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Take a Tour of Masonic Washington: What Does It All Mean?

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."

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By David Montgomery and Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 10, 2009

Step right up, folks, no ticket necessary for this symbologic tour of the secrets of Washington.

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All you need is the secret handshake. Don't know the handshake? Never mind. Neither do we.

Just stand at the curb at Union Station and say in unison the ancient phrase of the Freemasons: "Is there no help for the widow's son?"

Excellent. Come on board our vehicle today, the Esoteric Omnibus, painted black with golden stars, squares, crosses, triangles, pyramids and all-seeing eyeballs.

You know why we're here. Six years after his blockbuster "The Da Vinci Code," Dan Brown's next novel, "The Lost Symbol," will hit stores Tuesday with a massive print run of 5 million copies. The book's contents remain a secret deeper than the whereabouts of the Holy Grail and the location of Christ's genome, but the cover shows a blood-red Masonic seal and the sun glinting behind the Capitol dome.

Hmmm. Masons, Washington. Washington, Masons . . . .

Of course, Brown began dropping clues when he hid the "widow's son" phrase on the dust jacket of "The Da Vinci Code" to allude to his next novel: Masons. There he also disguised an allusion to the enigmatic sculpture Kryptos at CIA headquarters: Washington. There's nothing the author likes better than a secretive society to help weave plots dense with coded knowledge that could change the course of history.

So Brown could have predicted this moment. He must have imagined we'd be taking crash courses on Masonry, poised to scour the nation's capital for symbols and deeper meaning, following the footsteps of Robert Langdon -- the author's tweedy Harvard symbologist hero, who's back in the new novel.

Does the layout of Washington reveal some hidden Masonic influence? Are those secret signs hidden in the construction of key buildings? And what about those scary symbols on the nation's currency?

Let's find out. Touring Brown-inspired Washington Masonry before the novel even comes out may sound crazy, but others have tried.

Masonic historians such as S. Brent Morris ("The Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry") and Christopher Hodapp ("Solomon's Builders") have proposed essential Masonic Washington sites to visit. Old Town Trolley Tours is mulling the launch of a Secret Symbols tour of D.C., based on a concept and 50-page script drafted by Washington writer Warren Getler. Hollywood producers Ron Ziskin and Mark Victor have made a two-hour documentary, "Hunting the Lost Symbol," to air next month on the Discovery Channel. And journalist David A. Shugarts published "Secrets of the Widow's Son," foretelling the Masonic Washington theme, four years before "The Lost Symbol" reached bookstores.

So, all aboard.


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