THEM: Adventures With Extremists
by Jon RonsonNOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT
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13. THE CLEARING IN THE FOREST
THE FOG ROLLED in over the giant redwoods of northern California and settled for the night outside my motel room in the logging town of Occidental, giving the place a menacing air that became less menacing when the fog lifted the next morning and I saw that the motel's restaurant specialized in low-cholesterol egg alternatives and breakfast smoothies.
I spent the day sitting in my car and watching limousines pick elderly men up from Lear jets at the nearby Santa Rosa airport. I followed them along Bohemian Highway to a lane that read NO THROUGH ROAD. There, the limousines disappeared up the hill.
This was the lane that led to Bohemian Grove, the clearing in the forest where, it had long been said, the rulers of the world -- President Bush, for instance, and Bilderbergers Kissinger and Rockefeller -- dress in robes and hoods and burn effigies at the foot of a giant owl. As far as Randy Weaver and Alex Jones and David Icke and Thom Robb and all the others were concerned, the very heart of Luciferian globalist evil lay at the top of this hill.
I wanted to attempt the impossible. I wanted to somehow get in, mingle, and witness the owl burning myself. After all, I had heard about the global elite these past five years -- the claims and the counterclaims -- and I believed this to be the only tangible way I could finally learn the truth. What were they doing in there?
I had no clear idea how to accomplish this. My original plan had been to enter the forest alone, perhaps climb up some hills, and basically just scout around until I found it. Recognizing that this was an ill-conceived strategy, I telephoned some of the anti-New World Order radicals I had met during my travels to ask their advice.
David Icke warned me against it. He said the reptilian bloodlines transform themselves back into giant lizards at Bohemian Grove. Furthermore, he said, Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Walter Cronkite, and the male members of the British royal family routinely sexually abuse their harem of kidnapped sex slaves -- brainwashed through the MKULTRA trauma-based mind-control program -- at the Grove. I asked David how he knew this, and he explained that one of the sex slaves, a woman called Cathy O'Brien, escaped and wrote a chilling memoir about her experiences called The TranceFormation of America.
"If you read Cathy O'Brien's book," said David, "you'd know not to go anywhere near the place. People disappear in those forests."
I called Alex Jones, the radio and TV talk-show host I had met while visiting Texas with Randy Weaver. He instantly invited himself along.
"That place is sick!" he yelled. "You've got presidents and governors and prime ministers and corporate chieftains running around naked. They have orgies. They worship their devil owl. I'll smuggle a camera in and get right up in their faces."
"I think stealth might be a better approach if we want to witness the owl-burning ceremony," I said.
"You're right," said Alex, thinking aloud. "Let's liken it to Indiana Jones. Getting in their faces will be like going for the little emeralds along the way to the big ruby in the head of the idol, which would be to actually witness the owl burning itself."
"Exactly," I said.
I was glad Alex was joining me. He struck me as someone who would behave fearlessly in the face of danger. He also had five million listeners. He was a high-profile person. He had personally organized the rebuilding of David Koresh's Branch Davidian church at Mount Carmel near Waco. He had a can-do attitude. I could not imagine that, with Alex around, they would dare to do anything should we be caught.
I had arranged to rendezvous with Alex, his girlfriend, Violet, and his producer, Mike, at the Occidental Motel on Wednesday evening, but they didn't show up. Instead they telephoned me from somewhere along the road at 10 P.M.
"It's all fogged out," yelled Alex, "so thick you can't see. Weaving roads. Deer jumping in front of us. I'll tell you, the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up."
Alex called again at 11 P.M. to report on their progress.
"There's fog everywhere," he yelled, "and there's all these strange people, old men and old women just standing on the side of the road watching us. I know the Bohemian Grovers have their snitches all over this forest. We're going to take a more circuitous route down side roads. I'll call you back."
At midnight, I received a final call from Alex's increasingly crackly cell phone.
"A jeep has come off the side road and has started following us. We're going to turn around. Oh my God, it's turning around too! It's following us back down the road. Write this down. A red jeep. Newer model. Write down the license plate. Hang on a minute."
Alex handed the phone to his producer, Mike.
"If something happens to us make a big stink about it!" yelled Mike. "Promise me that."
