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The Specters of the Skull and Bones Secret Society


Yale senior William Russell founded Yale’s most famous secret society in 1832 , Skulls & Bones, at 64 High Street, dedicated to Eulogia, the goddess of eloquence.  The “bonesmen” as they are known took the skull and the crossbones as their symbol from which they received their nickname.  Construction of the windowless Greco-Egyptian style “tomb,” began in 1856 and ended with the addition of its two back towers in 1911.  Legend has it that the blueprints were read backwards so that the courtyard was built in front facing the street instead of inside the structure.  Former president George W. Bush (Yale 1968), his father former President George Bush (Yale 1948), and his grandfather Prescott (1917) are among the many famous people that have belonged.


Geronimo, the Apache chief, reportedly haunts the grounds because it also rumored that the club boasts a skull claimed to be that of Geronimo. Legend claims that bonesmen stole the chief’s remains from his burial site at Fort Sill, Oklahoma when a group of them was stationed there during World War I.  One of the club’s initiation rituals reportedly requires new members to kiss the skull.  Other ghosts are said to haunt the premises but we may never know who they are because the bonesmen are sworn to secrecy.


There is an even more amazing story.Alexandra Robbins alleges in her article for Atlantic Monthly that Skull and Bones, a secret society at Yale University, that ElihuYale’s gravestone was stolen years ago from its proper setting in Wrexham, Wales.  The generous merchant whose philanthropy had established the college which was named after him had died in the British Isles while engaged in business.  She further alleges that the tombstone is now displayed in a glass case in a room with purple walls, which belongs to a building belonging to the society and called the Tomb.


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