A mere two months ago, Fraternity was announced. An experience designed by the people behind the Frequent Fear podcast – lasting for about thirty minutes, all by yourself. In those two months, a lot has happened, different sides to the unveiling story have come forward, and it is even starting to look like the creators of this show are in over their heads. For those who just stumbled onto Fraternity, or for anyone who wants to refresh their memories – a recap of what has happened.
The Frequent Fear announcement
March 8th 2017. GNG Entertainment posts a status update. “Five years ago, for the first time in the UK, we asked the question “How far is too far?”. This year we really get to find out!”. Underneath those lines, the letters FRATERNITY are spelled out, in a font with a Greek aesthetic to it. Five years ago, referring to Project Fear – a show I never got to experience, but that sounded like a UK version of the Victim Experience. Along with that post, Frequent Fear releases a podcast, revealing Lee Conway and Gary Crompton as the creators of this show. The podcast would be used as a means to document the development process, to unveil different steps, different complications and their solutions, a very open approach to the design of the experience.
Listen to the announcement podcast here.
Over the next three weeks, bits of concept art were released, showing a general theme of red and black imagery, closed doors and secret society mythology. On March 31st, a second episode of the development podcast was shared online, teasing about the feel of the attraction, revealing it would be a hands-on, walk through alone experience. On the Fraternity website, a text appeared, revealing the Fraternity as a very new world order-esque organisation, pulling the strings of prime ministers and presidents, influencing elections, world economics, and generally controlling the way our society functions. Every ten years, the Fraternity offers a chance to join them. An initiation ceremony. And this would be our chance to enter.
Catch up on the second development podcast here.
The emergence of Dr. Henry Issac, a quest for the event dates
Then, April 4th, everything changed. A Twitter profile appeared, under the handle of @drhenryissac, and started interacting with a number of people who had been interested in participating in Fraternity. Among other things, he tweeted that the Frequent Fear guys are only puppets, and that we need to watch out for whoever was really pulling the strings.
I got in contact with Dr. Henry Issac on April 8th. He revealed the actual name of the Fraternity as being the Ordre d’Elysium, and claimed he had been following them for years – a chance encounter, after discovering and deciphering an ancient parchment he had found while researching theories about the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. An order, promising people the world, after which they would be submitted to torment and brainwashing. He seemed very confused about this ‘scare attraction’ popping up all of a sudden, calling the guys behind Frequent Fear clowns who didn’t know what they were dealing with. This immediately raised a couple of questions. Is Frequent Fear being manipulated into marketing the initiation ceremony as a scare attraction, in order to lure people in? Are they aware of this, or are they being played? Or, alternatively, is this Dr. Henry Issac sound of mind? This latter theory is the one followed by ‘the two clowns’, laughing away these developments as the fabrications of a lunatic they claim not to know.
After a couple of days of interaction with Dr. Issac, we convinced him to trust us to join his search for the truth, for what lies behind the doors of the Ordre d’Elysium. With the initiation happening only once every ten years, the window would be closing soon, and we needed to act as soon as possible. He shared a parchment with us. The text on this parchment was identical to the one that had appeared on the Fraternity website earlier – with the addition of this line:
Ternion will start your path, and lead you through degrees to the promised land.
Dr. Issac, or Henry, wasn’t willing to share the solution just yet, so the small community that had gathered collaborated intensely to reveal the dates of the initiation, said to be hidden somewhere on the parchment. A secret Facebook group was founded, under the name of #OdEwatch. Dr. Issac provided clues, telling us to look into Henry Lincoln’s writings about the Priory of Sion, a fraternal society that was founded and dissolved in 1956 as part of a hoax. Geometry plays a huge role in Lincoln’s work, and everyone set out drawing lines on the parchment, connecting symbols and trying to figure out the secrets within. Theories varied wildly, ending up in astronomy and calculations of planetary alignments, but we only got further and further away from the truth. Ultimately, either fed up with us getting nowhere, or impressed by the effort we had made, Henry shared a video on Youtube, detailing the solution of the problem, and revealing the dates for the Initiation as being July 14th until 16th.
