The Bohemian Club of San Francisco
Stephen Hewitt | Published 21 September 2005 | Last updated 19 January 2021
In his book, Jon Ronson describes a visit to Bohemian Grove, in the redwood forests of northern California. (“Them adventures with extremists”, Jon Ronson, Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan Limited, 2002)
On 15 July 2000, Ronson and a U.S. American radio presenter called Alex Jones and others gate-crashed an exclusive party by the simple expedient of dressing the part and walking in through the main entrance. Amongst other things, Ronson reports:
He was standing by a notice-board, full of snapshot photographs presumably taken at the previous night's entertainment. In these photographs, elderly preppy-looking gentlemen stood around, drinking and laughing. Some were dressed in full drag, with fishnet stockings and hideously applied make-up, humorously oversized fake breasts protruding from their nylon blouses. They struck burlesque erotic poses, their legs wide apart, fingering their buttocks, tongues out, etc. Others were dressed as Elvis impersonators, with fake chest wigs. Next to the photographs was a notice advertising the following Tuesday's concert, MC: George Bush.
Other names Ronson saw listed are Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger and John Major. He witnessed a ritual sacrifice to a fifty-foot high stone owl. The owl was standing on the opposite side of a lagoon and a “papier-mâché effigy” was burnt on a fire in front of it. “The effigy was retrieved from the boat by (my programme informed me) the Brazier Bearers, held out to the owl's midriff, and then thrown - by the Mourning Revelry Dancers - into the fire.”
Ronson's programme also informed him that this was the 121st performance of “Cremation of Care”. It also listed “Voice of the Owl - John MacAllister” amongst its credits.
Ronson's book makes no attempt to research into the organisers of this event and does not name the Bohemian Club of San Francisco, mentioned on the description of the owl in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
However, evidence that this club is indeed the organiser is comes from a PhD thesis that includes: “The 1906 San Francisco fire destroyed the Bohemian Clubhouse, including its library and most of its art” (page 23). This is consistent with the Fitzwilliam Museum suggestion of a 1906 earthquake destroying a “monster owl”, since the earthquake caused fires in San Francisco. “A Relative Advantage: Sociology of the San Francisco Bohemian Club”, A Doctoral Dissertation (1994) by Peter Martin Phillips, see below.
(Incidentally, by January 2021, Peter Phillips had been Professor of Sociology at Sonoma since 1994, with his sonoma.edu web page saying “Participating in the Faculty Early Retirement Program” and that he was also director of Project Censored from 1996 to 2010.)
There is also a link to a youtube video of the “Cremation of Care” on a page of the web site of Alex Jones himself.
Photo of stoneware owl by Robert Wallace MartinSeptember 2005, Fitzwilliam museum, Cambridge
- San Francisco Chronicle article: THE CHOSEN FEW / S.F.'s exclusive clubs carry on traditions of fellowship, culture -- and discrimination Adair Lara, San Francisco Chronicle, 18 July 2004
- PhD Thesis: A Relative Advantage: Sociology of the San Francisco Bohemian Club Peter Martin Phillips, PhD Thesis at Univeristy of California Davis, 1994