FW: [Fwd: More on Bush and Bones]

Craven, Jim jcraven at SPAMclark.edu
Thu Dec 21 14:43:19 MST 2000

-----Original Message-----
From: Michele Cheung [mailto:mjcheung at worldnet.att.net]
Sent: Thursday, December 21, 2000 1:27 PM
To: Jim Craven
Subject: [Fwd: More on Bush and Bones]


7/31/94 GRDN 020
I am in the process of researching some of this material at Renee's request.
Thought you might find this 1994 article interesting.

7/31/94 Guardian 020
1994 WL 9287621
(Publication page references are not available for this document.)

The Guardian
Copyright 1994

Sunday, July 31, 1994

The Observer Life Page

bones  of a conspiracy

   Jeb Bush, son of George, is currently seeking the Republican
nomination for governor in Florida. During the campaign there was
the following curious exchange between him and one of his
constituents: 'You're familiar with the Skull and Crossbones
Society?' Jackie Miller, a secretary, asked, referring to the Yale
secret society to which both Jeb Bush's father and grandfather

  'Yeah, I've heard about it,' Jeb Bush replied drily.

   'Well, can you tell the people here what your family membership
in that is?' she demanded. 'Isn't your aim to take control of the
United States?' Jeb is not the first in his family to be confronted
in this way: in the 1992 election campaign, Pat Buchanan, George
Bush's challenger for the Republican nomination, accused the
president of running 'a Skull and Bones presidency'. His reference
was glancing, intended to needle its recipient with the threat of a
conspiracy revealed. But the uninitiated " which is to say, most
Americans and the rest of the world " would be forgiven for wanting
to know what possible 'conspiracy' there might be.

  The society, usually known as 'Skull and Bones', was founded in
1832 as an elite debating society by a General Russell "
valedictorian of his Yale class " and several of his classmates.
Its principles, rituals and activities have been secret since its
inception, as has its membership list. Made up of 15 senior (fourth
year) students selected annually in the spring before their final
year, the society has met twice a week during term since 1856 in a
forbidding, windowless mausoleum near the corner of Crown and High
Streets in New Haven, at the centre of the Yale University campus.

  Aside from a general understanding that members dine and then
debate a topic drawn from 'the sacred skull', nobody outside the
club knows exactly what takes place within its walls, although it
is known that alcohol and drugs are forbidden from the premises and
the society assigns a hierarchy of nicknames and roles to its
active members, some permanent and others specific to individuals.
The permanently renewed roles include the Toby, who runs the show;
the Jester, whose role is to make mischief among club members; and
the Bones Devil, who originates more extensive disruption in the
world outside the club. But it is the initiation rite, involving
masturbation in an open coffin while recounting adolescent sexual
exploits, which has made the club's activities infamous.

  The building in which Skull and Bones meets, built in 1856, is
known as the Tomb, and has been furnished with gifts from
successive graduating classes (there is a tradition that each 15
make a donation). According to a 1989 New Yorker article, 'one
Bonesman . . . recalled during the early 70s seeing perhaps 30
skulls, not all of them human, scattered about the tomb.' Raiders
have reported other unexplained items, including a bloodied knife
in a glass case.

  Other such societies followed and have flourished at Yale, with
names such as Scroll and Key, Wolf's Head, or Book and Snake, but
Skulland Bones has remained the central, most enigmatic and best
known of the lot. This prestige stems not only from speculation
about the group's activities but also from its illustrious list of
Patriarchs (the title given to graduated members; the current
initiates are known as Knights, their Scroll and Key counterparts
as Savages, and the rest of the world as Barbarians). And it is
precisely the eminence of its clandestine membership that has led
to repeated charges that the society has sought to influence the
course of American history.

