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Dan Brown's 'Lost Symbol' Prompts Interest in Washington Area Masonic Structures

Cities in Europe where author Dan Brown has set scenes from his past best-selling novels have been flooded with tourists eager visit the places mentioned in the stories. Here are some locations and iconic symbols in D.C. that may find a way into Brown's newest work, "The Lost Symbol."

"It's all about, what's Dan Brown going to assert?" says author Dan Burstein, who edited companion work "Secrets of the Widow's Son" back in 2005 based on his early research. He has another book coming out in December called "Secrets of the Lost Symbol."

"Could he go in the direction of human cloning?" Burstein wonders. "Could some Freemasons . . . could they have known something about the cloning? And now we hear that Dan Brown is interested in the Rosicrucians," a secret society of mystics formed in medieval Europe. "So what does that mean? Some theories say the Rosicrucians had a piece of the cross. Maybe if you had bloodstains on some pieces of the cross, you could clone Christ."

Burstein is one of many scholars who operate in a tiny and speculative field: What Would Dan Brown Do?

Why Should Anyone Care?

Brown might be one of the best-sellingest authors of recent times (81 million copies for "Da Vinci"), but almost everyone agrees that, literarily, he stinks. The linguist Geoffrey Pullum once described his writing as "not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad," which might explain why in some circles people brag about not having read "The Da Vinci Code."

Still, there is something exuberant about that preposterous prose. Brown's books contain everything the human brain thrives on: breakneck pacing, bite-size didja-knows, looming conspiracies, Scooby-Doo plot twists. His books are literary crack, or, in PG terms, they are Harry Potter for grown-ups. His notorious reclusiveness only adds to his mystique; for every interview he declines and cryptic clue his team tweets, his persona increasingly resembles the enigmatic characters of his novels. Like Robert Langdon, the man wears tweed.

But his greatest achievement, arguably, is the outsize impact his fictitious novels have had on the cities in which they're set.

When Dan Brown comes to town, things get a little bit nutty.

Just ask Colin Glynne-Percy, director of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, the rural Scottish church featured in "The Da Vinci Code," which Langdon believed to be the location of the Holy Grail.

"Before the book came out, we had about 40,000 visitors a year," Glynne-Percy says. "It went to 80,000. Then to 120,000. Then to 175,000. We had very small facilities. We had only two restrooms. We could survive on that for 40,000 but . . ." They've put in temporary bathrooms and added several new staff members.

Just ask Robin Griffith-Jones, master of the Temple Church in London, which makes the eensiest of cameos in "Da Vinci." (Langdon pops in to search for clues on the stone effigies' decorative orbs, then pops out.)

This minor role hasn't stopped tourists from roaming the circular nave in search of the orbs examined by Langdon.


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