When we think of elite universities such as those in the Ivy League and the Oxbridge group, rarely we think of much more than high quality education and Mark Zuckerberg.
But like anything, there’s a dark side to these elite schools.
A sinister side of secret societies that thrive on mayhem, mystery, conspiracies and "dining"... or more commonly known as drinking!
Yet, despite the rumours and whispers about these often elitist secretive clubs, what actually happens behind closed doors is largely unknown, which only adds to the allure.
From hazing (initiation) rituals to illuminati conspiracies, let’s take a look at some of the most secretive, sinister and downright outrageous college societies from the Ivy Leagues, Oxbridge and beyond!
Buckle up because you’re in for one hell of a ride.
1. Skull and Crossbones - Yale
Possibly the most well-known of all the Ivy League societies is Yale’s Skull and Crossbones.
Its infamous history shrouded in mystery extends all the back to 1832 when the society was first established.
Each year, just 15 new members are chosen to join the select club and become Bonesmen and Boneswomen, as they're called.
All Bonesman, and Boneswomen since 1991, are sworn to secrecy and are forbidden to reveal what goes on behind closed doors. All that is known is that members meet twice a week in the windowless building called the Tomb.
The loving name of their headquarters, the Tomb, presumably comes from a rumour that in 1918 a group of Bonesmen (allegedly including Prescott Bush, father of George H. W. Bush) dug up the skull of Apache leader, Geronimo, who died in 1909, and took it back to their HQ as a trophy… okay… that’s cool… I guess.
Beyond the rumours of digging up human remains, it is also alleged that new members each receive USD $15,000 and a grandfather clock. These rumours may give you an idea of the prestige and exclusivity of Yale’s secret society.
Previous alumni include a whole string of US presidents including the Bush family (both George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush), John Kerry, and William H. Taft.
Many other members have gone on to become business leaders of the world. Due to members’ success and power, it’s rumoured that becoming a Bonesman or Boneswoman means joining a faction of the illuminati!
How It Rates
Secrecy: 9/10 - The most well-known society with so little actually known about it!
Creepiness: 8/10 - Grave robbing and grandfather clocks... yep it's creepy.
Elitism: 8/10 - Alumni include US presidents and world business leaders: ELITE!
2. Seven Society - University of Virginia
Founded in 1905, this secret society is built on superstitions and bizarre traditions. It’s like something you’d see in a crappy college movie. But alas, it is real... or so we’re told.
Seven Society is so secretive that members aren’t made public until after their deaths. Yet, even the member reveal is mysterious, with a giant wreath of black magnolias in the shape of a “7” appearing on the gravesite of the deceased. Ohhhhhh, spooky!
The biggest mystery, however, is speculation surrounding how one actually gains a membership. For example, no one knows if they’re co-ed yet or if you even have to be a University of Virginia alumnus to join.
The most concrete evidence of the society existing is the number seven markings left around the campus. In addition, the college’s bell tower at the chapel rings at seven second intervals at the seventh dissonant chord when it is seven past the hour!
There is so much to suggest this society exists, yet there is still so little we know about them - the true embodiment of a secret society. This could be illuminati headquarters for all we know!
How It Rates
Secrecy: 10/10 - So little is truly known about this club!
Creepiness: 6/10 - Illuminati rumours are certifiably creepy.
Elitism: ?/10 - Members remain too tight-lipped to know.
3. Sphinx Society - Dartmouth
Dartmouth is a hotbed of college societies. According to its website, up to 31% of seniors are involved in a society, with at least 14 on campus - five of which keep their membership secret. There’s possibly even more we don’t know about.
The Ivy League school’s most well-known secret society (oxymoron?) is the all-male Sphinx Society. Just 24 juniors are shoulder-tapped each year to become part of “the Krewe" and see behind the walls of the Egyptian Tomb, which acts as their headquarters.
Allegedly, Sphinx HQ provides members access to underground tunnels throughout campus and an indoor pool, known as Cleopatra's Swimming Pool.
