Special Report

23 Most Powerful Secret Societies

John Harrington, Grant Suneson

Source: Wikimedia Commons

16. Scroll and Key
> Founded: 1842
> Mission: Carrying on traditions of group
> Well-known members: Dean Acheson, Cyrus Vance, Sargent Shriver, Fareed Zakaria, Cole Porter

Yale University has many secret societies, and among the most prestigious is Scroll and Key, the second-oldest society at Yale. Scroll and Key is also believed to be the wealthiest of Yale’s secret societies. Membership is quite limited — only 15 rising seniors are admitted each year. The group became coed in 1989. This encountered some opposition from alumni until Scroll and Key member and then-Yale President A. Bartlett Giamatti, the former Major League Baseball commissioner, said he would not set foot in the club until women were admitted.

Source: Seven horseman / Wikimedia Commons

17. Seven Society
> Founded: Early 20th century
> Mission: Philanthropy, funding to help improve University of Virginia
> Well-known members: Admiral Bull Halsey, CIA officer Frank Wisner

The Seven Society at the University of Virginia is cloaked in secrecy. Members’ identities aren’t revealed until after their death, when a wreath of black magnolias shaped like a “7” is put at the deceased’s grave. Despite the mystery, members are known for their gifts to the university. The society hands out an annual award of $7,000 to teaching assistants and it established a student loan program in the 1990s.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

18. Skull and Bones
> Founded: 1832
> Mission: Said to play role in plot to dominate world
> Well-known members: George H.W. Bush, John Kerry, William F. Buckley, Paul Giamatti.

The oldest and most prestigious club at Yale University, Skull and Bones members include presidents, Wall Street bankers, chief justices, and the founder of the CIA. Among the wilder conspiracy theories associated with this club is that it is an offshoot of the Illuminati and is bent on world domination. In 2009, the club was sued by the descendents of Native American leader Geronimo who claimed members of Skull and Bones stole the skull of the Native American icon in 1918 and put it in a glass case. A federal judge dismissed the suit a year later.

Source: Courtesy of Moose International

19. The Loyal Order of Moose
> Founded: 1888
> Mission: Providing health benefits to members
> Well-known members: Charlie Chaplin, Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, James Stewart, Warren Harding

The Loyal Order of Moose is one of the larger fraternal organizations in the country with over one million members in all 50 states, Canada, Bermuda, and Great Britain. The organization’s website says it supports needy children and senior citizens and claims it contributes up to $100 million worth of community service per year.

Source: David / Flickr

20. The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry
> Founded: 1867
> Mission: Promote rural life
> Well-known members: Franklin Roosevelt, Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, Norman Rockwell

The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry has been around for more than 140 years and has included women from the beginning. The agricultural organization’s motto is “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” The organization emphasizes developing leadership skills among its younger members and maintains a nonpartisan stance in politics.