DAA Daily

The Ivy League’s most exclusive Secret Societies

By Maya Hariz
Opinion editor
The Pawprint

A secret society is not something most would associate with the Ivy Leagues. When you Google “secret society” for a definition you get “a secret society is a club or an organization whose activities, events, inner functioning, or membership are concealed from non-members. The society may or may not attempt to conceal its existence.”

Let’s take a look at some of the most secretive societies within the Ivy Leagues. Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown, and Columbia

  1. Skull and Crossbones – Yalesterling_law_building2c_yale2

Yale’s Skull and Crossbones is possibly the most well-known of all the Ivy League societies. Its infamous history dates all the way back to 1823.

Each year, only 15 members are chosen to join the exclusive club on “Tap Day’ and become Bonesmen and Boneswomen. All of the members since 1991 are sworn to secrecy and are forbidden to reveal the things going on behind closed doors. All that is known so far is that they meet twice a week in the windowless building they call the Tomb.

Previous alumni include a string of US presidents including the Bush family (both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush), former United States secretary of state John Kerry, the 27th U.S. president William H. Taft, authors David McCullough and author William F. Buckley.

Weird Rumor: Skull and Bones are associated with the numbers 322, although legends abound as to what the numbers mean. Some say it’s for March 22; others think it pays homage to the death of the Greek orator Demosthenes who died in 322 BC.

  1. Porcellian Club – Harvard
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    The Porcellian Club was founded in 1794, making it one of North America’s first secret college societies ever. Its motto is Dum vivimus vivamus, a Latin phrase meaning “while we live, let us live”.

    All Porcellian parties and get-togethers are never open to non-members, so nobody is sure what goes on behind closed doors. The club’s mascot is a pig, and members of the club can occasionally be recognized by their clothing items featuring images of pigs. Adhering to the theme of farms, their clubhouse is known as the “Old Barn” and is a three-story mansion located across the road from Harvard Yard.

    Regardless of their motto, infatuation with pigs, and their alcoholic concoction they drink, there’s more to the club than just partying. They saw that if the members of Porcellian have not earned their first million by the time they turn 40, the club will give it to them.

    Famous members include the internet entrepreneurs Winklevoss twins, the 26th U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt and Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Oliver Wendell Holmes.

    1. Ivy Club – Princeton

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    The secret societies at Princeton are known as “eating clubs,” and are the most elite of the Ivy Clubs. It was memorialized in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise. To join the club candidates must sit for ten interviews with members. In total, these interviews may take up to 7.5 hours and last over the period of a few days. After these interviews, all of the 130 present members vote to accept or reject the new possible candidates. A vote for rejection has a veto power so a single vote to reject will mean the rejection of a candidate.

    As it is previously mentioned, “eating club” revolves around eating. A membership costs USD 9,550. It includes a full entry to the club’s three-story brick mansion protected by the iron gates, as well as daily meals.

    Famous members include model Lauren Bush-Lauren, former White House chief of staff James Baker, the 28th U.S. president Woodrow Wilson and author Michael Lewis.

    1. Sphinx – Dartmouth
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      Dartmouth is a hotbed of college societies. According to its official website, up to 30% of seniors are involved in a society, with at least 14 known on campus – five of them keep their membership secret.


      The groups oldest and most talked about member is the all-male Sphinx, tapping 24 juniors each winter to become part of “the Krewe”. Those lucky enough to see beyond the walls of the Egyptian Tomb.

      Allegedly, Sphinx HQ provides members access to underground tunnels throughout campus and indoor pool, known as Cleopatra’s Swimming Pool. The members’ identities remain hidden until they graduate. They walk around with canes emblazoned with the Sphinx symbols.
      According to crimes education.org, the Sphinx members can cause a bit of trouble.

      In 1989, 16 members were suspended for stealing USD $12,000 worth of art and photographs around campus.

    2. Pacifica House – Brown
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      The Pacifica House is formerly known as Franklin Society, is one of America’s oldest secret society. It started in 1824 but changed in the late 1800s to Societas Domi Pacificae, known as Pacifica House. 15 juniors are tapped each year and its Latin motto “anima mundi colendae gratia” meaning “tending the soul of in and the world”. The society’s coat of arms features three golden keys referencing Science, Reason, and Action.

      Famous members include 3rd U.S. president Thomas Jefferson, 6th U.S. president John Quincy Adams, and former United States Senator Henry Clay.

      1. St. Anthony Hall – Columbia

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        St. Anthony Hall is one of three secret societies at Columbia, the other two being the Sachems and Nacoms. It is a national organization that was funded in 1847 and has been established chapters at elite universities around the country. It has a Greek designation Delta Psi.

        Though secretive, the organization is known for its formalwear parties and rumors of cocaine use. The townhouse roughly holds 20 men and women, with a rumored hot tub on the roof. Weird rumors around the locals say that a servant lives in the basement and does everybody’s laundry.

        The society, which is also known as the Fraternity of Delta Psi reportedly has a literary slant at its 11 undergraduate chapters. Columbia was founded first and remains the Alpha chapter.

        Famous members include American socialite Tinsley Mortimer and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.  

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