Skull and Bones

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Skull and Bones

Its members assure outsiders that Skull and Bones is simply a college fraternity that taps fifteen rich boys each year to undergo an initiation that’s nothing but “mumbo-jumbo.” Conspiracists are certain that the occult-based secret society worships the absolute power of the state and the New World Order.

When William Huntington Russell returned to Yale from his studies in Germany in 1832, his head was filled with the philosophy of reason as taught by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel at the University of Berlin. In Hegel’s worldview, the state is Absolute Reason and individuals must give their total obedience to it. The state has supreme rights over individuals, and individuals must recognize that their supreme duty is to the state. Neither Hitler’s fascism nor Lenin’s communism would quarrel with the precepts of Hegelianism. Russell also returned to Yale with the notion of establishing a chapter of a corps in Germany. He called it the “Order of Scull and Bones,” later changed to Skull and Bones.

The society, which Russell formed with Alphonso Taft (class of 1833), exists only at Yale, and only fifteen juniors are selected by senior members to be initiated into the next year’s membership. Each fortunate initiate is gifted with $15,000 and a grandfather clock. Skull and Bones is not your typical beer-swilling, goof-off fraternity. The initiates’ vows have to do with support of one another in the achievement of worldly and highly material success after graduation. William Russell (1833) rose to the military rank of general and became a state legislator in Connecticut. Alphonso Taft was appointed U.S. attorney general, then secretary of war, ambassador to Austria, and ambassador to Russia. His son, William Howard Taft (1887) was elected to the U.S. presidency in 1909 and later became chief justice of the Supreme Court, the only person to have achieved both positions.

The “Tomb” was constructed in 1856. It is the same vine-covered, windowless brown-stone hall where Skull and Bones still holds its mysterious occult rites. Almost from the very beginning, a mystique grew up around Skull and Bones, as might be expected in a university community that suddenly has within its confines a “secret society.” Professors objected because of its secrecy in a nation that prizes its recognition of equality and its contempt of elitism. As early as 1873 a New Haven newspaper published an article that condemned the society as an “obnoxious, deadly evil” with an increasing “arrogance and self-fancied superiority.”

In the 2004 election, the U.S. had two “Bonesmen” squaring off as presidential opponents. Both George W. Bush and John Kerry are members of the secret society, and Bush had brought five fellow Bonesmen to join his administration, the most recent was William Donaldson (1953) to serve as the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Ron Rosenbaum, author and columnist for the New York Observer, probably spoke for the majority of Americans when he told CBS News (June 13, 2004) that he believed there to be “a deep and legitimate distrust in America for power and privilege that are cloaked in secrecy.” Rosenbaum argued that we are supposed to do things out in the open in America. Rosenbaum, a Yale classmate of George W. Bush, admitted to a thirty-year obsession with Skull and Bones. The columnist said that he actually lived near the “Tomb” and passed it all the time. When the initiation rites were being conducted, he said, he could hear “strange cries and whispers” coming from the sepulchral, windowless building.

Another Yale graduate, Alexandra Robbins, claims that in her book Secrets of the Tomb she managed to penetrate the avowed wall of silence that surrounds the society. In her opinion, the sounds that Rosenbaum heard were likely “mumbo-jumbo,” a silly ritual that means something only to the people who are in the society. “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,” Robbins told Morley Safer of CBS News. “The initiates are led into the room one at a time. And once an initiate is inside, the Bonesmen shriek at him.” After enduring the shrieking, the initiate is shoved to his knees in front of Quixote as the assembled Bonesmen fall silent. Quixote then lifts his sword and taps the initiate on his left shoulder and says, “By order of our order, I dub thee knight of Euloga.”

According to legend, Prescott Bush (George W. Bush’s grandfather) and some fellow Bonesmen robbed the grave of the great Apache chief Geronimo and took home his skull as a relic for the tomb. Accounts are mixed as to whether the skull was returned to the Apache nation.

The family names to be found on the roster of Skull and Bones truly represents the powerful, the wealthy, the elite—the aristocracy of the United States: Rockefeller, Goodyear, Harriman, Whitney, Lord, Taft, Jay, Bundy, Weyer-hauser, Pinchot, Sloane, Stimson, Phelps, Perkins, Pillsbury, Kellogg, Vanderbilt, Bush, Lovett, and so on. In his book America’s Secret Establishment, Anthony Sutton detailed some of the chains of influence and power that enables the Bonesmen to accomplish conspiratorial plots.

W. C. Whitney (1863) married Flora Payne of the Standard Oil dynasty and became secretary of the navy. Elihu Root, Whitney’s personal attorney, hired Henry Stimson (1888) directly out of law school. Root later became secretary of war, and Stimson was appointed to that position by William Howard Taft in 1911. Later Stimson was President Calvin Coolidge’s (1923–29) governor-general of the Philippine Islands, President Herbert Hoover’s (1929–33) secretary of state, and secretary of war during the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933–45) and Harry S. Truman (1945–53). Stimson’s personal assistant and point man for the Manhattan Project was Holister Bundy (‘09), whose two sons William (‘39) and McGeorge (‘40), both Bonesmen, went on to high ranks in the CIA, the Department of Defense, the State Department, and as special assistants to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. The Bundy brothers exercised considerable influence on the information flow during the Vietnam War, and William went on to be appointed editor of Foreign Affairs, the quarterly of the Council of Foreign Affairs. McGeorge became president of the Ford Foundation.

See how the “chain” of influence passed on from Bonesman to Bonesman works?

Let’s take another chain, the Harriman-Bush links. Averell Harriman (‘13), revered elder statesman of the Democratic Party, his brother Roland (‘17), Prescott Bush (‘17), and four other Bonesmen from the class of 1917 dominated two major investment bank firms, Guaranty Trust and Brown Brothers, both of which were heavily involved in financing Hitler’s regime and, at the same time, the advancement of Communism in Russia. Skull and Bones began with an admiration of the Hegelian ideal of sublimation of the individual to the state, and some Bonesmen continue that ideal, working to achieve a New World Order. Averell Harriman, as minister to Great Britain in charge of the Lend-Lease program for both Britain and the Soviet Union, shipped entire factories into Russia—and, according to some conspiracy researchers, was responsible for the transfer of nuclear secrets, plutonium, and U.S. currency printing plates to the USSR. In 1942 the U.S. government acting under the Trading with the Enemy Act, seized the property of Prescott Bush on the grounds that he was fronting for the Nazis. However, after World War II had ended, Prescott Bush became a U.S. senator from Connecticut and a favorite golfing partner of President Dwight Eisenhower, who, as commander in chief of the Allied forces, had directed the European invasion that defeated the Nazi regime. Prescott also claimed personal credit as one of the eastern money men behind Richard M. Nixon’s rise to political power and for persuading Ike to add Tricky Dick to the ticket as vice presidential candidate.

Is Skull and Bones simply a college fraternity drawing upon old traditions copied from a German student secret society, tapping fifteen rich boys each year to undergo an initiation that’s nothing but “mumbo-jumbo”? Or is there something sinister in the occult-based, sanitized Satanism that worships the absolute power of the state and the New World Order?