From the likes of the Rockefellers to the former Secretary of Defense, the Bohemian Grove plays host to a different kind of secret society, which every year in mid-July, hosts a two-week, three-weekend encampment for some of the most powerful, influential men in the world. Situated in Monte Rio, California, the campground that stretches across 2,700 acres of land belongs to a private men’s art club based in San Francisco known as the Bohemian Club. Over the years, the campsite has had its fair share of controversy and allure that has led some to infiltrate its existence. Who will attend this upcoming July?
The male-only Bohemian Club welcomes members into their group who have a few things in common ”“ wealth and influence, and they often belong to the military, education, or business world. Since the exclusive club limits their numbers to about 2,700 men, some members have waited for more than 15 years for an opening to arrive, at which time; they are expected to pay full dues and other membership fees. Active members are often referred to as ‘Bohos’ or ‘Grovers,’ and they may invite guests to the Grove to participate in encampment activities. In the past, such visitors have involved politicians and noteworthy figures from countries outside the United States.
Past and present members have included the likes of U.S. Presidents, prominent business leaders, media executives, and government officials, such as Donald Rumsfeld.
There are also associate members who pay less expensive fees, who play the important role of assisting in various club activities at the Bohemian Grove. Other participants could become professional members, who earn the distinction of a skilled professional who are elevated to pay full dues at some point. Club members are also able to elect honorary members, like in the case of writer Mark Twain.
When an individual has been a part of the Bohemian Club for 40 years, the men earn a distinction known as ‘Old Guard,’ which translates into the receipt of elevated perks. For instance, they will enjoy reserved seating during the daily happenings of the Grove. On March 19, 1953, former president of the United States, Herbert Hoover, was inducted into the Old Guard, and spoke highly of the occasion thereafter.
The Club has a motto: “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here,” which refers to the practice of leaving external concerns and business deals outside of the Grove. However, this has not stopped significant political and business deals from developing at the Grove. For example, the planning meeting for the infamous Manhattan Project took place in the Grove in 1942. These talks would lead to the development of the atomic bomb, and included such minds as the president of Harvard at the time, and representation from companies, such as Standard Oil and General Electric.
The tradition of the summer encampment dates back six years after the Bohemian Club was established in 1872 with gatherings centered on the arts taking place at various locations before the present site was purchased for the group to use in 1899. The artists and musicians who were at the center of the group’s formation learned to intermingle with prominent businessmen (who seemed to overtake the group), but did provide the funds that made it possible to acquire the land for the Grove.