LIST OF SKULL & BONES MEMBERS
STEPHEN PROTEHRO, SALON: Though a
seniors-only society, Skull and Bones is more than a tad sophomoric.
Each May on "Tap Day," senior Bonesmen troll around
Yale's campus, selecting, or "tapping," 15 juniors
for membership in the upcoming class. The initiation rites that
follow sound like something out of Fred Flintstone's Water Buffalo
Lodge or a Robert Bly retreat. Each knight, as neophytes are
called, reportedly regales his fellow initiates with his sexual
exploits. (He may or may not be naked and may or may not be lying
in a coffin.) During initiation, he endures some sort of physical
challenge (mud wrestling? diving into a dung pile?) before being
born again with a new name and a new identity. In the outside
world, members are never to speak about their society. If outsiders
raise the topic, Bonesmen are supposed to leave the room. Members
take their secrecy oath seriously -- no insider has ever published
an exposé -- so it is impossible to separate the realities
from the rumors that swirl around the society. One rumor has
each new member receiving a $15,000 payout. Another says the
interior of the "Tomb" (the eerie Gothic headquarters
where twice-a-week meetings are held) is decorated with human
remains, including the skulls and bones of notables such as Mexican
revolutionary Pancho Villa and Apache warrior Geronimo. -- SALON
SKULL & BONES
AP - A Yale University historian discovered
a 1918 letter that raises anew questions about a secretive Yale
student society and the remains of the American Indian leader
Geronimo. The letter, written by a member of Skull and Bones
to another member of the society, purports that some of the Indian
leader's remains were spirited from his burial plot in Fort Sill,
Okla., to a stone tomb in New Haven that serves as the club's
headquarters. . . At one of the most selective universities in
the country, Skull and Bones marks the elite of the elite. Only
15 Yale seniors are asked to join each year. Alumni include President
Bush, Sen. John Kerry, President William Howard Taft, numerous
members of Congress, media leaders, Wall Street financiers, the
scions of wealthy families and agents in the CIA.
Members swear an oath of secrecy about
the group and its strange rituals, which includes devotion to
the number "322" and initiation rites that include
confessing sexual secrets and kissing a skull. The atmosphere
makes Skull and Bones favorite fodder for conspiracy theorists.
Its most enduring story concerns Geronimo,
who died in 1909. According to lore, members of Skull and Bones
- including the president's grandfather, Prescott Bush - dug
up his grave when a group of Army volunteers from Yale were stationed
at the fort during World War I.
YALE ALUMNI MAGAZINE - Skull and Bones
and other Yale societies have a reputation for stealing, often
from each other or from campus buildings. Society members reportedly
call the practice "crooking" and strive to outdo each
other's "crooks." And the club is also thought to use
human remains in its rituals. In 2001, journalist Ron Rosenbaum
'68 reported capturing on videotape what appeared to be an initiation
ceremony in the society's courtyard, in which Bonesmen carried
skulls and "femur-sized bones."
It may have been easier for the Bonesmen
to plunder an Apache's grave if they shared the racial attitudes
typical of their era and social class.
It may have been easier for the Bonesmen
to plunder an Apache's grave if they shared the racial attitudes
typical of their era and social class. At the time, says Gaddis
Smith, Larned Professor of History emeritus, who is writing a
history of Yale since 1900, "there was a racial consciousness
and a sense of Anglo-Saxon superiority above all others."
He notes that James Rowland Angell, who became president of Yale
in 1921, "would say, very explicitly, that we must preserve
Yale for the 'old stock.'" Smith adds, "The slogan
of the first major fund-raising campaign for Yale, in 1926, was
'Keep Yale Yale.' The alumni knew exactly what it meant."
& BONES IS JUST THERE TO SERVE YOU, FOLKS
[This article is not just a defense
of Skull & Bones; it also describes up how much of Washington's
elite feels about itself]
DON OLDENBURG, WASHINGTON POST -
This legacy of Bones prominence is not surprising since Yale,
like all prestigious universities, theoretically is attended
by the nation's best and brightest, many of whom are from wealthy
and powerful families -- a circle of success. Bones taps those
who the members think are the most promising of this promising
But with its veil of secrecy, Bones
also inspires far-fetched conspiracy theories. Skull and Bones
has been accused of being a satanic group, an international Mafia,
and an incubator of future agents of a "New World Order."