  A far from complete list of living members (known as Bonesies or
Bonesmen), published in the New York Times in 1988, named, in
addition to George Bush: 'William F Buckley, Jr, editor of the
National Review; Senator John H Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island;
Daniel P Davison, chief executive officer and chairman of the US
Trust Company; William H Draper 3rd, administrator of the United
Nations Development Programme; Evan G Galbraith, former ambassador
to France, now a director of Morgan Stanley; and Judge John
Steadman, of the Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.'
This list of the living omits the impressive roll-call of the
departed, which would include President William Taft (Bush was not
the first to run a Skull and Bones presidency), professor and
national security adviser McGeorge Bundy, former ambassador to
Britain Averell Harriman, publisher Henry R Luce, poet and Harvard
professor Archibald MacLeish and almost all of Yale's own
presidents since the turn of the century " in short, a roster of
many of recent America's most important men. Andrei Navrozov, a
Russian educated at Yale and now living in London, whose recent
book The Gingerbread Race addresses the nature and function of
America's closed elite systems, including Skull and Bones, sees the
danger of the society in its secrecy. 'In Britain,' he maintains,
'the aristocracy does provide some control mechanism, however
small. Birth is very democratic, because it is an accident. The
Americans, on the other hand, 'blue' their blood by procedures
which are man-made " which means someone controls them to a certain
advantage.' In his eyes, Skull and Bones is not simply a
microcosmic subset of a wider American elite, it is 'the top of the
pile and in the driver's seat. These people run the country,'
Navrozov says. 'They are responsible for what goes on. They should
be known so they can be held to account.' This may be taken as the
ranting of a paranoid conspiracy theorist, but the claims are not
made without evidence that points to Skull and Bones' wider
involvement in the mechanisms of American power and the CIA.
Intermingled with testaments to the wide-reaching influence of the
group, Navrozov (along with others) cites evidence of an
astonishing puerility which sits ill on the shoulders of senior
statesmen. If, for example, George Bush did lie in a coffin and
masturbate while recounting his teenage sex life to his fellow
Bonesmen, as the society's initiation rite demands, then it is
suddenly difficult to see the former president as a figure of
particular gravitas.

  'This ritual is not just silly,' says Navrozov of the symbolic
death and rebirth as a 'Knight' of the Order, 'it is like a black
mass.' Not unlike some Masonic ceremonies, it involves a
compromising of individual dignity and thereby ensures a Bonesman's
loyalty to his society. This loyalty is fiercely maintained: not
one of the 2,280 initiated members of the society has ever spoken
of his involvement.

  But what is the secrecy about? What are the secrets? They range
from the simply avowed intention of the society " as early as 1883
" to extend its sphere of influence outside the university, to
charges of grave-robbing (in particular of the skulls of the Indian
chief Geronimo and of the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa) for
the trophy cabinet of the society's crypt. Furthermore, links
between members of the society and the CIA are indisputable but are
relevant largely insofar as these powerful individuals would wish
to keep such ignominious acts as the stealing of trophies from
tarnishing their reputations.

  Navrozov's information on Skull and Bones came from a former
Yale student whom he refers to only as 'Steve', who in the
mid-1980s embarked on extensive (even obsessive) research into the
society for two books that he had contracts to produce. Steve
possessed photographs and documents stolen from the Bones crypt by
a raiding party, and he maintained that he was in great danger
because of them. Eventually, after his apartment was burgled, Steve
went into hiding. Neither of his books has been published.

  The distinguished author Peter Matthiessen also met Steve in New
Haven in the mid-1980s, and was told the same story as Navrozov. 'I
do believe it's true,' he says of the details. 'It's incredibly
childish, but if one third of that stuff is true, they would stop
at nothing to keep it from coming out.' Of Steve, he says: 'I don't
think this guy was faking being scared. They pushed him around,
they tore up his apartment. They wanted their manuscripts back.'
George Lord, a now-retired Yale professor who introduced Steve to
Matthiessen and who recently tried, unsuccessfully, to trace
Steve's whereabouts, confirms the authenticity of the young man's
documents. 'His information came from members,' he says. 'He had
photographs. He did an awful lot of research. But then the project
seemed too hazardous to him.' One of the documents obtained by
Steve, and copied by Navrozov " the 50th anniversary address to the
society " certainly attests to the society's triumphant
infiltration of the Yale University administration. Delivered in
1883 by the Patriarch Timothy Dwight, later a Yale president, it
jovially acknowledges the piratical principles of a club whose
symbol is the Jolly Roger. Dwight reports the 'crooking', or
stealing, of significant Yale memorabilia, including the tombstone
of Governor Yale, a historic punch bowl and the ceremonial robes of
the university president.

