“A photo provided by Christie’s shows the 1872 ballot box belonging to Yale’s secretive Skull and Bones society. The skull and crossbones are expected to bring between $10,000 and $20,000 when they are auctioned off”


“If remains are not properly buried, the spirit is just wandering, wandering, until a proper burial has been performed,” said Harlyn Geronimo, the 61-year-old great-grandson, at a press conference yesterday in Washington. “The only way to bring this to a closure is to release the remains and his spirit, so that he can be taken back to his homeland.”

Judge dismisses suits over Geronimo remains
by S. Derrickson Moore / 08.11.2010

“Despite recent legal setbacks, efforts will continue to return Geronimo’s remains to his birthplace at the headwaters of the Gila River, according to former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, attorney for a group of relatives of the legendary Apache leader. On Feb.17, 2009, the 100th anniversary of the death of Geronimo, a lawsuit seeking repatriation of Geronimo’s remains was filed in Washington, D.C., by Clark on behalf of 20 descendants, including Harlyn Geronimo of Mescalero, who identified himself as the great-grandson of Geronimo.

The lawsuit claimed that his remains were stolen in 1918 by members of Skull and Bones, a secret student society at Yale University, from a burial plot at Fort Sill, Okla., where Geronimo died in 1909. According to an Aug. 10 Associated Press story, Federal Judge Richard Roberts last month granted a Justice Department motion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the plaintiffs failed to establish that the government waived its right not to be sued. The judge also dismissed the lawsuit against Yale and the society, saying the plaintiffs cited a law that only applies to Native American cultural items excavated or discovered after 1990. Lariat Geronimo of Mescalero, a great-grandson of Geronimo who disputes Harlyn Geronimo’s family ties to the historical figure, said his family learned of the dismissals about two weeks ago. He said he was pleased with the news. “It’s going to stay there,” he said of the Oklahoma gravesite. “If they want to keep throwing their money around, go ahead.” Lariat Geronimo’s family has opposed the repatriation attempt.

Those who filed the lawsuit have not given up their fight, Clark said Tuesday in a phone interview form his home in New York. “We’re committed to trying to return Geronimo’s remnants to the headwaters of the Gila and there is new hope that we can find ways to do it. This judgment does not preclude other efforts,” Clark said. “It is shameful that Geronimo’s remains would be in Fort Sill in an Apache prisoner of war cemetery in contradiction of his wishes to live and die and be buried in the mountains where he was born. We have asked the court for an order causing the exhumation of remains to determine that they are Geronimo’s and whether all the remains are there,” Clark said.

Rumors have persisted for decades that members of Skull and Bones used Geronimo’s remains in their ceremonies. The secret society claims many prestigious members, including Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush, whose grandfather Prescott Bush allegedly dug up Geronimo’s grave when a group of Army volunteers from Yale was stationed at the Ft. Sill during World War I, taking his skull and some of his bones. Phone calls Tuesday to Harlyn Geronimo were not immediately returned. Clark said he has been in touch with the group of Geronimo descendants who filed the lawsuit and plans are in the works. “We have discussed other strategies but no decision has been reached,” on best ways to continue to seek return of Geronimo’s remains to New Mexico, Clark said.”

“Reputed photo of Geronimo’s remains used in Skull and Bones secret rituals.”

Mystery Of The Bones: Geronimo’s Missing Skull [AUDIO]
BY Diane Orson / March 11, 2009

“For decades, mystery has surrounded an elite secret society at Yale University called the Order of Skull and Bones. One of the organizations most storied legends involves the skull of Apache warrior Geronimo, who died in 1909 after two decades as a prisoner of war at Fort Sill, Okla. As the story goes, nine years after Geronimo’s death, Skull and Bones members who were stationed at the army outpost dug up the warrior’s grave and stole his skull, as well as some bones and other personal relics.

“Postcard of Skull and Bones Society Building”

They then sprinted the remains away to New Haven, Conn., and allegedly stashed the skull at the society’s clubhouse, the Skull and Bones Tomb. To make matters even more intriguing, legend has it that the grave-robbing posse included Prescott Bush, father of George H.W. and grandfather of George W. All of this is speculative; Skull and Bones members swear an oath never to reveal what goes on inside the Tomb. But author Marc Wortman says that when he was at Yale’s Sterling Library researching The Millionaire’s Unit, his book about young men from the university who flew during World War I, he stumbled on a letter that seemed to confirm the rumor.

“Legend has it that Prescott S. Bush stole Geronimo’s skull”

Written from one Bonesman to another, the letter, which is dated 1918, reads: “The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill by your club and the Knight Haffner is now safe inside the Tomb, together with his well-worn femurs, bit and saddle horn.”  Now 20 descendants of Geronimo have filed a lawsuit against Skull and Bones, Yale University and members of the U.S. government (including Barack Obama), calling for the return of their ancestor’s remains from New Haven, Fort Sill and “wherever else they may be found.” Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark who represents the Geronimo family says that Geronimo made it very clear — even before his surrender — that he wanted to be in the Apache lands of southwestern New Mexico.

