Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem,
 Knights of Malta

1956


FACT FILE:

In the 1950s an organisation emerged in the USA called "The Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Inc" also known as the "Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta". It claimed to have been founded in 1908 in the USA but with meetings well before then. It also claimed to have an Incorporation Status from 1911, in Trenton, New Jersey. However  the Department of State responsible for New Jersey can find no records of any Incorporation, under those two names or any variants of the Order of St John/Malta name.

The earliest independent record is an Incorporation of 1956, in Dover, in the State of Delaware registration 0503716 4100 18th August 1956. Oddly enough the Incorporation of 1956 was enacted by three women; Mary M Lafferty, Jean P Joel and Ruth Biddle. Charles Pichel and his colleagues do not appear as Officers of the Corporation until 30th June 1960! (From the records in the State of Delaware). At a guess the Incorporation was an 'off-the-shelf' company, bought by Pichel in 1956. The amendments to register Pichel's name being made four years later in 1960. The alternative is that the three women were the Chief Officers of the "Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem Inc" 1956-1960!

Pichel seems to have had the reputation of being some sort of "conman" and had serve a prison sentence for dealing in narcotics and when seeking a restoration of his civic rights, various activities were listed to give substance to this claim - see the reply to his petition for the restoration of his public rights.
In the 1950s the "Sovereign Military Order of Malta" had created an American Association and according to Roger Peyrefitte upon becoming members American Knights gave a minimum of $50,000, most giving more!
- Peyrefitte, Roger. Knights of Malta. Translated from the French by Edward Hyams. Secker & Warburg, London, 1960,  page 104.

Given the time frame of the early 1950s, what seemed to be a lucrative trade may have tempted Charles Pichel to create his own "Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller" in 1956. Pichel avoided the problems of being an imitation of "SMOM" by giving his organization a mythical history by claiming the American organization he led was founded within the Russian tradition of the Knights Hospitaller in 1908, a spurious claim, but which never-the-less misled many including some academics.

Earlier in the 20th Century semi-masonic organisations of "Knights" emerging out of the Orange Lodges (The Black Association) had set up in North America. Arthur T. Lamson led such a group called "The Knights of Malta", which allegedly had registered itself as a Corporation in the State of Jersey in 1911. However by 1912 the group had become defunct, with the members reconciling with another group which they had left previously.

Pichel had been able to borrow from one of the "Knights of Malta" groups various records. Armed with these records, Pichel developed a whole prehistory for a new group he founded or with which he was connected. Adding to the claim to have been founded in America in 1908, he improved on the Orange Order background by mimicking the foundation of the Paris group, complete with its Russian Hereditary Commanders. The names of the alleged founding fathers of Pichel's group had died long before the claims were made. Pichel had the additional benefit of being acquainted with the history of the historic group of Russian Hereditary Commanders in Paris, written in 1955 by Professor Baron Michael de Taube, a Russian exile in Paris.

PICHEL UNMASKED.
The whole story of Pichel's inventiveness was recorded by Pichel's closest associate for many years, Crolian Edelen de Burgh. In a letter addressed to Harrison Smith, the Historian to the King Peter Order in Malta, Mr Edelen, wrote on January 22, 1980;

"My problem with the history is that all seems to be false from 1908 to 1932 as published by Pichel. I know his Minutes are false. Dr Bulloch was never Grand Chancellor of the Order. He was the Archivist of the old Scottish-American Order of St John and kept these records at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When he was old and blind, in the early 1950's, Pichel went to him with a story that he was writing a history of the Knights of Malta and needed some records from the Archives. Dr Bulloch let him borrow whatever he fancied and then obligingly died while Pichel had the most important records. We took the material, twisted it around, took names of noblemen from the Times Index and created an Order stemming from the Grand Priory of Russia, all a hoax.... The Scottish-American Order went out of business in New York about 1909 following a suicide of the Grand Chancellor, as well as a scandal involving payment (or non-payment) of life insurance policies on the lives of members. Some members in New Jersey tried to save the situation by securing a charter as the "Knights of Malta" in Trenton in 1911. Their effort failed and by 1912 was abandoned. Then Pichel came along in the 1950's and claimed to be the duly elected officer of that Corporation to give his Order some evidence of antiquity and to substantiate the false Minutes".

- Brett-Crowther M.Sc., Ph.D., D.I.C. S.Th. , Dr. Michael Richard. Orders of Chivalry under the Aegis of the Church. Lambeth Diploma of Student in Theology (S.Th.) Thesis, 1st December 1990, pages 102 & 103 .