  Today, the Russell Trust Association, the society of graduate
Patriarchs, meets annually and reportedly bestows a gift of $15,000
on each of the graduating Bonesmen. Far from squatting on
Yale-owned land, the Trust, a prospering corporation, owns much of
the land on which the university sits. As for stretching their arm,
beyond the university walls, the Bonesmen had occasion to do so
when, in 1865, three students broke into the Tomb and stole several
relics. Threatened by their professors (themselves Patriarchs), the
boys returned their booty; but did not remain at Yale to graduate.
According to Dwight: 'One of these misguided young men threatened
some years later, it is said " when he had fled to the other side
of the continent " to publish what he knew, and, like all the
blackmailing tribe, at the same time offered to suppress the
publication for a sum of money. But Eulogia looked at Demosthenes
and Demosthenes at Eulogia. Nothing was said on either side; only a
pleasant smile illumined the face of each. No money was paid, no
publication appeared.' Quite what the society did to ensure the
youth's silence is left open to speculation (Navrozov believes they
murdered him, and that this accounts for the bloodied knife among
the Tomb's relics).

  In 1986, in New York City, representatives of Skull and Bones "
among them George Bush's brother Jonathan " met Ned Anderson, a
former chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona, who had
approached the Russell Trust Association with a document titled
'Continuation of the History of Our Order for the Century
Celebration' " sent to him, according to Navrozov's book, by Steve.
The Bonesies agreed that the document was authentic, but insisted
that the events it described " the prying open of the iron doors of
Geronimo's tomb, the use of carbolic acid to clean the skull " were
purely apocryphal. Nonetheless, several generations of Bonesmen are
familiar with the contents of a glass display case inside the New
Haven tomb: a skull that everyone refers to as 'Geronimo'. But the
meeting between Anderson and the Bonesies did not resolve the
situation, partly because Anderson had no actual proof that the
skull had been stolen in the first place.

  The problem with the Pancho Villa skull is quite the opposite:
while there is evidence that Villa's skull was stolen, there is no
proof that Skull and Bones was responsible. The efforts of a lobby
called the Wednesday Group, from El Paso, Texas, to pin the theft
on the Yale men stems from a second-hand account in the memoirs of
one Ben Williams. In 1926, Williams met a man named Emil Holmdahl,
who claimed to have plundered Villa's tomb for a fee of $25,000.
Forty-five years later, Williams was told by an acquaintance named
Frank Brophy that Brophy and his fellow Bonesmen had had the skull
stolen for their Society, at a cost of $25,000, and that the skull
could be found in the New Haven tomb. But Brophy, although a Yale
graduate, was never a member of Skull and Bones, and Bonesmen
categorically deny the presence of Villa's skull among their relics.

  Then, of course, there is the case of Hitler's silverware.
Navrozov asserts that a friend of his (a Scroll and Key man)
discovered it in the Skull and Bones building when he raided it in
the early 1980s. That this unsavoury trophy should have ended up in
the hands of one group of Yale undergraduates or another is not so
surprising when one learns, from Brian Freemantle's book CIA, that
Richard Helms, eventually a director of the Agency, found himself
in Berlin in May 1945 and 'took away as souvenirs some dinnerware
and stationery embossed with crest'. While it is possible that the
dinner service now floating around the Yale campus was filched by
someone else in Berlin in 1945, it seems more likely that it was
'crooked' from Helms, a Williams College graduate, by one of the
many Yale men who worked with him in the CIA.

