The World's Most Powerful Secret Societies: The Skull and Bones
It's easy to dismiss the Order of the Skull and Bones as a bunch of college kids playing games...
But if you look deeper, it's easy to see how a small group of students at one of the world's most prestigious universities could evolve into a powerful collective of influential policymakers.
At best, Bones is a tightly-knit network of rich and powerful men, and at worst, a demonic organization with ties to the Freemasons and the Illuminati.
The Devil and Don Quixote
The Order of the Skull and Bones was founded in 1832 by William Russell, who had spent a year in Germany fraternizing with members of the mystical and elite clubs he found there. That includes groups that mimicked the Enlightenment-era Illuminati, which was allegedly destroyed in 1785.
When Russell returned, he tapped Alfonso Taft, father of President William H. Taft, as a recruit and co-founder.
Members worshiped Eulogia, a fake goddess of eloquence. They glorified pirates, and reportedly hatched schemes of world domination at the "Tomb," an imposing block of windowless granite, furnished on the interior with fittingly morbid décor such as coffins.
The Tomb is rumored to have a landing pad on the roof for the society's private helicopter. And members conduct initiation rituals in the rear courtyard.
Ron Rosenbaum is a columnist for the New York Observer and Yale classmate of George W. Bush, a Bonesman. He lived next to the Tomb and even managed to secretly record an initiation ceremony.
Here's how he described it...
"There is a devil, a Don Quixote and a Pope who has one foot sheathed in a white monogrammed slipper resting on a stone skull. The initiates are led into the room one at a time. And once an initiate is inside, the Bonesmen shriek at him. Finally, the Bonesman is shoved to his knees in front of Don Quixote as the shrieking crowd falls silent. And Don Quixote lifts his sword and taps the Bonesman on his left shoulder and says, 'By order of our order, I dub thee knight of Euloga.' A woman holds a knife and pretends to slash the throat of another person lying down before them, and there's screaming and yelling at the neophytes."
Rosenbaum also said Boneseman spend much of their time fixating on death, lying down in coffins, and even desecrating human remains.
Legend has it, in 1918, Prescott Bush – George W's grandfather – and a band of Bonesmen, robbed the grave of the Apache Indian chief Geronimo. They took the skull and some personal relics, including his saddle, and brought them back to the Tomb. Bonesemen claim they're still there in a glass case.
An Island Unto Themselves
Again, it would be easy to chalk this up to typical collegiate mischief, thrill-seeking and fraternity, if the group didn't spawn so many powerful members.
A look at the Skull and Bones roster reveals a well-connected network of powerful Bonesmen.
They've controlled the fortunes of the Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford families, as well as posts in the Central Intelligence Agency, the American Psychological Association, the Council on Foreign Relations.
In addition to the Tafts and Bushes, the Bones claim...
- Pierre Jay, the first chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
- Winston Lord, the Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, ambassador to China, and Assistant U.S. Secretary of State.
- David Boren, Governor of Oklahoma, U.S. Senator, and President of the University of Oklahoma.
- Raymond Price, speechwriter for Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Bush.
- Stephen Allen Schwarzman, co-founder of The Blackstone Group.
- FedEx founder Frederick Wallace Smith.
- John Chafee, U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Navy and Governor of Rhode Island.
- William Donaldson, who was appointed chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by George W. Bush. (President Bush tapped five fellow Bonesmen to join his administration.)
- William P. Bundy, the State Department liaison for the Bay of Pigs invasion.
- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart.
- John Kerry, the U.S. Senator and current Secretary of State who ran against George W. Bush in the 2004 election.
- And Austan Goolsbee, staff director to and chief economist of President Barack Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
And that's just a small sample. Senators, statesmen, athletes, bankers, captains of industry... even actor Paul Giamatti. The Skull and Bones are everywhere, which is shocking considering the group is relatively small.
Only 15 members are admitted each year, which means there's only about 800 living members at any one time. Yet, this small network is politically potent.
It goes without saying that the society itself has amassed its own small fortune. The Bones' assets are managed by the society's alumni organization, the Russell Trust Association. The association was founded in 1856 by William Russell and Daniel Coit Gilman, a Bonesman who later became the president of the University of California, the first president of Johns Hopkins University, and the founding president of the Carnegie Institution.
The Skull and Bones even have their own island – Deer Island, located on the St. Lawrence River by Alexandria, New York.
What goes on there, like what goes on inside the Tomb, is a mystery.
Jason Simpkins is Assistant Managing Editor of the Outsider Club and Investment Director of The Wealth Warrior, a financial advisory focused on security companies and defense contractors. For more on Jason, check out his editor's page.
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