The same confession was given by Edelen to a Sovereign Council meeting of one of the many King Peter Orders.
- Combined Minutes Meetings of Sovereign and Little Councils April 10-14, 1981 New York Athletic Club.
Edelen's confession is given from page 18 onwards, and was brought about by a well researched account provided by Robert Formhalls, who had access to records of the Knights of St. John and Malta and the Royal Black Association of the Ancient, Exalted, Illustrious Religious and Military Order of the Knights of Malta, and who had published an account of Pichel's myths in 1978.
- Formhals, Robert W. Y. White Cross : story of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, with particular emphasis on the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller since 1964 under Royal Charter of Peter II, King of Yugoslavia. Sanghals Publishers, Camarillo, California, USA, 1978.

There is one very important correction that must be made in regard to the Edelen/Smith correspondence and that is Pichel could not have borrowed any items from Dr Bullock in the 1950s, as Dr Bullock died in 1934! However this fact does not destroy the value of Edelen's revelations, as on the methodology of how Pichel created a past to his “Order” Edelen was correct, and subsequently Edelen was able to correct his own mistake.

The items were in fact borrowed from Mr Clarence E. Orth of the Ancient and Illustrious Knights of Malta, Pennsylvania, and this is verified in writing by Mr Clarence E. Orth in a letter to Edelen 17th February 1984. Orth wrote;

"In the late 1950's at the request of a Colonel Thourot Pichel, Shickshinney, Pa. I spent a great deal of time and considerable expense in gathering items for what I then believed would be an authentic history of our Order. I forwarded many historical items of history for his pursuance which were never returned to me. After much correspondence I visited Shickshinney and was greatly surprised of his low standing in his community. Some labeled him a cheat and a con man. When his book was finally published I found that every thing he wrote was distorted and. untrue. Therefore, in your search for items do not accept his writings as authentic. I found at that time that the most complete information I sought came from the Government of the island of Malta or from the Sec'y. of Historical Documents, London, England."
see; http://www.orderstjohn.org/selfstyle/edelen.htm

Pichel's myths fooled many good people, but internal argeuments created schism after schism and Pichel's "Order" has produced a number of offshoots.

List of "Grand Masters"
		
    		William Sohier Bryant                    	1933-1951 Lieutenant Grand Master #2.
    		Baron de Engelhardt-Schellenstein        	1951-1955 Lieutenant Grand Master #2.
    		Count Frederick H. von Zeppelin          	1956-1960 Lieutenant Grand Master.  
      		Colonel Paul de Granier de Cassagnac     	1960-1962 Lieutenant Grand Master #3.
01. 		Colonel Paul de Granier de Cassagnac     	1961-1962 Grand Master #4.
           	Count Felix von Lucker                   	1962-1966 Lieutenant Grand Master.
02(01). 	Crolian William Edelen de Burgh      		1966-1978 Grand Master #5.
03(02). 	Prince Roberto Paterno Catello       		1978-1981 Grand Master #7.
04(03). 	Leonard Messineo                     		1981-     Grand Master.
    		Salvatore T. Messineo                    	1981-     Lieutenant Grand Master.
NOTE: 
#1 The Shickshinny organisation had no lineal descent from the Order of St John.
There was a claim by this organisation that Grand Duke Alexander of Russia was
Grand Master 1913-1933 but this claim was entirely fictitious. In 1953, Pichel 
allegedly revived a previous Corporation of the "Knights of Malta" granted 
in New Jersey 1911.
#2 These appointments may not be historically verifiable. #3 Exiled King Peter II of Yugoslavia was elected as the Royal Protector under Cassagnac which caused a split. The Shickshinny Convent and filiants do not appear to recognise Cassagnac as ever being a "Lieutenant Grand Master" or "Grand Master". See details on the continuing Cassagnac organisation. #4 Cassagnac, had been elected as Grand Master, September 1961. He dismissed the Chancellor, Pichel, but in a tit for tat was dismissed by a Court of Justice run by Pichel February 22nd 1962. The Shickshinny Order discounts Cassagnac in its own list of Grand Masters. At some stage King Peter II, the exiled king of Yugoslavia was connected with, or a member of the Shichshinny Order. #5 Under Edelen the Shickshinny Order allied with another self-styled Order. #6 The Constitution of Paterno's own organisation (published in 1979) places him as Grand Master 1st October 1976. This earlier "election" was probably "schismatic", and reconciled to the Shickshinny organisation, with Edelen stepping down in 1979. Paterno continued with his own Order.

LINKS

The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem (Shickshinny)
The Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem (Shickshinny)
Information: Sovereign Order of Saint John v. Grady USA Appeal Court  
Mr C. William Edelen and "The Ancient and Illustrious Knights of Malta"  
Comment: The Shickshinny Knights and Flying Saucers  
The Constitution of the Grand Priory of America dated May 17th 1912  
Comment on the Shickshinny Order of St. John & "Catholic" Sects  
Comment on the Shickshinny Order of St. John (traditional Catholic Site)  
Charles Pichel - petition for restoration of civil rights 1932  
Letter from the Hereditary Commanders Group in Paris to SMOM  
pdf Archives of the Pichel Order  


Created 2nd June 2004.

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Order of St John, Knights Hospitaller.