On this episode of Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know, Ben Bowlin, Noel Brown, and Matt Frederick uncover all the details of the now-defunct secret society, the Latitude Society. It’s a story of “curated conspiracy,” Ben says, “part performance art and part Silicon Valley startup.” A friend would invite you, usually, handing you a black envelope with a strange geometric shape embossed on it. The envelope led you to a website where you put in a code, which gave you an address, which led you to a building; inside the building, you had to go down a slide to a chamber with three doors, which all led to a library filled with books, with one open on a pedestal, all the pages blank. A voice started to speak to you, and their words appeared on the book as if it were being written in real time. Now you were a member of the Latitude Society. The adventures didn’t stop there – but once the business side of the society was exposed, the magic lost its luster.
The Latitude Society was funded and created by Jeff Hull, and it took three years and two million dollars to get the experience off the ground, involving multiple locations all over San Francisco, elaborate set and props design, and hundreds of employees. The initial experience cost no money for users – the invitations were freely given by a current member of the society. But once you went through the first experience, you gained access to the rest of the Latitude website, including the marketplace. Here you could purchase invitations for your own friends, at around $30 each; there were also t-shirts for sale emblazoned with the number one policy of the society: Absolute Discretion. A tad ironic, but a great way to spot fellow members out in the wild!
But with a $90,000 a month cost of operations, it would take more than a few $30 invitations and t-shirts to make the project sustainable. They decided to start charging a yearly membership fee – and that’s when things started to go south. To the creators, they were doing what they’d always intended: Make a return on their investment. But to the participants, they were ruining something sacred. Ben, Noel, and Matt get into all the details about the society’s basic mythology, cool adventures, insane price tag, eventual backlash, and the current state of the business; find out all the Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know about the Latitude Society in this episode.
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