"I promise!" I yelled.
I did not hear from them again that night. The motel receptionist informed me at breakfast that their beds had not been slept in.
I SPENT THE morning leaving concerned messages on Alex's cell phone. Then I shrugged and thought, well, life goes on, and I paid a visit to Mary Moore, a local anti-Bohemian Grove activist who lived a mile from my motel. Mary was once a beauty queen, the winner of the 1953 San Luis Obispo County Fiesta, but she became radical in the 1960s and moved to Occidental. Mary protested the Grove every summer for three decades, holding up placards, yelling at the warmongers cruising past in their limousines, but now she is sixty-five and retired. Her cabin was decorated as a monument to her participation in left-wing causes. There were posters and bumper stickers pinned everywhere reading NUCLEAR WAR? NO THANKS and WHO KILLED KAREN SILKWOOD? and SPLIT WOOD NOT ATOMS and VOTE JESSE JACKSON.
"Is it dangerous to try and get into Bohemian Grove?" I asked her.
"Yes, if you get caught," she said. "They do not want publicity. But I will tell you this. Getting in is easier than most people think."
She paused, and added, with a cryptic smile, "Easy when you know how to do it, that is."
I asked her if she'd help me, but she said she had been burned in the past. In 1991 she had gone to great lengths to help a journalist from People magazine smuggle himself in -- she had co-opted her deep throats and her people who knew people -- but he was spotted inside by two executives from Time Warner, People's publishers. They called security and had him removed. His article never appeared.
"I don't know who your On High is," said Mary. "I don't want to get burned again."
We talked for an hour. She gave me a detailed map of the Grove that had been published by the Bohemians themselves. The Grove's 2,700 acres do not appear on any normal map of the region. She warned me of the nearby Russian River's treacherous currents and the surrounding sheer rocky canyons. She said that penetration via the surrounding terrain was not a good idea.
She showed me the lists of Bohemian attendees she had managed to surreptitiously acquire over the years. They read much like a Bilderberg roll call, with Kissinger and Rockefeller alongside Presidents Bush and Reagan and Ford and Nixon. There were movies stars like Clint Eastwood and Danny Glover, the ex Tory cabinet minister Chris Fatten, Alan Greenspan of the Federal Reserve, and Caspar Weinberger and George Shultz.
"What do you know about the owl-burning ceremony?" I asked her.
"They call it the 'Cremation of Care,'" she said. "Is it deeply occult as many people think? Some say they're killing children up there and sacrificing them on the altar. Maybe they are. But I doubt it. I think we'd have heard about it by now, at least locally."
Mary rifled through her filing cabinet and she found a copy of an old "Cremation of Care" program from the 1980s. One of Mary's deep throats had smuggled it out to her. The front cover depicted a cartoon of a giant red owl with a snarling grin clutching a small man in its claws, about to throw him into a giant fire.
"Goodness," I said.
"Make of that what you will," said Mary.
Mary said there was much evidence of prostitutes from San Francisco being flown in en masse to the nearby village of Monte Rio to service the all-male encampment for the two-week duration, reports of a great deal of alfresco urination against the redwood trees -- even though the campsite was equipped with a great many toilets -- and world leaders wandering around in drag, with giant fake breasts.
I tried to remain objective, but it all seemed uncommonly strange and unexpected and hard to rationalize.
"The truth is," said Mary, "I couldn't care less about what they do in their private lives. I don't care what their sexual habits are. Men are men. That's not news to me. I care about the networking. This is where the ruling-class bonding happens. This is the ultimate back room."
Mary told me about the "lakeside talks," the unofficial power meetings that occur in an open-air amphitheater on the grounds of the Grove. One of these lakeside talks, said Mary, had conceived the Manhattan Project, which gave birth to the first U.S. atomic bomb. In 1978, she added, the chief of the U.S. Air Force gave a lakeside talk in which he directly pled for, and later received, congressional approval for the B2 stealth bomber. Mary said that the future of the world is discussed at the Grove by men like Henry Kissinger who have the power to change the course of history, men who actively thrive on secrecy, hence the mystique that has grown up around any secret society Kissinger belongs to, especially if that very same secret society undertakes berobed ceremonies involving owl effigies.
