The 10 Most Secret College Societies

10. The Noble NoZe Brotherhood at Baylor University

Send a bunch of teenagers to a Baptist school and there’s bound to be a large number of those who refuse to conform to everyyyything. At Baylor, those select few get tapped to join the Noble NoZe Brotherhood, since 1924. Founded around the joke that one guy’s nose was so big you could form a club around it, members of the Noze are known for putting out the satirical Baylor paper, The Rope, and pulling pranks on unsuspecting students and university officials. Their identifies are kept secret and they celebrate that fact, and their founder’s nose, by wearing Groucho glasses around campus events

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9. Quill and Dagger – Cornell

Even though the names of new members are published in the school newspaper every semester, the Quill and Dagger makes the list because what they do is completely unknown. To make things even more mysterious, they meet on the top floor of a campus tower, and entry onto the floor by anyone outside of the group is forbidden. No one really thinks that there’s anything sinister going on here. The Quill and Dagger is incredibly prestigious. In fact, between the years of 1913-1984, one former Quill and Dagger member could be found in the US congress every year.

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8. Sphinx – Dartmouth

Established in 1885, the Sphinx is the oldest continuously operating men-only secret society in the US. Members of Sphinx remain secret until the annual graduation ceremony where the 24 graduating members can be found carrying canes that are carved with Griffin, Sphinx and Phoenix symbols. Members meet in the Sphinx Tomb (pictured below), which is located on the grounds and was constructed in 1903.

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7. The Black & White Society – Harvard Business School

If there was ever something that needed to be labeled as elite, it’s the  Black & White Society. Residing at arguably the most prestigious campus in the world, the Black & White Society is known for putting on an annual and super-exclusive masquerade event. The motto, “Only the Finest Individuals,” and the guest list only includes 300 on a campus of 27,000. With that said, getting into this party is several times harder than the school itself, so unless daddy happens to be a high ranking member of Congress and an alumni, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for an invite.

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6. Order of the Bulls Blood – Rutgers University

Established at Rutgers University in 1834, The Order of the Bull’s Blood is a longstanding college fraternity that shares much in common with Skull and Bones. Each year, members of the Order “tap” juniors and invite them to jointhe sect for the coming year. New members are then encouraged to prove themselves by engaging in a number of elaborate pranks against the school’s principal rival, Princeton University.

Over the years, one of their most noteworthy pranks was the stealing of a cannon at Princeton in 1875. The Order of the Bull’s Blood counts among its alumni NBA commissioner David Stern, Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, former Vice President of the United States Garret A. Hobart, and former director of the FBI, Louis Freeh.

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5. St. A’s – Columbia

Although the chapters of the Society of Saint Anthony (or commonly St. Anthony Hall) now exists all over the United States, the society still retains its secrecy, exclusivity and gravitas. The national chapters are known variously as social fraternities, clubs, secret societies, or literary clubs, but Columbia’s original society is known for its members’ extraordinary wealth. Founded in 1847, St. A’s at Columbia is usually at the center of controversy because of the alleged discrimination practiced by the young men and women of the society. Although Baird’s Manual referred it in 1897 as “the most secret of all the college societies,” and many novelists, some as prestigious as F. Scott Fitzgerald, wrote slantingly about it, the society’s mystic as a secret society slowly withered as it expended its chapters.

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4. Seven Society – College of William and Mary

The Seven Society, founded in 1905, is certainly one of the most secretive of all university collegiate societies. Members’ names are only revealed after their death, when a wreath of black magnolias in the shape of a “7” is placed at the gravesite, and the bell tower of the University Chapel chimes seven times at seven-second intervals on the seventh dissonant chord when it is seven past the hour. Nothing much is known about the society, and legends note that of eight men who planned to meet for a card game, only seven showed up, and they formed the society. How the members are chosen are of an equal mystery. The only known method to contact the Seven Society is to place a letter at the Thomas Jefferson statue inside the University’s historic Rotunda, but one visible sign of society–the number 7 logo surrounded by the signs for alpha, omega, and infinity and several stars—adorn many buildings on the grounds of the University.

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3. Eucleian Society at New York University

The Adelphic Society was created by a group of 16 students at New York University in 1832. Shortly after, they changed their name to Eucleian, after Eukleia, the Goddess of Repute, Glory, and War. It became a literary society ““ with a stable source of money coming in from trusts ““ and hosted open forums and lectures (sometimes held with rival NYU society Philomathean). Although some members were known, most were kept secret, as were the inner workings of the organization. Documents and internal records kept by the group have had information removed, the name of the Society erased, and nearly all of it is written in symbolic shorthand. Regardless, the Society’s events were announced in newspapers and became well attended. One early lecturer and repeated guest was Edgar Allen Poe, who became an important influence. This also gave rise to the use of ravens in the fraternity insignia and the nickname “˜Raven Society.’

The Eucleian Society was one of the most progressive, supporting gender equality, abolition, and Native Americans’ rights. They printed two publications of their own, The Medly and the Knickerbocker, with articles lampooning and satirizing current events and people. Both became popular well beyond campus. Despite all of this, interest in the Society died down. Members were branded social elitists, and membership diminished as Greek fraternities gained prominence. In current years, the Society has opened up to those without University affiliation. A notable member of the Eucleian Society is John Harvey Kellogg, who invented corn flakes cereal with his brother, as well as Major Walter Reed, MD, a U.S. army physician who confirmed the theory that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes.