I shared this date with Lee and Gary, the “two clowns” behind the Frequent Fear Podcast. They still claimed not to have an idea who this Dr. Issac was, but did confirm the dates were correct, and told me they had no idea of how Henry had predicted them.
Connection to a secret informant, the reveal of the location
Two days passed, until three members of #OdEwatch received mysterious emails. The email address itself, firstname.lastname@example.org, potentially referred to the Star of David, which was uncovered on the parchment as well. The sender was only known as Deep Throat, or DT – I suppose hinting at the pseudonym that was given to the secret informant in the Watergate scandal, and not the slightly more x-rated meaning. The information in the emails consisted of a binary code, the Fraternity logo consisting of a repeating number, and the code LEIGGS1910. Cracking these codes would grant us the location of the initiation ceremony.
LEIGGS1910 was quickly uncovered to mean SCHOOL 1910 – using a QWERTY keyboard based substitution encryption. The repeating number and binary code proved more difficult, as multiple encryption methods and conversions yielded no workable results. Translating binary into letters, back into numbers, and using these as grid references for a moment seemed to be the way forward, but ultimately, we got nowhere.
In the meantime, community members sent out emails to DT, in an attempt to find out more. In various emails, DT revealed himself to be on the inside of the Ordre d’Elysium. A younger member, who was born in the Order, and never had had the choice to join. In his emails, details slipped through, unveiling a strict hierarchy, with “i proélefsi”, or the Origin, at the top. A belief in reincarnation, of cycles of different body forms was hinted at. Before the initiation, it seems a window opens up for members to communicate with the outside world, but only after consultation of the Elders, the Origin. DT did not consult with them, and informed us of the grave danger he found himself in, confiding us with hints towards the location of the initiation, if they would ever find out. (Note – a late realisation, but I might be landing DT in a world of trouble by publishing this recap). Apart from these insights, a number of us were given nicknames, derived from Greek mythology, apparently based on the first impressions DT had had of us. Athena, Theia, Hermes, Actaeon, Asteria, Coeus, Ananke. In later emails, DT gave the impression of feeling sad, locked up, frustrated by his lack of choice.
Not getting anywhere with the codes, DT got restless, claiming the window was closing, and send one community member another clue – one that was far easier to decipher: Mechesburg 01709SE4700. This clue rapidly led us to the location of the initiation: Mexborough, a town in South Yorkshire, England. Five days later, on the Facebook page of the Fraternity event, this location was confirmed to be correct, along with mentioning that tickets to the initiation would be available on the next Monday.
Entry into the Initiation
The Sunday before, community members received a cryptic email from DT. A picture of a painting, without further context. Reverse google image searches revealed the painting to depict Saint Georges, and interestingly, that Sunday was St. Georges day. A clue? A hint towards advance access to the initiation? Nothing was uncovered however, and the trail ran cold.
Nine days later, DT resurfaced. One member of #OdEwatch received the following message:
“Tomorrow for 30 mins the window will open. If I get the chance I will inform you all 15 minutes before with a call out. Initiation is around the corner.”
Apart from that, several members received emails in Greek, which, when translated, combined to something that looked like the waiver to the event, detailing certain things we might encounter inside the initiation ceremony, including submersion in water, restraints, and interestingly, that we would be provided with a ceremonial gown for the initiation.
Indeed, the next day, a community member received a text message, stating that the Ordre d’Elysium was setting up a new website. DT claimed he was able to insert a glitch, that would take us to a page where we would be able to gain entry to the initiation. When opening the OdE website, nothing seemed to be there, except for a general image claiming the website was under construction. However, there was a hidden link on the page, granting us access to the initiation ceremony. Once again, Lee and Gary, the organizers of the Fraternity event, were stumped how we were able to obtain tickets, as these weren’t supposed to go on sale just yet. They could however confirm that indeed, we had purchased spots for their event. Three days later, tickets went on sale on the general Fraternity website.