"It's strange to see the left and the right coming together on this issue," I said.
"Well," she shrugged, "we all hate Henry Kissinger."
"My colleague Alex Jones hopes to smuggle in a hidden camera and film the owl-burning ceremony," I said.
"Well, if you guys can do that," she said, "that I'd like to see. That has never been done. Hang on a minute."
Mary went into the other room to make some calls. She returned some minutes later to tell me the good news. A friend of hers called Rick -- a local lawyer who had twice successfully infiltrated the Grove -- was prepared to meet with Alex and me.
"He says he'll even come in with you," said Mary. "He looks the part. He could be one of them. You'll be OK with Rick."
ALEX AND VIOLET and Mike finally showed up at the motel mid-afternoon. They explained that their circuitous route down mountainous side roads had proved unsuccessful, so they had retraced the road back to town and checked into a hotel.
I laid out Mary's map of the Grove on Alex's bed. They gathered around to study it.
"OK," said Alex. "Here's the lake. Here's the shrine of their devil owl."
"Where does it say that?" I asked.
"Right there," said Alex, pointing to a spot marked Shrine. "Here's Bohemian Highway. I guess our hotel must be right over there. Hey. Where did you get this secret map?"
"Deep throat," I said.
"Now wait a minute," said Alex. "This map is unheard of. This map isn't widely available." He narrowed his eyes and scrutinized me. "Where did you get it?"
I could tell that dark thoughts had entered Alex's mind.
"I am not one of them," I tutted. "I am not luring you into a trap. Can we have some trust here, please?"
"Yeah, yeah," said Alex. "I'm sorry."
The treacherous currents and the sheer rocky canyons did not seem intimidating to Alex and Mike. They had made their plans. They intended to rent a boat, sail it down the Russian River, moor it, climb a mountain, shimmy down the other side, and get in that way.
"Hiking in two thousand seven hundred acres is not hard," said Alex. "We need to catch these people at their Luciferian worship."
The cleaning lady wandered past the open bedroom door holding a vacuum cleaner. Alex slammed the door shut. He pulled the curtains together.
"I saw her before," whispered Alex, "just standing there staring at me. Really. Standing there and just staring. She had her hand to her ear like this."
Alex cupped his ear.
"All the literature I've read on the Net says the Bohemians have got their snitches all over this town," he explained.
"The actual clearing seems to be only about five hundred acres," said Mike, still studying the map. "The rest is undergrowth."
"God only knows what's really going on in the other two thousand two hundred acres," said Alex. "I would guess that's where they perform their more nasty or beastly activities. But that is only speculation. We've got two hidden cameras. We've got a tie camera and one that looks like a pager."
"Do you think that Alex's temperament is such that he'll be able to maintain the stealth needed to undertake the operation?" I asked Violet.
"Alex is not only a great activist and a great broadcaster but also a great actor," she said.
"Thank you, honey," said Alex. They kissed each other on the lips.
"Do you worry for Alex?" I asked.
"I do," said Violet. " Alex gets so impassioned. I'm afraid sometimes he might be a little too fearless. And it's creepy at night up here in the woods."
There was a silence.
"I just wish we were armed," said Violet, wistfully.
"Well," muttered Mike, "guns would be no good out here without silver bullets."
"I've arranged for us to meet a local lawyer called Rick," I said, "who has twice infiltrated the Grove."
"I'll meet your guy," said Alex.
"I think his advice might be valuable," I said. "I think you should just listen and not say anything."
"Why not say anything?" asked Alex.
"He comes from a different political persuasion to you," I said. "I don't want your words to disturb him."
"A socialist, huh?" said Alex. "Well, if he wants to consolidate power and enslave the world's population and kill eighty percent of us like the UN are publicly stating then he ought to be all for Bohemian Grove."
"I don't think Rick wants to sacrifice eighty percent of the world's population," I said.
"Well, you said he was from a different political persuasion to me," said Alex.
"Still," I said, "the important thing is for you to not say anything."
AT 6 P.M. Rick and Alex and myself sat by the pool at the Occidental Motel. Rick was sixty but he looked ten years younger. He wore a plaid shirt and khaki trousers. Alex laid out Mary's map, which he and Mike had annotated with little red arrows, plotting their proposed route along the torrents of Russian River, up a mountain, and down the other side. Alex's arrows ended at the spot on the map marked Shrine.
