A human skull and two large bones owned by the secretive Skull and Bones society based at the prestigious Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut are expected to fetch up to US$20,000 when they go on offer at Christie’s auction house in New York later this month.
Along with this memorabilia, the lot also contains a small black book containing the names of Skull and Bones members or “Bonesmen” up until 1971. The auction house states that the collection of articles “provides a rare glimpse into the society which has been linked to many influential figures and leaders at Yale University and in this country”
The elite society selects 15 members for entry every year from among Yale’s students, and remained exclusively male until 1991. CBS’s 60 Minutes notes that the secret society’s membership list includes “some of the most powerful men of the 20th century… and has included presidents, cabinet officers, spies, Supreme Court justices, captains of industry, and often their sons and lately their daughters”, calling the secret society, “a social and political network like no other.”
Both the former President George W. Bush and his Democratic rival in the 2004 presidential election, Massachusetts senator John F. Kerry are Skull and Bones members, and Bush and Kerry were both asked about their membership during the 2004 campaign by the late Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Russert remarked to Bush “You were both in Skull and Bones, the secret society”, to which Bush retorted “It’s so secret we can’t talk about it”, before stammering awkwardly when probed on the significance of the two candidates’ societal connection. Bush selected fellow Skull and Bones member and Nixon-era Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs William Donaldson as head of the Securities & Exchange Commission in early 2003.
When Kerry appeared on the programme a few months earlier, Russert had asked him “You were both members of Skull and Bones the secret society at Yale, what does that tell us?”, with the Democratic candidate replying “Uhh… Not much ‘cause it’s a secret”. Russert continued, “Is there a secret handshake? Is there a secret code?… 322, a secret number?”. Kerry evaded the question, replying, “Ahh there are all kinds of secrets, but one thing is not a secret, I disagree with this president’s direction that he’s taking the country, we can do a better job and I intend to do it.”
Tim Russert fared better than student Andrew Mayer who was dragged to the ground by 6 police officers and tasered for asking Kerry a similar question relating to his Skull and Bones membership in September 2007 at the University of Florida. Mayer was seized upon by police to applause from the audience immediately after he brought up Kerry’s connections to the Yale-based secret society, having already asked Kerry about why he refused to contest the 2004 election result despite evidence of disenfranchisement of black and Latino voters and widespread electoral fraud in several states. Mayer was subsequently arrested, having been tasered as he lay on the ground, surrounded by police officers.
Skull and Bones selects its annual intake of 15 members every year from Yale’s student body as part of Yale University’s “Tap Day”. Members meet every Thursday and Sunday evening in their final year of college, before becoming patriarchs of the society and lifetime members when they graduate. The headquarters of the society, based on the Yale University campus, are known as The Tomb.
Skull and Bones is, according to Christie’s, “thought by many to be one of the oldest and most prestigious secret societies in the United States”, with its reputation attributable to the names who have been initiated since the society’s foundation in 1832. In addition to George H.W. Bush and son, prominent Democratic politician, banker and businessman W. Averell Harriman, son of railroad tycoon E H Harriman, was a Bonesman, as was former CEO of the H. J. Heinz Company, Henry John Heinz II.
Both of George W. Bush’s grandfathers, George Herbert Walker and Prescott Bush, were also Skull and Bones members, and Prescott is a particularly polemic figure due to his involvement as “director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany”. Prescott Bush was a director of Union Banking Corporation which represented the U.S.-based interests of German industrialist and early Nazi supporter Fritz Thyssen, and continued in this position even after the United States entered the war against Germany.
Prescott also worked for Brown Brothers Harriman, the oldest privately owned bank in the United States and the world’s largest private investment bank at the time. He had been an initial partner of BBH along with fellow Skull and Bones member W. Averell Harriman, who served as a Senior Partner of the bank. Brown Brothers Harriman’s assets and assets belonging to other companies held by the bank, including Union Banking Corporation, were seized by the United States government under the Trading with the Enemy Act in late 1942. In December 2003, the Anti Defamation League issued a press release defending Prescott Bush and calling the accusations made against him for his involvement in financing Nazi Germany, “untenable and politically motivated”.
Prescott Bush, a vocal supporter of population control groups The American Birth Control League and Planned Parenthood, serving as treasurer for the latter, would go on to become a Republican senator, representing the state of Connecticut for over ten years until January 1963. The controversy surrounding the grandfather of Barack Obama’s predecessor is not limited to his extensive Nazi connections, however.
In June 2009 Obama’s government asked the Justice Department to dismiss a lawsuit brought by descendants of famous Native American Apache warrior Geronimo, whose remains were stolen from his tomb in 1918 or 1919, reportedly by a group of Skull and Bones members which included Prescott Bush. Proceedings were filed against President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and Secretary of the Army Peter Geren in their capacity as federal officials in February of 2009. Yale University and the Skull and Bones Society were also named as defendants in the suit.
The descendants of Geronimo, who was buried in Oklahoma in 1909, wish to bury him in his native land – located in the state of New Mexico. The lawsuit alleges violations of a 1990 law designed to protect the right of Native Americans to their family members’ remains. It is alleged that bones stolen from Geronimo’s resting place have been kept in the secret society’s Yale University headquarters. The government of Barack Obama has countered that it has sovereign immunity from prosecution under the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act.
 A SKULL-AND-BONES BALLOT BOX, http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=5286778
Skull And Bones – 60 Minutes – CBS, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/10/02/60minutes/main576332.shtml
 John Kerry Admits Skull and Bones Membership, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yOF713wOD4&feature=related
 Student hit with Taser at John Kerry speech, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1563486/Student-hit-with-Taser-at-John-Kerry-speech.html
University of Florida student Tasered at Kerry forum, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bVa6jn4rpE
The evolution of Tap Night, http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/features/2009/04/17/the-evolution-of-tap-night/
 How Bush’s grandfather helped Hitler’s rise to power, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondworldwar