Fake Goats and Spanking Machines: The DeMoulin Museum of Fraternal Initiation Devices
Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world’s hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook and Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter.
While today the DeMoulin family is known as the largest maker of band uniforms in America, their museum in Greenville, Illinois is devoted to their company's origins as manufacturers of bizarre initiation devices for a once-booming number of secret societies.
The DeMoulin's odd business of fraternal machinery began in the late 1800s when Ed DeMoulin began working with his men's group, the Modern Woodsmen of America, to begin crafting goats that new members would have to ride as part of their initiation. Ed had previously patented a hilarious "trick camera" that would squirt water at the unknowing subject, so his move into the prank goat industry was a natural fit. The company's popularity soon grew and other fraternal orders such as the Odd Fellows began looking to the "goat factory" for their goofy initiation needs. Soon the DeMoulins were making spanking machines, lung tester gags, and of course, their rocking goats.
They also began to sell other lodge paraphernalia such as robes, caps, and uniforms. This new revenue stream boomed and soon began to eclipse the hand-crafted pranks. After a factory fire in 1955, the sillier side of the business was shuttered in favor of the more reliable sales of band uniforms and graduation gear.
However the DeMoulins never forgot the strange legacy that initiated their business into being, and today that history is on display at the DeMoulin Museum. Visitors can see an assortment of historic lodge robes, a number of the DeMoulin inventions, and yes, even ride the goat. Membership to any secret lodge is not guaranteed however.
More incredible places around the world: