GOOD Guide: to Shadowy Organizations, the Bohemian Grove

The Bohemian Grove provides its community of corporate and political titans an opportunity to sing around the campfire and piss in the woods.

"Weaving spiders come not here"

DOCTRINEEach year's encampment begins with "the Cremation of Care," the ceremonial burning of a shrouded effigy named Dull Care on a giant owl-shaped altar. This announces the beginning of a recess from the long year of shrewd business when members sing around the campfire, piss in the woods, and engage in other boyish frivolities. "Weaving spiders, come not here," is the club's motto, which roughly translates as "Leave the PowerPoint at home," though a few webs are woven at the lunchtime Lakeside Talks, off-the-record lectures on current affairs.

HEADQUARTERSThe grove's pride, 2,700 acres of virgin redwoods, is merely the summer retreat of the Bohemian Club, a venerable six-story men's club at 624 Taylor Street, a few blocks away from San Francisco's Financial District.

MYTHICAL ACHIEVEMENTSProviding a secure, undisclosed location for high-level whoremongering, buggery, witchcraft, and the antidemocratic vetting of presidential candidates.GREATEST ACTUAL ACHIEVEMENTIn his memoirs, Richard Nixon traces his ascent to the presidency back to a Lakeside Talk he gave at the 1967 encampment. In a less generous moment, he called the Grove "the most faggy goddamn thing that you could ever imagine," though he admitted attending "from time to time."

MembershipAbout 1,500 corporate and political titans-plus a smattering of entertainers-who encamp for two weeks of revelry each July in a grove of redwoods an hour's drive north of San Francisco. Many of this retreat's most prestigious attendees are guests of the Bohemian Club, not full members. Membership is by invitation, and waiting-list purgatory can last for a decade or more.AlumniGeorge W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Henry Kissinger, and Walter Cronkite have all been grove regulars, along with some Cabinet members, media moguls, and European heads of state. Many past guests have also been Trilateralists, including Trilateral Commission founder David Rockefeller. Nineteenth-century Bohemians bestowed membership on Mark Twain and Jack London to crack jokes with California's gold and railroad tycoons.The ExposéThe Grove's claims to exclusivity are undone by the number of nobodies-at least four-who have managed to infiltrate the encampment and report their findings. The investigative journalist Philip Weiss successful passed himself off as a Bohemian for Spy in 1989 and eavesdropped on Kissinger at a pay phone, dropping names to a lady friend. Professional paranoiac and radio host Alex Jones shot live video of the 2000 cremation ritual. What's more, Peter Martin Phillips, a professor of sociology researching power elites, attended the encampment as an invited guest.In Their Own Words"It's not that we're secretive," says the amiable Matt Oggero, the general manager of the Bohemian Club. "We're just private-a private social club. Questions of who our members are or what they do at meetings-those are questions I can't answer." Oggero did, however, provide a four-page document testifying to the innocuousness of the club's secrets.

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