Released September 15, 2009, The Lost Symbol, novelist Dan Brown’s sequel to The Da Vinci Code, is a puzzle-packed fantasy. But its settings are real, and rife with history, science, and yes, symbols—right from the prologue, set in Washington, D.C.’s House of the Temple, headquarters of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry’s Southern Jurisdiction.
Guarded by 17-ton sphinxes, the circa-1915 Masonic temple was designed in homage to one of seven wonders of the ancient world, the pre-Christian Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (see picture).
In the Freemasons’ hundred-foot-tall (30-meter-tall) Temple Room, The Lost Symbol’s villain–a muscular, tattooed, eunuch named Mal’akh (“angel” in Hebrew)–clasps a wine-filled skull during his initiation into the Masonic rite’s highest ranks.
Temple spokesperson Jason VanDyke said Brown’s descriptions of the Temple were “right on.” Everything else “is pretty much fiction.”
“We don’t drink wine from a human skull,” he said. “We don’t do many rituals up in the Temple room at all.”
—Photograph by Visions LLC, Photolibrary