10 Weird, Secret and Accidental Clubs that Actually Exist(ed)

Most people are passionate about something and while it is quite usual to find fan clubs around the world with interests such as football teams, vintage cars, favourite writers, or cult-like films (think Star Wars and Star Trek), some people take their passions to another level.

Some clubs or groups are so secret that no-one knows what they are about or if they really exist(ed), like the notorious Bohemian club, allegedly consisting of highflying decision-makers dating back to 1872. But then there are also funny, flamboyantly strange, dangerous, plain weird, and even accidental clubs that exist(ed).

10 The Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists

Marc Abrahams, used to compile the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), a satirical science journal overseeing the annual Ig Nobel Prizes (awards for improbable research) at Harvard Business School. He also ran the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists (LFHCfS). The latter originated from a dream his wife, Robin, a psychologist and researcher, had in 2001. In it, she had to edit a special edition of a prestigious psychology journal in which every article had to somehow mention the luxuriant flowing hair of Steven Pinker. Pinker was a Harvard professor, as famous for his head-full of grey curls, as for his work in cognitive psychology and linguistics. Marc mentioned the dream in a newsletter and photos of scientists picturing their own incredible hair, started streaming in. He posted the photos on the AIR Web site, usually accompanied by an in-depth account of the scientist’s hair history – and so the LFHCfS was born.

Although an online post of a new member dated May 2022 was found under construction and that the LFHCfS “is getting a shampoo and set while moving web hosts”. Had it existed back then, Albert Einstein’s mane would definitively have made the cut.

9 The Order of the Occult Hand

In 1965, Joseph Flanders, a Charlotte News reporter, got a bit carried away when reporting about a shooting incident, writing “It was as if an occult hand had reached down from above and moved the players like pawns upon some giant chessboard.” After a few rounds in a local bar, Flanders’ journo friends joked about his wonderful ‘purple’ prose and decided to try and sneak variations of the phrase into their published work. The inside joke spread, and other journalists joined in and within the next decade the phrase – partly or fully – found its way into multiple publications. It was only when digitalization came along that the secret of the Order of the Occult Hand was exposed in detail by Chicago Tribune staff writer, James Janega, in 2004.

The phrase had been used at least 40 times over the years – with some journalists, like Pulitzer winner Paul Greenberg (at least six-times) getting away with it more than once. With the secret out, rumours are that other phrases were proposed. We will probably have to wait for another occult hand to reveal the new mystery phrase.

8 The UK Roundabout Appreciation Society

“No place in the world exerts such attractive power as an island.” This Robert Louis Stevenson quote welcomes one to the Roundabouts of Britain website – home to the UK Roundabout Appreciation Society (UKRAS). Appropriately, Kevin Beresford, President of UKRAS holds the cool title of ‘Lord of the Rings’.

While the one-way gyratory had its roots at the Columbus Circle in New York City (USA) in 1903, and soon spread to Europe – and eventually the rest of the world – it was the UK who coined the word ‘roundabout’ in 1926, around the time the first one saw the light at Sollershot Circus, Letchworth in Garden City close to London. The roundabout is truly “an oasis on a sea of tarmac” according to their Ring Lord. Yep, only the Brits could have come up with this one.

7 The 20-Minute Society

Another British group, the 20-Minute Society, at England’s Newcastle University, is a fun club organizing mystery social gatherings with only a 20-minute warning to meet at a venue revealed to them via a text message or email. The purpose of the society is to host unpredictable and spontaneous social activities, like pub crawls, extreme trampolining, comedy nights, welfare picnics, summer balls, etc. They also take weeklong holidays to other (mostly European) countries and have their own brand merchandise. They post regularly on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram.

It has become so popular that word spread and similar societies, with some slight variations, have sprung up around the world.

