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  • 11/24/2004

"National Treasure": Freemasons, Fact, and Fiction

Imagine this: Centuries ago an order of European knights amassed a huge treasure of priceless artifacts from around the world.

The loot was later brought to theUnited States by the Freemasons, a secret society. Determined to keep it out of the hands of the British during the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin and other Masons hid the treasure in a secret location but left clues to its whereabouts in famous American landmarks.

But the plot of National Treasure, the adventure yarn starring Nicolas Cage that opens in U.S. movie theaters today, is also irresistible fun.

It's become a bona fide recipe for success: Invent an old-fashioned treasure hunt, fill it with conspiracies and secret codes, and set it against a backdrop of real history.

When Dan Brown cooked up a similarly far-out plot in his runaway bestsellerThe Da Vinci Code—about a 2,000-year-old secret it claimed has been concealed by the Catholic Church—readers flocked to religious and historical texts to learn more about what really happened.

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