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Bohemian Grove

Bohemian Grove
Summer, 1967 at Owls Nest Camp. Around table, left to right: Preston Hotchkis, Edwin W. Pauley.
Location 20601 Bohemian Avenue, Monte Rio, California
Land 2,700-acre (1,100 ha)
Annual attendance about 2,500
Operated by Bohemian Club
Established 1878 (1878)

Bohemian Grove is a 2,700-acre (1,100 ha) campground located at 20601 Bohemian Avenue, in Monte Rio, California, belonging to a private San Francisco-based men's art club known as the Bohemian Club. In mid-July each year, Bohemian Grove hosts a two-week, three-weekend encampment of some of the most prominent men in the world.[1][2]


  • Introduction 1
  • History 2
  • Membership and operation 3
    • Camp valets 3.1
    • Facilities 3.2
  • Symbolism and rituals 4
    • Cremation of Care 4.1
    • Grove Play 4.2
  • Criticism and controversy 5
    • Infiltrations 5.1
    • Women 5.2
    • Logging 5.3
  • Fictional depictions 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The Bohemian Club's all-male membership and guest list includes artists, particularly musicians, as well as many prominent business leaders, government officials (including U.S. presidents), senior media executives, and people of power.[3][4] Members may invite guests to the Grove although those guests are subject to a screening procedure. A guest's first glimpse of the Grove typically is during the "Spring Jinks" in June, preceding the main July encampment. Bohemian club members can schedule private day-use events at the Grove any time it is not being used for Club-wide purposes, and are allowed at these times to bring spouses, family and friends, though female and minor guests must be off the property by 9 or 10 pm.[5]

After 40 years of membership the men earn "Old Guard" status, giving them reserved seating at the Grove's daily talks, as well as other perquisites. Former U.S. president Herbert Hoover was inducted into the Old Guard on March 19, 1953; he had joined the club exactly 40 years prior.[6] Redwood branches from the Grove were flown to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City where they were used to decorate a banquet room for the celebration. In his acceptance speech, Hoover compared the honor of the "Old Guard" status to his frequent role as veteran counselor to later presidents.[7]

The Club motto is "Weaving Spiders Come Not Here", which implies that outside concerns and business deals (networking) are to be left outside. When gathered in groups, Bohemians usually adhere to the injunction, though discussion of business often occurs between pairs of members.[2] Important political and business deals have been developed at the Grove.[5] The Grove is particularly famous for a Manhattan Project planning meeting that took place there in September 1942, which subsequently led to the atomic bomb. Those attending this meeting included Ernest Lawrence, U.C. Berkeley colleague Robert Oppenheimer, various military officials, the S-1 Committee heads such as the presidents of Harvard, Yale and Princeton along with representatives of Standard Oil and General Electric. At the time, Oppenheimer was not an official S-1 member due to security clearance troubles with the U.S. wartime Government, though Lawrence and Oppenheimer hosted the meeting.[8] Grove members take particular pride in this event and often relate the story to new attendees.[2]


In the 1870s, Henry "Harry" Edwards was an actor with the California Theatre Stock Company, a founding Bohemian and the head entomologist at the California Academy of Sciences

The tradition of a summer encampment was established six years after the Bohemian Club was formed in 1872.[2] Henry "Harry" Edwards, a stage actor and founding member, announced that he was relocating to New York City to further his career. On June 29, 1878, somewhat fewer than 100 Bohemians gathered in the Redwoods in Marin County near Taylorville (present-day Samuel P. Taylor State Park) for an evening sendoff party in Edwards' honor.[9] Freely flowing liquor and some Japanese lanterns put a glow on the festivities, and club members retired at a late hour to the modest comfort of blankets laid on the dense mat of Redwood needles. This festive gathering was repeated the next year without Edwards, and became the club's yearly encampment.[10] By 1882 the members of the Club camped together at various locations in both Marin and Sonoma County, including the present-day Muir Woods and a redwood grove that once stood near Duncans Mills, several miles down the Russian River from the current location. From 1893 Bohemians rented the current location, and in 1899 purchased it from Melvin Cyrus Meeker who had developed a successful logging operation in the area.[2] Gradually over the next decades, members of the Club purchased land surrounding the original location to the perimeter of the basin in which it resides.[2]