6 The 47 Society

Eric Levine loves the number 47 so much, that he founded a fan club – The 47 Society – dedicated to exploring the ‘phenomenon’ that is 47, because according to the FAQs on their website “many suspect that the coincidental nature of 47 carries some mystical, metaphysical and/or scientific significance”. Logical, isn’t it? It started in 1964, when Pomona College mathematics professor, Donald Bentley, stated that all numbers are equal to 47. His documents of ‘proof’ for this had never been found, but Eric – who learned about it as a student years later – and other fans weren’t discouraged, as sightings of the number are frequently posted on the society’s 855+ member strong Facebook page Articles about its occurrence in history and fascinating facts about the number 47 are available on the Internet.

A Pomona College alumnus, writer and producer for various Star Trek TV shows and films, had even inspired other writers to include ‘47’ in nearly every episode they wrote, which has sparked a dedication of a different sort amongst Trekkies.

5 The Not Terribly Good Club

It’s not always a good thing to be too good at something. In the late 1970s, British journalist, Stephen Pile, started a fan club for people who were not terribly good at the things they do. Stories from all over the world streamed in, which led to him writing the book, The Ultimate Book of Heroic Failures. The original book contained an application form for membership, and it quickly became ‘the official handbook’ of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain. It includes hilariously sad stories of people being terrible at their jobs – such as Benin golf player who wiped out his country’s entire air force with one golf swing.

Unfortunately for Pile, he was not good at maintaining a terrible club and its fandom exploded to a point where it became too successful to fit the original purpose. A Facebook search for the club nowadays, shows a few different pages containing variations of the club’s name with low followings, so maybe they are back on a ‘not terribly good track’.

4 My Little Pony Adult Fan Groups (Bronies)

We know that fact can sometimes be stranger than fiction, and the My Little Pony Adult Fan Groups – also known as Bronies – proved that once again. The Bronies were (mainly) a male fandom springing up from the popularity of Hasbro’s My Little Pony children’s animated fiction. Teenage and adult Bronies even attending BronyCon gatherings in Germany, England, and the USA. So, what was the attraction this little girl series had for their mostly male adult fans? It was rooted in the lessons about ‘honesty, kindness, laughter, generosity, loyalty and magic’ taught by the little ponies – as interviewers learned from research done for the 2012 feature length documentary film, The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony. Brave, brave men.

Bronies crossed country and language barriers through using YouTube, blogs, merchandise, and games. Unfortunately, they had their non-fans too – accusing them of racism, Nazism and other isms. The Bronies consisted of at least 80% male (75% single) fans in their teens and twenties, who lived with their parents, and were predominantly white and straight – with a high number having disabilities. They all felt that the My Little Pony content made them feel happy and comforted. Their fandom peaked in 2014, but apparently, their numbers are rapidly declining now and the last BronyCon was held in Baltimore in 2019.

3 The Martin-Baker Ejection Tie Club

Hats off – or is it helmets? – to people belonging to this ‘accidental’ club. The family run company, Martin-Baker, has an exclusive club uniting all pilots whose lives they have helped save. They had been the frontliners in the designing and manufacturing of ejection and crashworthy seats for more than 70 years. During this time over 7,600 pilot’s lives were saved. They have received 11 Queen’s Awards and currently have over 17,000 seats in active service.

Life membership of their Ejection Tie Club is exclusive to those ejecting from aircrafts using their ejection seats. According to its website, the club has grown to over 6000 registered members from all over the world, since the first ejection by an RAF pilot occurred over Zimbabwean (then Rhodesia) airspace in 1957. Members receive a certificate, membership card, patch, tie and pin or a brooch (for females). All Martin-Baker Ejection Tie Club memorabilia depicts a red triangle warning sign – the recognized international danger symbol for an ejection seat. It is probably a club no pilot aspires to belong to.

2 The Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society (OCEPFAS)

The topless book club emanated from an emancipation attempt in New York by its founder women, who knew about a law, allowing women to be topless anywhere men are allowed to be bare-chested. The women wanted to practice this freedom and sunbathe in safety and formed topless book clubs. Typically, groups of women would meet in parks, on rooftops, riverside walkways and even the steps of buildings to read together.

