I just spent the morning finding out everything I can on the Bohemian Grove. For two weeks every summer, the 2,700 acre secured private camp in the Ancient Redwood Forest of Northern California, plays host to some of the most powerful men in the world. Every republican U.S. president since 1923 has been a member of club, including Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, and the Bush family maintains a strong involvement to this day. The top secret operation behind the development of the atomic bomb, known as the Manhattan Project, was first planned at the Grove in 1942, and it’s said to have played a key role in major political and business deals since it was founded in the late 1800s. This place is a conspiracy theorist’s dream come true. But it’s also a summer camp in the middle of a remote forest where the global elite can take off their ties and behave like a bunch of lost boys who’ve tied up their camp counsellor; free to run wild and break all the rules…
(SMU digital Library)
(SMU digital Library)
(SMU digital Library)
At the edge of an artificial lake in the middle of the Grove, is a 40 foot owl that has been the centrepiece of a secret ceremony which takes place on the first night of the club’s annual encampment. Performed after dark in front of the members, a small boat crosses the lake towards a group of dark, hooded figures waiting at the owl statue with a High Priest who receives a human effigy from the ferryman, places it at the foot of the shrine, and sets it on fire.
Throughout the ritual, an ominous voice booms out of the speakers hidden inside the hollow owl, disguised as an ancient rock. Fireworks add to the dramatic climax.
The ritual serves to symbolically cremate the worldly and “dull cares” of conscience to ensure the success of the club’s midsummer meeting. This part is not an exaggeration of what happens every year at the Grove, it is all fact– but when world leaders are pretending to offer a human in fiery sacrifice to a 40-foot shrine in the middle of the woods, you can see why Bohemian Grove might have invited the curiosity of a few conspiracy theorists.
In July 2000, Alex Jones and his cameraman found their way into the campground and filmed the ceremony, which he characterised as pseudo-pagan worship and an occult ritualistic shedding of conscience and an “abuse of power”. You watch the documentary he made, Dark Secrets inside the Bohemian Grove.
Jones inspired some of the more extreme conspiracy theories about the society, including suggestions that the ritual’s fiery sacrifice wasn’t always an effigy, but a real human being. There are some troubling photographs, reportedly taken in the early days of the secret society’s formation, one which appears to show a child tied up on a table, and another of a convincing human mannequin awaiting a public lynching.
Conspiracy theorists are also quick to point out that the owl, the Bohemian Grove’s mascot since the founding of the club, is hidden in the upper right hand corner of every one dollar bill.
It’s tiny, but it’s there, just to the left of the “1”. The owl symbolises knowledge, wisdom but one website I found takes it a little further.
“Owls can see in the dark. They can see what we cannot see. Likewise, members of the Illuminati are privileged to information that is hidden from the general public. The demon goddess Lilith is represented throughout history as an owl. A study of Lilith will reveal the dark secrets behind the owl of Bohemian Grove”.
Other outsiders who’ve taken an interest in the secret society over the years haven’t been as spooked out about it as they have been grossed out. In 1989, a writer for Spy magazine Philip Weiss gained access to the camp posing as a guest (members can invite guests if they pass a screening procedure). In his article, “Inside Bohemian Grove,” he wrote:
“You know you are inside the Bohemian Grove when you come down a trail in the woods and hear piano music from amid a group of tents and then round a bend to see a man with a beer in one hand and his penis in the other, urinating into the bushes.”
(SMU digital Library)
(SMU digital Library)
In the Watergate tapes, President Nixon (pictured below right) who was himself a member of Bohemian Grove, called it (excuse the language) “the most faggy goddamn thing you could ever imagine” (you can listen to Nixon saying it here).
But hold on. How did a bunch of rich, largely Republican politicians and corporation heads even end up identifying themselves as “bohemian” in the first place?
It turns out the society was actually founded by a stage actor from California in 1872, and when he announced to fellow members that he was moving to New York to further his career, the club decided to throw their friend a going away party. In the middle of the Redwoods, 100 bohemians gathered with free-flowing booze, decorated with Japanese lanterns and drunkenly performed for each other under the stars.
The camping tradition became an annual tradition for the club and they purchased the current campground’s location in 1899. Lacking real facilities and the financial means to acquire more land to accommodate the growing membership, it wasn’t long before a wealthy businessman from San Francisco became the club’s patron.
He invited his friends and they invited their friends, and soon enough, the members roster read like a Forbes rich list. While prominent artists and musicians were still part of the club, their primary role was to entertain the more high-powered members and guests.
Each year, a play is performed during the final weekend of the summer encampment, an extravagant musical, theatrical production, written and composed by the club’s artistic members. A show can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and include appearances by world-famous artists, for one night only, and never be performed again. You probably figured by now however, that Bohemian Grove has a men-only membership (female guests are allowed but officially they must leave the premises by 10pm). Since this is an all-male kind of party, there’s a lot of cross-dressing.
So let’s take a look at some of the more familiar names on the members list…
Presidents include Nixon, Eisenhower, Roosevelt, both Bush’s, Hoover, Ford and Raegan. Then you’ve got Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and a healthy selection of White House chiefs of staff, senators, secretaries of state, secretaries of defence, army generals and so on. Henry Kissinger was a member, the Rockerfeller family is always present, even John E. Dupont, the crazed American heir who famously murdered Olympic gold medal winning wrestler Dave Schultz went to the elite summer camp.
On the more creative side, Clint Eastwood, Mark Twain, Bing Crosby, Merv Griffin and Charlton Heston all became members of the Bohemian Club. Initiation fees start at $25,000, followed by hefty yearly dues.
Wondering if Trump is a member? I was too. On a Reddit.com thread for Trump supporters, I found members discussing, “Should Trump go to Bohemian Grove this year to help him secure the nomination?”
Someone responded: “100% no. If we believe and continue to hope that Trump is somehow untainted by the elitist secret societies that generally contain members of the establishment we are trying to fight, Trump cannot go.”
It looks like Donald has yet to receive his invitation from the secret society.
Also on Reddit, I found an old but especially juicy forum set up 5 years ago by a former employee at Bohemian Grove’s hired to serve the outdoor dining circle. He even shared the link to the hard-to-find website where the Grove posts its job openings. Currently, there are vacancies for valets, bartenders, security officers and summer seasonal dishwashers. Needless to say, it’s a pretty interesting place to work. Here are some of the things he had to share…
“Most of the craziness stemmed from the fact that a lot of members were very drunk, all day long. The dining circle where I worked was literally a huge redwood grove, and a lot of members, instead of walking to the bathroom, would just piss on the trees… In the dining circle there is a “pee tree,” but it’s just a giant hollowed out redwood with a toilet inside.
I think that there were prostitutes. I never saw any, but the consensus seemed to be that they were definitely around. There was a whorehouse across the river from the grove, I’m pretty sure they were brought in. There was also an older (40’s?) server woman there who seemed to be pretty “friendly” with some of the members.
I saw someone order a lobster for breakfast (it’s the kind of place where we had to make that happen). I heard Karl Rove [former White House Deputy Chief of Staff] cussing up a storm. One time … Rove and Ashcroft [Attorney General to Bush] were talking to one another, and they hushed up very quickly [when I came to serve them]. It seemed sneaky … I felt angry. I’m fairly liberal, and I hated having to serve them. It’s weird, the grove is situated in a very liberal area, almost all of us employees considered a lot of the members “enemies.”