"Going in that way," said Rick, "will get you killed. We are talking about a sheer rocky canyon."
Alex produced a notepad and wrote down, "Sheer rocky canyon -- Killed."
"So what's the secret?" I asked. "How do we get in?"
"The secret?" said Rick. "Just walk right in up the drive. That's what I did. There'll be one or two security guys sitting on the side of the road looking bored. You're just going to nod to them as you walk in. Just nod and say hi. And that's it."
"That's it?" said Alex.
"What you don't do," said Rick, "is stand out. You don't dress young. Even the young ones in there don't dress young. Dress casual. Khakis. Cotton pants."
"Preppy?" I asked.
"Preppy, yes," said Rick. "It's a preppy crowd. Wear a baseball cap."
"Flip-flops?" asked Alex. "Sandals?"
"Sandals would be fine," said Rick. "Flip-flops might not be such a good idea."
Alex wrote down "sandals."
"What time do they have the owl-burning ceremony?" asked Alex.
"The 'Cremation of Care,'" corrected Rick, "is at dusk tomorrow night."
"Have you witnessed the ceremony?" asked Alex.
"Yes," said Rick. "It's pretty elaborate. They do it down at the lagoon. The crowd is on one side of the lagoon on a grassy slope and the ceremony is on the other side. So the crowd are quite a way away from it. Some people bring cushions or little lawn chairs. There's a chorus. There's a symphony orchestra. A good symphony orchestra, right there by the lagoon."
"Wow," said Alex. "What type of music?"
"Boston Pops-type music," said Rick.
"Sounds pretty eclectic," said Alex.
I smiled at Alex. He smiled back. He was saying the right things.
"What is the owl made out of?" asked Alex.
"I have no idea," said Rick. "I know there's a druid type of ceremonial altar in front of it."
"A druid type of ceremonial altar?" repeated Alex, writing down "druid type of ceremonial altar."
"It has that look," said Rick. "Very old. Very pagan. I'm sure it's meant to be harmless pranky type fun. "
Alex raised his eyes.
"This is not harmless pranky type fun," he snapped. "You have all these superpowerful men in druid outfits, as you witnessed, Rick, burning an effigy in front of an owl. It just so happens that other primitive cultures have had that same owl, they just throw children inside the burning innards. That's historically based."
Rick looked perplexed.
"And if you ask them what it's all about," Alex continued, "they'll just say, Oh! I don't know what you're talking about. Get away from me, little man, or I'll set my dogs on you. You sniveling twit. I'll have you removed immediately. How dare you! Wretched fool!'
I shot Alex an annoyed look.
"You're probably right," Alex shrugged, calming down. "It could be just big-kid grown-up fraternity behavior."
"The important thing," said Rick, "is to look like you know where you're going. Smile. Just walk right in. Hell, I'll walk in with you. And dress preppy."
Alex wrote down "preppy dress."
THE NEXT MORNING we drove into town to buy preppy clothes at Eddie Bauer. I nearly gasped when Alex and Mike stepped out of their dressing rooms. The visual transformation was astonishing. They no longer looked like highly strung Texan right-wingers. Now they were the very picture of Ivy League graduates, the East Coast elite, in sports shirts and khaki trousers, cashmere sweaters draped with carefree abandon over their shoulders.
"You look very handsome," said Violet.
"Thank you, baby," said Alex. They embraced and passionately kissed right there in Eddie Bauer, and Mike and I and the shop assistants shuffled uncomfortably.
Back at the motel, Alex and Mike practiced being preppy by wandering up and down the corridor in a preppy fashion, their hands in their pockets, a slightly effeminate lilt to their gait.
"The point is," said Alex, "we belong here. We're just normal."
I didn't join in with the rehearsals. I felt I already knew how to behave preppily.
Rick had advised that Alex should assume a profession familiar to him -- a talk-show host from Austin, for instance -- but after much deliberation he and Mike decided to pretend to be high flyers from Silicon Valley. Alex was to be the CEO of a microprocessing firm, and Mike the technical brains with a doctorate in molecular science.
"What are our names?" asked Mike.
