Yale College in New Haven, CT, is well-known for its tomb societies—also called senior societies, and landed societies. These elite, secretive self-run student organizations have been around for more than a century and a half, with mysterious-sounding names like Scroll and Key, Wolf’s Head, Book and Snake, and Sage and Chalice. Each one of the landed societies has its own headquarters building with access more or less only granted to initiates.
The oldest and most famous of all these societies is the Skull and Bones. Founded in 1832, it has inspired numerous stories due to its strange rituals and high-ranking roster of alumni. Three U.S. presidents were members of the Skull and Bones (William Howard Taft, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush), as were various media leaders, presidential cabinet members, congressmen, finance industry captains, university presidents, and Supreme Court justices.
The Skull and Bones Tomb is a bare, symmetrical, sandstone building and the quintessential Yale tomb…imposing, windowless, and full of secrets. It was built in 1856, and has had wings and other additions built onto it in the intervening years.
The Skull and Bones society is particularly renowned for exulting in the macabre. This extends from strange rites and initiation rituals to the objects that they keep in their inscrutable tomb. Death is apparently their décor of choice, with skeletons, skulls (both real and artificial), coffins, and other grim funeralia, statuary, and artwork adorning the inside of the tomb. Most infamously, some have claimed that in the early 1900s the Bonesmen stole the skull and bones of Geronimo, the Apache warrior and Native American hero. The rumors became pronounced enough that the descendants of Geronimo sued to get it back.
Adapted with Permission from: The New England Grimpendium by J.W. Ocker