This page is for those who have read The Lost and Found novel. It is full spoilers so do not read if you have not read the book.
Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures
Because the novel touches on this theme I deliberately play with what I call the readers willing (sometimes unwilling) suspension of disbelief. If you come to the hostel you will see Egyptian hieroglyphs painted on the walls and various clues that make it appear as though Maria is somewhere lurking in the jungle. I was once cornered by a guest who proclaimed angrily, “I am leaving tomorrow, either for my own safety because of the horror that occurred here or because you took advantage of my trust.” But first she wanted to sit down with me to determine which reason it was she would leave in a fury of rage.
I do own a hostel in the jungles of Panama called The Lost and Found and for the most part the back story in the chapter called The Red Jacket, is true. But the very word novel implies fiction, and it baffles me that people are offended and frightened by the book any more than a regular horror or mystery book.
The Truth that Inspired the Fiction
I was raised in Edmonton, Canada and was lucky enough to attend a university with one of the foremost experts in religious cults. Although I was a C student at the time, the professor of the sociology of religion went beyond honoring his office hours. If he wasn’t running around the continent aiding investigations or testifying in court his door was always open whether official office hours or not. I was interested in Masonic symbols. The books I used for research were often what my professor called pseudo-academic. I told him that I wasn’t interested in truth but belief and how it is used to manipulate.
Secret Societies from Fiction
My professor taught me about one of the masters of such manipulation; L Ron Hubbard. When the Church of Scientology sued Time/Warner for running a front page article called The Church of Greed the law firm representing Time wanted all the information about Scientology my professor had. They liked the way he organised what he sent and so they asked him to organize all the information on Scientology they received so he hired me and other students to categorize it geographically, chronologically and thematically. L. Ron Hubbard has been purported to declare that the real money isn’t in science fiction writing but in starting a religion. I imagined how it could be done and began writing an early version of my novel.
Around that time there were numerous sensationalized headlines about cults from the Waco massacre to the Solar Templers trying to hitch a ride on a comet. One local headline was about a satanic murder. My professor was consulted on the investigation and so brought me to the trial. I saw the defense cross examine a so called ‘expert witness’ who claimed to be the former high priestess of a satanic cult. Wire taps revealed that she was trying to convince the defendants to claim that it was a satanic murder, renounce the devil and become born again to gain the leniency of the court. (Hence premeditated murder) So there was no cult and the former high priestess who despite having a very low IQ managed to receive lots of attention on religious right talk shows. Her cult never had more than two people and her rituals involved holding a mouse over a candle. No cult just fiction.
Freemasons and the Real Secret Societies
I had a personal interest in taking advantage of my sociology professor’s office hours. I was in the process of joining a secret society myself, a fraternity. At that time three of the last five US presidents were in the same fraternity and they had cool, cryptic symbols. When I researched them I found that many of them were Masonic symbols and I wondered if there was a connection. I didn’t know that I would have the opportunity to actually enter the secret chambers and see every last piece of paraphernalia they had.
My professor was interested in all secret societies and cults. He would often interview women who claimed to have been abused. He would often have to sift through truth from myth as some women had false memories and others who were abused used the most horrific image they could to personify the abuse they received and for many, that was Satan. If a subject he was interviewing told him that they had been abused by Satanists he would want to show them all the images he could to eliminate the possibility that the subjects were confused by other groups or simple abusers that had access to the things associated with Satanism – like candles, altars, robes, swords, stars and skulls. That summer I was acting in a one man play at a local theatre festival and as luck would have it, the venue was a Masonic Temple. I won’t go into too many details but suffice it to say that my experience there informed the chapter of the novel where Maria breaks into the Rosicrucian Temple. I was surprised to learn the Freemasons too have candles, altars, swords, stars and skulls.
I am by no means suggesting that the Freemasons are some kind of sinister cult. In fact, I would say, quite the opposite. In my opinion they are a common interest group for male philanthropists and at worst a brotherhood of opportunists. Likewise, the fraternity I joined is a common interest group of college kids that wanted to party. Freemasons say they are not a secret society anymore, only a society with secrets. To be a secret society there needs to be a reason to go underground. Today’s secret societies meet at hacker conventions, wear Guy Fawkes masks and travel the Silk Road. If you were to tell me that these were just kids playing I would tell you to go talk to Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. They are today’s Jacques DeMolays, but instead of secret handshakes and passwords they use Tor software and encryption codes.
Although my fraternity and the Freemasons are not true secret societies they must have been at one time. To understand how my frat could have been a subversive organization you only have to watch The Dead Poets Society to understand. If you haven’t seen the film, it is about a group of college students that come together to read literature that in 1959 had been banned. The liberating philosophies were blamed in a tragedy near the end of the film that led to a firing and further suppression. Under these conditions it is easy to see how a group would have to go underground and use a period of pledging followed by an initiation before they could trust someone to enter their group. When the literature was no longer banned the institution still existed, still with secret handshakes and symbols, albeit without reason. My fraternity is a former Yale literary club turned party house.
At university I wrote most of papers on the theory that the Freemasons were similar. Their reason for going underground may have been as simple as the Church’s objection to Jews, Muslims and Christians coming together in a death and resurrection ritual that did not involve Jesus. More sinister pseudo-historical theories assert that Freemasons held the secret that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. That theory led both to Dan Brown’s The De Vinci Code and in a way to my novel.
