One Saturday in June of ninth grade, we were driving through Moline, the next town over from Rock Island, and we passed a building I had never seen before: a three-story tall tombstone, all skeleton-white, with sinister black windows and odd symbols on the roof. The sign said "Scottish Rite Cathedral."
"Rite" meant "ritual," and "Cathedral" sounded Catholic, which to Nazarenes meant the epitome of degradation, debauchery, and unbrindled evil.
"Is that a Catholic church?" I asked breathlessly.
"Worse than that," Dad said. "It's a Masonic Temple. A secret society, like a club for men. They go in there to get naked and drink human blood and worship Satan. And they especially like to drink boys' blood, so be sure to stay far away."
"Secret societies" were on the list of things forbidden to Nazarenes. But they were near the end of a very long list, and preachers and Sunday school teachers usually devoted their time to more immediate sins, like going to movies or eating out on Sunday. And I wanted to know more about men getting naked.
This was before the internet, and there were no books on the Masons in the school library, so the only way to get more information was to ask two older boys in NYPS (the Nazarene Young People's Society): Dave was a member of church royalty, with perfectly cut black hair, perfect teeth, and an athletic physique. Last summer I got a Sausage Sighting at summer camp: impressive, maybe a Bratwurst, cut. Terry was slim, with dirty-blond hair almost too shaggy to meet Nazarene standards, an aspiring Gospel singer from an unsaved family. He backslid every few weeks and had to go down to the altar again, so I got to go up and hug him while he "prayed through to victory." Hard, tight muscles, warm body.
The next afternoon, during the down time between youth choir and NYPS, they were playing basketball in the church parking lot. I approached.
"Think fast!" Dave yelled, throwing the basketball at me. I dodged it -- I hated sports.
"What a dork!" Terry exclaimed as he ran to retrieve it. They ignored me to continue their game.
"Um...I was wondering...what do you know about the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Moline? Dad said they kidnap and torture kids inside."
Dave stopped playing, and grew quiet and solemn. "Oh, your Dad's right. You don't want to go near that place. Terry was trapped by them for awhile, before he got saved."
"The Masons have a special cult for boys called the DeMolay," Terry said. "That's short for demolish."
"What do they do to the boys?" I asked.
"Oh, all sorts of weird, disgusting things. Like...they make them drink blood."
"And eat human eyeballs!" Terry said. "Don't forget the eyeballs."
Dave nodded. "And they make the Demolish boys run across hot coals. And take off their clothes so everybody can see their wieners."
Terry wrapped his arm around my shoulders and leaned in conspiratorily. "Then they make the poor scared boys kiss each other on the lips!"
"Bogus!" I exclaimed, although I didn't really think it was bogus at all.
Dave wrapped his arm around my shoulders also. "That's not the worst of it. While they're kissing, the Demolish boys have to touch each other down there!"
"They're having a Demolish Boy meeting Wednesday night," Dave said. "We may be able to arrange a little sneak and peek, if you're interested."
"If you have a strong stomach," Terry added. "It's intense."
"I have a strong stomach! I've been inside a Catholic church before, with the idols and candles and everything!"
They insisted that I bring a friend along -- "safety in numbers" -- so I invited Craig from Washington Junior High.
They picked us up at 7:00 pm Wednesday night and took us to Alfano's, the high school hangout, for pizza and more spooky stories about the Masons and the "Demolish Boys." Then we went to levee and walked around in the gathering darkness.
"Demolay Meetings are always late at night," Dave said. "The witching hour."
Finally we drove to Moline and parked in a dark alley behind the Scottish Rite Cathedral. It looked bigger and scarier from up close. The windows were all dark. There were only two cars in the parking lot.
"Are you sure there's a meeting?" Craig asked.
"Sure," Terry said. "You don't think they would advertise it, do you? They don't want the fuzz breathing down their necks."
They led us to a side door. It wasn't locked. Down a long, narrow hallway. I heard sinister music playing from somewhere deep inside the building.
"The main ritual area is right down there," Terry said. "We'll be able to watch the ceremony from here. But we'll have to keep the lights off and be very quiet, so they don't...."
Suddenly the door burst open. A Mason! A tall man in a white robe, his face obscured by a white mask, a sword in his hand. "What the hell are you doing here?" he exclaimed in a deep rough voice.
We glanced at each other, terrified, not sure what to do. The Mason was blocking the only way out. Maybe if we apologized, he would let us go....
"We're sorry...." I began.
"Looks like Satan provided us with some new boys for the sacrifice," the Mason said with a chuckle. He pointed his sword at Craig and me. "You boys take off your clothes! Now!"
I was still mostly sure that this was a prank, so I nonchalantly pulled my t-shirt off and undid my belt. Craig looked uncertain, but took off his shirt, too.
"Come on, be quick about it! Show me your wieners!" He turned to Dave and Terry. "You, too. You have thirty seconds to get your clothes off, or I cut your head off."
My heart started to race. Dave and Terry would never agree to be the butt of the joke. This was real!
"No, don't cut my head off," Dave said, his voice trembling. "We're sorry. We'll do anything you want."
"What I want is to see you kissing each other on the lips and touching each other down there. Now get busy!"
Craig was already naked, his pale, slim body glowing in the fluorescent light, his small penis thickening, partially aroused.
I was getting partially aroused, too, wondering if I would get to kiss Dave and Terry, too, or just Craig? Would I get to fondle all three of them?
Suddenly Terry started laughing. "Ok, Joe, we've tortured the kids enough for one night."
The Mason put down his sword and took off his mask and robe -- a high school boy!
Dave put his arm around Craig's shoulders. "You can get dressed, buddy. I hope we didn't scare you too much."
Craig shook his head. "I wasn't scared at all."
"And Boomer!" Terry exclaimed. "I thought you were a little wuss, but you have nerves of steel! If I didn't know better, I'd think you actually wanted to get naked and kiss Craig on the lips."
"And touch him down there," Dave added with a grin.
Some famous people who belonged to the DeMolay Society as kids include Mel Blanc, John Steinbeck, John Wayne, Walt Disney, and Bill Clinton.
See also: I learn about oral sex in the church parking lot; The Sausage Sighting Prank at the Funeral Home.