“Instances of cranioklepty continued into the twentieth century—stories persist that Prescott Bush (grandfather of George W. Bush) paid Emil L. Holmdahl $25,000 to steal the skull of Pancho Villa in 1926, after Bush himself had stolen Geronimo’s skull in 1918 (both are supposedly housed in Yale’s Skull and Bones fraternity)—but it is primarily a nineteenth-century phenomenon, when phrenology was at its height.”

“When he met with Teddy Roosevelt, for instance, in March of 1905, his request was that he and the other Chiricahua Apaches who were prisoners of war be permitted to return to the headwaters of the Gila River … adding that if he couldn’t return in his lifetime, that he wanted to be buried there,” says Clark. But Suzan Shown Harjo, president of The Morning Star Institute, a Native rights organization, says it might not be possible to return Geronimo’s remains. Twenty years ago, an Apache tribal chairwoman told Harjo that Geronimo’s body had already been moved from Oklahoma to New Mexico. And even if the lawsuit turns up a skull in Connecticut, “then you have the question of who? Whose head is it?” says Harjo.

The Mystery Abides
We may never know the truth about Geronimo’s remains, says Jeff Houser, chairman of the Fort Sill Apache tribe. Houser is uncomfortable with the lawsuit and would prefer not to disturb Native human remains. He also disputes the idea that Apaches are traditionally buried in their homeland. “Unlike what was stated in the complaint, Apaches do not like to disinter remains, and there is no tradition of burying them in their birthplace. Apaches were nomadic people,” says Houser. “When somebody is buried we traditionally do not revisit the grave. We don’t make a big deal out of it.”

And there’s a further complication. Alexandra Robbins, author Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power says that even if Bonesmen displayed Geronimo’s skull in the Tomb at one time, it’s likely not there now. “There are, at any one time, approximately 800 living members of this organization across the world. So any of them could have put the skull anywhere by now. And it’s never going to surface,” says Robbins. In an e-mail, Yale University spokesman Tom Conroy wrote: “Yale does not possess Geronimo’s remains. Yale does not own the Skull and Bones building or the property it is on, nor does Yale have access to the property or the building.” Efforts to reach members of Skull and Bones for comment were met with silence.”

CNN probes: Did Prescott Bush steal Geronimo’s skull?
Filed by David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster / 02/24/2009

“While it has long been rumored that Skull and Bones, the Yale secret society which counts several scions of the Bush family as members, holds the skull of legendary Apache warrior Geronimo, his descendants have taken action to uncover the truth. Last week, on the 100th anniversary of Geronimo’s death, 20 members of his family filed a suit in a US federal court, asking that his spirit and physical remains, including his skull, be freed. Tuesday morning, CNN’s Debra Feyerick explored the suit, discussing an 1918 letter from a bonesman, discovered two years ago, which seems to indicate Geronimo’s skull is stored within “the tomb” where members hold meetings on Yale’s campus.

The network also repeated allegations that deceased Senator Prescott Bush, father of President George H.W. Bush and grandfather to President George W. Bush, was one of the grave robbers. “It’s been 100 years since the death of my great-grandfather in 1909. It’s been 100 years of imprisonment,” Geronimo’s great-grandson Harlyn Geronimo told reporters after the suit had been filed in the district court in Washington. “The spirit is wandering until a proper burial has been performed,” Harlyn Geronimo said. The suit, which names US President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates among the defendants, seeks “to free Geronimo, his remains, funerary objects and spirit from 100 years of imprisonment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the Yale University campus at New Haven, Connecticut and wherever else they may be found.”

The remains would be returned to Geronimo’s wilderness birthplace in the western United States for a true Apache burial, a key facet of the native American tribe’s culture. “The only way to put this into closure is to release the remains, his spirit, so that he can be taken back to his homeland in the Gila Mountains, at the head of the Gila River,” in what is today the state of New Mexico, Geronimo’s reported ancestor said. “Hopefully, the people we have named in our suit will take this seriously … Hopefully, they will seriously consider our request to release the remains and perform a correct burial in the Gila wilderness,” said Geronimo, stressing that the burial ritual is one of the most sacred rites in the Apache culture. In addition to Obama and Gates, the complaint cites as defendants Army Secretary Pete Geren, Yale University, and the Order of the Skull and Bones, a “secret society” at Yale. In around 1918, members of the Order of the Skull and Bones allegedly took Geronimo’s skull, other bones and items buried with him from the warrior’s tomb at Fort Sill. They are believed to still hold them at the organization’s premises on the campus of Yale, a prestigious Ivy League university. Harlyn Geronimo said he had written to George W. Bush to ask that his great-grandfather’s remains be returned to his Apache homeland for burial, but never got a reply.