The Cult of Osiris
A theory I came across at university suggests that Freemasonry is the codification of the Osiris/Dionysian cult. One Masonic legend concerning the construction of King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem was that a new religion was born of monotheistic Jews building the temple and the talented pagan stone masons from Greece. Their incompatibility of belief was rectified when the charismatic chief architect, Hiram Abif died; he became an accepted surrogate for Osiris in the ritual for both the Jews and pagan Greeks. This belief system was heresy so it was forced underground. The Freemasons, so the theory goes, is the continuation of this philosophic tradition. I am not suggesting that Freemasons are actually linear descendents with an historical connection to ancient pagans. But what is religion but myth formed into ritual and dogma? The need to confront the terrifying archetype of death through the myth of resurrection took many forms as it weaved and bobbed along human history. One such group became so powerful that it drove other manifestations of the death and resurrection archetype underground to attain consensus and control. I attempted to hint at the power of this archetype in Maria’s motivation to participate in the illogical and become horrific.
Death and Resurrection of a Twin
The inspiration for Maria came from a family I met that struggled in their own way with the archetype of death. When the mother gave birth to twins she assigned each of her adolescent daughters one of the twins to care for. One of the twins died presumably of crib death. I met the twin that survived when she was in her twenties yet still when it was her birthday her mother called the day, the twin’s birthday. The surviving twin always seemed to repeat that her sister was the ‘strong one.’ It seemed to me that the mother held up the dead twin as the perfect child and the other sister developed complexes around that. The surviving twin claims she saw the ghost of her sister in her backyard. The older sister that was caring for the twin that died sunk into a depression in early adulthood after a miscarriage and an analyst suggested to the older sister that she believed the miscarried child was the twin attempting to be reborn. The pain that the death brought, the hopes to overcome it lead to powerful but illogical belief even within a family of secular children who between them held multiple degrees in the sciences.
What you believe, whether it is based on truth or fiction, affects your actions. Herein lays the power of faith and religion to bring pain or liberation, to inspire good or evil.
Factual Inspiration for the Novel
Salsipuedes, the obelisk in Casco Viejo, the bomb craters on Isla Iguana, the black Christ, the Kuna islands, the gardens of Boquete and the Skeleton Temple, really do exist as described in the novel. The chapter called, The Red Jacket is more or less a true story including my time in Istanbul and the tsunami in Thailand although the red jacket was not red.
Of all the locations, however, none lie suspended between myth and reality quite like The Lost and Found hostel. Guests feel like they are walking in the footsteps of the characters of the novel. The hostel is filled with the artwork described in the book and it’s not by coincidence. The rituals at the blue rock occurred at the petroglyphs or rock carvings that are part of the hot springs tour you can take.
Tuna and the cave
The treasure hunt is one of the most popular activities at the hostel. It’s as if it was created by Maria herself. The cave in which Maria encountered her power animal was really home to a woman named Tuna. She lived there many years as a hermit before a large hydro project that created a forest reserve, relocated farmers that were scattered throughout the area. Tuna and others congregated near a new highway and the town of Valle de la Mina was born. One of the volunteers at the hostel visited Tuna. At first she was afraid of his long hair and beard. She thought he was Jesus coming to take her away. She was in her eighties at the time and when she warmed to him she told him stories of her life there. She did indeed wake one day to a Jaguar eating a sloth not far from the cave. She died about six months after his visit.
Myths of Gold
Sadly stories like Tuna’s disappear in towns this size because there is very little recorded history. The oral history of the town varies from person to person. When the dam was created and the town formed there was no name for it. In the early sixties, a man produced small nuggets of gold and cashed them in. He told everyone, including his immediate family that he had found a gold mine. But he died prematurely before revealing its exact location. So many believed him (and it may indeed be a true story) that they named the town, The Valley of the Mine. But another local told me a different story. The petroglyphs, the pre-Columbian symbols carved on rocks in this area may actually be grave markers. Of course excavating these sights would be both illegal and sacrilegious enough to elicit reprisal from the Ngobe Indians that still live there to this day. The man with the gold may have actually been robbing gold from the graves of ancient Indians. His lie may have given the town its real name, Valle de la Mina, Panama. As Dr. Mike would say in one of his lectures, the priests are those that manipulate the false to create the truth.
The treasure hunt at The Lost and Found is a hunt through waterfalls and into caves but in the end players learn that they must discover symbols with which that can manipulate to tell the story of the founding of the nearby town, Valle de la Mina. For the players that have read the book, the treasure hunt is like a real life journey into the fiction of the novel.
The Crossword Puzzle and the Easter Eggs
A small number of you that have read the book might want to know about the hidden references I’ve stashed away in the book. I won’t reveal them all to you because I have created a crossword puzzle that if you solve will give you the secret word to see the three videos that serve as a kind of epilogue to the story. If you solve the crossword puzzle correctly you will see the characters and what they have ultimately done with Matt, Steve and Dr. Mike. However I will give you one. If you read the lyrics to The Doors’ song The End, almost all of their lyrics make sense within the universe of the novel. Some of the references are in the crossword puzzle. I hope you enjoy.
I dream of a time when visitors to Panama come with a sense of purpose, ready to walk in the footsteps of my characters solving puzzles they’ve left behind and enjoying a vacation on another level. I’ve worked hard writing and re-writing the novel. If you enjoyed it, do me a huge favor. Find the book on Amazon or Smashwords and write me an honest review. You will help out a struggling writing trying to break open a new form of entertainment. If you would like to email me, my personal email is email@example.com If you would like to come to The Lost and Found, check it out our webpage. www.thelostandfoundhostel.com
Lost Easter Eggs
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