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2. Flat Hat Club at College of William & Mary

Formed in 1750 at William and Mary College, F.H.C. was the nation’s first secret society. The “Flat Hat Club” was a name given to the group by outsiders, likely because of the mortarboard caps they wore (caps that we now wear at graduations). F.H.C.’s initials stood for Latin words, but it is uncertain what they were. Some believe them to be “Fraternitas Humanitas Cognitioque” meaning “Brotherhood, Humanity, and Knowledge.” The society met regularly at Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg for drinking and discussion. They were not known for scholarly pastimes; the most famous known member, Thomas Jefferson, wrote in a letter that the society “served no useful object.” F.H.C. seemed to die within two decades of its founding due to the Civil War but has seen recent revivals.

When membership and interest waned in F.H.C. in the 1770’s, P.D.A. (now referred to as Phi Delta Alpha but called “Please Don’t Ask” at the time) imitated F.H.C. and established themselves as a secret society to take its place. A student at the college, John Heath, was repeatedly refused entry, and so in retaliation he created the first Greek-letter fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa, which later spawned chapters in other colleges. Ta-da! Greek Life!

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1. Skull and Bones – Yale

On Feb. 17, the 100th anniversary of Geronimo’s death, descendants of the Apache warrior filed a federal lawsuit against the secretive Skull and Bonessociety of Yale University demanding that the group — which it claims is in possession of Geronimo’s remains — return them to his family. “I believe strongly from my heart that his spirit was never released,” Geronimo’s great-grandson Haryln Geronimo, 61, told the National Press Club.

As legend has it, Prescott S. Bush — the father of President George H.W. Bush and grandfather to President George W. Bush — dug up Geronimo’s grave in 1918 with the help of several other “Bonesmen,” as members of the society are known, and stole the warrior’s skull, two bones and some riding gear from his grave at Fort Sill, Okla. The society allegedly put the remains on display at the “The Tomb,” an imposing, windowless crypt in New Haven, Conn. that has served as the group’s headquarters since its founding in 1832.

Conspiracy theories about the Skull & Bones Society are almost as old as the society itself. The group has been blamed for everything from the creation of the nuclear bomb to the Kennedy assassination. It’s been aped in bad teen horror films and satirized — along with fellow conspiracy-group targets the Freemasons and the Illuminati — in The Simpsons. Even CNN has done a segment on the Prescott grave-robbery saga.

Minus the trappings of wealth, privilege and power, Skull and Bones could be a laughably juvenile club for Dungeons-and-Dragon geeks. But its rumored alumni have made up a disproportionately large percentage of the world’s most powerful leaders. (One historian has likened the society’s powers to that of an “international mafia,” for as another writer put it, “the mafia is, after all, the most secret of societies.”) Bonesmen have, at one time, controlled the fortunes of the Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford families, as well as posts in the Central Intelligance Agency, the American Psychological Association, the Council on Foreign Relations and some of the most powerful law firms in the world.

During the 2004 presidential election, the Republican and Democratic candidates were both former Bonesmen, though neither would say much about the subject. “It’s a secret,” John Kerry said when asked about his membership; “So secret, I can’t say anything more,” George W. Bush wrote in his autobiography, as if to complete Kerry’s sentence.

A young Yale junior named William Russell founded the group after spending a year in Germany among members of some of the most mystical and elite clubs in the world, including organizations that mimicked the Enlightenment-era Illuminati. Russell returned to the U.S. determined to found a secret society of his own and “tapped” Alfonso Taft, whose son would later become President William H. Taft, to be among the first members of “The Brotherhood of Death,” or as it was more formally known, “The Order of the Skull and Bones.” Members worshipped Eulogia, a fake goddess of eloquence, glorified pirates and reportedly hatched schemes of world domination at the “Tomb” — which is rumored to have a landing pad on the roof for the society’s private helicopter.

Skull and Bones formed at Yale University, the third-oldest school in the U.S. and an institution “known for its strange, Gothic elitism and its rigid devotion to the past,” according to journalist (and Yale secret society alumnae) Alexandra Robbins, who published Secrets of the Tomb in 2002. Skull and Bones is not the only secret society at the school either: others include the Scroll and Key, Wolf’s Head, Berzelius and Book and Snake, all of which like keeping tabs on one another, some in the form of dossiers that include “reliability ratings.” Each group picks its members in a highly confidential manner and subjects them to rounds of occult hazing rituals — what pledging a fraternity might be like, perhaps, at Hogwarts.

But whether a young Henry Luce (founder of Time magazine) actually laid naked in a coffin and told the tales of his early sex life during his Skull and Bones initiation, or if William F. Buckley jumped into a mud pie as part of his hazing, or whether any of the three Bush Bonesman (Prescott, H.W., and W.) really received a gift of $15,000 and the guarantee of a lifetime of financial security upon being selected — all these rumors, publicized over the years byEsquire, The Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times and numerous independent book authors, might never be known.

The group has remained silent about the lawsuit from Geronimo’s descendants. But in a time when the Internet is opening up previously private information to the world and even Swiss banks are spilling their secrets, the activitiesof the Skull & Bones society might not be able to stay so clandestine for long.

Excerpt from Time Magazine 

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