"I'm David Hancock and you're Professor Mike Richards," said Alex. "We're just going to talk. We're just going to walk normally as we would. Calmly. La la la. We're fat cats."
Alex and Mike began rehearsing preppy conversations.
"But seriously," said Alex, adopting a recondite tone of voice, the two men rambling delicately along the corridor, ''as fast as microprocessors are beginning to move ... it's getting down to a molecular level ... the question is, at what level will the actual basics of science stop us from making these systems smaller? It's the entire nanotechnology revolution that I find most dynamic ..."
I could see that Mike's hands were shaking, making his polo shirt quiver.
"I agree," he murmured, unsurely.
They looked over to me for approval.
"I'm not sure about 'I agree,'" I said.
"I don't think we should practice talking," snapped Mike. "What comes up comes up. It's got to be natural when we do it."
"No," said Alex. "We're going to go over it and over it until we get it right."
"OK," said Mike.
They resumed wandering along the corridor.
"But I really want to know your opinion of nanotechnology," said Alex. "You've been studying it so closely. You've already got these transistors down to the size of molecules. What I want to know is when will the science, just the basic laws, stop our progress in the miniaturization process. Doctor?"
Mike smiled wisely but he said nothing.
"What do you think?" said Alex to me.
"Are you sure you don't look too preppy?" I said.
"I need a prop to stop my hands from shaking," said Mike.
"Mineral water," said Alex. "They drink mineral water."
WE ABANDONED REHEARSALS to purchase mineral water from the local general store. In the few moments it took us to cross the road, two limousines and an open-top BMW cruised past us towards the Grove.
Rick's logic was that no security guard would risk his livelihood by insulting potential VIPs with impertinent questions about their right to be there, but Alex was still unsure.
"You think we can trust Rick?" he asked. "People have recommended him to you? I'm not going to end up tied to a pentagram with Henry Kissinger's fat belly hanging over me while he's necking with a big dagger, am I?"
I could see Alex's point. Rick's tips seemed so contrary to everything we had heard about Bohemian Grove. How could we just walk in? That seemed incorrect.
"Have you worked out something to say as a last resort in case you get caught?" I asked.
"Yes I have," said Alex.
"What is it?" I asked.
"I'll say, 'DON'T COME ANY CLOSER!"' screamed Alex.
"I'm sorry?" I said.
"I'll say, 'BACK OFF! JUST BACK THE HELL OFF! DON'T TAKE ANOTHER STEP!"'
"Oh my God," I said. "That's a threat."
"It won't come to that," said Alex.
"'Don't come any closer is not preppy talk," I said.
"Definitely not," said Alex. He smiled slightly and looked me squarely in the eye.
There was a silence.
"Are you dangerous?" I asked Alex.
"Are these people dangerous?" he replied. "They certainly are. I'm completely nonviolent. Dangerous? I'm definitely dangerous to corrupt bureaucrats and their financial bosses that like to control the people on the planet."
"But not in a violent way," I said.
"Not in a violent way," he said.
"Alex is one of the best guys you'll ever meet," said Mike.
"This world government is dangerous," said Alex. "Henry Kissinger and George Bush are the dangerous ones. This degenerate inbred New World Order crowd are the dangerous ones. I have no criminal record."
"He's not dangerous," said Mike. He turned to Alex. "You need to clear that up," he said.
"This is really a gross analogy," said Alex, "but I'll use it. I see most of these elitist individuals as a whole bunch of dog turds being laid all over this society. I don't run around stomping on them because I don't want to get it on my feet."
Alex paused. His voice became somber.
"I just say to the general public, 'Let's clean these dog turds up. Let's tell these people they can't do this anymore."
Mike nodded in earnest agreement.
"They can't shit on us," said Alex. "That's really what I'm saying. You can't shit on us anymore."
There was a silence.
"I just want them to stop shitting on us," said Alex.
"OK," I said. "Sorry."
ON SATURDAY AFTERNOON at 4 P.M. -- three hours before our allotted rendezvous with Rick -- Alex had a private meeting with Mike and Violet in Mike's bedroom. Then he took me to one side to formally inform me of their change of plan. Yes, Alex was grateful for Rick's clothing advice and, yes, they were willing to walk up the driveway, just as Rick recommended. But, no offense, Alex said, they were not prepared to actually walk into the Grove with either Rick or myself. They had decided to go it alone.
