A Mystery Ball Where the Illuminati Have Cloven Hooves

The attendees had to fill out an application that included questions concerning their attitudes about animals and meat, and Ms. von Buhler said she saw a “great disconnect” in that people said they loved their pets but also loved eating meat. She hoped to open a few eyes.

The bus discharged the guests onto a hillside speckled with naked dancers and fire twirlers and people in livestock masks. Throbbing music ushered the partygoers into a sprawling hunting lodge with a pitched roof out of a fairy tale. In the dining hall, animal heads lined the walls and a taxidermied raccoon stared down from a chandelier. Jeweled teardrops hung from its eyes.

A masked man called the Pig King welcomed the revelers and introduced his pregnant wife, an antlered baroness. “Let the candidates seeking the true light make the first journey,” he proclaimed.


The Pig King offered a toast to his pregnant wife. Guests seated include Petr Shchepilov, left, and David Mark, center.

Nina Westervelt for The New York Times

The evening fast-forwarded toward sensory overload. A soprano in a chicken costume sang a Lehár aria as aerialists twirled on silks. The 30 guests were briefly blindfolded and fed an improbably rich morsel that turned out be a salted date simmered in olive oil. Everyone was assigned to wear a monkey mask, a pig mask, a chicken mask, a cow mask or a mouse mask.

The baroness’s water broke. We watched her give birth in a bedroom. A drug-addled monkey led his followers into a basement and swore treason against the Pig King. A cow-woman with breast pumps affixed to her like bondage gear filled a bathtub with her milk. In the Contemplation Room, a naked dancer gyrated while wearing large black wings.

Clues about the animal-rights agenda were there for the harvesting: The monkey, a veteran of lab experiments, was addicted to painkillers. The androgynous mouse had multiple human ears embedded in his back. The cow-woman was kept continually lactating like a commercial dairy cow. But in the swirl of spectacles and craft cocktails, it grew difficult to keep track.

During the fourth course, charred broccolini with forbidden rice and sweet sriracha lime sauce, the Pig King and the monkey got into a shouting match. After the fifth course, watermelon gazpacho, the Pig King announced: “The candidate willing to dance and…

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