The ‘Skulls & Bones’ Society
‘Skull and Bones’ is an undergraduate senior secret society at Yale University
Skull and Bones is an undergraduate senior secret society at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. It is the oldest senior class landed society at Yale and is one among the College’s Big Three societies that include Scroll and Key Society and Wolf’s Head Society. The society’s alumni organization, which owns the society’s real property and oversees the organization, is the Russell Trust Association, named for William Huntington Russell, who co-founded Skull and Bones with classmate Alphonso Taft. The Russell Trust was founded by Russell and Daniel Coit Gilman, member of Skull and Bones and later president of the University of California, first president of Johns Hopkins University, and the founding president of the Carnegie Institution.
The society is known informally as “Bones”, and members are known as “Bonesmen”. Skull and Bones selects new members every spring as part of Yale University’s “Tap Day”, and has done so since 1879. Since coeducation of the society in the early 1990s, Skull and Bones selects fifteen men and women of the junior class to join the society. Skull and Bones “taps” those that it views as campus leaders and other notable figures for its membership. Each Skull and Bones class meets every Thursday and Sunday night during the senior year.
The group Skull & Bones is virtually unmentioned in mainstream media though it may feature in some conspiracy theories, which claim that the society plays a role in a global conspiracy for world domination. It is true that some prominent families had one or more members as Bonesmen. Theorists such as Alexandra Robbins suggest that Skull & Bones is a branch of the Illuminati, or that Skull & Bones itself controls the Central Intelligence Agency. Others who have written about Skull & Bones were economist Antony C. Sutton, who wrote a book on the group titled America’s Secret Establishment: An Introduction to the Order of Skull & Bones. and Kris Millegan, who wrote a book on the society in 2003.
In the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, both the Democratic and Republican nominees were alumni. George W. Bush wrote in his autobiography, “In my senior year I joined Skull and Bones, a secret society; so secret, I can’t say anything more.” When asked what it meant that he and Bush were both Bonesmen, former Presidential candidate John Kerry said, “Not much, because it’s a secret.