Geronimo died in 1909 at nearly 90 years of age at Fort Sill. He had been held as a prisoner of war for more than 20 years after surrendering to the US military on the understanding he would be allowed to return to his homeland and people. “Skull and Bones, with all its ritual and macabre relics, was founded in 1832 as a new world version of secret student societies that were common in Germany at the time,” reported CBS News. “Since then, it has chosen or ‘tapped’ only 15 senior students a year who become patriarchs when they graduate — lifetime members of the ultimate old boys’ club.” In 2004, both candidates for the presidency, George W. Bush and John F. Kerry, were reported to be members. The group’s numbers “include some of the most powerful men of the 20th century,” according to CBS. “Skull and Bones is so tiny. That’s what makes this staggering,” Alexandra Robbins, author of “Secrets of the Tomb” — an investigation of the secret society — told the network news service. “There are only 15 people a year, which means there are about 800 living members at any one time.” “‘It’s a secret,’ John Kerry said when asked about his membership,” reported Time magazine. “‘So secret, I can’t say anything more,’ George W. Bush wrote in his autobiography, as if to complete Kerry’s sentence.”

“Yale says it does not have Geroimo’s remains and it does not speak for the secret society,” reported CNN. “Man,” said American Morning co-host Kiran Chetry. “How did Yale know that they didn’t have …” “Yeah,” retorted CNN’s Deborah Feyerick. “Well, there ya go. But, they’re looking into it. Technically, they could subpoena and see if anybody will say, yeah well, that happens to be the skull, but, unlikely.” Wikipedia purports to feature a list of Skull and Bones members, though the article lacks key citations and could not be verified.

Geronimo’s grandson, Harlan Geronimo, is asking President Bush to return the remains of his great grandfather. He has volunteered to undergo DNA testing to prove ownership. Harlan says that tribal dignity must be restored. He gives this warning: “According to Apache tradition, if you desecrate a grave you upset the spirits. Sooner or later the spirits will come after you. Ultimately, it will lead to death. That’s our tradition.”

Unearthed Letter Claims Yale’s Skull And Bones Dug Up Geronimo’s Bones…
by Stephen Singer   /  May 9, 2006

“A Yale University historian has uncovered a 1918 letter that seems to lend validity to the lore that Yale University’s ultra-secret Skull and Bones society swiped the skull of American Indian leader Geronimo. The letter, written by one member of Skull and Bones to another, purports that the skull and some of the Indian leader’s remains were spirited from his burial plot in Fort Sill, Okla., to a stone tomb in New Haven that serves as the club’s headquarters.”

“Geronimo Surrenders / Pictured on a reservation near Fort Sill, Oklahoma”

“The oft-told tale is that Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, and some of his buddies at Yale, dug up the grave of Apache chief Geronimo, removing his skull and femur and placing them in a glass case in the lobby of the Tomb, the headquarters of the university’s notorious Skull and Bones society back in 1917.”

“headed for jail in Florida”

CNN: Geronimo’s Heir Wants Bush to Return ‘Skull and Bones’
Guest blogged by David Edwards of

“On Wednesday, May 24th at about 3:43 pm ET, CNN broadcast this odd little story. There seems to be no reference to it on CNN’s website and we haven’t seen any encore broadcasts since. Here is the short version of the story… Geronimo’s great grandson is making a plea to President Bush to facilitate the return of the remains of the Apache chief. The heir to Geronimo decided to make this request to Bush after a researcher found proof that Bush’s great grandfather, Prescott Bush, had robbed Geronimo’s grave. The skull, bones and other relics are now part of initiation traditions in the secret society of the Skull and Bones.

“Geronimo in a 1905 Locomobile Model C, taken at the Miller brothers’ 101 Ranch located southwest of Ponca City, Oklahoma, June 11, 1905″

George W. Bush became a member of the secret Skull and Bones society while attending Yale. Not surprising since his father, George H. W. Bush, and his grandfather, Prescott Bush, were also members. Around 1918, as the story goes, Prescott Bush and other member of the secret society robbed the grave of the Geronimo. The skull, bones and other relics are now thought to be enclosed in a glass case in the “Tomb” of the Skull and Bone society. Many writers and investigators have conducted enough interviews with sources close to Skull and Bones members to be reasonably certain that Prescott and his boys actually stole the remains of the legendary Apache chief. Earlier this month, a writer researching the history of the Air Force, found a letter written by a Bonesman who would have been an active member of the Society at the same time as Prescott Bush. The letter gave hard confirmation that Geronimo’s had been stolen by members.”