Although there was resistance to women reading half naked in public, these groups were normally tolerated and, in some instances, even praised for their bravery. Groups approached by police, were politely left alone after they were reminded that the law was on the women’s side. OCEPFAS was not only about feminism though.  Serious literary discussions made up a great part of their gatherings. Their website and social media sites were deleted and braless women reading in the sun haven’t been spotted in public recently.

1 The Tiger Blowfish Fan Club

Participation in super-secret Tiger Blowfish fan clubs can kill you. Eating tiger blowfish – also known as pufferfish and fugu – was first banned in Japan in the 16th century, but legalized in 1888 by the first prime minister, Hirobumi Ito. The fish contains the poison, Tetrodotoxin – a thousand times more lethal than cyanide – in its liver and eating it can induce symptoms including numbness and paralysis, before causing respiratory failure. Each pufferfish can carry enough poison to kill up to 30 adults! Trade in fugu is secretive and intricately complicated and a 1 kg (2,2 pounds) can cost up to an eye watering US$275.

The risks have not put people off eating it and secret blowfish dinner clubs exist, but are revealed only when word of it leaks or when venues are raided by police. The meat is apparently subtly flavoured and tasty and with still a ‘safe’ amount of poison in the meat, it creates a mild euphoria – hence the willingness of diners to go to great lengths to eat it. Because it is illegal in most countries, the secrecy of clubs, such as the Fugu Supper Club launched in London in 2011, makes it difficult to know where to find them as membership is normally by invitation only – and venues are revealed at the last minute. Many restaurants worldwide love using ‘pufferfish’ or ‘blowfish’ in the name of their restaurant, but do they secretly offer the real thing? Who knows?

Read more of my list articles here.

© 2022  Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a freelance content writer/blogger living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

10 Male Authors Writing Under Female Pseudonyms

We all know that way back in history when women was prohibited to do certain jobs, they had to improvise if they really wanted to follow their passion. Men played female parts in plays written by men and if women wanted to write books and not be stereotyped for writing ‘silly lady novels’, they had to write under male pen names – which many did. We now know that George Elliot was in fact Mary Ann Evans and that the Brontë sisters – Charlotte, Anne and Emily – became Currer, Acton, and Ellis Bell.

What is less known is that men sometimes had to do the same. In this day and age, men are branded by another form of stereotyping, and publishing in certain writing genre is frowned upon for male authors. Although it is not such a general phenomenon, it happens and when scratching under the surface of the publishing industry, there are quite a few surprising male names popping up with female pseudonyms.

10 Dav Pilkey a.k.a. Sue Denim

Pilkey grew up struggling with learning disorders such as ADHD and dyslexia. What he didn’t have problems with, was drawing and imagining fantastical stories. He became known as author and illustrator of the Dog Man children’s graphic novels and the Captain Underpants series – starring characters which created themselves in his young mind when he was repeatedly dismissed from class in school and spending many hours in the hall – drawing. His books were translated into many languages and millions of copies were sold worldwide. Although he used the male pen names, George Beard and Harold Hutchins (two of the characters’ names in his Captain Underpants series) for his Captain Underpants spin-offs, he chose a female name – Sue Denim – for the Dumb Bunnies series published between 1994 and 1997.

He even posed for photographs as Denim, created a fake persona for her and included a list of imaginary titles written by her in her biography. She was so popular that she sometimes got more fan mail than Pilkey himself. The reason why he chose the name Sue Denim? Because when said quickly, it sounds like pseudonym. Duh!

9 Dan Brown a.k.a. Danielle Brown

Dan Brown has built a cult-like following with his well-known best-selling books, The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, which were adapted into movies, with Tom Hanks portraying his protagonist, Robert Langdon. In 2018 Brown was listed the fifth highest-paid author after James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and John Grisham. 

Although now a writer of coding- and symbolism-themed novels – probably coming from his years of spending time in the presence of his mathematics professor/writer father – Brown’s writing career started off with a totally different kind of book, co-written with his then wife, Blythe (nee Newlon). The book 187 Men to Avoid was a dating survival guide for women searching for ‘Mr. Right’ and it was published in 1995 under the pseudonym Danielle Brown. 

