFWQWOA OQQSDW" -- frequently posted by Brown's marketing team on his social networking pages.
Masons are preparing themselves.
"I'm expecting [tourism] to skyrocket," says Heather Calloway, director of special programs for the Masonic House of the Temple on 16th Street NW, which receives about 10,000 visitors a year. She will double the staff of part-time tour guides, if necessary, to handle the crush.
"We might have to spend the next 25 years responding to Dan Brown's fiction," says Mark Tabbert, director of collections at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria. "That's what I dread." (Think he's overstating? Wait until you hear from his European counterparts, who are still drowning in their own Brown invasions.)
Then there's the "Lost Symbol" companion industry: the piles of documentaries, Web sites and books created to analyze the meaning of a novel that has not yet come out.