Writer and journalist William Henry Irwin said of the Grove,

You come upon it suddenly. One step and its glory is over you. There is no perspective; you cannot get far enough away from one of the trees to see it as a whole. There they stand, a world of height above you, their pinnacles hidden by their topmost fringes of branches or lost in the sky.[11]

Not long after the Club's establishment by newspaper journalists, it was commandeered by prominent San Francisco-based businessmen, who provided the financial resources necessary to acquire further land and facilities at the Grove. However, they still retained the "bohemians"—the artists and musicians—who continued to entertain international members and guests.[2]

Membership and operation

The Bohemian Club is a private club; only active members of the Club and their guests may visit the Grove. These guests have been known to include politicians and notable figures from countries outside the U.S.[2] Particularly during the midsummer encampment, the number of guests is strictly limited due to the small size of the facilities.

Camp valets

Camp valets are responsible for the operation of the individual camps. The "head" valets are akin to a general manager's position at a resort, club, restaurant, or hotel. Service staff include female workers whose presence at the Grove is limited to daylight hours and to central areas close to the main gate. Male workers may be housed at the Grove within the boundaries of the camp to which they are assigned or in peripheral service areas. High-status workers stay in small private quarters but most workers are housed in rustic bunkhouses.[2]


The main encampment area consists of 160 acres (0.65 km2) of old-growth redwood trees over 1,000 years old, with some trees exceeding 300 feet (90 m) in height.[12]

The primary activities taking place at the Grove are varied and expansive entertainment, such as a grand main stage and a smaller, more intimate stage. Thus, the majority of common facilities are entertainment venues, interspersed among the giant redwoods.

A Bohemian tent in the 1900s, sheltering Porter Garnett, Jack London

There are also sleeping quarters, or "camps" scattered throughout the grove, of which it is reported there were a total of 118 as of 2007. These camps, which are frequently patrilineal, are the principal means through which high-level business and political contacts and friendships are formed.[2]

The pre-eminent camps are:[2][13]

  • Hill Billies;
  • Mandalay;
  • Cave Man;
  • Stowaway;
  • Uplifters;
  • Owls Nest;
  • Hideaway;
  • Isle of Aves;
  • Lost Angels;
  • Silverado squatters;
  • Sempervirens;
  • Hillside;
  • Idlewild

The central spaces for recreation and entertainment are:

  • Grove Stage—an amphitheater with seating for 2,000 used primarily for the Grove Play production, on the last weekend of the midsummer encampment. The stage extends up the hillside, and is also home to the second largest outdoor pipe organ in the world.
  • Field Circle—a bowl-shaped amphitheater used for the mid-encampment "Low Jinks" musical comedy, for "Spring Jinks" in early June and for a variety of other performances.
  • Campfire Circle—has a campfire pit in the middle of the circle, surrounded by carved redwood log benches. Used for smaller performances in a more intimate setting.
  • Museum Stage—a semi-outdoor venue with a covered stage. Lectures and small ensemble performances.
  • Dining Circle—seating approximately 1,500 diners simultaneously.
  • Clubhouse—designed by Bernard Maybeck in 1903, completed in 1904 on a bluff overlooking the Russian River;[14] a multi-purpose dining, drinking and entertainment building; the site of the Manhattan Project planning meeting held in 1942.
  • The Owl Shrine and the Lake—an artificial lake in the middle of the grove, used for the noon-time concerts and also the venue of the Cremation of Care, which takes place on the first Saturday of the encampment. It is also the location of the 12:30 pm daily "Lakeside Talks." These significant informal talks (many on public policy issues) have been given over the years by entertainers, professors, astronauts, business leaders, cabinet officers, CIA directors, future presidents and former presidents.[15]

Symbolism and rituals

Since the founding of the club, the Bohemian Grove's mascot has been an owl, symbolizing knowledge. A 30-foot (9 m) hollow owl statue made of concrete over steel supports stands at the head of the lake in the Grove; this Owl Shrine was designed by sculptor and two-time club president Haig Patigian, and constructed in the late 1920s.[16][17][18][19] Since 1929, the Owl Shrine has served as the backdrop of the yearly Cremation of Care ceremony.[2]

The Club's patron saint is John of Nepomuk, who legend says suffered death at the hands of a Bohemian monarch rather than disclose the confessional secrets of the queen. A large wood carving of St. John in cleric robes with his index finger over his lips stands at the shore of the lake in the Grove, symbolizing the secrecy kept by the Grove's attendees throughout its long history.[2]

Cremation of Care

A dress rehearsal for the 1909 Grove Play, St. Patrick at Tara


  • "An Elite Alliance". March 2006, article on former NASA head and current LSU Chancellor Sean O'Keefe's participation in the Bohemian Grove.
  • Images of Bohemian Grove, ca. 1906–1909, The Bancroft Library.
  • "Old Bohemia, New Bohemia" (compares Bohemian Grove and Burning Man). Forbes Magazine. 1999.
  • William F. Buckley, Jr. "Newt Draws Fire". National Review. September 11, 1995. On The Right. Rebuts stories of men running around naked at the Grove.
  • Save Bohemian Grove The website of the group that brought suit against the Grove for its logging practices.
  • "The Bohemian Club Grove Play".
  • "The Phoenix Nest".
  • Richard Nixon 1967 speech at the Bohemian Groove Nixon Foundation

External links

  • Domhoff, G. William. The Bohemian Grove and Other Retreats: A study in ruling class cohesiveness, Harper and Row, 1974.
  • Field, Charles K. The Cremation of Care, 1946, 1953
  • Fletcher, Robert H. The Annals of the Bohemian Club, Hicks-Judd, 1900
  • Garnett, Porter. The Bohemian Jinks: A Treatise, 1908
  • Hanson, Mike. Bohemian Grove: Cult Of Conspiracy, iUniverse Inc, 2004
  • Hoover, Herbert. Memoirs, Vol 2: The Cabinet and the Presidency, Macmillan, 1952.
    • Hoover was a prominent figure in the Grove's history and coined the phrase: "The Greatest Men's Party on Earth".
  • Hotaling, Richard M; The Twilight of Kings: A Masque of Democracy, the 16th Grove play (1918)
  • Ickes, Harold L.. The Secret Diary of Harold L. Ickes, Vol 1. The First Thousand Days, 1933–36. Simon and Schuster, 1953.
  • Isaacson, Walter. Kissinger: A Biography, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992, (updated) 2005.
    • Contains a brief reference to his attendance at the Grove and fame for his performances in various skits.
  • Maupin, Armistead. Significant Others, Chatto and Windus, 1988.
    • A fictionalized account of the grove, as described from the point of view of one of the major characters in the fifth of the Tales of the City series. Sympathetic and well informed, it includes an accurate description of the Cremation of Care ceremony.
  • McCartney, Laton. Friends in High Places: The Bechtel Story: The Most Secret Corporation and how It Engineered the World, Ballantine Books, Updated edition, 1989.
    • For the network of links between the Californian-based and privately owned Bechtel Corporation and members of Reagan's Cabinet, along with their camp membership in the Grove.
  • Nader, Ralph. The Big Boys, Pantheon, 1987.
    • Contains a chapter on high-level businessmen and the tightly held secrecy of their Club membership.
  • Nixon, Richard. RN : The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, Grosset & Dunlap, 1978.
  • Phillips, Peter Martin. A Relative Advantage: Sociology of the San Francisco Bohemian Club
    • A definitive look at the history of the Grove and the composition of Bohemian Club members and their social, business and political affiliations, updating Domhoff's book (see above). Phillips is Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University in California. He attended events at the Grove and conducted scores of interviews with attendees in his research.
  • Quigley, Carroll. Tragedy And Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, G. S. G. & Associates, Incorporated, 1975.
    • This book serves as the basis for many current conspiracy theories and studies of socio-economic elites.
  • Schmidt, Helmut, Men and Powers : A Political Retrospective, Random House, 1990.
    • Schmidt states that Germany had similar institutions, some of which included such rituals as Cremation of Care, but that his favorite was the Bohemian Grove.
  • Shultz, George P.. Turmoil and Triumph: Diplomacy, Power and the Victory of the American Ideal, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993.
  • Stephens, Henry Morse; Sabin, Wallace Arthur; and Dobie, Charles Caldwell. "Bohemian Club" in St. Patrick at Tara, 1909 Grove play
  • Warren, Earl. The Memoirs of Chief Justice Earl Warren , Madison Books, 2001. A frequent attendee, Warren mentions the Grove in his reminiscences.
  • Watson, Thomas J. Jr. and Petre, Peter. Father, Son & Co. : My Life at IBM and Beyond, Bantam, 2000. An IBM CEO gives an insider's business perspective on the Grove.

Goddard college .edu California Bohemain activities in Vermont , bread and puppet and Yale puppeteers , the" bohemian club "alternative media conference speaks of naked dancing on the video film Vermont Freedom and Unity and the yearly naked bicycle festival held at Goddard College

  1. ^ a b c d e Philip Weiss. "Masters of the Universe Go to Camp: Inside the Bohemian Grove". Spy Magazine. November 1989.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Peter Martin Phillips, A Relative Advantage: Sociology of the San Francisco Bohemian Club], 1994.". Retrieved 14 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Wallace Turner. "At the Bohemian Club, men join, women serve", The New York Times, January 12, 1981
  4. ^ Inside Bohemian Grove from Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting Nov–Dec 1991
  5. ^ a b Nick Schou (August 31, 2006). "Bohemian Grove Exposes Itself!". OC Weekly. 
  6. ^ Van der Zee, John (1974). The Greatest Men's Party on Earth: Inside the Bohemian Grove. Harcourt Brace Javonovich. p. 88.  
  7. ^ Wert, Hal Elliott (2005). Hoover, the Fishing President: Portrait of the Private Man and His Life Outdoors. Stackpole Books. p. 309.  
  8. ^ Brotherhood of the Bomb by Gregg Herken Chapter 4
  9. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 6.
  10. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 7.
  11. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 8.
  12. ^ Jane Kay (July 12, 2007). "Bohemian Club's logging plan raises plenty of sawdust". SF Gate. Retrieved September 16, 2008. 
  13. ^ 1979The Camps: Facts, Artifacts and FantasiesLouis E. Gelwicks.
  14. ^ Bohemian Clubhouse.Vernacular Language North. Bernard Maybeck. Retrieved March 4, 2009.
  15. ^ Domhoff, G. William, The Bohemian Grove and Other Retreats: A study in ruling class cohesiveness, Harper and Row, 1974.
  16. ^ Jewell, James E. (1997). The Visual Arts in Bohemia: 125 years of artistic creativity in the Bohemian Club. Annals of the Bohemian Club 8. Bohemian Club. pp. 135, 326. 
  17. ^ Graves, Gary John (1993). The Bohemian Grove Theatrics: A History and Analysis from the Club's Beginnings in 1872 up to the Encampment of 1992. University of California, Berkeley. p. 7. 
  18. ^ Pugh, Simon (1988). Garden, Nature, Language. Manchester University Press. p. 43.   Quoting The Guardian, London, November 24, 1986.
  19. ^ Starr, Kevin (2002). The Dream Endures: California Enters the 1940s. Oxford University Press.  
  20. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 19.
  21. ^ Garnett, 1908, p. 25.
  22. ^ Ogden, Dunbar H.; Douglas McDermott; Robert Károly Sarlós (1990). Theatre West: Image and Impact. Rodopi. p. 36.  
  23. ^ a b c d Ogden, 1990, p. 36.
  24. ^ a b Domhoff, 1975, p. 10
  25. ^ Ronson, Jon (2002). Them: Adventures with Extremists. Simon and Schuster. p. 321.  
  26. ^ Masked man enters, attacks Bohemian Grove:'Phantom' expected armed resistance, by Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, January 24, 2002
  27. ^ "Bohemian Club Is Upheld On Refusal to Hire Women". January 23, 1981. 
  28. ^ Katherine Bishop (October 17, 1981). "Bohemian Club Ordered To Begin Hiring Women". 
  30. ^ SB 2110California State Senate. 1995–1996 Senate Bills.
  31. ^ a b c Kay, Jane (July 6, 2009). "No retreat from uproar over Bohemian Club woods".  
  32. ^ Henley, Patricia Lynn. Metroactive, July 4–10, 2007. "Timber! Bohemian Club's long-term logging plan draws fire." Retrieved October 1, 2009.
  33. ^ Noss, Reed F.; Save-the-Redwoods League. The redwood forest: history, ecology, and conservation of the coast redwoods, p. 231. Island Press, 2000. ISBN 1-55963-726-9
  34. ^ Zito, Kelly (March 15, 2011). "Bohemian Club's 100-year logging permit revoked".  
  35. ^ Teddy Bear's Picnic (2002)New York Times. Movie Review. Dave Kehr. March 29, 2002.