“Geronimo is said to have had magical powers. He could see into the future, walk without creating footprints and even hold off the dawn to protect his own. This Apache Indian warrior and his band of 37 followers defied federal authority for more than 25 years. Geronimo’s final surrender in 1886 was the last significant Indian guerrilla action in the United States. At the end, his group consisted of only 16 warriors, 12 women, and 6 children. Upon their surrender, Geronimo and over 300 of his fellow Chiricahuas were shipped to Fort Marion, Florida. One year later many of them were relocated to the Mt. Vernon barracks in Alabama, where about one quarter died from tuberculosis and other diseases. Geronimo died on Feb. 17, 1909, a prisoner of war, unable to return to his homeland. He was buried in the Apache cemetery at: Fort Sill, Oklahoma 437 Quanah Road Fort Sill, OK)”




PRESCOTT BUSH, NAZI BANKER, EUGENICS ADVOCATE (is it not ok to call him racist?)
Did Bush’s Grandfather Steal Geronimo’s Skull? Apache Warrior’s Great Grandson Wrote to the White House, Demanding Return of the Bones
by MARCUS BARAM / June 20, 2007

“It has all the ingredients for the ultimate conspiracy theory. Take President Bush and his father, throw in a legendary Apache chief, strange rituals performed in the dead of night in a building named the Tomb, grave robbing, and a secret society of elite students called Skull and Bones.

The oft-told tale is that Bush’s grandfather, Prescott Bush, and some of his buddies at Yale, dug up the grave of Apache chief Geronimo, removing his skull and femur and placing them in a glass case in the lobby of the Tomb, the headquarters of the university’s notorious Skull and Bones society back in 1917. It’s a story that’s become legend at Yale, passed down from generation to generation. Despite the lack of clear evidence, every new clue or rumor just adds to its allure. But could a medicine man in Mescalero, N.M., be able to definitively prove whether the story is true?

Harlyn Geronimo, the great grandson of the Apache warrior, wants to prove that the skull is authentic by offering his DNA to see if it matches the bones, and he’s demanding the return of the remains. “I really believe that that’s my great grandfather’s skull,” Geronimo tells “We want to return him to the Gila Wilderness, where he was born, so the spirit can complete its journey and go on to the next world. Presently, he’s buried as a prisoner of war and it still has that status over him.” Geronimo has written to the White House, hoping to obtain the president’s help at retrieving his great grandfather’s remains.

“Geronimo’s grave at Fort SillOklahoma in 2005″

And he’s considering legal action against the society. The ultrasecret Skull and Bones society’s close-knit members have gone on to powerful positions in both government and business. Past Bonesmen – including both presidents Bush, President William Howard Taft, Sen. John Kerry, William F. Buckley, Time magazine founder Henry Luce, financier William H. Donaldson, and numerous CIA agents – are sworn to secrecy about the club’s rituals. At least one member was willing to talk, emphatically stressing that the story is just a tall tale. Coit Liles claims that Geronimo’s skull is not sitting in the Tomb. “It’s not there and it never has been there,” Liles says, adding that Prescott Bush or any other Bonesman never dug up the bones. “It’s just a story.”

Liles is the secretary of RTA Incorporated, the trust that runs the society. The society may be secretive about their rituals but the trust is a little more open about its activities. In its 2005 tax return, the New Haven, Conn.-based trust claimed $3.7 million in net assets, and that it spent $236,683 on education programs of “intellectual inquiry, sensitivity training and personal development” for Yale students. Despite the denials, plenty of other people believe that the tale rings true based on recent evidence. Last year, a Yale historian uncovered a letter that seemed to confirm the story. Written in 1918, from one Bonesman to another, the letter describes how Prescott Bush and some friends dug up the grave when they were stationed for military duty in Fort Sill, Okla.

“The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible, exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill by your club … is now safe inside the [Tomb] together with his well-worn femurs, bit and saddle horn,” reads the letter. The authenticity of the letter certainly lent some credibility to the story, says Alexandra Robbins, who wrote “Secrets of the Tomb,” a history of Skull and Bones. “Of all the tales about Skull and Bones booty – the skull of [President] Martin Van Buren: not true, Pancho Villa: not true, Geronimo: possibly true,” says Robbins. “Of all the rumors, that one has the most plausibility. The letter included a very detailed description of the skull.” As part of her research into what she calls “the country’s most powerful elite alumni network,” Robbins interviewed over 150 Bonesmen. “They say there is a skull in a glass case just inside the entrance to the Tomb and they’ve called it Geronimo.”

