Myths about the Titanic disaster

I’ve just visited the Maritime Museum in Liverpool that includes an excellent permanent exhibition on the Titanic. It also busts some of the lingering myths about the disaster that refuse to go down – pardon the tasteless pun.

The company that built this mega-ship – the White Star Line – was based in Liverpool while construction was carried out in Belfast and the Titanic sailed from Southampton. As we know, it promptly sank with a massive loss of life. And ever since, many myths have circulated about the Titanic disaster.

So, let’s bust some of those myths…

TITANIC MYTHS: It wasn’t really the Titanic that sank but another ship

To compete against its rival shipping company Cunard, the White Star Line built bigger and more luxurious. Titanic was one of these ships and another was called the Olympic. The theory runs that White Star lied about which ship went down. It wasn’t the Titanic – but the Olympic.

The Olympic had been damaged in a collision off the Isle of Wight, which threatened to put it out of service and delay the maiden voyage of the Titanic. So, White Star switched ships redecorating the Olympic as the Titanic and then sank it as an insurance scam.

This story can be researched further online but the more I read it, the less plausible it seems. And would White Star really have committed mass murder knowingly in this manner?

TITANIC MYTHS: The Egyptian mummy of an ancient priestess was on board

No it wasn’t. But the story is pretty amusing. I’m pretty sure it emerged in the early 20th century when amazing finds were taking place in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings like the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen. The story goes that an Englishman had come across the mummy of a priestess of Amen-Ra.

This chap conveniently disappears. And then everybody who comes into contact with this mummy has a terrible accident or dies. Eventually, it ends up with the British Museum but their staff are freaked out when they can hear the priestess trying to claw her way out. So, it’s sold to an American and placed as cargo on the Titanic. Then you know what happens next!

Some versions of this story have the famous Victorian occultist Madam Blavatsky warning that the mummy must not be taken on to the ship. The problem is that the Titanic sailed in 1912 while Blavatsky died in 1891. Therefore, impossible, unless she uttered this prophecy from the grave!

FIND OUT MORE: Ten facts about Queen Anne you didn’t learn from the movie The Favourite

TITANIC MYTHS: Titanic was trying to break a world speed record when it hit the iceberg

Nope. I’m afraid not. White Star built its liners for size and opulence – but not speed. These were intended to be floating stately homes – well, at least for first and maybe second class. Third class had a more basic experience. But what they were not were turbo-charged vessels zooming across the Atlantic at dangerous speeds.

While I was at the Maritime Museum, I came across some objects rescued from the wreck site at the bottom of the sea and donated to the museum. Here are some of them.

What links the Freemasons and Knights Templar?

Is there any link at all between the Knights Templar and Freemasons? I have recently been filmed for an episode of The Curse of Oak Island – Specials – Season 7, episode 2. I was asked to comment on the links between the Masons and Templars.

As you know, the Knights Templar were in existence between their founding in 1118 and their destruction in 1307 – a period of nearly two hundred years. The Freemasons as we know them today are largely a construct of the 18th century though with roots going further back.

How far back and whether they link to the Knights Templar is the big question. Freemasons seem to vary between those that are quite happy to state an explicit and firm link and those who say it’s part of the masonic mythology but not to be taken too literally.

Templar infiltration of the Freemasons?

The linkage between the Freemasons and Knights Templar is difficult to prove but there’s no shortage of theories. One goes that after they were suppressed by Pope and the King of France, the Templars infiltrated stone mason guilds.

These were then refashioned to embrace Templar ideals and rituals. In effect, the masons and Templars over time became one and the same thing.

Freemasons came to full public view in 1717 with the foundation of the Grand Lodge of England.  The organisation’s website traces the history of the order back to the stone masons of the Middle Ages who built Europe’s great cathedrals and not to the Knights Templar. It doesn’t recognised the aforementioned merger of masons and Templars.

The website cites evidence of people becoming Freemasons throughout the seventeenth century such as a gentleman called Elias Ashmole in 1643. Then in the eighteenth century, grand lodges were formed in England, Ireland and Scotland and the order grew significantly to include top politicians and establishment figures. But as its lodges spread throughout government and business, the conspiracy theories proliferated.

From the eighteenth century to the present day, there were Freemasons happy to state that their rituals and organisation were directly descended from the Templars. Equally, there have always been Freemasons irritated by these claims. However, the creation of an occult mythology around masonic activity was largely created by Freemasons and not their detractors.

Baron Gotthelf and the Knights Templar – Freemasons link

The prominent eighteenth century Freemason Baron Karl Gotthelf von Hund was forever hammering home the link between masonry and the Templars. The baron founded The Rite of Strict Observance within Freemasonry, as series of degrees through which members would pass including the degree of “knight”.

Michael Haag details in his book The Templars that a crusader connection was first expounded by Andrew Michael Ramsay, a Jacobite who headed up the French Grand Lodge around 1737. He said in a speech that the crusaders had wanted to create a global spiritual confraternity. While attempting to rebuild the Temple of Solomon, he believed they had developed secret signs and rituals to protect themselves from Saracen infiltration.

When the crusades collapsed, these spiritual crusaders left the Holy Land and returned to their European homes setting up the first Freemason lodges. But these were neglected over time and the secrets forgotten. Only in Scotland was the flame kept burning.

Holy Blood Holy Grail – and the Knights Templar – Freemasons connection

The authors of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail in 1982 wrote about the alleged flight of Knights Templar to Scotland when the order was suppressed by the King of France in 1307, repeating an old claim that they participated in the Battle of Bannockburn against the English.

They claimed to have discovered “what seemed to be” a Templar graveyard in Argyllshire with 13th century Templar gravestones and eighteenth century Masonic gravestones. The authors asserted that the later stones had mixed motifs suggesting a fusion at some point between the Templars and Freemasons.

The alleged link between Freemasonry and the Templars has often been used to damage the reputation of masons. Stephen Knight authored The Brotherhood in the early 1980s claiming a link to the Templars and arguing that Freemasons were running the United Kingdom.

Knight had also written a book on Jack the Ripper claiming that his murders were part of a conspiracy involving masons and the Royal Family. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it influenced the later work From Hell by Alan Moore.

John Robinson’s 1989 book Born in Blood claimed that Knights Templar fleeing arrest and torture in England and Scotland formed a secret society of mutual protection that eventually revealed itself as the Freemasons.

The symbols and rituals we associate with the masons in fact dated back to the Templars. He credited this secret society with the Protestant Reformation and included among its members the first US President George Washington.