See also

Harry Shearer's movie Teddy Bears' Picnic is about an annual encampment of prominent male leaders at the Zambezi Glen, a thinly-veiled reference to the Bohemian Grove. Shearer attended at least one Bohemian event.[35]

A large portion of the novel Significant Others by Armistead Maupin takes place in the Bohemian Grove, where the rituals are described in detail.

Fictional depictions

On March 10, 2011, Judge René A. Chouteau rejected the Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan (NTMP) that Cal-Fire had approved. The suit, brought by the Sierra Club and the Bohemian Redwood Rescue Club, sought to have the NTMP annulled. The ruling calls on the Bohemian Club to draft a new NTMP that offers alternatives to its proposed rate of logging. At present the Bohemian Club is not allowed to log any of its property.[34]

After controversy raised by opponents of the harvesting plan, the club moved to clearly establish their qualification for the permit by offering 163 acres (0.66 km2) to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in Missoula, Montana for a conservation easement. A further 56.75 acres (229,700 m2) were written off as not being available for commercial logging, bringing the total to 2,316 acres (9.37 km2) and thereby qualifying for the permit. Opponents and their lawyers interpret the relevant law as counting all timberland and not just that actually subject to the logging permit. They state that if the total of timberland is counted, 2,535.75 acres (10.2618 km2) are owned by the club, so the permit should not be granted.[31]

Outside the central camp area which is the site of the old-growth grove, but within the 2,712 acres (10.98 km2) owned by the Bohemian Club, logging activities have been underway since 1984. Approximately 11,000,000 board feet (26,000 m3) of lumber equivalents were removed from the surrounding redwood and Douglas fir forest from 1984 to 2007. In 2007, the Bohemian Club board filed application for a nonindustrial logging permit available to landowners with less than 2,500 acres (10 km2) of timberland, which would allow them to steadily increase their logging in the second-growth stands from 800,000 board feet (1,900 m3) per year to 1,700,000 board feet (4,000 m3) over the course of the 50-year permit.[31] The board had been advised by Tom Bonnicksen, a retired forestry professor, that they should conduct group selection logging to reduce the risk of fire burning through the dense second-growth stands, damaging the old-growth forest the Club wants to protect. The Bohemian Club stated that an expansion of logging activities was needed to prevent fires, and that money made from the sale of the lumber would be used to stabilize access roads and to clear fire-promoting species like tanoaks and underbrush.[32] The California Department of Fish and Game, have instead recommended single-tree logging to preserve the habitats of murrelets and spotted owls in senescent trees. Philip Rundel, University of California, Berkeley professor of biology said that redwoods are not very flammable and "This is clearly a logging project, not a project to reduce fire hazard".[31] Reed F. Noss, professor at the University of California, Davis, has written that fires within redwood forests do not need to be prevented, that young redwoods are adapted to regenerate well in the destruction left behind by the fires typical of the climate.[33]


