Bone Shrugs 'n' Nudity

An evasive Governor Taft dodges secret-society ties.

Borrowing heavily from Freemasonry and other robes-and-skeleton fetish groups, Skull and Bones is a 169-year-old Yale fellowship that makes other secret societies look like the BMV. When they join, Bonesmen (and women) crawl into coffins and confess their traumas, shames, and sexual histories. The confessionals, supposedly, keep Bones' secrets the privilege of a privileged few.

The druidic rituals could be dismissed as Biff-and-Skippy high jinks if Bones didn't clog the halls of American power. Members include presidents, senators, Supreme Court justices, media moguls, bankers, and spies. Averell Harriman, Potter Stewart, Henry Luce, and William Buckley are all Bonesmen, as are the George Bushes.

According to lore, 15 Yale juniors are "tapped" for membership each spring. Initiates reportedly pass into this most exclusive club by plunging naked into a mud pile. Benefits include a onetime gift of $15,000, lifetime financial security, and the use of a private island, or so the legend goes.

Which brings us to Governor Bob Taft.

Bones rosters crawl with Tafts, such as U.S. Attorney Alphonso (Bones Class of 1833), President William Howard (1878), and Senator Robert Alphonso (1910). Chances are Governor Bob, a 1963 Yale graduate, followed the family dynasty into the Bones Tomb. So we called the governor's office to discuss his secret life as a macabre pervert.

Governor's Office: "According to our director of communications, we don't know [if he is a member], because it's a secret society."

Scene: "So was [the governor] asked? He would know if he was a member or not, I assume."

GO: "Uh-huh."

Scene: "So did someone ask him?"

GO: "I believe so. Yes."

Scene: "And what was the answer?"

GO: "I believe that it was a secret society, so he probably can't say."

Scene: "So what exactly did he say?"

GO: "That's really all we have to tell you is what I said. We don't know, because it's a secret society."

Scene: "Well, he knows. You say, 'We don't know,' but obviously he knows whether he was a member or not."

GO: "I'm sorry. What I gave you is really all I have."

Apparently the governor takes the group's vows of secrecy as sacrosanct. Either that, or he didn't get invited. After all, would you want to see Bob Taft naked?

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