Yale University’s the Skull and Bones: Taft to Bush to Kerry


In 2004, the presidential candidates – George W. Bush (R) and John Kerry (D) – were more than just presidential candidates. They could talk about being presidential candidates. They could talk about their marriages. They could talk about their finances. What they could not talk was their membership in Yale’s Secret Society – The Skull and Bones.

When Kerry and Bush ran for president, both were asked about the Skull and Bones, and both refused to answer questions about the Skull and Bones

Politician Who Were Members of the Skull and Bones

Those two are not the only top politicians that were members of the Skull and Bones. William Howard Taft (27th president and tenth Supreme Court Justice) and his son Robert Taft (Ohio senator) were Skulls. Samuel Taft, William’s father, helped to establish the Skull and Bones in 1832. George W. Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush 41st President), and his grandfather, Prescott Bush (Connecticut Senator), were also members of the Skull and Bones.

Other prominent politicians include Robert Lovett (Secretary of State), William Bundy and McGeorge Bundy (political advisors), James Buckley (New York Senator), Winston Lord (Assistant Sec. of State), David L. Boren (Oklahoma Governor), Victor Ashe (Ambassador to Poland),and Potter Stewart (Supreme Court Justice).

Reversal of Fortune

Until the 1960s, the member of the Skull and Bones proudly announced the membership. The New York Times ran articles about who was tapped each year. When members announced marriages and engagements in the New York Times and other papers, they mentioned their relationship with Skull and Bones.

By the 1960s and 1970s, the distrust for the government and secret dealing filtered into the minds of the general public. In 1979, when George H.W. Bush ran for president, he faced questions about the Skull and Bones and refused to answer them, as with their tradition. A member of the Skull and Bones never talk about the Skull and Bones, not even to their wives, and when the topic comes up in conversation, they must leave the room.

Tap Day at Yale

Kerry and Bush attended Yale in 1960s, and were “tapped” to be member of the Skull and Bones in their junior years. Each year the 15 members of the Skull and Bones, who are seniors, pick or tap 15 junior class members in April to replace them.

The juniors are then taken to the Tomb, the building on High Street in New Haven, Connecticut that is home to the Skull and Bones. The new initiates are given nicknames such as Thor or Odin. The initiate with the most sexual experience receive Magog as a nickname. The initiate with the least sexual experience receives Gog. They couldn’t come up with a nickname for George W. Bush and he couldn’t think of anything, so they assigned the nickname Temporary. He still has the same nickname today – Temporary.

So how do member of the Skull and Bones know about the sexual exploits of the initiates? The initiates are told to strip naked as the day they were born and lay in a coffin like the day they will die. They must tell the members about all their sexual experiences.

Though it may seem like the Skull and Bones have secret ambitions, they say that they lend support to one another and talk about political and social issues together.


Leung, Rebecca. “Skull and Bones,” CBS News 13 June 2004. 6 Jan. 2010. Web.

Prothero, Stephen. “Skulls in the Closet.” Salon 21 Jan. 2000. 7 Jan. 2010. Web.

Robbins, Alexandria. Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power.