The subject of countless conspiracy theories, secret societies conjure up images of a wealthy elite in smoky boardrooms secretly controlling the world.
Here are six secretive societies that are still active today, plus a quiz that reveals which society you should belong to.
1. The Zodiac Club
Zodiac Club roster courtesy of Morgan Library via Gothamist.
For almost 150 years, a group of twelve men known as the “Zodiac Club” have convened for secret dinner meetings in New York at regularly scheduled intervals, according to a Gothamist feature.
Named after the zodiac signs, each member of this secret society is part of the club until death or resignation, at which point a new member has to be unanimously chosen. Its ranks are made up of the wealthy elite of New York, and included J.P. Morgan, judges, senators, and millionaires.
The names of the current members are not known, apart from Robert Pirie, a former lawyer for the investment firm Rothschild, Inc.
According to notes from meetings between 1868 and 1928, cited by the Gothamist feature, the group has no bylaws or elaborate ceremonies; rather, twelve wealthy, influential men simply meet for dinner six times every year. A meeting has never been missed.
2. The Bohemian Grove Secret Society
Photo of Reagan and Nixon at ‘67 Bohemian Grove courtesy of Wikipedia.
An annual party where some America’s most influential and rich people can eat and drink carelessly, discuss world issues, and engage in druidic nature worship (see the video below, which has been authenticated by a Bohemian Grove spokesman speaking to the Washington Post.)
Held in an idyllic redwood grove outside of San Francisco, this annual party has been arranged since 1872, according to a reporter who snuck in to the otherwise exclusive event in 1988.
Its guest list has included the likes of Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, George H.W. Bush, Colin Powell, Walter Cronkite, and tycoons for banks and oil companies, according to Sonoma County Free Press, which maintains a who’s who of BG members.
Despite the slogan “weaving spiders come not here,” warning against business discussions, many speculate that important deals have been struck, or at least hinted at. The Manhattan Project, which created the first atomic bomb, was planned at the event in 1942, according to the Washington Post.
3. The London Gold Fix
Rothschild painting courtesy of the company’s website.
As we’ve previously elaborated on, representatives from five major banks convene twice every day over a conference call to arrange the price of gold on a large amount of trades in between themselves.
This fixing causes massive spikes in trading volume and is used by the Bank of England to benchmark gold prices.
Bank membership is not secret, however, the meetings are. While information trickles out of the meetings due to trades made by the bankers present (they can trade at any time and even pause proceedings by saying ‘flag,’ a throwback to when they met in a physical office and could raise a Union Jack to signal a break), there is no public insight into or recordings of the proceedings.
However, it was initially organized by London’s N.M. Rothschild branch in 1919. Members would meet in the bank’s office every day to set the price of gold. The purpose was to establish London as the center of the world’s gold marketplace, as the consortium itself explains on its website.
4. Skull & Bones
Skull & Bones logo courtesy of Yale University Archive via Wikipedia.
Perhaps paradoxically the most famous of secret societies, the Yale fraternity Skull & Bones count among their members three U.S. presidents, the latest of which was George W. Bush, as well as Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford fortune heirs, CIA leaders and Supreme Court justice, according to TIME magazine (full disclosure: the founder of TIME magazine was a Bonesman).
In the 2004 presidential election, both candidates were Bonesmen, as Bush faced fellow Yale alumni and Skull & Bones member John Kerry.
This secret society is notorious for its alleged theft of the skulls of certain historical figures, including Apache chief Geronimo, which are supposedly kept in its on-campus building “The Tomb.”
Freemason logo via Wikipedia.
The quintessential secret society. Freemasons have been around since at least the fifteenth century, and have offices all around the world.
You don’t have to search for long to find accusations of the group’s supposed (conspiracy site) global dominance, with conspiracists pointing to the presence of the masonic logo on the dollar bill, and the membership of fourteen U.S. presidents including George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt and Gerald Ford, as well as an eclectic group of influential people, such as: Mozart, Simon Bolivar, Winston Churchill, J. Edgar Hoover, and Buzz Aldrin.
Traditionally, the group has been extremely secretive, and there’s no public register of members. However, recently the group has opened up more to the public, denying some rumors such as the cultish rituals involving a noose, and the Masonic tattoos.
That’s not to say there’s no more conspiracy fodder left: Consider the Italian Masonic lodge Propaganda Due, which operated a “state within the state” society of politicians, military leaders and journalists, who worked to control Italy’s politics from 1945 to 1981. A prominent member of the group? Silvio Berlusconi.
6. The Bilderberg Group Secret Society
Bildeberg hotel photo via Wikipedia.
Somewhat of a more sophisticated, trans-Atlantic version of the Bohemian Grove, the Bilderberg group is an exclusive annual gathering of no more than 150 influential politicians and business people.
Named after the Dutch hotel where its was first held in 1954, the four-day conference takes place at a different location around the world each year.
Attendee lists are publicly available (although some unlisted guests show up “just for the day”), but journalists are not invited, so as to avoid anything discussed at the event blowing up in the media.
7. (Bonus) International Order of St. Hubertus
In existence since the 1600’s, this secret society became the center of attention in 2016 when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died mysteriously at a remote Texas ranch where members of the society were assembled.
The society is reportedly a hunting and fishing fraternity with European roots. Conspiracy theories surround Justice Scalia’s death, fueled by reports of a pillow found on his head, the lack of an autopsy, and incomplete law enforcement reporting.