Almost two decades ago, another Native American, Ned Anderson, attempted to obtain the skull. He claimed that then-Congressman John McCain and then-Congressman Morris Udall arranged for him to meet Jonathan Bush, the first President Bush’s brother. “According to Ned, they brought out a skull but it was obviously a skull of a ten-year-old and they were trying to bluff him and tried to get him to sign papers saying that he would never speak about it again,” says Robbins. Anderson claimed that he rejected the offer. The 1918 letter was authenticated by Judith Schiff, the chief research archivist at Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library. “I think a lot of people thought it was just a legend, but the letter says that students dug up the bones and thought it was Geronimo’s,” says Schiff. “Prescott Bush and the others were at Fort Sill, getting ready to go fight in World War I as part of Yale ROTC, and they may have been roaming the area and had a chance to bring it back to Yale or sent it somehow.” But is it Geronimo’s skull? “Your guess is as good as mine,” says Schiff. “They thought it was Geronimo’s skull, but who knows?” Another Skull and Bones expert, writer Ron Rosenbaum, has his doubts. “There is no evidence that the skull brought back to New Haven by Prescott Bush and those other people was Geronimo’s skull,” he says. “Local anthropologists say the grave was unmarked. Skull and Bonesmen like to boast about it, but it’s more likely that they were conned by some locals who said, ‘Hey, you want to buy Geronimo’s skull?'”


“Geronimo, the famed Indian chief, and Prescott S. Bush, grandfather of George W. Bush”

by Ron Rosenbaum  /  New York Observer  /  July 17, 2000

“What if I told you I’d stolen the skull of Prescott Bush, George W.’s grandfather? Snuck up to the Bush family burial plot in the depths of the night, dug up the coffin, cracked it open, yanked the skull off the skeleton and slipped away with it. How would you react? How would George W. Bush react? I raise these questions to put in perspective the allegations against George W. Bush’s secret society, Skull and Bones, allegations that link the society and Governor Bush’s grandfather to the practice of grave robbing. I raise these questions to help put in perspective the bizarre-yet-true moment when George W. Bush’s uncle sought to offer the skull of a young child to an Apache tribal official in an apparent attempt to hush up a potential Bush family scandal. Should this skeleton in the Bush closet that was, in fact, part of a skeleton, be an issue in the Presidential campaign? It seems like the grave-robbing allegation just will not die. A new source has come forward to substantiate a previous allegation involving Bush family patriarch Prescott Bush and to broaden the charge from one skull-snatching to a secret-society-wide Skull and Bones practice. And the source has added a further allegation: license-plate stealing. All of which paints a picture of a grave-robbing, plate-stealing crime spree of the privileged elite. Practices, including those of his own grandfather, candidate George W. should be called upon to disclaim or defend. The new source, whom I’ll call (what else?) “Deep Skull,” came forward in response to my appeal in the pages of The Observer recently (“Inside George W.’s Secret Crypt,” March 27.) I had made a public appeal to the women of the legendary Skull and Bones all-girl break-in team. These were the intrepid women who had in the late 70’s slipped illicitly inside the sanctum sanctorum of the blue blood Old Boys network, the forbidding, windowless Egyptian-style crypt on the Yale campus in New Haven which Skull and Bones initiates call “the Tomb.”

Two decades ago, one of the all-girl break-in team’s confederates had shown me the pictures taken inside the Tomb during the break-in. And very fetching pictures they were, one of my favorite being a kind of mock pajama party featuring two of the break-in team in Laura Ashley-like nightclothes and one in men’s pajamas clustered around the base of the Skull and Bones grandfather clock, which featured a skeleton hanging inside the glass pendulum case. One bare toe nudging an actual skull. For strictly journalistic reasons, I was hoping one of these brave women would come forward and supply to me the photos of their successful raid on the crypt of the secret society that has for nearly two centuries shaped the character of the men who shaped the American character. You know the roll call: The pajama-clad ninjas were lounging in a place that had been the secret retreat of Presidents such as William Howard Taft and George Bush; Supreme Court Justices such as Potter Stewart; Secretaries of State such as Henry Stimson; diplomatic mandarins such as Averell Harriman and Robert Lovett; National Security advisers (and Bay of Pigs planners and Vietnam war architects) such as William and McGeorge Bundy; Senators such as Cooper, Chafee, Boren and Kerry, to name just a few; publishing magnates with names like Luce and Cowles; C.I.A. recruits William F. Buckley and William Sloane Coffin. There in the bowels of the Skull and Bones Tomb, to the accompaniment of occult male bonding rituals that involved baring their souls and, some say, their bodies, they’d spill their guts to each other, share their sexual histories together … and rob skulls together? That was the question raised again by Deep Skull. She’s a woman who was surreptitiously taken into the Tomb, contacted me, and her story is even more provocative because she was taken into the Tomb by an initiate-an unheard-of breach of the bloodcurdling vows of secrecy the Skull and Bones society demands of its members.