What feeds such suspicions is that
Bonesmen are like a cross between Forrest Gump and Zelig -- always
in the picture at major historical crossroads: Bonesmen oversaw
development of the atomic bomb and influenced the decision to
use it on Japan. They managed the postwar occupation of Germany.
They helped shape U.S. Cold War policies. They were policymakers
during the Vietnam War. They have ties to the Council on Foreign
Relations and the Trilateral Commission -- two hot-button organizations
for conspiracy theorists. . .
Since Bush moved into the White
House, he has nominated or appointed at least 10 Bonesmen to
prestigious positions -- among them the head of the Securities
and Exchange Commission, Bill Donaldson, '53; Assistant Attorney
General Robert McCallum, '68; General Counsel to the Office of
Homeland Security Edward McNally, '79; and his close friend Ambassador
to Trinidad and Tobago Roy Austin, '68. . .
Bush has also benefited from Bones
on his path to power. His first real job, the financing of his
first oil company, his lucrative partnership owning the Texas
Rangers baseball team, the big money backing his campaigns --
all had Bones backing. . . .
For more than three centuries, Yale
has seen its job as educating future leaders -- from the 14 Yalies
who served on the Continental Congress and four signers of the
Declaration of Independence to four of the past six U.S. presidents
(the two Bushes; Bill Clinton, Yale Law '67; and Gerald Ford,
Yale Law '41).
This year's Democratic primary was
flush with Yalies, in addition to Kerry: Joe Lieberman, '64 and
Yale Law '67, and Howard Dean, '71. They and President Bush were
undergrads when then-Yale President Kingman Brewster proclaimed
Yale's goal to be to produce "one thousand male leaders
every year." After Brewster turned the university coed in
1969, the statement was trimmed to "one thousand leaders."
Levin, who has been president for
11 years, often refers to Yale as "a laboratory for leadership."
Aside from the university's acclaimed academic life, Yale provides
undergrads a wealth of opportunities to lead. . .
Looking out of his office windows,
Levin can see Scroll and Key's headquarters. In a sense, Skull
and Bones is just a microcosm of Yale's culture of leadership,
he suggests. . .
A YALE ALUMNUS points out that Skull
& Bones is not is not next door to the Yale Daily News building,
but a block away. 'Next door to the Yale Daily News building
is Wolf's Head, which in Bush's years was a wild-ass drinking
fraternity, of which, I believe, he was a member."
WELL, WE TOOK CARE
OF THAT, DIDN'T WE? (LAUGHTER)
Russert: You were both in Skull
and Bones, the secret society.
President Bush: It's so secret we
can't talk about it.
Russert: What does that mean for
America? The conspiracy theorists are going to go wild.
President Bush: I'm sure they are.
I don't know. I haven't seen the (unintel) yet. (Laughs)
Russert: Number 322.
President Bush: First of all, he's
not the nominee, and I look forward . . .
NO SKULL &
BONES HELICOPTER LANDING PAD
WE HAVE REMOVED the cite of Alexandra
Robbins book on Skull & Bones because the excerpt included
legends about the secret organization that she later refutes.
For example, when the sainted Doug Ireland passed on the item
to an editor at one of the major news weeklies, he wrote back:
" I've passively collected S&B lore for some 20 years.
I've never heard the bit about the roof of the S&B building
being a helicopter landing pad; possible, but unlikely. The building
is really only one story high, and it's on a street right in
the middle of the campus, next door to the Yale Daily News, as
a matter of fact. I should think that aviation regulations would
make it illegal to land a helicopter in such a densely populated
area. . . John Kerry personally recruited a friend of mine to
be in Bones but my friend, to his credit, turned them down."
As it happened, we were contemporaneously
in contact with an exceptionally good source on this matter,
former New Haven alderman John Halle, whose reflections on that
job we have just posted. He responded:
"Here's the deal. The story
about a landing pad for a helicopter is a canard, one of many,
that are contained in the introduction of Alexandra Robbins excellent
book. The way the book is organized to is to lay out all of the
legends about S+B in the introduction and then, in the main body,
Robbins debunks the ones which need to be debunked and documents
what really goes on there. Unfortunately, she was too clever
by half. A lot of people read only the introduction and took
as fact false information, some of which turns out to have been
created by the Bonsers themselves as a diversion.