Krewe members’ identities remain hidden until graduation, when they reveal themselves, in what is quite frankly, a kinda lame way. They walk around with canes emblazoned with Sphinx symbols… really cool, grandpa.
Despite the walking canes, Sphinx members can cause a bit of a ruckus. In 1989, 16 members were suspended for stealing USD $12,000 worth of art and photographs from around campus.
How It Rates
Secrecy: 7/10 - Anything that happens in a tomb is pretty secretive.
Creepiness: 5/10 - Not so creepy despite the creepily unfashionable cane.
Elitism: 7/10 - A private swimming pool... ELITE!
4. The Cadaver Society - Washington and Lee University
This Cadaver Society is another group that has shared so little information that it’s unclear whether it still (or ever) existed. Yet, the rumours of this secret society alone are worthy of it securing a place on our list.
Perhaps the most salacious of all the rumours surrounding the Cadavers is that they are a branch of the mother of all secret societies, the Illuminati!
It’s also rumoured that Cadavers travel around campus via a series of secret tunnels, which I find hard to believe.
While all speculation, it is thought that members of the Cadaver Society are made up of pre-med students with leadership qualities, high academic grades and an appreciation of university traditions.
The most concrete evidence of this club actually existing is the society’s sign, a skull and the letter C, scrawled around campus. They are said to wander the campus at night, dressed in black, their faces covered with skull masks as they mark their sign.
Like any good secret society, they also tend to have access to a tree that grows money, often making philanthropic donations to the college. In 1988 the Cadavers reportedly donated $150,000 to renovate the frat houses. Pretty generous for a society named after dead bodies.
How It Rates
Secrecy: 9/10 - So secret we're not even sure it's a real society!
Creepiness: 7/10 - Its name is Cadaver Society... what do you think?
Elitism: 8/10 - Strict entry and successful alumni.
5. Order of Gimghoul - University of North Carolina
This is one of the creepiest secret societies of all college secret societies. So creepy, in fact, that it’s named after a University of North Carolina student, Peter Droomgole, who mysteriously vanished from campus in 1833. Rumour has it Droomgole lost a duel with a love rival and his remains are now buried somewhere on campus.
The society was originally called the Order of Droomgole before the name was changed to sound more sinister.
If being inspired by death isn’t creepy enough, the spooky factor of this society reaches off the charts when you see its headquarters… It’s literally a big spooky castle in the middle of UNC’s campus.
To gain entry into the castle or secure a membership is invite only and open to both students and faculty! What happens behind the castle walls, though, is anyone's guess.
However, based on what little photo evidence there is of the club, members also seem to have a fondness for satanic iconography. Literally in every photo of Order of Gimghoul members, somewhere in the shot there is something relating to Satan.
Despite all of this super creepy iconography and representation, the foundations of the club are actually based on Arthurian legend and the Knights of the Round Table. Like, you know, chivalry and stuff. Well… I’ll believe that when I see it.
With the creepy castle, Satanic iconography and infatuation with death, the Order of Gimghoul is more likely to keep you up at night than incite images of a knight in shining armour.
How It Rates
Secrecy: 7/10 - Still a lot of mystery surrounding this club! Is Peter Droomgole even real?
Creepiness: 9/10 - Built around death and Satan... yeah, that's creepy.
Elitism: 7/10 - Sorry, invite only!
6. The Bullingdon Club - The University of Oxford
Founded in 1780, the Bullingdon Club is the most infamous university society in the UK due its prestige, elitism and fascination for the trashing and smashing of local restaurants.
Originally, the Bullingdon was a sporting club, dedicated to cricket and horse-racing; however, now they’re officially known as an all-male “dining club” - that is a social group, usually requiring membership, which meets for dinners and discussion.
Though this may be where the nights start for the Bullingdon Club, it often escalates into more of a drinking club than a dining club… and we ain’t talking orange sodas.
Drinking with the Bullingdon boys often escalates into mayhem pretty quickly. In 1927 they smashed 400 windows at Christ Church college and in 2004 smashed 17 bottles of wine and crockery at the 15th Century White Hart pub.