In the meantime, DT hinted that he was working on adding a second glitch in the OdE website, which would allow us to access more information about the Order. Four days later, a text message was sent out, saying the glitch was live. The website no longer showed the under construction image, now showing the logo of Ordre d’Elysium (thematically related to the Fraternity logo, but using different letters). An “about us” button didn’t lead anywhere, but once more a hidden link could be found, leading us to a contact page, where we could leave our name, email address, and a message. Several community members sent out messages, as per DT’s hint, asking for more information.
The next day, DT came back to us in a panic – stating he hadn’t put up the link to the contact page, urging us not to send anything through, that any message sent would end up straight in the hands of OdE security officers. Evidently, too late for that.
As a latest development, on May 17th, DT claims to have found a way to stop our messages falling into the hands of the Order’s security. Additionally, we are about to receive a code, split into three parts. Solving this code would prove our dedication. DT is adamant that we should not underestimate the importance of this – claiming it “is more important than life or death”.
Questions piling up
So. That leaves us with the Ordre d’Elysium, a secret order who are about to have an initiation ceremony, happening only once every decade. Two scare attraction producers who seem to think they are just putting on an event called Fraternity – while clearly other people are at least having some kind of influence over content and ticket sales. Then there is Dr. Henry Issac, a potential conspiracy theorist who has been researching the Order for years, and who seems to be pulling away from us. It can be assumed he knows more about what is going on, but as time goes on, Henry is growing more reclusive, not responding to our messages, keeping his info close to his chest. Several community members have lost their trust in the doctor, and his hesitance to buy a ticket into the Initiation himself is making him look particularly suspicious. Cold feet, after all these years of dedication and trying to get to the truth? And finally, Deep Throat or DT, a hidden informant claiming to live within the Order. Both DT and Dr. Henry have made it very clear that we should stay clear of the fraternity, yet keep on giving us clues how we can attain entry into the ceremony – so their ulterior motives remain a mystery. DT’s recent stint with security, and several previous conversations point out that the Elders of the Order, i proélefsi, do not want us there. And that makes sense, why would an ancient order, recruiting only the elite of the elite, allow just anyone who buys a ticket to go through their initiation? Surely they would work with personal invitations of some sort? Yet, in some way, the initiation is being marketed as a scare attraction, and more and more it seems like there is way more at play, and that someone else entirely is pulling the strings. Are the Frequent Fear Podcast guys being coerced or manipulated into organising this event? Or, are they aware that they might be sending us into something darker? Were they blackmailed, have they accepted money? Or, are they part of the Order themselves? Is Dr. Henry part of the Order, perhaps? Are Dr. Henry and DT the same person? Come July, will we get out of Mexborough with both our kidneys in their correct spots?
Maybe our willingness to go along with all the mystery, our willingness to keep carrying out their requests and keep solving their puzzles is what makes us the prime candidates for whatever they are seeking for in the Initiation. Guests, too trusting for their own good, easily coerced into following orders. People who could be useful for carrying out the grunt work for whatever they are planning next, spreading propaganda, for being used as sleeper agents, perhaps.
To be continued – that is the only thing we know for sure.
EDIT – Further developments and living through the Initiation
What follows is a condensed overview of the events after May 17th leading up to the Initiation, and the Initiation itself.
After DT’s latest message, we did indeed start to receive coded messages over the course of a week. Upon decryption, these codes gave away small insights into the OdE, and what was waiting for us. A biblical passage stating ‘the day of tumult was near’. A fragment from the notorious April 1961 speech by JFK – “Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed” – where he allegedly almost revealed the existence of the Order. Finally, a message from DT herself, praising us for her efforts. We seemed to be winning DT’s trust, and were allowed to ask three questions. In the meantime, our relation with Henry seemed to be deteriorating even further. Trust was at an all time low, and eventually, the group even started hiding answers from Henry, strictly communicating with DT alone. We were at an impasse.