8 Martyn Waites a.k.a. Tania Carver

Martyn Waites became a successful writer after trying his hand at anything from bartending to acting. Books from his various series normally has an investigative journalist at the helm. 

When a former editor of his work was looking for a ‘British version’ of Karin Slaughter or Tess Gerritsen-type writing, Waites replied that he was the best ‘man’ for the job. When not being able to find his female voice in writing, he regularly consulted his wife for advice – so much so, that he made her co-author, and the pair has been penning novels together since 2009. Their Tania Carver novels consist of the Brennan & Esposito series, including novels such as The Surrogate and The Lost Girl.

7 Tom E. Huff a.k.a. Jennifer Wilde

Texan born Thomas Elmer Huff (1938-1990) found his female writing voice quite early in his career and has only one book published under his real name. He started out writing gothic novels under the pen names such as Edwina Marlow, Beatrice Parker, T. E. Huff and Katherine St. Clair. But it was as Jennifer Wilde that he really made his mark. These historical novels were written in the first person from the heroin’s perspective and many featured multiple male protagonists.

His first Jennifer Wilde novel, Love’s Tender Fury, had 41 reprints in the first five years, and his second, Dare to Love, topped the New York Times paperback bestseller list for 11 weeks. He didn’t plan to keep on writing under the Wilde pseudonym, remarking that he didn’t relate to her, so he published a novel as Tom E. Huff, but continued writing as Jennifer Wilde anyway. Various previous novels were re-edited under the Tom E. Huff name.

6 Peter O’Donnell a.k.a. Madeleine Brent

Peter O’Donnell was a comic strip artist and writer, who had also adapted Ian Fleming’s 007-movie Dr. No into a comic strip for the Daily Express newspaper. But it was his James Bond-ish comic strip character, Modesty Blaise, published in The London Evening Standard from 1963 to 2001, which brought him fame. He went on to write 20 Modesty Blaise novels. A movie was adapted and is available on You Tube.

His writing under a female name started in 1969 when Souvenir Press requested O’Donnell to write a Gothic novel. He sent in four chapters but received no feedback. Much later an American publisher contacted him to complete the novel, causing a predicament as he didn’t know how the story would end. He persevered, but because it was written for a female readership, he adopted a female pen name. The novel, Tregaron’s Daughter, was a success in the US and Europe and many more followed. In the 20 years of correspondence, his American publisher never knew that he was male. He got his wife to sign his letters as to give his signature a female touch. His pseudonym – Madeleine Brent. The same initials as Modesty Blaise.

5 Nicci Gerrard and Sean French a.k.a. Nicci French

Nicci French is the combined pen name for another married couple Sean French and Nicci Gerrard. Although each had their own separate writing success, the pair decided to start writing as a duet and is doing it already for 24 years. They met while working together at The Statesman magazine, where Sean was a columnist.

Sean’s solo books include three novels, three biographies and a compilation of essays. Nicci has written nine books, including the non-fiction book, What Dementia Teaches Us About Love.

Their first novel together was The Memory Game and they have since written 27 more, including the eight-book Frieda Klein-series. They have also written a picture book, The Fox and the Wolf.

How do two authors of different genders designate themselves as one writer? In their own words from an interview: “We hope that people read our books not as an experiment but as the work of this one particular writer, Nicci French, who has her own imagination and her own strange talent which is different from either of us.” They certainly have convinced me!

4 Roger Sanderson a.k.a. Gill Sanderson

Already surviving for 114 years and selling a book just about every 10 seconds, makes Mills & Boon books extraordinary and chances are that every adult woman in the Western world has read at least one of these books in her lifetime. The company started by Gerald Mills and Charles Boon in 1908 has served as escapism reading for women – created by women. Well, mostly. Throughout Mills & Boon’s history, only a few men have tread where no man normally does – and with surprising success.