She was taken inside and was not only given a tour but given the secrets, which she has now passed on to me. But before we get to the question of stolen skulls, let me get to the story of the allegedly stolen license plates that I think helps put the grave-robbing charge against George W.’s society (and his grandfather) in context. In my previous Observer piece on Skull and Bones, I’d spoken of the “the Room with the License Plates of Many States.” I’d spoken of it in a kind of tongue-in-cheek way as a kind of corrective to all the grand conspiracy theories that have made the Tomb of Skull and Bones the epicenter of the Hidden Hand that secretly rules the world. My point was that the power of Skull and Bones was far from hidden-it was out there, in your face. I mean, even with the decline of the traditional WASP establishment, they stand a good chance of getting two initiates into the White House in a single decade. My point was also to counterbalance the focus on the deep WASP voodoo, the overlay of exotic and occult rituals that initiates, future presidents, all had to undergo: the stories of the nude mud wrestling, the naked coffin sexual confessionals, the close encounters with guys from Greenwich and Locust Valley dressed up as skeletons-all the mumbo jumbo of crypto-Masonic homosocial (if not homoerotic) bonding rituals. And so I pointed instead to the photographs the break-in team had shown me of “the Room with the License Plates of Many States,” as I dubbed it: “The kind of thing you’d expect to find in some second-tier midwestern frat house. A wall covered with a bunch of license plates. Gee, look at all the places the brothers have been! Get me a brewski!” But now I’m beginning to think I may have underestimated the true significance of the Room with the License Plates of Many States. Now I think it may, in fact, be the key to understanding the Skull and Bones mindset.

Edward S. CurtisPortrait of Geronimo, 1905″

What changed my mind was my encounter with Deep Skull, who sent me the following missive, some of whose identifying details I’ve removed: “In the late 1970’s I had a boyfriend who was tapped [for Bones] although he didn’t really fit the profile because he seemed a bit of a loser in the way of a John O’Hara character … Anyway, he took me inside … Alas, I didn’t pay very close attention because perhaps not being a Yalie … I didn’t know what the big deal was, but in regard to the license plate room which was a kind of a foyer or mud room to the right of the entrance I seem to recall that the reason for the plates was that they all bore the numbers 322 [the mythical date of the founding of the Skull and Bones “order,” which traces itself to the death of Demosthenes in 322 B.C.], and that it was the obligation of the S&B boys to confiscate such plates when spotted … If I can be of any further assistance feel free to contact me at the above address and phone number.”

Needless to say, I did contact her. She is a well-regarded professional whose work has been praised by some well-known cultural figures, and she told me, on condition of anonymity, much more that was fascinating about her penetration of the sanctum of Skull and Bones-but let’s dwell for a moment on the license plates. No, it’s not the Bay of Pigs (we’ll get to the curious Skull and Bones connection to that tragedy in a moment). But it’s more than trivial. It’s a lesson in the immunity that privilege can confer. Say you’re an inner-city kid, not shielded by privilege, who’s sent to jail for a similar “confiscation.” It’s not trivial to you. And come to think about it, what about all those judges, all those lawyers and legislators who pass through the Room with the “Confiscated” License Plates of Many States, the ones who are sworn to uphold the law, the ones who sentence kids to jail for thefts when they’re not protected by the shield of privilege and the padlocked doors of the Skull and Bones Tomb? Skull and Bones is supposed to be the place where the best and brightest of the elite and privileged develop character and breeding. But the practice of “confiscating” plates would suggest it breeds the kind of character with a contempt for the law, except when it’s applied to the transgressions of the lower orders.

Whose Child Do They Have?
Now let’s examine the controversy over the confiscated skulls to see if what we now know about confiscated plates can illuminate the question of confiscated pates, so to speak. Consider first the prevalence of death, grave, skeleton and skull imagery at the heart of the psychic bonding ritual that has made Skull and Bones such a powerful influence on people like George W. The skeletal grave-digging imagery of Skull and Bones was there from the 1832 beginning, imported from Germany by Skull and Bones founder General Alfred Russell, who seems to have adopted much of the iconography and death’s-head philosophy from the German Lodges of Freemasonry. The Germanic influence on Skull and Bones may have extended to some less savory secret societies than the Freemasons. Hitler’s SS was, of course, known for using skull-and-crossbones insignia, which some say derived from the same German Masonic sources-a connection that, according to one report, has not gone unrecognized by the initiates of “the Order.” Back in 1989, noted author, editor and raconteur Steven L. Aronson published an essay on Skull and Bones that quoted a member of what seems to be the same all-girl break-in team. “The most shocking thing,” the source told Mr. Aronson, “and I say this because I do think it’s sort of important-I mean President Bush does belong to Skull and Bones … there is like a little Nazi shrine inside. One room on the second floor has a bunch of swastikas, kind of an SS macho Nazi iconography. Somebody should ask President Bush about the swastikas in there.”

Out of fairness it’s possible to conceive that what this woman saw was captured Nazi memorabilia rather than a shrine-several secret societies at Yale are said to boast of possessing Hitler’s silverware, for instance. But that does not appear to be the impression this woman got. And so her suggestion-“Somebody should ask President Bush about the swastikas in there”-might be just as relevant to George W., who would know about the nature of the “shrine” she describes. On Sunday, two days before The Observer went to press, I faxed a detailed summary of the questions raised in this story to Bush press aide Dan Bartlett, and asked for comment by press time, midday Tuesday. No reply was forthcoming. Now let’s proceed to the relationship between the Bush family and the skull of Geronimo-and the skull of an unidentified child. One of the sensational disclosures Deep Skull made to me, one of the secrets vouchsafed to her by the initiate who took her into the Tomb, was about the role of the skulls that decorate the inner walls of the Tomb.