  Specific links between Skull and Bones and the CIA, aside from
the figurehead of George Bush, are not easy to research, given that
both associations are based upon secrecy. But there are analogies
to be drawn, as historian Robin Winks points out in Yale And The
Secret Service: 'The title Office of Policy Coordination was a
euphemism for Covert Action,' he writes, of the department in the
newly-formed CIA just after the Second World War. 'OPC's approach
to intelligence work was rather like a 'secret society' " serving
the country in ways it did not know. Yale's most prestigious social
life turned on secret societies, of which Skull and Bones was the
most exclusive, and the members of those societies deeply believed
in the wisdom of their own selection (and perhaps at times in the
wonder of it) and were convinced they served Yale in ways that the
beneficiaries of their noblesse oblige might never fully
understand. Of course, it was widely rumoured that the secret
societies were recruiting grounds as well.' The very notion for
which Navrozov has been labelled a conspiracy theorist (by William
F Buckley's National Review, for one) " the idea of a covert elite
making secret policy decisions supposedly for the benefit of the
ignorant masses " is here spelled out by Winks as simple fact. And
although the idea that Skull and Bones per se would be, as Navrozov
maintains, 'the top of the pile and in the driver's seat' in
government policy or the CIA may seem far-fetched, the supposition
that many of its members, individually, are in that position proves
to be incontrovertible fact " and fact of which George Bush is only
the most prominent example. The habit of secrecy and the concept of
noblesse oblige of the Knights towards the Barbarians, born in
undergraduate days, must of necessity have spilled over into the
organisations and mechanisms that the Bonesmen have gone on to
inhabit and to master. When the organisation mastered has become
the entire nation, Navrozov's paranoia ceases to seem quite as

  In The Gingerbread Race, he tells of reading in the Sunday Times
of Bush's appointment of Raymond Seitz, former ambassador to the
Court of St James's and, like Bush, a Yale man. Navrozov quotes the
paper: 'Bush's offer took Seitz by surprise as he was dining out in
Brussels after a day of Nato meetings . . . [He was] called to the
phone by the barman . . . it was James Baker, the Secretary of
State, to say that the President would be calling in five minutes
to offer him the Court of St James's. Later Seitz made a diary note
of what was said " first spelling out to Baker the dialling code
for Brussels.' Navrozov muses: 'Baker had just phoned him in
Brussels. Why should he spell out the code unless it has some
hidden significance, as codes do? What is the Brussels code,
anyway? I bet it's 322 [The number on the badge of Skull and Bones,
the meaning of which is known only to initiates.] Ah yes, so it
is.' It does make you wonder.

  Certainly the 'conspiracy', inasmuch as there can be imagined to
be one, is not that Bonesmen are everywhere in positions of power
but that the outside world cannot recognise them as such. How
comfortable Americans should feel knowing that their country's
affairs of state have been increasingly managed by men who have
participated in absurd rituals and have passively condoned, if not
participated in, thefts for the benefit of a trophy collection in a
windowless tomb in New Haven " that is another matter entirely.

  But because of its secrecy, the charting of the Bonesmen's
course is only possible in retrospect. Is there a chance that this
will change? America today, in the wake of innumerable scandals,
seems to be moving slowly away from its obsession with secrecy.
President Clinton has opened files on CIA activities and covert
medical experiments (most recently on the use of unsuspecting
mothers and children in testing the effects of radioactivity). Such
revelations prove to the nation that its conspiracy fears were not
all lunacy. The shape of the establishment, along with the
composition of the student body at universities like Yale, is
changing. Several years ago, in a move so controversial that the
New Haven Tomb was closed for some months, Skull and Bones decided,
at last, to admit women. This move must have forced a change in
their long-standing rite (co-ed masturbation is surely beyond the
pale?), which might, in turn, alter the unbroken faithfulness of
the members to their club; but it has not, as yet, relaxed their
vows of secrecy. What the men and women now turning from Knights to
Patriarchs will become, and how they may differ from their
piratical forebears, remains to be seen. Then again, without a more
radical divestment of the past, it may not be seen at all.

  Claire Messud's first novel When The World Was Steady (Granta,
pounds 14.99) is published this week.

Word Count: 3015

7/31/94 GRDN 020



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