They are popularly known as a shadowy organisation connected with the Holy Grail, the global illuminati and who knows what other manner of shadowy conspiracy theories.
But now the freemasons are hoping to reveal a new image to the public after years of misinformation.
Richard Goddard, the provincial grand master for Worcestershire, says he is hoping to radically modernise the public profile of freemasonry with a new policy of openness.
The secretive order was driven underground by persecution from the Nazis in the darkest days of the Second World War, and has kept itself hidden from the public eye ever since.After the freemasons disappeared from the public eye following the Second World War, many myths sprang up, which Mr Goddard said he wanted to dispel.
He said the masonic "grip" - otherwise known as the handshake - was never used outside ceremonies, and is not a secret signal to fellow members.
But he added masons did still roll up one of their trouser legs - or both - to prove they did not have any weapons on them during ceremonies.
Graeme Collins, from Kidderminster, has been a mason for about 20 years. As the press officer for a secret society he has not had much to do until now.
He said: "We have been our own worst enemy for a long time.
"The Freemasons have been around for hundreds of years, and it used to be a very public thing - we would hold parades in the street and have appointments covered in the press, that sort of thing.
"But after the war, there was really a state of defensive secrecy and although we enjoyed a heyday of membership, with numbers rising exponentially, it just became a state of mind, so we laboured on for years with the same attitude towards the press and outsiders who criticised us.
"But we're not secret so much as private."
He said the secrecy surrounding the order had led to many unfounded rumours and bizarre myths being made up about the order.
He said a woman he met on holiday refused to talk to him after hearing he was a mason, because she blamed the order for poisoning her grandfather and giving him stomach cancer.
Mr Collins admitted the Freemasons were "an organisation like no other", adding: "It's not a club, it's not a society, it's a fraternity.
"It's an organisation that's worldwide. To become a member you just have to have a proposer and a seconder who trust you, and then once you're a member, that's a passport to any lodge in the world."
Much of the Freemasons' time is taken up with raising money for charity - they are one of the largest sources of charitable income in the country.
Anyone is eligible for the masons as long as they are over 21 and male - although there are similar orders for women - as well as "sociable, amenable and of good character".
They also have to believe in a "supreme being" - although this does not have to be the Christian god, and there are many Hindu, Muslim and Jewish freemasons among others.
There are currently 3,400 masons meeting at the 127 lodges in the province of Worcestershire, meeting at 14 masonic centres - Bromsgrove, Dudley, Evesham, Halesowen, Kidderminster, Kings Heath, Malvern, Northfield, Redditch, Stechford, Stourbridge, Stourport on Severn, Tenbury Wells and Worcester.
The boundaries of the masonic province of Worcestershire remain based on the old county boundaries as they stood nearly two hundred years ago and include approximately half of Birmingham, as well as Dudley, Halesowen and Stourbridge.