Über-author Dan Brown is about to strike Washington, and everyone is getting ready. Brown, whose first two blockbuster novels, The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, have taken up permanent residence on the Times best-seller list and have been Hanksified for Hollywood, has written his next book, The Lost Symbol, about the hidden secrets of Masonic Washington. And the actual Masonic Washington — the people who work at Masonic sites throughout the city — are preparing for the onslaught of tourists, according to a story last week in the Washington Posta story last week in the Washington Post.
“I’m expecting [tourism] to skyrocket,” says Heather Calloway, director of special programs for the Masonic House of the Temple
on 16th Street NW, which receives about 10,000 visitors a year. She will double the staff of part-time tour guides, if necessary, to handle the crush.
“We might have to spend the next 25 years responding to Dan Brown’s fiction,” says Mark Tabbert, director of collections at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial
in Alexandria. “That’s what I dread.” (Think he’s overstating? Wait until you hear from his European counterparts, who are still drowning in their own Brown invasions.)
If the other books serve as a guide, Tabbert and Calloway are smart to get prepared. Hoards of tourists have decamped for the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, the rural Scottish church featured in The Da Vinci Code, which Brown’s protagonist, Robert Langdon, believed to be the location of the Holy Grail (they needed to double the staff and add more bathrooms as a result of the influx). And a Roman tour guide is quoted as saying she had to craft as special tour for people obsessed with Angels and Demons, lest she be continuously interrupted by questions about the books’ faux-history.
So Washington putting its game face on. The local tourism bureau has already created a website for Brown-fiends, and has created a list of sites with Masonic ties based on the numerous clues Brown has provided his Twitter and Facebook followers. Guides at George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, have been brushing up on their freemasonry history. And the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which was originally built as Masonic temple, will be hosting an exhibit starting in October called “Telling Secrets: Codes, Captions, and Conundrums in Contemporary Art.”
In addition to sites and exhibits, the Masonic Service Association in Silver Spring, Maryland, and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial (pictured, left) have created a website about the history of Freemasonry that hopes to provide readers with more context for the book.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
So what does this all mean for you? Well if you’re a fan of Brown, it’ll mean that you’ll probably be in some good company should you decide to visit our nation’s capital for the next few months…or years. For the rest of us (particularly those of us who work only a few blocks from a major Masonic Temple), we’ll be getting used to pointing tourists in that direction.
What’s your take? Should Washington cater to tourists who seek out sites from The Lost Symbol?
Photos: via the George Washington Masonic Memorial