The Bohemian Grove is an exclusive private campsite located near the Russian River in Monte Rio, California. The Grove is probably most well known for its annual summer encampment, which includes a massive gathering of the rich and powerful in America. Goings-on at the Bohemian Grove are shrouded in secrecy, despite penetration by several journalists and documentary film makers. The mystery surrounding the annual summer encampment has attracted a great deal of attention to Bohemian Grove, along with large amounts of speculation.
The 2,700 acre (11 kilometers square) site belongs officially to the Bohemian Club, an exclusive private men's club which was founded in San Francisco in the late 1800s. The club was initially founded by journalists, but it was quickly penetrated by San Francisco's elite, who wanted to find a site to use for occasional escapes in addition to the central club in San Francisco. Members started buying up land near the Russian River, and the first summer gathering occurred in 1899, by invitation only.
People who wish to enter the Bohemian Club must be sponsored by two or more existing members. They also have to pay a hefty initiation fee, along with annual dues. Members of the club who keep their membership in good standing for over 40 years are known as the “Old Guard,” and they are entitled to certain privileges which are not extended to other members of the club. Arguably, one of the biggest privileges of all is an invitation to Bohemian Grove, located at 20601 Bohemian Ave in rural Sonoma County.
Membership in the Bohemian Club is not a guarantee for an invitation to the summer events. There are two separate summer camps, one in June which is generally only attended by Californians, and one in July which includes members from all over. At these camps there are an assortment of performances, speeches, and insider rituals including the “Cremation of Care” ceremony, in which attendees symbolically vanish the cares of the world.
The symbol of Bohemian Grove is an owl, and a giant statue of an owl stands guard at the camp. The camp's motto is “weaving spiders come not here,” a reference to the convention of leaving the issues of the outside world, including business deals, outside. In fact, as one would imagine at a gathering of America's elite, including several former Presidents, a great deal of business and politicking goes on at Bohemian Grove.