One such man is Roger Sanderson, a retired English lecturer, who wrote the Commando comic series, where after he started writing romance novels with his wife – written under her name. He became so good at it that he pursued this writing genre by himself. He wrote more than 40 Mills & Boon novels and has also written for various publishers, such as STAR and Hale, and is currently writing for Accent as Gill Sanderson and for Desert Breeze under his own name.

3 President Benjamin Franklin a.k.a. Mrs. Silence Dogood and others

When young James Franklin started a journal with the goal to criticize the Massachusetts colonial government and religious establishment, he couldn’t foresee that he would be stood up by his little bro, Ben. Fourteen letters by a minister’s widow, called Silence Dogood, became quite a hit and wasn’t exactly what James and his band of Couranteers or Hell-Fire Club had in mind. When admitting that he wrote the letters, Benjamin Franklin was accused of vanity by his brother.

His brother’s critique didn’t prevent Benjamin Franklin from writing under pen names though. The man who would later become the president of the United States of America, wrote letters as both men and women throughout his life, but it was his female personas – Martha Careful, Busy Body, Alice Addertongue and Polly Baker – with whom women could relate, giving them a voice and fighting their causes. Indeed, a man ahead of his time in the eighteenth century!

2 Dean Koontz a.k.a. Deanna Dwyer and Leigh Nichols

Dean Koontz’ books are highly in demand with collectors, which led to many instances of fraud and hoaxes as pseudonyms/novels/letters and other works are accredited to him which are not his.  He used the male pen names W.H. Allan, David Axton, Brian Coffey, K.R. Dwyer, John Hill, Anthony North, Richard Paige, Owen West and Aaron Wolfe – as well as his real name. One of his pseudonyms was used for an episode called Counterfeit, that he penned for the TV series, CHiPs. It was edited to the extent that he asked that it was attributed to his alias Brian Coffey, instead of his own name. He also wrote under two female pseudonyms – five books under the names Deanna Dwyer and Leigh Nichols respectively.

Koontz sold his first short story he wrote and then he received more than 75 rejection letters before selling more work. His first four novels were never published. He reads more than 150 books per year and revises every page he writes twenty to thirty times. He has an excellent sense of humour – evident in the answers to his FAQs on his website.

1 Jorge Diaz, Antonio Mercero and Augustin Martinez a.k.a. Carmen Mola

The female thriller writer Carmen Mola had been called “Spain’s Elena Ferrante” (pseudonym of Italian translator/novelist Anita Raja). Mola’s books, translated into eleven languages, had become so popular, thereby accumulating many accolades. In 2020, a branch of Spain’s Women’s Institute listed her book, The Girl – part of a trilogy – as a must-read book by a woman that “help us understand the reality and the experiences of women.”

Rumours were that Carmen Mola was the pen name for a male writer, needing to write under a different name. So, when ‘she’ won the prestigious Planeta prize – the richest literary award – for the book La Bestia, (The Beast) written under the pen-name Sergio López and she had to attend a ceremony attended by the Spanish king to receive her prize, the audience was stunned when three men – Jorge Diaz, Antonio Mercero and Augustin Martinez – took the stage.

The scriptwriters trio is widely criticized by gender groups for writing as women about women issues, but Mercero reply was simply: “We didn’t hide behind a woman, we hid behind a name,”

Read more of my list articles here.

© 2022  Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a freelance content writer/blogger (www.fieliesdekock.com) living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

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© 2022  Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a freelance content writer/blogger living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

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© 2022 Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a content writer/blogger (www.fieliesdekock.com) living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

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© 2022 Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a content writer/blogger (www.fieliesdekock.com) living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.

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© 2022 Fielies De Kock

Fielies De Kock is a content writer/blogger (www.fieliesdekock.com) living in Hermanus in the Overberg, South Africa, with her crazy-haired husband and two dogs. She authored a children’s chapter book and a few short reads and is co-author of 125 Creative Writing Prompts for Petrolheads (available on Amazon Kindle) with her content writer son – who also has crazy hair.