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Synopsis

The great Ku Klux Klan sprang up like a mushroom, a Southern organization formed in a time when no other power in the world could have saved the suffering South from the utter disorder which prevailed during the awful period following the War between the States. The very name Ku Klux shows that the order was formed among men of letters. It is a Greek word meaning circle. Klan suggested itself; the name complete in turn suggested mystery. Originally the order was purely a social organization, formed in Pulaski, Tennessee, May, 1866, and gave diversion to the restless young men after the reaction of war. They found vast amusement in belonging to a club which excited and baffled curiosity; great sport, too, was found in initiating new members. But it was when the Klan realized that it had a great, vital work to perform that it rose majestically to the gigantic task. The negroes, being naturally superstitious and imaginative, helped the order to gain power. In Nashville, Tennessee, among the five dens, there was one formed of medical students from the University. One of the favorite pranks of these young doctors was to ask a negro to hold their horse, and then place in his hand as he reached out to take the lines a finger or a hand taken from a corpse. The negro generally went a mile before he stopped running. Another effective trick practiced by the Klan was, when they had a negro on trial, to sprinkle beforehand a little powder on the floor"hell fire," they called itand when the negro would be looking down at the floor one of the Klansmen would surreptitiously run his foot over the powder line, and a fiery-looking trail would show. The negro would be paralyzed with fright, and was always careful in the future never to have cause to be brought before the Order again. The Klan practiced numerous clever devices. Fancy the impression made on a negro when a robed Klansman asked him for a drink of water, to see a whole pail go down without any effort (a rubber bag concealed in the uniform aided in this deception), and then to hear a sepulchral voice say, "This is the first drink I have had since I was killed at Chickamauga!" One never knew when nor where to expect a body of Ku Klux; they would spring up out of the ground, to all appearances; their ghostly figures multiplying like magic; they had a manner of forming their companies which made a band of one hundred men appear like a thousand. Their horses' feet were always muffled, making their approach completely noiseless. But it was only the guilty who feared them; and fear was what the Klan worked to effect. To kill was not their aim, and only where absolutely necessary was it ever resorted to. A rare instance was that of the hanging of a Northern spy by the Pulaski Klan. This man came to Pulaski and took up carpentry; he made the people like him, and worked himself into the Klan; got their pass-words, everything in fact that they knew; then made ready to get away to the North and expose the secrets of the Order. They found it out before he got away, and when he boarded the train in Pulaski, a number of the Klan boarded the car as it turned out of the city, took the man off the train and hung him at the bridge, thus saving their Order a gigantic tragedy. It was never known who did it, the government could find out nothing. The matter was never discussed by any of the Klan, even long years afterward

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