Alex didn't admit it outright, but his reason was clear. He simply could not know for certain that Rick or I were not them: undercover Feds, or worse, part of some complex trap to capture an outsider and perhaps even offer him up as a sacrifice to the owl god. I considered launching a defense, but the truth was I had no tangible evidence to prove that I was not one of them. Furthermore, as crazy as it sounds, those suspicions had also crossed my mind about Rick, and I too was finding It difficult to shake them.
"When are you going to attempt your penetration?" I asked him.
"Right now," said Alex.
"Well, at least let me come along to see you off," I said.
THE JOURNEY TO the gates of Bohemian Grove was undertaken in an anxious silence. Violet pulled up in a turnout near the entrance.
"If we're not here at eleven P.M., come back at eleven-thirty," said Alex.
"And every half hour after that," said Mike.
"What time do I get in touch with the police?" asked Violet.
"Six A.M.," said Alex.
"If something does happen to us, make a big stink about it," said Mike. "Promise us that."
"I promise," said Violet.
"Here we go," said Alex.
Alex and Mike climbed out of the car. They strode away from us in a conspicuously preppy manner. They were looking good. I could tell by their hand gestures that they had already begun debating the miniaturization process of microprocessors, even though they were still a hundred yards from the driveway.
"It seems to be going well so far," I said.
And it did seem to be going well, right up until the moment, some ten seconds later, that Alex and Mike, for no apparent reason, suddenly dived frantically into the undergrowth at the side of the road.
"Bloody hell," I said.
For a second the two men became visible as they stood up in the bushes, brushed themselves down, turned around, gave Violet and me a surreptitious thumbs up, took a step forward, cascaded headfirst down into a gully, and were gone.
"Hmm," I said.
"WHERE ARE THE Texans?" asked Rick.
It was two hours later. Violet had gone back to the Occidental Motel. Rick and I were steeling ourselves for our impending penetration with cocktails at the Village Inn, a lovely riverside bar on the edge of the Grove.
"I last saw them diving into the bushes," I said.
"Boy Scouts," tutted Rick. "So predictable. You know there's poison oak all over these forests."
"Will they die?" I asked Rick.
"I don't know," he said. "Depends how many times they get stung. Anyway. Are you ready?"
"As I'll ever be," I said.
I took a last big swig, we paid up, walked the hundred yards to the entrance, up past the sign that read NO THROUGH ROAD, and were immediately approached by a security guard.
"Hey there," said Rick.
"You guys should have driven up here," smiled the guard.
"Oh, we wanted to walk," said Rick. "You know. Enjoy the air."
"Hey!" said the guard. "No problem. Have a good time at Care."
He gave us a little salute. We walked on.
"That was easy," I whispered.
"Told you," whispered Rick.
We walked the length of the parking lot -- there were perhaps five hundred cars, Mercedes and BMWs and Range Rovers and Jeeps -- and up to a second wooden guardhouse, manned by a bored-looking security officer and some young valet parkers. Nobody seemed to notice us as we walked past.
And then we were in Bohemian Grove.
THE BANK OF sixteen public telephones offered the first indication that this was no ordinary campground. The piano music drifting down from a nearby hill was another. There were clusters of canvas tents everywhere, some just off the road, others perched in the hills, as if built out of the trees. Each encampment was equipped with a bar, a grand piano, a huge stone fireplace, a stone barbecue, and a wooden owl sculpture.
One had an open-air Jacuzzi. A live band played rock and roll standards in another -- "Lucille" and "Shout" and "Go Johnny Go" -- to a group of men, most elderly, some middle-aged, dancing and shouting and gulping down cocktails. I did not recognize any of them. But we kept our distance.
From time to time an open-top tram drove bumpily past us --decorated with a drawing of an owl -- carrying khaki-wearing Bohemians from one end of the camp to the other. Again, I recognized nobody, although they all had an unmistakable aura of wealth and power. They all looked like they were someone.
