On January 22nd, Christie’s in New York is selling perhaps one of the most enticing items we’ve seen at auction in some time. It’s the ballot box – made from a human skull – used the infamous Skull and Bones fraternity at Yale University in a variety of voting and ritualistic procedures.
It is, obviously, no longer in use by the society. But was used legitimately as a ballot box (its dome hinges open creepily as it sits atop two, apparently charred bones.
The auction includes the Skull Ballot Box, and a little black book with names and photographs of early members of the society. The lot is expected to go for somewhere between 10 and 20k, and is being offered by an (of course) anonymous European art collector. You could also just buy the revelatory book, “Secrets of the Tomb,” for like $10, but it won’t come with any human remains (The Tomb is the name of their castle-like, on campus headquarters).
The society, notorious for its secrecy and for the shockingly high number of successful business men and world leaders to graduate from their ranks. Both President Bush’s and John Kerry, for example, were in Skull and Bones.
In addition to a reputation for intellectual excellence, cultural sophistication, and (until recently) over sexism, the Skull and Bones society is known for a particularly literal type of skullduggery. The practice is informally known as “crooking,” and consists of members stealing increasingly rare and impressive artifacts. Allegedly, they are in possession of the stolen skulls of President Martin Van Buren, Geronimo, and Pancho Villa, though it has never been proven.
To get into the society, you have to be chosen and invited. Typically, invitees (15 men and 15 women) are chosen from prominent organizations on campus like the Yale Daily News and other cultural societies with an eye toward who existing members believe to be “campus leaders.”