Ron Rosenbaum

The Solution to the Geronimo Skull and Bones 'Mystery'

It never seems to end. But, as someone who was the first to write about Skull and Bones in a major magazine (September ’77 Esquire, reprinted in my collection The Secret Parts of Fortune — see right side rail of this blog) and the first to expose — on videotape! — a key part of the pathetically childish Bones initiation ritual, I once again feel called upon to set straight one of the most persistent Skull and Bones urban legends. That would be the Geronimo’s skull theft story which according to this Times story has now morphed into a lawsuit, the product of a cross breeding of cupidity and stupidity.

The original cupidity and stupidity can be attributed — surprise — to George Bush’s grandfather Prescott Bush, a member of the Yale secret society who boasted, according to a letter unearthed a few years ago, that he had, along with some other idiot Bonesmen, stolen what they were told was the skull of Geronimo.

Since it is one of the dimwit customs of this supposedly elite society that (while ruling the world of course) they commit petty thefts of license plates (with their “secret” magic number 322 in them) and unearth skulls of alleged “crooks,” it was a matter of great pride for thick-skulled Prescott and his brilliant buddies to bring home to the Bones “tomb” in New Haven a skull they had allegedly unearthed when they were stationed at an Army base near Indian territory toward the close of the First World War.

In fact, as I have reported (in The Secret Parts of Fortune), there was, for a long time, a skull reposing in a glass case on a base of turquoise chips, inside the entrance to the Bones “tomb,” a skull labeled “Geronimo.”

But that didn’t make it Geronimo’s skull! When the rumor got out in the late ’80s, the Apache tribe that claimed Geronimo as their ancestral chief even had a meeting with the slow witted brother of George H.W. Bush, who clownishly offered the Apaches the cranium of what — judging by its size — was the skull of a small dead child, not a grown Indian chieftain. He was hosing the “inferior” people (just who was inferior was pretty much established by this meeting).

The tribe rejected this fraudulent and disgusting offer. (No one has yet explained the ghoulish behavior of the president’s brother, Jonathan Bush, in getting a small dead child’s skull or how he got to be so stupid and condescending enough to think he could pass it off as the one in the Tomb.)

Sadly, the Times quoted an alleged expert named Alexandra Robbins giving credence to the notion this was actually the skull of Geronimo and displaying a credulousness you can see on display in this story fe– which recounts how she was compelled to make a change in her book on Bones because she believed the embarrassed Bones attempt to cover up the exposure of their ritual. At the time, I left her name out of the story, feeling sorry for a naive inexperienced reporter being taken in by the lying Bonesmen, but since she has never been willing to concede her mistake and apologize, it’s time I make the connection. That’s Alexandra Robbins’ book in the story.

In fact the ultimate irony is this. There is — or at least was — a skull in the Tomb of Skull and Bones labeled “Geronimo” and probably brought there by Prescott Bush and his buddies. But local anthropologists cast doubt on whether Geronimo was buried anywhere near where the befuddled Bonesmen were scammed, or whether his grave would have been marked “Here Lies Geronimo” anyway.

Every time this comes up (most recently I was interviewed by a Russian television documentary crew on it), I try to explain that my theory is more likely: the blundering Eastern preppies were sold a bill of goods, by shrewd locals who scammed them by saying, “Hey dudes wanna find the skull of Geronimo? We’ll show you where it is for a fee of course.”

And the Skull and Bones suckers fell for it. (You can make an analogy between their belief they found “Geronimo’s skull” and Saddam’s WMD if you’re so inclined). Still, stupid and credulous as they were, the Bonesmen were not naifs, they were essentially graverobbers who treated the Native peoples their kind plundered with criminal contempt. Even if this new lawsuit doesn’t get back the actual skull of Geronimo, one hopes it will be a headache for the skeevy elitists who thought it was, and they at least will become the laughingstocks they deserve to be. And — who knows? — maybe every last bit of their juvenile secrecy will be stripped away. Maybe future stories will focus — as I’ve repeatedly argued they should — not on their silly undergraduate rituals, but on the mentality of clandestinity, elitism, entitlement, and the old boy network of cozy connections they still use to exercise undue influence, which is exemplified by blunders of historic scale like the Bay of Pigs (four Bonesmen involved at the very top of that fiasco) and the George Bush presidency. It’s only karma.