During late night rummagings through musty old newspapers, a pox upon my friend and colleague Ken Summers for introducing me to this damnable pursuit, an item in the Burlington Free Press, dated May 31st of 1839 anno domini demanded attention.
A NORTH AMERICAN MONSTER. — In a file of the “New York Mercury,” published in 1761, we find the following advertisement of a monster, the like of which we have never heard or read of. It beast all modern monstrosities, animal or human. The advertisement reads as follows:
“Whereas a surprising Monster was caught in the woods of Canada, near the River St. Lawrence, and has with great difficulty been tamed, and brought to the House of James Elliott at Corlaer’s Hook. This is to inform the Public, that it will be exhibited at the said house till the curious are satisfied.
“This Monster is larger than an elephant, of a very uncommon shape, having three heads, eight legs, three fundaments. It is of various colors, very beautiful, and makes a noise like the conjunction of two or three voices. It is held unlawful to kill it, and is said to live to a great age. The Canadians could not give it a name, till a very old Indian said he remembered to have seen one when he was aboy, and his father called it a Gormagent.”
A subsequent adverisement states that this monster was removed to Jamaica, L.I. for exhibition at “Mr. Coom’s.”
Three heads, eight legs, and three buttholes? This fantastic beast defies conventional biology! A later description found in Captain Francis Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue “A monster with six eyes, three mouths, four arms, eight legs, five on one side, three on the other, three arses, two tarses,1 and a c-nt upon its back.” A rude little riddle, describing a man astride a stallion with a woman riding side-saddle upon the beast.
A masonic code, or a mockery of one.
Known as the Antient Noble Order of Gormogons, established sometime in the late summer/early autumn of 1724,2, appears to have the sole purpose of tweaking other masons for their ridiculous mumbo-jumbo and pointed invective.3
Many letters to British newspapers declare their meetings taking place at the Castle Tavern on Fleet Street! Not only did they have a sense of humor, they dabbled in secret societies while having a few drinks! For a brief moment, they shone bright, presenting everything cringeworthy of masonic traditions, til their founder, Philip, Duke of Wharton, passed away in 1731. The order didn’t die, evinced by the account in the New York Mercury and a curious medallion minted in 1799.
They may very well be among us today, lurking and laughing in the shadows.