Their behaviour is so notoriously bad that University of Oxford actually refuses to officially recognise the club as its own, while many local restaurants refuse to host its events, too!
Along with trashing pubs, the society is noted for its wealthy members. David Cameron, Boris Johnson and George Osborne are some of the most notable.
How It Rates
Secrecy: 4/10 - When you go around trashing restaurants, most people know who you are.
Creepiness: 4/10 - The only thing creepy about this club is thinking about the Englishman's breath the next morning.
Elitism: 9/10 - The only reason this society didn’t score a perfect 10 out of 10 for elitism is because it is only open to public school members. Alumni are super elite and posh, though!
7. Ivy Club - Princeton
Given secret societies are officially banned at Princeton, the Ivy Club operates completely above ground. The reason it's on our list is because of its strict barriers to entry.
To join Ivy, the oldest eating club at Princeton University, candidates must sit for 10 interviews with members. In total, the interview process may take up to 7.5 hours of your life over the period of a few days. After the interviews, all 130 current members, men and women, vote to accept or reject the new candidate. If even one member votes to reject the candidate - no dice! No entry! You’re done!
At Princeton, the tradition of eating clubs dates back over 100 years! There are currently six selective clubs and five open clubs at Princeton, yet none more selective than Ivy.
As you can probably tell from the title "eating club", the club revolves around eating. While membership costs USD $9,550, it includes full entry into the club's three-story brick mansion behind iron gates and daily meals at the club house.
The food varies day to day, however, there's always grilled chicken, a salad bar, bagels, cereal, and my personal favourite, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches available ‘round the clock.
The Ivy Club also offers members the opportunity to become involved in community activities and fundraisers, too. Pretty tame club, really, but that interview process is HARSH!
How It Rates
Secrecy: 0/10 - Nothin' secret about my love for PB&J.
Creepiness: 0/10 - Nothing creepy about PB&J.
Elitism: 9/10 - That interview process, though!
8. Porcellian Club - Harvard University
No list of US college is complete with the obligatory mention of Harvard. With such a long history as a top school in the US, it's no surprise Harvard has a dark underbelly, too!
Porcellian Club was founded in 1794, making it one of North America's first ever college societies. Given its motto is dum vivimus vivamus, which is translated to "while we live, let us live", you can imagine the type of shenanigans this all-male club gets up to.
However, all Porcellian parties and get togethers are never open to non-members, so nobody is really sure what goes on behind closed doors. One can only imagine they're drinking bucket loads of Porcellian Club members’ drink of choice, a mixture of beer and gin... mmmm.
The club's mascot is a pig and members of the club can occasionally be recognised by their clothing items and accessories with pigs or pig heads printed on them.
Sticking with the farm theme, clubhouse is known as the “Old Barn” and is a three storey mansion located directly across the road from the world famous Harvard Yard!
Despite their party-boy motto, infatuation with pigs, and volatile alcoholic concoction they drink, there's more to the club than just partying. There is a rumour that if members of Porcellian have not earned their first million by the time they turn 40, the club will give it to them ... literally just hand over a milly.
Yet with benefits like this, membership is competitive and invitation only. Legend has it the only non-member to be invited into the the Old Barn was US president Dwight D. Eisenhower. Yet when he tried to gain entry again after his presidency had ended, even he was turned away!
How It Rates
Secrecy: 8/10 - Not too much is known about who or what goes on at the Old Barn!
Creepiness: 4/10 - Drinking beer cocktails and eatin' pig ain't creepy!
Elitism: 10/10 - That million dollar payout screams elitism!
No matter what you're interested in these universities for, there's no denying everyone loves the mystery surrounding college societies.
What's rumour and hearsay? What's real? What's the Illuminati? Are there really secret tunnels under most colleges?
I'll leave that up to you to decide, but there's no doubt being a member of a secret society would be pretty badass.
If you're looking to study at any one of these universities, make sure you have eyes in the back of your head... you could be the one getting shoulder-tapped!