We've always been a little confused by the concept of the initiation ritual. There are organizations all over the world where somehow proving your worth as a new member involves some kind of arbitrary, ridiculous and humiliating ceremony. They're often disgusting, vaguely sexual and never have anything to do with your qualifications as a prospective member.
You could write off this sort of thing as the invention of drunken frat boys, but trust us: The weirdest rituals go way beyond that.
#5. Bohemian Grove
Let's play a game. You jot down your top 10 list of secretive Californian encampments which cater exclusively to the most influential men in the world. If the hush-hush Bohemian Grove campground is at the tippy top of your list, congratulations, you win a vial of newborn baby monkey blood.
We've got sooo much of it laying around.
And if your paper is empty, you still win, because that just means you don't spend your days cramming conspiracy theories or their derivative porn into your foil-covered head. Good for you.
The Bohemian Club is a San Francisco based gentlemen's club, but not the kind you think of when you read "San Francisco based gentlemen's club." This gentlemen's club fills its rolls with the world's most influential and powerful men--including every Republican president since 1923, and some of the Democratic ones, along with prominent captains of industry. Even after the Bohemians are invited, they often have to wait a solid 15 years to get in the door.
But once they get in, Bohemian Club members are asked to participate in a three week encampment at a rustic bit of woods called Bohemian Grove, where they spend their days learning how to fly cast, singing in campfire hootenannies and forging bonds of friendship with other world leaders, businessmen and the ghost of Charlton Heston. Richard Nixon was once heard calling the whole experience--no joke--"faggy."
Despite the Meatballs-esque itinerary, serious stuff has happened because of these friendships. Most famously, the initial plans for the Manhattan Project were allegedly hashed out in between all the kumbaya-ing and fly fishing. So, to reiterate: The blueprint for the 20th century's most horrifying weapon, the monstrosity which made the Cold War possible and killed over 200,000 Japanese people, was likely begun on Bohemian Grove grounds. Keep that in mind when you read about...
The Weird-Ass Initiation:
Simulate a human sacrifice in front of a 40-foot-tall mechanical owl that speaks with Walter Cronkite's voice.
On the first Saturday of the encampment, a dramatic ceremony known as the "Cremation of Care" takes place. Not "dramatic" like "I'll slit my wrists if I gain another tenth of a pound. I swear I'll do it this time, you'll be sorry," but "dramatic" like it's part of a play. A play in which the personification of the world's worries, Care, is burned to ashes in front of a giant owl as an audience of the world's most powerful men look on.
The play begins on an island in an artificial lake. Druidish robed people muck about in front of a 40-foot owl like they've got nothing better to do when (surprise!) a boat with more Snuggie-clad Bohemians and a fake corpse start making their way to the island.
That corpse is "Care" with a capital "C" and the corpse then starts talking trash to the Hoodies, bragging about how the worries of the world will never leave them. It's at that point that the voice of Walter Cronkite gravely rolls forth from the owl, instructing the cloaked worrywarts that the only way to banish Care is to kill it with fire. So they do.
Care's fake body is laid on the Altar of Fellowship and lit. Then the fireworks go off and everyone starts singing. It's like Disney's Tiki Room came to life, but only after you burned a corpse in it, and with Richard Nixon, Mark Twain, Henry Ford and Colin Powell in the audience, egging you on. Which would be really crazy, since three out of four of them are corpses themselves, or really awesome, because you're hangin' with zombie Bohemians.
#4. Skull and Bones
Founded in 1832 by a future legislator and the father of former president William Howard Taft, the Yale club called Skull and Bones prides itself on a couple of things. One, their ability to select or "tap" people who will eventually be some of the most powerful in the world, and two, the fact that the rest of the world knows jack crap about them.