Rick and I continued to explore. The camps were each marked with wooden signs: CAVE MAN and WOLF and DRAGONS and LOST ANGELS and STOWAWAY. Red lanterns hung in the trees behind Dragons, like little devil eyes. The Grove's ambience seemed deliberately spooky, as if a designer had been instructed to utilize the shadows of the giant redwoods -- the whole place was in shadow -- to give it some kind of chic druid-Satanic milieu.
Everywhere we walked we discovered the remnants of a recently defunct party. Dozens of empty bottles of Moet et Chandon were scattered around a secluded lawn. The ice had not yet melted in the silver bowl that stood on a wooden table. Three strawberries remained. I ate them.
"Look at this," said Rick. He was standing by a bulletin 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 makeup, 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 Sr.
There was a further notice, locked in a glass case. It was the guest list. I quickly scanned the names. Bohemians were wandering past me and I didn't want to appear too nosy. Under C was the name Cheney, Richard. It would be reported on CNN a week later that George Bush learned of his son's decision to appoint Dick Cheney as his vice-presidential running mate while he was camping on vacation in northern California.
And there was the list of guest speakers for the following week's lakeside talks: Henry Kissinger and John Major.
Black linen drapes hung from a bank of trees near the lagoon. We walked between them. I turned around to find myself face to face with a giant stone owl, nestling between two huge redwoods. It must have been fifty feet high and covered in moss.
"The shrine," whispered Rick.
Bohemian Grove was, all in all, an unusual place. Besides the photographic remnants of the drag/Elvis costume party, which I had found decidedly unpleasant in a palpably woman-hating way, and the pseudo-spooky Rocky Horror Show touches, this was a very beautiful spot. The ancient redwoods were vast and breathtaking. The tents looked luxurious and opulent, and I imagined myself sipping cocktails at twilight, discussing preppy issues with like-minded world leaders.
We wandered along the winding path. We found a private beach at the edge of a tranquil part of the Russian River, the sand perfectly manicured. There was a landing stage and a diving board. A handful of Bohemians were swimming naked in the waters below.
Rick and I gazed out at the trees and we discussed world events. How did we feel about the breakup of Microsoft? Rick was on balance in favor. I hadn't made up my mind. How about GB? Rick was on balance against. I hadn't made up my mind. I realized that my preppy demeanor was not a camouflage. I was genuinely interested in these matters. I didn't have a care in the world. I had made it to the inner enclave. Dusk was falling and the owl burning was soon to begin, and with Rick as my cover I knew I would not be caught.
"Hey, look," said Rick. "There's your friend Alex."
Sure enough, Alex and Mike were heading down the path towards us.
"Hi, you two!" I said.
"Don't go that way," hissed Alex. "There are cameras in the trees!"
"There are owls everywhere!" hissed Mike, his eyes wide in terror.
"Just keep walking!" said Alex. "Just keep walking!"
And before I could say another word to them, they had gone.
"Hmm," I said.
"They seem to be trapped in some sort of paranoid state," said Rick, breezily.
"They certainly do," I said.
"Ah," said Rick. "Can you see the osprey?"
"Oh yes," I said. "A lovely seabird."
NINE P.M. There was no formal announcement. No bell was rung. But the Bohemians instinctively knew that the time had come for them down at the lagoon. The ceremony was about to begin. Rick and I found a prime spot, directly opposite the giant stone owl. We sat on the grass and we rested our backs against a tree. Soon the grassy bank was packed. A thousand men had drifted down, in groups of twenty or thirty, and were crowded together, sitting cross-legged on the grass. Many lit cigars. A few scrutinized me. I was probably the youngest person there.
I glanced behind me and spotted Alex and Mike. They spotted me. We looked away.
"First-timer?" asked a big man wearing glasses.
"Yes," I said.
"You're going to love the ceremony," he said. "Fools! Fools! Ha ha!"
"Sorry?" I said.
"You'll see," he laughed. "Here. Have this."
He handed me a color program. The cover read "Cremation of Care. July 15th, 2000. 121st Performance. Bohemian Grove." I thanked him and flicked through it. It was a cast list.
High Priest -- Jay Jacobus.
Voice of the Owl -- John MacAllister.
Funeral Cortege -- The Gentlemen of Lost Angels Camp.
And so on.
