20 October 2010

File Under: Conspiracy Theory or Strange But True

Word around town this summer was that an acquaintance was invited to the uber-exclusive, secretive Bohemian Grove gathering that takes place each year in mid-July. This naturally resulted in curiosity about what does in fact take place at Bohemian Grove and who are the members of the Bohemian Club? And of course, how can they possibly have any fun if they don't allow women to join?

The political scientist in me had a deeper curiosity about pluralism, how power can be acquired in a community and the effect of social clubs/cohesion to aid policy consensus, buuuut... since this is an entertainment and lifestyle blog, I'll stick to what interests most people.

As not to appear ignorant about one of THE allegedly biggest power-partiest on earth , I did a little research, and here's what I learned:

The Bohemian Club started in San Francisco in 1872 by a group of creative types -- journalists, artists, writers and musicians -- who sought refuge from the "frontier lifestyle." Over time, it has evolved into a cohort of power-brokers, which has included every Republican President since 1932, cabinet officials, CEOs of the country's largest companies, members of the Dupont and Rockefeller families, William F. Buckley, Walter Cronkite and Henry Kissinger.

Harvey Hancock, flanked by The Gipper and Richard Nixon

The Bohemian Club meets for two weeks each year at its 2700 acre luxury camp in the redwood forest of Monte Rio, California. Most reports suggest that the retreat is a playground for good ole' frat boys rather than a board meeting where deals are cut. The motto of the club, "Weaving Spiders Come Not Here" reinforces the idea that the camp is a networking opportunity facilitating the exchange of ideas rather than a place where business is conducted. (The idea for the Manhattan Project supposedly was conceived at Bohemian Grove, and Dick Cheney was chosen as running mate to George Bush at the 2000 summer gathering.)

The controversy surrounding the club comes from not only its exclusive nature but also from the fact that its gathering takes place in protected forests and also that its rituals have been described as black magic/ cultish and homoerotic.

Camp entertainment includes theatrical acts and kicks off with an opening night Cremation of Care ceremony. Interviews with Bohemian Club members suggest that the ceremony is intended as a way for for attendees to relax, enjoy and forget their worldly-duties. Rumors however recount stories of a bizarre occult ritual involving men clothed in black and red robes, chanting and burning an effigy under a 40 foot owl. (The owl statue is hollowed out, containing electrical and audio equipment within, and is thus rigged to “speak” with the voice of Walter Cronkite.)

Reporters have infiltrated the camp a handful of times, with the most recent being Vanity Fair journalist Alex Shoumatoff's May 2009 expose on the Bohemian Club logging in the old-growth forest. In 1989, journalist Alex Jones also snuck into Bohemian Grove and captured the Clubs' rituals on video, "Dark Secrets Inside the Bohemian Grove," You Tube clip on Bohemian Grove.

Scary? Or just plain hokey?

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