Once having passed the Room with the (“Confiscated”) License Plates of Many States, she said, upon entering the main room of the Tomb, she noticed mantelpieces decorated with “loads of skulls.” Human skulls, each bearing a name plate. Her attention was immediately drawn, by her initiate escort, to what she described as a kind of “aquarium-like glass case filled with what looked like turquoise chips” surmounted by a skull. A skull she said was identified by her guide as the skull of a great Native American warrior. She recalled it as Cochise, but says after 20 years that it could well have been Geronimo. Her initiate guide explained to her, she told me, that in order to prove their mettle and perhaps to bond them in mutual guilt over participation in an illicit act, each class of 15 new initiates to Skull and Bones were required to dig up, to “confiscate,” the skull of a famous person and bring it to the Tomb to be enshrined in its skull collection. It makes you wonder what other famous dead people are missing their skulls.

Here’s where the Bush family involvement in the grave-robbing allegation begins. In 1986, someone-a still-anonymous unknown source- sent an excerpt from a privately printed Skull and Bones document to the chairman of the San Carlos Apache tribe in Arizona, one Ned Anderson. The document was entitled A Continuation of the History of Our Order for the Century Celebration. Its author, I have since learned, was Skull and Bones member F.O. Matthiessen, later a Harvard professor renowned for his groundbreaking studies of classic 19th-century American literature. I’ve also learned that the original of the document reposes now in a Harvard library where, under an agreement with Matthiessen’s executors and Skull and Bones, it is not available to the public.

“Geronimo, a Chiricahua Apache, in 1887 in an image from the National Archives On the 100th anniversary of the legendary warrior’s death, his descendants filed suit claiming a secret society at Yale stole his remains and demanding they be turned over to the family.”

The document is an account of a “mad expedition” by George W.’s grandfather Prescott Bush and two other Skull and Bones men to the grave of Geronimo “to bring to the Tomb its most spectacular ‘crook,’ the skull of Geronimo, the Indian chief who had taken 49 white scalps. … [Prescott] Bush entered and started to dig. The skull was fairly clean, having only some flesh inside and a little hair.” I was recently able to confirm, from a copy of an official Skull and Bones directory (whose provenance I can’t disclose), that in fact George W.’s grandfather Prescott was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, site of Geronimo’s tomb, in 1918 at the U.S. Army artillery training school there, along with Ellery James and Neil Mallon, the other two men mentioned as part of the tomb-raiding party.

Note the language: They say they’ll bring back to the Tomb “its most spectacular ‘crook.'” Which suggests that the Tomb contains an array of other somewhat less spectacular but similarly stolen skulls. In fact, shortly after the Geronimo-skull story appeared in print, and after Ned Anderson, the Apache tribal leader, had enlisted the aid of his senator, John McCain, to try to set up a meeting with then Vice President George Bush, another allegation about a similar raid for “crook” skulls surfaced. A group of men in El Paso claimed to have proof that, back in 1923, five Skull and Bones men put up a total of $25,000 to pay for the acquisition of the skull of Pancho Villa. Mark Singer investigated the El Paso-Pancho Villa skull-robbery allegation for The New Yorker in 1989 and ended up somewhat skeptical, as am I. But in the course of his highly diverting account of the Pancho Villa skull claim, Mr. Singer lets drop an astonishing detail about the parallel Geronimo skull-recovery attempt: a remarkable report of a face-to-face, indeed face-to-skull, meeting between the Apache tribal representative, Ned Anderson, and representatives of Skull and Bones, including George Bush’s brother Jonathan!

According to Mr. Singer, Endicott Peabody Davison, a lawyer described as a designated spokesman for the Russell Trust Association, the Skull and Bones corporate shell, described the “Century Celebration” grave-robbing document as authentic-but the raid itself “apocryphal.” Nonetheless, “in 1986 [Davison] and other representatives of Skull and Bones-among them George Bush’s brother Jonathan- met with Anderson. They brought a skull and offered it to Anderson, but he declined because it seemed not to be the same one he had seen in photographs surreptitiously provided by an anonymous dissident member of Bones. The nose and eye cavities didn’t match.