"So, to be clear, there is
no helipad at the Bones tomb. Also, while I haven't been inside,
by all accounts its a pretty shabby place, as is their summer
retreat on the St. Lawrence River. (There is no Caribbean island).
Also, so far as I know, you don't get cash upon graduating. In
fact, the organization itself has very little money. (They're
a 501C3 and yes, as an alderman you can be damn sure I looked
into taxing them. That was the first thing I thought about. I
never looked into trying to get the fire department to shut them
down for lacking appropriate egress, which I think they might,
but that's for someone else.)
"This is not to say that there
are not a lot of benefits to being in the Skulls. But it's important
to understand what these benefits are to understand the psychology
of the members. What they get out of membership is a social circle
of initiates of similarly uptight, ambitious and superficial
elitists with whom they can let their hair down without fear
of being judged. The last they need is cash. What they need is
the ability to feel as "supported" and "connected"
to others. I know this sounds new-agey, but that's what Robbins
book shows which, as I say, is quite good."
Of course, the problem is that when
you set out to create myths is that you end up creating myths.
Why Skull & Bones
As we learn more of the strange
little society called Skull & Bones, it is useful to remember
that what we know already is enough:
America is about to choose between
two presidential candidates who belonged to an organization whose
values were infantile, elitist, misogynist, anti-democratic and
secret and whose purposes include the mutual support and protection
of its members as they make their into the upper ranks of American
society and throughout their adult lives. Far from apologizing
for this, the two candidates refuse to give open and honest answers
about their participation. Further, at least one of the candidates,
Kerry, has retained a close enough relationship to the organization
to have sought news members from among his young acquaintances.
The most benign view of this was
expressed by the conservative columnist David Brooks, who told
CBS, "My view of secret societies is they're like the first
class cabin in airplanes. They're really impressive until you
get into them, and then once you're there they're a little dull."
Certainly, Skull & Bones is
not alone. For example, a decade ago in 'Shadows of Hope' I described
a more open if just as dubious influence on American politics:
While institutions such as the Council
on Foreign Relations, Brookings and the American Enterprise Institute
have long added theoretical underpinnings to political policy,
Clinton's arrival has forced such institutions of the New York-Washington
axis to take seats behind the Cambridge-headquartered John F.
Kennedy School of Government. In fact, the Clinton administration
seems practically a subsidiary of this academy of wonkdom. Half
of Clinton's cabinet has ties to the school either as students,
officials, fellows or faculty: Les Aspin, Bruce Babbit, Ron Brown,
Henry Cisneros, Robert Reich, Richard Riley and Donna Shalala.
The Kennedy School is to government
what the Harvard's business school was to corporations in the
1980. There is a similar emphasis on technical skills -- decision
trees, case studies and so forth -- and little interest in ethics,
philosophical or humanistic principles. Not surprisingly, a lot
of the money for the school comes from large corporations who
are more than happy to have their tax deductible contributions
used to teach public officials the Kennedy School way of governing.
"This bureaucratic boot camp
did once consider creating a "chair in poverty" to
study "who has been poor for a long time and why,"
but according to the Washington Post, then Dean Graham Allison
(now in Clinton's Pentagon) was unable to come up with the money.
It didn't really surprise him since, after all, most donors are
"wealthy people, not poor people." The conservative
nature of this institution can be gauged by the fact that flaming
moderate Robert Reich was considered its left-wing, a flank that
apparently did not qualify him for tenure.
Executive dean Hale Champion told
the Post that "if there isn't a lot of traffic between here
and in Washington, then we're not in touch with what's going
on." A Kennedy School graduate student in an interview with
Andrew Ferguson of the Washingtonian put it more succinctly:
"The vast majority of people
[at the school] are idealists. They want to change the world.
But it's more than that. To be honest, we feel that we're entitled
to change the world. . . You think that's arrogant. Maybe it
is. But look around you. What you've got here are some of the
brightest people in this country. If the country needs to change,
let's face it, we're the ones to change it."
