Yale's Secret Societies
AKA Tombs or Mausoleums

New Haven Connecticut USA is dotted with Secret Societies formed of Students and Alumni of Yale University. The University is spread throughout the City, thus anyone can look at the buildings though some private, internal courtyards are locked. One fine day in August 2013 I took my retriever Ashley for a 1.5 hour walk photographing the "Mausoleums" of the better known Societies. The older buildings are called "Tombs" because they are windowless or have slits for windows or have the windows blocked to keep anyone from seeing what happens inside. There are many legends of initiation rites, few can be documented since very few members have talked to the public. I have photographs of eight of them and added notes including famous members. The Bush Family embraced the secret societies, though not all joined Skull and Bones like the US Senator and two Presidents.

Much of the text is taken from WIKIpedia

Skull and Bones - 64 High Street


Skull and Bones 1832
The oldest and best known of the Yale Secret Societies.
Famous members: President William Taft, President George H.W. Bush, President George W. Bush, US Senator Prescott Bush (father of George H.W. Bush), US Senator John Kerry, Financier George Herbert Walker (Uncle of President George H.W. Bush), Johnathan James Bush (son of Senator Prescott Bush), Dozens more US Congressmen, Yale President Timothy Dwight, Author John Hersey, Journalist William Buckley, Actor Paul Giamatti (son of Yale President A. Bartlet Giamatti) Suspected by the Apache Tribal Nation of stealing Chief Geronimo's remains. Suspected by Mexico of stealing the skull of Pancho Vila. Alluded to in Doonesbury, Family Guy, Simpsons, Gossip Girl, Veronica Mars. Movies: The Skulls, The Skulls II, and The Skulls III. Move to admit women was opposed by many including William Buckley who tried to block woman though a restraining order. Members supporting women were locked out of the building and had to meet elsewhere.

Scroll and Key - 444 College Street


Scroll and Key 1842
Famous members: Secretaries of State Dean Acheson and Cyrus Vance, Yale President A. Bartlet Giamatti, statesman Sargent Shriver, Song writer Cole Porter, Cartoonist Garry Trudeau.

Berzelius - 78 Trumbull Street


Berzelius 1848
One of the first woman members. First black member Levi Jackson.
Perhaps most often seen, faces a major intersection.

Wolf's Head - 210 York Street


Wolfs Head - 1883
Famous Members: William H.T. Bush (Brother of George H. W. Bush), Ducky Pond (sports), Charles Phelps Taft (Brother of President Taft)

St. Elmo - 109 Grove Street (Previous Building)


St. Elmo - 1889
Originally the Society owned this building. It was bought by Yale's Timothy Dwight College with the agreement that the Society would remain in part of the building. Years later Yale broke the agreement and forced St Elmo out. This is similar to what Yale did to the Yale CO-OP store, a tradition since 1885.

St Elmo - 35 Lynwood St (Current Building)


St. Elmo - 1889
This building is where the Society moved to after Yale would not renew their lease on the previous building. Famous Members: U.S. Attorney General John Ashecroft, Calvin Hill (football)

Elihu - 175 Elm Street


Elihu - 1903
More of a Private rather than Secret Society. Three story Colonial building, the oldest secret society building and the only original building to have windows, though all I could see are shuttered. Built on the brick basement of the "Tory Tavern" where colonists sympathetic to England would gather. The building is among the largest of the societies, belying the modest clapboard facade, and contains two single guest rooms in addition to beds for all the current undergraduate members, as well as a large formal meeting room, a library, formal dining room, and an informal 'tap room' in the basement. Famous Members: Senator Joseph Lieberman, who rejected Skull and Bones for the more open Elihu, Jonathan Bush (Brother of George H.W. Bush)

Book and Snake - 227 Grove Street (opposite)


Book and Snake - 1933

Manuscript - 344 Elm Street


Manuscript - 1952
Famous Members: Actress Jodie Foster. Broadcaster Anderson Cooper.

Return to Leo's Web Page Menu