The Bohemian Club: The History of One of America’s Most Secretive and Controversial Private Clubs

Conspiracy theories, and particularly the belief that elements of the world are secretly controlled by individuals or groups, have been around for as long as people have lived in groups. Perhaps that’s inevitable – after all, those who are excluded from power are very likely to be inclined to see their position not as an outcome of their own choices or situation but because of the secret machinations of shadowy groups.

This type of conspiracy theory isn’t new. As far back as the final years of the Roman Republic, some Romans became convinced that powerful people were secretly conspiring to subvert the power of Rome’s elected assemblies and planning to take control. It can be argued that this is the earliest documented conspiracy theory, but in that case, it was actually true. From the Catiline Conspiracy to the First Triumvirate, it is now clear that men like Julius Caesar, Pompey, Marcus, Crassus, and Catiline were in fact attempting to subvert the Republican system, and their attempts would lead to internal unrest and civil war.

Virtually universal access to the Internet in the 21st century has led to the widespread dissemination of strange theories that would previously have been known by only a handful of people, even if some of the most widely discussed of these understandably seem crazy to many people. One topic that has been a constant in Internet debates is the group known as the Bohemian Club. Founded in 1872 in San Francisco, this began as a club for journalists with an interest in the arts, but over the subsequent 150 years, it appears to have changed into a vehicle for the annual conclave of some of the most wealthy and powerful men on the planet. Each year, hundreds of men gather in a luxurious camp known as Bohemian Grove in a remote forest in California to do something.

Just what it is they do is a secret, which has inevitably led to some intense speculation. Is it no more than a fun-filled frolic where the super-rich and powerful can go to escape their cares for a few days, or is it something more sinister, a cabal in which secret decisions are made that affect everybody else? Finding out about the Bohemian Club and the annual gatherings at Bohemian Grove isn’t easy. Most of those invited to join this exclusive club remain members until they die, meaning there are no disaffected former members willing to talk about what goes on there. Current members are unwilling to talk about the club or its activities.

It’s this secrecy that has led to some bizarre speculation about just what it is that happens in Bohemian Grove every summer. Coming up with answers is no easy feat, as the group takes its secrecy seriously and members have the wealth and power to make sure the club’s business stays secret. There are, however, tantalizing clues and fragments of information that might help people understand more about the Bohemian Club.