It's not the first time that Harvard
has felt entitled to such a role in Washington. In the 1960s
Harvard theorists applied their paradigms to Southeast Asia with
disastrous results. The 1980s were propelled in part by dubious
management theses emanating from its business school. In the
1990s we find not only the Kennedy School rising to power, but
former members of the Soviet bloc coming under the sway of Harvard
B-School professor Jeffrey Sachs, whose plans for weaning these
emerging republics from communism appear an economic version
of General Sherman's approach to weaning Georgia from the Confederacy.
Harvard grads permeate not only
the upper level of politics, but also of the media, the law and
the think tanks, carrying with them an aura of what songwriter
Allen Jay Lerner called Harvard's "indubitable, irrefutable,
inimitable, indomitable, incalculable superiority." This
Harvard old (still mostly) boy network is a significant -- yet
because of its discretion underrated -- influence on the city's
values and policies, reflecting, in the words of the historian
and reluctant Harvard grad V.L. Parrington, the "smug Tory
culture which we were fed on as undergraduates."
Seventy-five years later, this smug
Tory culture quietly thrives in Washington, Not the least indication
of this is the fact that products of Harvard and/or Yale comprise
one-third of the top positions in an administration that said
it was going to look like America.
Now the control has passed to Yale
or, to be fair, the offspring of one of its most childish manifestations.
It is said, of course, that if you raise such matters you are
engaging in 'conspiracy theories.' In fact, this phrase is popular
among the political and media elite precisely because it provides
a dirty mirror reflection of the very values that this elite
holds: "If the country needs to change, let's face it, we're
the ones to change it." It is schools such as Harvard and
Yale that inculcate their political science and history majors
with a sense of change being the product of a small number of
great minds working in concert with their peers. It is this arrogant
illusion that kept blacks, women, and the poor so long out of
the history books in such places. They called it the Great Man
Theory of History.
In fact, you don't need any conspiracy
at all to create a Skull & Bones, a Kennedy School, or a
Washington Post newsroom. All you need is the right environment.
If you want a field of corn, all you have to do is plant corn
and get it enough water.
Besides, those who have used such
institutions as Skull & Bones to make their way through life
tend not to be clever enough to engage in a conspiracy. That
requires social intelligence, lateral thinking, imagination,
all of which are in short supply among the products of such places.
That's one reason they need the institutional assistance in the
I know. I was supposed to be one
of them. I was punched by several "final clubs" at
Harvard but quickly turned them down for I found their members
among the most boring people I had met at college. Instead, I
found my way to the Harvard radio station - a salon des refuse
for many of the most interesting people at the school. I became
news director and was subsequently elected station manager, but
was unable to serve because I had been placed on probation due
to my excess of extracurricular activities and inattentiveness
to the prescribed curriculum.
The other day, Jim Ridgeway of the
Village Voice, a former editor of the Daily Princetonian, and
I were trying to think of people who had served in major Ivy
League media positions yet had not become - in the manner, say,
of Adam Clymer or Don Graham - totally embedded in establishment
values and media. We could only think of two others: William
Greider and Larry Bensky. There are probably more, but it's certainly
a far smaller club than Skull & Bones. We were the weeds
in the corn field. Another one, interestingly, was a guy named
The problem with such people is
that we actually know how the system works. We have been probationary
members of it and have betrayed and deserted it taking along
the secrets of the crypt. Yes, as David Brooks says, it is as
boring as first class, but who said the distortion of power,
the corruption of society, and narcissistic excesses of ambition
had to be interesting? Power at play is often the dullest thing
on earth because in the end it is only a bad substitute for what
Still, we are left with the problem
that our supposedly democratic system has narrowed itself down
to a choice of two members of an ersatz nobility smaller yet
more powerful than the British nobility. And not only are its
members not meant to say anything about it. According to them
and their friends in the media, neither are we.
'60 MINUTES' REPORT ON SKULL &
SKULL AND BONES ODDS
[We asked readers for the odds
of 600 Skull & Bones members of presidential age having two
colleagues running against each other for the presidency.]
MARK MOTYKA, MATHEMATICS LEAGUES
- The odds of a Skull and
Bones vs Skull and Bones Presidential election, using the numbers
you gave for the estimate, would be the sqare of (600/146,000,000),
or about one chance in 59,211,111,111. However, there is a glitch:
since one of the two Bonesmen was already appointed to the position
by the SCOTUS, we have a conditional probability for this particular
election. That is, one of the candidates WILL be a Bonesman.
