Every year, more than 1,000 men from the upper echelon of American politics (mostly high-profile Republicans), business, and society take to the wooded retreat of the Bohemian Grove where, for two weeks, some of the country's most influential names live out the fantasies of the inner child.
Over the course of their stay, these men - whose ranks include former presidents, financial executives, and media moguls - spend most of their time drinking, singing, swimming, acting, peeing in the woods, and... taking part in a ceremony where they burn a fake human sacrifice in front of a gigantic wooden owl surrounded by the even taller redwoods in the middle of a northern Californian forest.
But why are these unfathomably rich men acting like young boys in the woods and why are they paying homage to a massive wooden owl?
Before we get into the whole owl business, let's take a look at the Bohemian Grove, the 2,700-acre compound owned and operated by the San Fransisco-based Bohemian Club.
The annual retreat dates back to 1872 when a group of actors, artists, newspaper writers, and other influential members of San Fransisco society got together to wish one of their friends farewell before he moved across the country. Over the years, the group of artists needed monetary support and found patronage from the city's growing financial institutions. That soon led to the inclusion of other more powerful members of society, including a who's who of the Republican party.
According to the Washington Post, former President Bill Clinton once said of the club: "The Bohemian club! Did you say Bohemian Club? That's where all those rich Republicans go up and stand naked against redwood trees right? I've never been to the Bohemian Club but you oughta go. It'd be good for you. You'd get some fresh air."
In the picture below, at least two former presidents - Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon - can be seen taking part in one of the club's many conversations throughout the two-week retreat.
But enough of the history of the Bohemian Club, let's discuss this insane "Cremation of Care" ceremony and all of the speculation of whether it's just a normal opening stage production or a sinister pagan ceremony allowing the attendees to burn all empathy they may have for society as they start their two weeks away from the outside world.
Officially, the ceremony is "a traditional musical drama celebrating nature and summertime," as was told to the Washington Post by Bohemian Grove's spokesperson in the article mentioned above.
The club is rather hush-hush about all happenings at the annual retreat, but activist filmmakers and investigative journalists have infiltrated Bohemian Grove on several occasions over the years, and while some of those outsiders have not the best of reputations, they offer up more than we would have known otherwise.
One of the most infamous of these infiltrations came from Austin, Texas-based radio wackadoo Alex Jones, who snuck into the encampment along with a cameraman back in 2000 and captured the only known video footage of the ceremony.
The footage, which eventually wound up in Jones' documentary Dark Secrets inside the Bohemian Grove, shows the club's members donning robes and taking part in the mysterious ceremony before a massive firework display that closes out the first night of the encampment.
If you come across any crazy conspiracy theories surrounding the Bohemian Grove - and there are countless - then thank Alex Jones because before he was hawking survival gear and talking about chemicals turning the frogs gay, he was fanning the flames of intrigue around the annual retreat.
The online publication Messy Nessy wrote in 2016 that "Jones inspired some of the more extreme conspiracy theories about the society, including suggestions that the ritual's fiery sacrifice wasn't always an effigy, but a real human being. There are some troubling photographs, reportedly taken in the early days of the secret society's formation, one which appears to show a child tied up on a table, and another of a convincing human mannequin awaiting a public lynching."
But are those images, traditions, and ceremonies part of a far-reaching plot by a group of uber-elite to control the country and world at large, or are they just showing the normally conservative rich men letting lose of their worldly cares for a few weeks each summer?
The truth is, we may never know. The Bohemian Club is very tight-lipped about virtually all happenings during its annual retreat at the Grove, and membership is on the north side of exclusive. You won't be getting in anytime soon unless you have some prominent friends who are in the club's ranks and you are able to pay the $25,000 entry fee.
So, for now, you'll just have to watch crazy Republican men dance around like little boys in the woods.
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