On June 1st, DT posted a video. This was the first time we could put a face to the name. DT appeared to be a teenage girl, and through an email exchange, we learnt her name – Megan. In the video, she told us she needed our help, for her real motive. Her ultimate goal, something that was more important than life or death, according to her.
Ten days later, we finally got the answers to our questions.
Through these answers, we also managed to get a confession out of Henry. Instead of Dr. Henry, the conspiracy hunter and anthropologist, we had been talking to Henry Jr. – his son. Henry Sr. had been friends with Megan’s father, but they had a falling out, after Megan’s father tried to get him to join the OdE. Now, Henry Sr. was missing, and had been for five years. Megan and Henry Jr. had known each other since early childhood, and after the falling out of their fathers, they had secretly kept in touch. We had known that Megan wanted to leave the Order behind, and was frustrated by being so confined and isolated. But, now, the real reason became clear – she wanted to get out to be with Henry Jr.
For a long time, things went silent. The proverbial silence before the storm, it appeared to be. Two days before the initiation ceremony was scheduled to happen, a video was posted on Henry’s Facebook profile. Odd in itself, as he would usually post in the #OdEwatch group. In the video, it seemed like he was trapped in a basement, and trying to escape. No further context or explanation was given. A day later, Megan got another message out, warning us that security was tightening inside the Order.
Later that day – a message posted by Henry: “Hello, this is Origen. This secret group has been a real good read today. It looks like you have taken a real liking to young Henry and my Daughter!” Soon after, apart from overtaking Henry’s profile, it became clear Origen had also confiscated Megan’s phone. All our lines of communication with allies, broken. Our feeble efforts at gaining the upper hand on the Order, destroyed. Our element of surprise, gone. When asked what had happened to Henry, Origen only said the following: “He stuck his nose into the two most important things in my life: my Order and my Daughter”. He further revealed that although he had a certain rank, he was far from being the leader of the OdE, and that ‘the two clowns’ had been recruited as organizers, but that they were not fully aware that the Initiation was more than just a show, nor were they part of the Order. Not long after, Origen stopped responding. The Initiation was nigh.
The Initiation happened on the 14th and 15th of July. The general feel and flow is described here. Here, I will focus more on what might have happened regarding Henry and Megan.
Early on in the Initiation, I am sat in a chair. I am offered bread, and told to devour the Body of the Order. In front of me is a table, with what appears to be a body, covered with a white sheet. An arm is dangling down, the wrist cut. Under the wrist, a glass pitcher, half full of blood. The red liquid is poured into a glass. Drink the Blood of the Order. Hanging on the wall, next to the body – a lanyard. “HENRY ISSAC”.
Later on, I am whisked away and told to hide. Whispers in my ear, a familiar voice, although I had only heard it just once before. “You have made a huge mistake coming here. This is Megan. Why didn’t you listen? Henry and me, we tried to warn you. Stay silent, don’t even breathe. The elders have arrived. Don’t let them see you.” Ducked down, hand in hand, we try to sneak away. “It is too late for us, but you can save yourself. Stay silent. I will lead you to safety.” Then, a loud thud. Our hands break free. The sound of a body, dropping to the floor. I am grabbed by the shoulders. “No one escapes the Order.”
Soon after, we met Origen. And, another short while later, we were initiated into the Order. The door slammed shut, and there was no turning back. It seems Henry stuck his nose a little bit too deep, and he paid for it. We drank his blood – the blood of a traitor. Then again. We never saw his face. Maybe his demise is all make belief? Maybe Henry was a hoax from the beginning, designed to lure us in? And then, Megan. When she was struck down, we were blindfolded. Again, we did not see what happened exactly – although the blow did seem frighteningly realistic. But, surely, Origen wouldn’t allow his daughter to be hurt badly? Or, was it all a set up? Were we right to trust Megan?
A week after the Initiation, I get out of the shower, and check my phone.
Henry? Origen? Someone else entirely?
To be continued, once again…