In this particular case, the odds that Bush would run against
another bonesman would be 600/146,000,000, or about one chance
in 243,333. All of the above assumes the usual two candidate
duopoly that our media so happily reinforces. Should Americans
have a choice of more then than two presidential candidates,
the odds are considerably lower.
EDDIE M. ABBOTT, M.D. - 1 chance in 60 billion. Pretty unlikely.
But you also need to factor in the increased likelihood of a
Yale graduate being president when compared to an Arkansas high
school dropout. Don't know how to do that.
RUTH ROWAN MA - Random chance of two skull and bones
members running for president is in one in 59 billion ((600/146million)squared).
But Gide would tell you to doubt that.
YALE PROFESSOR OF STATISTICS
- What appears straightforward
may not always be so. There are many assumptions one must make
to proceed with the problem. If we impose very naive assumptions
such that (i) party affiliation is not an issue, (ii) that each
age-eligible person in Skull & Bones is just as likely as
any other to run for president, and, (iii) more generally, we
assume each age-eligible person in the overall population is
just as likely as one another to run for president, then we proceed
as follows. We sample two people to run for president from the
overall age-eligible population at random, and see if both of
them are from Skull & Bones. This is an example of a hypergeometric
probability, and the answer is: 1.686043e-011
That is a VERY SMALL probability.
We can add additional assumptions that take away some of the
randomness of the above selection process (thereby, making the
calculations more difficult), as we would certainly think that
there is a greater probability that individuals from Skull &
Bones would run for president versus a general age-eligible person
in the entire population.
YALE SECRET CULT WON'T RETURN
INDIAN SKULL BUSH'S GRANDDADDY HELP STEAL
INDIAN COUNTY - The Skull and Bones
Society admitted to Apache leaders 17 years ago that they had
a skull they call "Geronimo's" in their secret cult
museum in New Haven, Conn. Still, his remains have not been returned.
Raleigh Thompson, former San Carlos Apache tribal councilman
for 16 years, said it is time to bring Geronimo home to be buried
in the mountains that he loved.
. . . During an interview at the
Mount Graham Sacred Run, Thompson said he was present in New
York when the Skull and Bones Society admitted that it held Geronimo's
remains in 1986. . . The grave robbing was exposed when Apache
leaders received a photo and information in the 1980s. The informant,
fearing for his life and never identified, provided Apache leaders
with a photo of the cult museum's display of Geronimo's remains
in a glass cage. The informant also provided a copy of a Skull
and Bones Society log book, in which the 1918 grave robbery was
According to the Skull and Bones
log book entry, Prescott Bush, grandfather of George W. Bush,
and five other officers at Fort Sill, Okla., desecrated Geronimo's
After receiving the information,
San Carlos Chairman Ned Anderson, Thompson and tribal attorney
Joe Sparks were in an Apache tribal delegation which met with
the Society. During a series of meetings, they met with Skull
and Bones officials and Jonathan Bush, George Bush's brother,
in New York City in 1986.
However, Thompson said the skull
that the Skull and Bones Society offered to return to the Apache
delegation was that of a young boy, not Geronimo, and the Apache
leaders refused it. "They admitted that they called this
skull Geronimo. They gave us the skull, but the skull was so
small that it looked like a young boy's skull." Thompson
said. "Based on that, we didn't want to take the skull.
I think they switched the skull on us."
NY OBSERVER ARTICLE
RON ROSENBAUM, NY OBSERVER - It's
the primal scene of American power, of Bush family values. For
two centuries, the initiation rite of Skull and Bones has shaped
the character of the men who have shaped the American character,
including two Presidents named Bush. And last Saturday, April
14 - for the first time ever - that long-secret rite was witnessed
by a team of outsiders, including this writer. Using high-tech
night-vision video equipment able to peer through the gloom into
the inner courtyard of the Skull and Bones "Tomb" in
New Haven, The Observer team witnessed:
- The George W. effect: intoxicated
by renewed proximity to Presidential power, a robed Bonesman
posing as George W. harangued initiates in an eerily accurate
Texas drawl: "I'm gonna ream you like I reamed Al Gore"
and "I'm gonna kill you like I killed Al Gore."