What we do know about the Bones is deliciously tantalizing. Like that Bonesmen also had their sticky white fingers in the Manhattan Project, the policy behind the Cold War and the escalation of the war in Vietnam. Not to mention the rumor that Granddaddy Bush and his secret BFFs robbed Geronimo's skull from its grave just for fun, and that the skull resides in the Skull and Bones clubhouse (which they call the "Tomb"). Clearly we are speaking of very serious people who are not to be trifled with.
The Weird-Ass Initiation:
Shout OOGA BOOGA! and LICK MY BUMHOLE! at new initiates.
Three years before the historic presidential campaign between two Bonesmen (George W Bush and John Kerry), a group of journalists secretly filmed and recorded the Skull and Bones initiation of new members. What they found was so laughably juvenile that they spent their evening quivering in silent laughter and holding their crotches so as not to pee themselves. It was that bad.
There were two sessions of covert recording, actually. One in 2000 and another in 2001. The one in 2000 was just audio and it left the journalist admitting he was "embarrassed for the Skull and Bones" after he heard it. Probably because new initiates were ordered to fetch bones and yell "OOGA BOOGA!"
In 2001, the journalists actually videotaped the ceremony. This time they witnessed a guy wearing a George Bush mask, affecting a Texas drawl and yelling, "I'm going to ream you like I reamed Al Gore!" and "Lick my bumhole, neophyte!" It was at that point that the laughter probably turned to horrified gasps as the journalists suddenly realized that these one of these masked faces could very well be president someday.
#3. The Masons Do Some Inordinately Elaborate, Silly Stuff
Dude. You know about the Masons, right? Those wizards behind the flat top pyramid and the all-seeing eye on the dollar bill? That sinister fraternal organization created to literally pass on the secrets of stonemasonry, but also to control the universe with their scholarship funds, promotion of self-improvement and good deeds? Duuuuude.
Pizza sounds sooooo gooood right now. Wait. What?
All paranoid, conspiratorial raving aside, 14 American presidents counted themselves as Freemasons. That's, like, over a quarter of them. And when we say they were really good at American revolutionizing, we're not kidding. According to one site 33 percent of signers of the Constitution were Freemasons. This country was built by these guys, both in ideas and, you know, with buildings.
The Freemasons have been around since dinosaur days, or as the Creation Museum calls it, the Middle Ages. And while they were initially conceived to pass along the craft of the stonemason, they eventually got really good at passing on the crafts of "instigating the American Revolution" and "sweet apron wearing."
The Weird-Ass Initiation:
They instruct new members to wear aprons, hit them on the head with a bag of hair, force them to play dead while other members pretend to conduct a murder, hasty burial, escape, trial, conviction, execution and proper burial on behalf of the faux dead, while, once more, they are lying silently, pretending to be dead.
A whole passel of Founding Fathers did all that. At least they did if they were Master Masons. The ceremony itself starts with the usual stuff you'd expect at an initiation: blindfolding, undressing, secret handshakes. Then things take a turn for the Fight Club when the candidate's buddies start jostling their guy around in the attempt to secure his Masonic secrets. Apparently, there was once a time when roving gentleman thugs roamed the streets in search of secret Masonic passwords:
"Ruffian--This (shaking candidate) does not satisfy me! Talk not to me of time or place, but give me the secrets of a Master Mason, or I will take your life!"
And then he does, but fakely. And while the candidate lies silently, this bizarre play takes place over his inert body. Kind of like when you're a kid and you play hobos and your friend pretend stabs you for your smokes, and you just lay there while your friend pretends to rifle through your grocery cart, and you feel kind of awkward, like you don't know if it's time to get up and stop playing because the grass itches, or if you should just go for broke and ride it out?
Hey, we get that certain organizations have their rituals and these rituals have major symbolic, if not Satanic meanings. We've seen The Lost Boys. And we get that the apron stands for the craft of carpentry or whatever. But there comes a point, whether you're in the 20th century or the 17th century, when you have to ask yourself, "Am I a grown-ass man pretending to be dead while wearing an apron?"
And we're not even going to talk about the secret hug.