A map of Bohemian Grove,
the place where masters of the universe play summer camp
A cute look at the campground conspiracy theorists are obsessed with.
Bohemian Grove is one of the most secretive places in the world, a Northern California campground that’s a play land for the rich and powerful, with lore that claims it holds Illuminati meetings. It also has a charming map just like Disney World.
This 1952 map, created by Gus Schneider and available via the David Rumsey Map Collection, was handed out to attendees when they arrived at their Sonoma County, California, destination; the back included a helpful directory (you can zoom around the full map here).
Bohemian Grove began as a sort of artists’ colony in 1878, but it quickly became something far more significant. The mythology says it’s, at the very least, a place where world-leading men (almost always men) meet to hang out and (maybe) plot the new world order. Attendees have included everyone from Bing Crosby to Dick Cheney. That’s why it’s the subject of frenzied books like Bohemian Grove: Cult of Conspiracy.
Is Bohemian Grove really home to Illuminati plots? Or, just as weirdly, is it only a campsite where masters of the universe pretend to be Boy Scouts? You can read definitive profiles of the powerful, creepy, s’mores-filled version of Davos at Vanity Fair and Spy. Here, let’s explore key portions of the darling little 1952 map:
1) The “hillbillies” camp is down-home fun (with a president)
See the hillbilly in the center of this map?
That cute salt-of-the-earth figure represents the “hillbilly” camp at Bohemian Grove (each camp has an adorable name). Over the years, it’s also been verified as the temporary home for George H.W. Bush, venture capitalist William Draper, and li’l ol’ hillbilly former World Bank president Alden Clausen.
2) The auditorium where world leaders put on talent shows
The Washington Post’s roundup of Bohemian Grove rumors includes a juicy one: The men put on shows at night, often dressing up as women, and entertain their fellow world leaders.
As with many things BoGro, we can only guess what’s rumor and what’s fact. (Nearly certain: No Bohemian Grove member has ever called it “BoGro.”) But it’s entertaining to speculate that confirmed members like William Randolph Hearst, former Navy Secretary John Lehman, and President Ronald Reagan might have all shown off their talents on a late night at camp.
3) No giant owl and huge cremation ceremony to see here! Just some cute attractions.
In addition to famous faces,creepy owl imagery abounds at Bohemian Grove, including a 40-foot concrete one. The owl presides over a ceremony for “the cremation of care” (where members burn an empty coffin in front of the owl, which was once voiced by BoGro member Walter Cronkite). The Illuminati may just be a conspiracy theory, but all of the previous paragraph has been confirmed by multiple reports.
So is Bohemian Grove just a wacky getaway where the likes of Army Secretary Michael Stone, sugar magnate Adolph Spreckels, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger all learned how to roast the perfect marshmallow? Or was it a chance for leaders to plan the fate of the world while worshiping owls? At least now you’ll know how to find your way around.
Update/Correction: This post originally referred to the concrete owl as “Moloch.” However, a person familiar with Bohemian Grove, who wished to remain anonymous due to club policy, says that the name “Moloch” is a mistake or invention of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. They also recommend Spy’s profile of the event as the most accurate depiction of the party-like atmosphere (that is not, they claim, part of the Illuminati).