- Privileged Skull and Bones members
mocked the assault on Abner Louima by crying out repeatedly,
"Take that plunger out of my ass!"
- Skull and Bones members hurled
obscene sexual insults ("lick my bumhole") at initiates
as they were forced to kneel and kiss a skull at the feet of
- Other members acted out the tableau
of a throat-cutting ritual murder.
It's important to remember this
is not some fraternity initiation. It is an initiation far more
secret - and far more significant, in terms of real power in
the United States - than that of the Cosa Nostra. If the Bushes
are "the WASP Corleones" - as the ever more stingingly
waspish Maureen Dowd has suggested - this is how their "made
men" (and women) are made. It's an initiation ceremony that
has bonded diplomats, media moguls, bankers and spies into a
lifelong, multi-generational fellowship far more influential
than any fraternity. It was-and still remains - the heart of
the heart of the American establishment. . .
Of course, there is more to Skull
and Bones than the mystical mumbo-jumbo of its rituals. The rituals
are less important than the relationships-the bonds of power
and influence that develop between Skull and Bones initiates
after they graduate. But the relationships are first forged by
the rituals and fact that the founders of Time Inc. and the CIA.,
as well as several Secretaries of State and National Security
Advisors - the men who made the decision to drop the Hiroshima
bomb, invade the Bay of Pigs and plunge us into Vietnam, the
Tafts, the Bundys, the Buckleys, the Harrimans, the Lovetts -
all took part in this initiation ritual may have something to
do with the real world power of those bonds. The unspoken understanding,
the comfort level with the clandestine, the nods and winks with
which power is exercised. . .
Most of the speculative lore about
the Skull and Bones ritual has centered on its death fixation.
Beyond the obvious skull-and-crossbones insignia, of course,
the most persistent story is that initiates spend their senior
year in the basement crypt of the Bones Tomb taking turns lying
in a coffin and, in two long, intense, psycho-drama autobiographical
sessions in said coffins, recount their personal and sexual history
to the other 14 chosen ones. The better to bond for life with
those they know best and prepare for their destiny as stewards
of the ruling class. . .
KERRY MUM MEMBERSHIP IN INFAMOUS
SKULL & BONES
BOSTON HERALD - Sen. John F. Kerry
expounds on many issues in his presidential campaign, but he's
completely silent on one topic: his membership in Skull and Bones,
Yale's infamous secret society. "John Kerry has absolutely
nothing to say on that subject. Sorry," said Kerry spokeswoman
Kelley Benander. . . There's also another high-profile member
of the club: President Bush.
Bonesmen already are buzzing over
the prospect of the first Bones vs. Bones presidential race should
Kerry win his party's nomination and face Bush in 2004. "Bones
don't care who wins," said author Alexandra Robbins, whose
book "Secrets of the Tomb" pierced the secrecy shrouding
the 171-year-old society. "If Kerry wins, it's still a Bones
presidency." Robbins calls the group "probably the
most secretive and successful club in America," and adds,
"It's also pretty bizarre."
Every year, 15 Yale juniors are
tapped for the club, which holds meetings twice a week in a crypt-like
building known as the "Tomb." Robbins described the
interior, replete with skulls and skeletons, as a cross between
the "Addams Family" and a slightly shabby English men's
club. There are bizarre initiation rites, including a ceremony
where new members must spend an evening before a roaring fire
in the Tomb recounting details of their sexual history to fellow
Kerry was tapped for the club in
1968, two years after Bush, whose father and grandfather were
also Bonesmen. Kerry's brother-in-law from his first marriage,
David Thorne, was Bones. So was the late husband of Kerry's current
wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. The Bones alumni roster is flush with
CIA officials, business moguls, congressmen and Supreme Court
justices. The club owns a secluded 40-acre island retreat on
the St. Lawrence River.
In 1986, Kerry allegedly tried to
recruit Jacob Weisberg, then a college-age intern at "The
New Republic" magazine. Weisberg, now Slate magazine editor,
said Kerry made his pitch during a private meeting in his Senate
office. Weisberg declined, pointedly asking Kerry how he squared
his liberalism with membership in such an elitist club that refused
to admit women. "Kerry got sort of flustered and said, `I've
marched with battered women,' " Weisberg told the Herald.
Five years later, Kerry was among those voting to force the club
to admit women after a bitter court fight.