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Creepy Stories and Theories About Bohemian Grove

Updated August 30, 2019 6.2k votes 1.7k voters 171.6k views12 items

List RulesVote up the craziest stories about this freaky society.

Every summer, the world’s most elite and powerful men meet in the woods north of San Francisco. They don’t talk about work. Instead, they perform Druid-like rituals, burning coffin effigies in reverence to the large redwoods that surround their camp. Nixon, Bush, Ford, Reagan, Rumsfeld, Kissinger, Rockefeller—all of these men have been members of the super-secretive Bohemian Club. And this isn’t some conspiracy theory: the Bohemian Club is very, very real. And so is their annual retreat at their private camp, Bohemian Grove. Here are some shocking Bohemian Grove stories—some documented, some rumored—that might just make you start believing in conspiracies.

Some background information - the Bohemian Club was founded in 1872 by reporters who wanted to build a community in which they could appreciate the arts. Artists and musicians were welcome, and, over time, the club relaxed its rules: anyone who appreciated the arts could join, even non-creatives. This opened the floodgates, because if there’s one thing rich people who fancy themselves sophisticates love, it’s private clubs.

Soon, the club was overrun by the wealthy elite, and the artists and journalists were pushed to the margins. As per club rules, at least ten percent of members must be artists, but realistically, only the most famous artists are allowed in. And, oh yeah: no women allowed.

One thing is very clear about Bohemian Grove: they don’t like outsiders. In 2008, a Vanity Fair reporter who infiltrated the camp was arrested for trespassing. It took an hour for members and security to suss out the fact that he didn’t belong. Impressive, since there were a few hundred men at the camp. You wouldn’t think it’d be too hard to blend into a crowd, right? But not this crowd. This crowd can tell who belongs and who doesn’t.

Despite the closed ranks, a few people have snuck into the club, and their testimonies give Bohemian Grove theories credence. Yet even those who got into the Bohemian Club weren't able to stay long enough to really integrate and figure out exactly what's happening in those woods. Until that happens, we’re left to speculate about a Bohemian Grove conspiracy. This list will take you through some theories about this exclusive camp. Get ready to put on your tinfoil hats.

  • 5

    They Perform Druidic Rituals

    Video: YouTube

    In 2000, Texas-based filmmaker Alex Jones snuck into Bohemian Grove with a video camera and filmed a very weird ritual: the Cremation of the Care. Members burnt a coffin in front of a 40-foot-tall owl, which they claim is a way of respecting the forest. The ritual involved elaborate costumes and torches, and the footage is undeniably creepy. 

    In an extensive piece on the Bohemian Club, journalist Mark Evans writes, "Peter Weiss, writing in Spy Magazine, November 1989, states, 'Bohemian Club literature . . . boosts that the Cremation of Care ceremony derives from Druid rites, medieval Christian liturgy, the Book of Common Prayer, Shakespearean drama, and nineteenth-century American lodge rites.' Is this the straight goods, or is it PR sugar coating of a darker sacrificial rite, terrifying even on a symbolic level?"

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  • 6

    Is There an Owl on the $1 Bill?

    Photo: WLTH

    In the image above, you can see an owl-like shape peeking its head over the edge of the semi-circle. Is Bohemian Club’s symbol on US currency? Or is it just a coincidence that those curlicues look like the winged creature.

    If the Bohemian Club exerts enough power to have its symbol appear on currency, it's no wonder that symbol is an owl; owls can turn their heads more than 180 degrees, allowing them to see in virtually all directions. 

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  • 7

    The Manhattan Project Was Formed There

    Photo: US Department of Energy/Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    In September 1942, Ernest O. Lawrence, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and the S-1 Committee, which became the Manhattan Project, met at Bohemian Grove to strategize about building an atomic bomb. Even back then, only members and approved guests were allowed to use the compound. Lawrence, whose work on separating uranium isotopes was essential to the project, was a member of the Bohemian Club, which is how the group gained entrance.

    And just in case you don’t believe it, there’s evidence: in the photo above, Lawrence is second from the left, with members of the S-1 Committee. Want to guess where they are?

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  • 8

    They Put On a Strange, Sexist Play

    Photo: vaXzine / via Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The most unfortunate manifestation of the no women, no outsiders rule at the Bohemian Grove comes in the form of their entertainment. Each year, members of the club put on two plays: the Grove Play, or the High Jinks, which is serious, and the Low Jinks, which is  not. Philip Weiss, writing for Spy magazine in 1989, described the Low Jinks as “vigorously lowbrow.” New plays are written and performed every year by Club members.

    “The Jinks jokes about women were straight out of an old joke book,” writes Weiss. “‘My father said if you have a choice between an angry woman and a rabid dog, take the dog,’ Jason Jones Jr. said. ‘It's already got a fur coat and the license is a lot cheaper.’ And Rex Greed said, ‘The only difference between rape and rapture is salesmanship.’ The sensibility of the Grove recalls an era before the surgeon general's report on smoking, before the death of God and duty, before the advent of cholesterol and Sandra Day O'Connor (whose husband, John, bunks in Pelicans camp). The mood is reminiscent of high school. There's no end to the pee-pee and penis jokes, suggesting that these men, advanced in so many other ways, were emotionally arrested sometime during adolescence.”

    They spent $75,000 on that play, by the way.

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