In 1978 the Bohemian Club was charged with discrimination by the California Unruh Civil Rights Act.[30]

Though no woman has ever been given full membership in the Bohemian Club, the four female honorary members were hostess Margaret Bowman, poet Ina Coolbrith (who served as librarian for the Club), actress Elizabeth Crocker Bowers and writer Sara Jane Lippincott.[23] Since Coolbrith's death in 1928, no other woman has been made a member. These honorary members and other women guests have been allowed into the Bohemian "City Club" building and as daytime guests of the Grove, but not to the upper floors of the City Club nor as guests to the main summer encampment at the Grove.[23] Annual "Ladies' Jinks" were held at the Club especially for spouses and invited guests.[23]


On January 19, 2002, 37-year-old Richard McCaslin was arrested after his nighttime infiltration of the Bohemian Grove, where he set several fires. He was heavily armed and wearing a skull mask and outfit with "Phantom Patriot" written across the chest.[26]

The Owl Shrine covered in moss, standing among trees behind a stage at one edge of a man-made pond

On July 15, 2000, controversial conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his cameraman, Mike Hanson, snuck into the Grove. Jones' investigation was discussed by Jon Ronson in Channel 4's five-part documentary, Secret Rulers of the World. Ronson documented his view of the ritual in his book, Them: Adventures With Extremists, writing "My lasting impression was of an all-pervading sense of immaturity: the Elvis impersonators, the pseudo-pagan spooky rituals, the heavy drinking. These people might have reached the apex of their professions but emotionally they seemed trapped in their college years."[25]

In the summer of 1989, Spy magazine writer Philip Weiss spent some seven days in the camp posing as a guest, which led to his November 1989 article "Inside Bohemian Grove".[1] He wrote about uninhibited behavior he witnessed: "You know you are inside the Bohemian Grove when you come down a trail in the woods and hear piano music from amid a group of tents and then round a bend to see a man with a beer in one hand and his penis in the other, urinating into the bushes. This is the most gloried-in ritual of the encampment, the freedom of powerful men to pee wherever they like ..."[1] Weiss noticed "hundreds of cigars whose smokers had ignited them in defiance of the California Forest Service's posted warnings."[1]


With its combination of wealth and power, Bohemian Grove's secrecy has been a target for protest for many years. The Bohemian Grove Action Network of Occidental, California, organizes protests and has aided journalists who wish to penetrate the secrecy surrounding the encampment. Over the years, individuals have infiltrated the Grove then later published video and claimed accounts of the activities at Bohemian Grove.

Criticism and controversy

Each year, a Grove Play is performed for one night during the final weekend of the summer encampment. The play is a large-scale musical theatrical production, written and composed by club members, involving some 300 people, including chorus, cast, stage crew and orchestra.[24] The first Grove Play was performed in 1902; during the war years 1943–1945 the stage was dark. In 1975, an observer estimated that the Grove Play cost between $20,000 and $30,000, an amount that would be as high as $131,000 in today's dollars.[24]

Grove Play

The ceremony takes place in front of the Owl Shrine, a 30-foot (9 m) hollow owl statue made of concrete over steel supports. The moss- and lichen-covered statue simulates a natural rock formation, yet holds electrical and audio equipment within it. For many years, a recording of the voice of club member Walter Cronkite was used as the voice of The Owl during the ceremony.[1] Music and pyrotechnics accompany the ritual for dramatic effect.

[23] The Grove Play was moved to the last weekend of the encampment.[22] was separated from the Grove Play in 1913 and moved to the first night to become "an exorcising of the Demon to ensure the success of the ensuing two weeks."Cremation of Care The [21] It was originally set up within the plot of the serious "High Jinks" dramatic performance on the first weekend of the summer encampment, after which the spirit of "Care", slain by the Jinks hero, was solemnly cremated. The ceremony served as a catharsis for pent-up high spirits, and "to present symbolically the salvation of the trees by the club ..."[20]

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