“Geronimo as a U.S. prisoner in 1905”

Also Anderson took offense at a document that Davison wanted him to sign, which stipulated that neither the Apaches nor Skull and Bones would publicly discuss the whole business.” I was fascinated by this account: Soon to be President Bush’s brother offering the Apaches a skull their father was said to have stolen! Demanding the Apaches be sworn to silence presumably to protect the Bush family as well as Bones. But looking further into the episode I found an even more extraordinary detail about that face-to-skull meeting: the Skull of the Unknown Child. It appeared in an earlier account of the Geronimo controversy that first ran in 1988 in the Arizona Republic. In it, Republic reporter Paul Brinkley-Rogers reveals another fact about the document the Bush/Bones delegation asked the Apaches to sign: “Anderson called the document ‘very insulting to Indians.’ [He] also said he was confused and annoyed because the document said that Skull and Bones members had submitted the skull to ‘an expert in New Haven’ who determined that the remains were those of a child and therefore ‘cannot possibly be those of Geronimo.'”

Chilling! Now we not only have the mystery of the skull of Geronimo, we have the mystery of the skull of a child. What was George Bush’s brother doing with a dead child’s skull in his hands? (A message left at Jonathan Bush’s number in Connecticut was not returned.) Chilling as well in its implication of the presumptions of privilege: Hey you naïve Apaches, we don’t have the skull you wanted, but if you sign this document and keep your mouth shut, we’ll give you another skull we happen to have lying around. Treating the Apache like a child. But meanwhile, I want to know: Who was that child? And how did his or her head end up in the Skull and Bones Tomb? My attempt to get further information from the Skull and Bones shell corporation, the Russell Trust Association, resulted in my uncovering a fascinating corporate shell game that led back to the Bay of Pigs. These days any researcher who attempts to track down information from the Russell Trust Association will learn from the corporate filings office of the Connecticut Secretary of State that no such entity exists. This is a bit of a scam. It required some brilliant cross-referencing and close study of the secret Skull and Bones directories on the part of my research associate on this story, Peggy Adler, to discover that the Russell Trust Association changed its name nearly four decades ago and effectively erased its existence from corporate history.

It did so by abolishing itself and then reincorporating itself with the uninformative, anonymous-sounding name “RTA Incorporated.” And it chose a very peculiar moment in history to do so. The new papers of reincorporation that erased the century-old Russell Trust Association were filed at 10:15 a.m. on April 14, 1961. Two hours later, at noon on that day, the orders went out to begin the Bay of Pigs operations-the covert C.I.A.-financed invasion of Castro’s Cuba, a bloody fiasco that still haunts us four decades later. Coincidence? Probably. But then it’s also true that one of the C.I.A.’s masterminds for the Bay of Pigs was a man named Richard Drain, Skull and Bones ’43. And the White House planner of the Bay of Pigs operation was McGeorge Bundy, Skull and Bones ’40. And the State Department liaison for the Bay of Pigs operation was his brother William P. Bundy, Skull and Bones ’39. And the man who filed the reincorporation papers that erased the Russell Trust Association from existence on the day of the Bay of Pigs was Howard Weaver, Skull and Bones ’45W (George Bush’s class), who retired from the C.I.A. in 1959. All of which might lead one to suspect that the Skull and Bones corporate shell had been used as a clandestine conduit of funds for the Bay of Pigs, and then erased from existence to cover up the connection as the invasion got underway. Still, once again, it’s not any covert connection between Skull and Bones and the Bay of Pigs that’s so shocking and revealing, it’s the overt connection: Whether or not they used the Russell Trust Association as a pipeline, the fact that all these Skull and Bones geniuses devised such a patently idiotic plan in the first place is the scandal. Brave men died because of their elitist secret-society mentality. And then they went on to give us Vietnam. It makes you fear for the future of our country if George W. turns to these types for advice.

“Geronimo was in prison in Fort Sill, Okla., when he died in 1909.
Legend has it that nine years later, members of Yale’s Skull and Bones
society who were stationed at the army base absconded with his skull.”

In any case, by using the secret new corporate name I was able to learn the identities of the current officers of RTA Inc. But as of press time, neither the president of RTA, retired attorney David George Ball, nor the treasurer, Henry P. Davison, have replied to my requests for further information. Once again, to put this concern into context: The cover photo of my new book The Secret Parts of Fortune, which reprints my original 1977 investigation plus new revelations from Deep Skull, depicts me on the steps of the Skull and Bones Tomb holding a skull under my arm (see photo on page 13), and a number of people have asked me whose skull it is. If I were to say it was the skull of Prescott Bush, I would imagine everyone in the Bush family would come down on my skull for it. But somehow, the skull of an Apache or an unidentified child in the possession of Skull and Bones is considered just a harmless prank? I don’t think so. There is a peculiar horror that attaches itself to depriving the bones of the dead of their proper resting place. A horror and a curse. On his own tomb Shakespeare ordered the curse to be carved in stone: “Blest be the man that spares these stones / And curst be he that moves my bones.” I hereby offer my good offices to the Bush family to rectify the situation and exorcise the curse. I’m willing to meet with Jonathan Bush, my old Yale classmate George W., or indeed any member of the Bush family (except maybe Barbara) to arrange for the return of the skull of that poor child to its parents. And give all those other skulls a proper burial.”

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