Expose the Grove

Thomas Newcomb
Thomas Newcomb
First President of the Club 1872–1873


From its beginning, in the year Eighteen Hundred and Seventy-Two Bohemian Grove is a restricted 2,700-acre (1,100 ha) campground located in the forest of Monte Rio, California.

The Bohemian Grove belongs to the private San Francisco-based gentlemen's club The Bohemian Club.

In mid-July each year, Bohemian Grove hosts a three-week encampment of some of the most prominent men in the world.

The Bohemian Club's all-male membership includes artists and musicians, as well as many business leaders, government officials, former U.S. presidents, senior media executives, and many other people of power. Members may invite guests to the Grove. Guests may be invited to the Grove for either the "Spring Jinks" in June or the main July encampment.

Bohemian Club members can schedule private day-use events at the Grove any time it is not being used for Club-wide purposes, and they are allowed at these times to bring spouses, family, and friends, although female and minor guests must be off the property by 9 or 10 pm.

Weaving Spiders Come Not Here
Weaving Spiders Come Not Here
George Bush Senior and Junior
George Bush Senior and Junior Lake Side Talk 1995

No Women Allowed

After 40 years of membership, the men earn "Old Guard" status, giving them reserved seating at the Grove's daily talks, as well as other perquisites. Former U.S. president Herbert Hoover was inducted into the Old Guard on March 19, 1953; he had joined the club exactly 40 years previously.

Redwood branches from the Grove were flown to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, where they were used to decorate a banquet room for the celebration. In his acceptance speech, Hoover compared the honor of the "Old Guard" status to his frequent role as veteran counselor to later presidents.

The Club motto is "Weaving Spiders Come Not Here", which implies that outside concerns and business deals (networking) are to be left outside. When gathered in groups, Bohemians usually adhere to the injunction, although discussion of business often occurs between pairs of members. Important political and business deals have been developed at the Grove.

The Grove is particularly famous for a Manhattan Project planning meeting that took place there in September 1942, which subsequently led to the atomic bomb. Those attending this meeting included Ernest Lawrence, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the S-1 Executive Committee heads, such as the presidents of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, along with representatives of Standard Oil and General Electric as well as various military officials.

At the time, Oppenheimer was not an S-1 member, although Lawrence and Oppenheimer hosted the meeting. Grove members take particular pride in this event and often relate the story to new attendees. However, other behavior at this famous campground has led to numerous claims and even some parody in popular culture. One such documented example was former president Richard Nixon's comments from a May 13, 1971 recording that:

"The Bohemian Grove, which I attend from time to time—it is the most faggy goddamned thing you could ever imagine."

— Richard Nixon
Stone Owl Mollach
The Great Owl of Bohemia
Stone Owl Mollach
Cremation of Care Ceremony

Cremation of Care Ceremony

The Care according to Peter Martin Philips relates to Bacchus (a Roman false god which is better known as the Greek false god of Dionysus. Dionysus is the god of wine, sexual freedom, and ecstatic freedom). Sir Francis Dashwood would have a role of Bacchus/Dionysus in his own rituals of the Hell Fire Club. The "do what you will" quote, inscribed above the main entrance of the Medmenham Abbey where many of Dashwood’s rites were performed, served as an inspiration for Aleister Crowley.

Dashwood visited many European royal courts in his younger years, ultimately becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer and a member of the Queen's Privy Council (in 1761). The Cremation of Care ceremony portrays the Grove members as being afraid of Care. The ritual wants to rid of Care. Care is posing as a mocking spirit in the Cremation of Care ritual. These actions go back to the Druids, Babylon, Greece, etc. Philips’s 1994 Ph.D dissertation about the Cremation of Care outline the following:

“…The Cremation of Care Ceremony was produced as a play in 1920, wherein a High Priest standing before a huge pre-historic alter, is confronted by Dull Care wrapped in the chains but not dead because Bacchus, the only warrior Care fears, is truly dead... Care responds: 'Call Bacchus from the grave... long as he is dead. I sneer at Great Bohemia! Aha! Aha!'... Good Fellowship then takes the torch from the priest at the alter and burns Care in his prison, thereby purging the 'demon Care from the sacred Grove.' This ceremony has been rewritten on several occasions but the theme is still the same."

— (1994, Peter Martin Philips, 'A Relative Advantage: Sociology of the San Francisco Bohemian Club' [Ph.D. dissertation])
Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford attending the Bohemian Grove
Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford - 1967
Spy Magazine Cover - Wild and Crazy V.I.P.'s
Henry Kissinger Spy Magazine Cover
Wild and Crazy V.I.P.'s


Situated 75 miles north of San Francisco, the Bohemian Grove covers 2,700 acres of magnificent Douglas firs and redwoods, some over 1,000 years old. As of 2007, there were 118 camps, distributed around the site’s central feature: a man-made lake, watched over by a towering Owl Shrine, where the infamous "Cremation of Care" ceremony is held at the beginning of each encampment. Survey the idyllic grounds with our exclusive map.

Members of the ultra-exclusive Bohemian Club ~2,500 of America’s richest, most conservative men—are known to urinate freely against the ancient redwoods that cover their 2,700-acre property. Have they been chopping down the trees as well? According to one former member turned whistle-blower, the San Francisco–based society may have logged some of its old-growth forest. Alex Shoumatoff investigates, with a daring sortie into the ceremonial kickoff of the Bohemians’ annual encampment.

To join the Bohemian Club, you must either be invited by several members, or wait patiently for decades. And then there's the $25,000 initiation fee and the hefty yearly dues. Judging from the roster, which currently numbers about 2,500, it helps to be patrician, Republican, and white. Grovers have included captains of industry, politicians, and the occasional artist to keep true to the club's, well, bohemian roots. The following men are some of the most well-known attendees, both members and regular guests, of the Bohemian Club encampments past and present.

  • James A. Baker III
  • Christopher Buckley
  • William F. Buckley
  • George H.W. Bush
  • George W. Bush
  • Dick Cheney
  • Calvin Coolidge
  • Walter Cronkite
  • Bing Crosby
  • John E. Dupont
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Gerald Ford
  • Barry Goldwater
  • Merv Griffin
  • Alexander Haig
  • Charlton Heston
  • Herbert Hoover
  • Jack Kemp
  • Henry Kissinger
  • Jack London
  • Steve Miller
  • Robert Mondavi
  • John Muir
  • Colin Powell
  • Ronald Reagan
  • David Rockefeller
  • Nelson Rockefeller
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Karl Rove
  • Donald Rumsfeld
  • Charles Schwab
  • Mark Twain
  • Earl Warren