Fill in the blanks based on what you listen:
It's the world's most well-known secret society. Rich with symbols and ritual, it's the source of legends . . . parodies . . . and conspiracy theories (because so much organized crime uses the Masonic secret system and global network to be able to get away with murder and I mean murder).
Welcome to the world of Freemasonry.
True or false? The Masons are a secret society. "No. That's false".
UCLA history professor Margaret Jacob, is one of the world's leading experts on Freemasonry.
True or false? Freemasonry is a religion. "No, it's false".
True or false? Masons were behind the American Revolution. "False, false, false"
Okay, but what about on the dollar bill? The eye and pyramid?" That's masonic right?
"No, everybody says it's Masonic. In fact, it's a commonplace in the 18th century, that particular set of symbols."
True! Freemasons laid the cornerstone of America. Well, at least some of its most iconic structures. So what is Freemasonry? Simply put, it's the world's oldest and largest fraternity. Its membership of Who's Who of world history -- George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, Mozart, Davy Crockett, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Houdini, Gerald Ford, Henry Ford, John Wayne, even Colonel Sanders.
If you want to be a Mason, you can petition a local lodge for membership. You'll need to demonstrate good character and belief in some sort of "Supreme Being". Oh, and in almost all lodges, it's men only.
Next, you're up for a vote, says New York State Grand Master James Sullivan.
"The lodge votes to accept you, and then you have your three degrees that you go through."
Once you earn "the third degree" and yes, that's where the phrase comes from, you can join any number of Masonic off-shoots.
Take Brent Morris. He's a 33rd degree Mason and a historian at the House of the Temple for the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite of the Southern Jurisdiction. You know it's that big building in Washington, D.C.
This isn't like the Masonic Vatican, but it's an important building.
"It's an important building, absolutely right. It's one branch of Freemasonry in the United States, and that's our headquarters building."
Inside, the temple lodge room is a stunner. And downstairs, there's this.
"This is the flag that Buzz Aldrin took to the Moon with him."
This flag, Supreme Council 33rd Southern Jurisdiction went to the moon, wow!"
Freemasonry began in medieval Europe as a guild for stonemasons, but lived on as a social organization.
1717, the first grand lodge was created in London and now there are many men in these lodges that are not associated with a trade organization; they're 'gentleman Masons. They're not stonecutters. And so something has happened "
A modern fraternity had been created.
It wasn't long afterward that those conspiracy theories began.
"All these men with different neighborhoods, different professions meeting in the cafe, breaking bread together, doing rituals -- what could this be? So the response on the part of the authorities was, Oh my God, this is a conspiracy!"
And so in 1738 Pope Clement XII issued the Catholic Church's first decree against Freemasonry, and it still applies today.
In the U.S., Freemasonry flourished until its secrecy made it the object of suspicion here, spawning America's first third party, the Anti-Masonic Party.
Today, Freemasonry has about 1.3 million members in the U.S., down from 4 million in 1959.
Among the members today: African-Americans, formerly relegated to a separate, black-only branch of Freemasonry.
And then there are members like those in Colonial Lodge No. 1821 of Washington, D.C. Most of them are in their twenties, and some are attracted to Freemasonry by Dan Brown novels and movies like "National Treasure."
Who here was sort of drawn by the mystery?
"I think all of us. I think it's a combination of history, tradition and ritual as well. You know there's a ritual behind where it is."
"I mean, that's the reason people join Freemasonry and not the Rotarians."
So what about those secrets?
What would happen if I found out the secret handshake and I weren't a Mason? You wouldn't have to kill me?
"We might take you out and buy you a beer. The secrets of a Mason represent my integrity as a man. I took a promise that I would not tell you what the secrets of the Mason are. I didn't take a promise that I would care if you know what they are."