From across the lagoon, a single violin began to play. A hush descended. A figure appeared before the owl. He wore lederhosen. His lederhosen were covered in leaves. He resembled some kind of elfin Germanic Tarzan. He was, I learned from my program, Eden's Garden Soloist.
He stretched out his arms and began to sing, with operatic grandeur: "Glorious! Glorious! Oh twigs! Oh boughs! Oh trees ...!"
For the next ten minutes or so, Eden's Garden Soloist eulogized nature's splendor, his voice ringing through loudspeakers concealed in the trees. Spotlights picked out individual redwoods. They glowed green.
Then we were plunged suddenly into darkness. The drums thundered. Boom! Boom! At each boom a robed man carrying a flaming torch appeared amid the trees. There were perhaps thirty of them. It was, without question, a berobed torchlight procession. Their hoods were red, their robes black. They resembled posh Klansmen, or the cast of a Broadway musical, should Broadway ever decide to do the Moloch Pagan Cult of Sacrifice story.
They lit a pyre at the foot of the owl.
"Hail, Bohemians!" said the High Priest, and it was clear he was the highest of all the priests because his robes were silver and gold and made of silk. The High Priest reprised Eden's Garden Soloist's eulogy of the great outdoors. "The ripple of waters, the song of birds, such music as inspires the soul ..."
To summarize, he informed the crowd, these men of wealth and power, that Dull Care, archenemy of Beauty, must be slain, right here and right now!
"Bring fire!" he roared.
I wondered what Alex and Mike were making of this. I, personally, took Dull Care to mean the burdens and responsibilities of business, but I imagined that Alex was interpreting the scene differently. A naysayer could easily presume that Dull Care meant the world beyond the Grove, the average Joes, and that the High Priest was suggesting the world leaders in the crowd should not give a damn about ordinary people.
As I pondered this, a startling thundercrack rang out through the trees, followed by a scary, cackly voice. It was the voice of Dull Care.
"Fools!" he roared. "Fools.! Ha ha ha! When will ye learn that me ye cannot slay?"
Dull Care suggested to the High Priest that he was invincible.
"When ye turn your feet to the marketplace," he mocked cacklingly, "am I not waiting for you as of old? Fools! To dream ye conquer Care."
At this, and in a breathtaking display of pyrotechnic wizardry, the spirit of Dull Care spat fire onto the High Priest. From the treetops, a gob of fire rained down upon the High Priest's hat. This infuriated the High Priest.
"Nay, thou mocking spirit," he spluttered. "We know thou waitest for us when this our sylvan holiday shall end. But this too we know: Year after year, within this happy Grove, our fellowship has banned thee for a space. So shall we burn thee once again and in the flames that eat thine effigy, we'll read the sign. Midsummer set us free!"
And the crowd roared and cheered and yelled the last line back at the priest.
"Midsummer set us free!"
At this moment, Death appeared on a gondola on the lagoon, carrying a papier-mache effigy towards the giant owl. Dry ice floated upon the lagoon's surface. It was a beautiful sight. The effigy was retrieved from the boat by (my program informed me) the Brazier Bearers, held out to the owl's midriff, and then thrown -- by the Mourning Revelry Dancers -- into the fire.
"Aaaargh," said Dull Care, his grotesque death rattle filling the forest.
"Hooray!" said the crowd.
Then fireworks erupted. Then everybody sang "When the Saints Go Marching In." Then it was over. We clapped. The Grove descended once again into silence, broken only by the sound of many elderly men murmuring to their neighbors, "Could you possibly help me up? Thank you so much."
"Well, well, well," I said.
"Pretty spectacular," said Rick.
"I guess we should go," I said.
We wandered back towards the exit. A ragtime band was playing near a bonfire. All along the path, men unzipped their khakis and urinated up against the trees and straight onto the road. This did not strike me as mere convenience. There were public toilets everywhere. It was a statement. I needed the toilet myself, so I urinated too, my urine joining theirs, forming a little golden stream down the path and into the mud.
AT 1 A.M., back at the Occidental Motel, Alex and Mike and Violet knocked on my bedroom door. We nodded to each other. Alex locked the door behind him. He pulled the curtains closed. Violet hooked the hidden camera up to the TV set. She fiddled around with the wires. We sat on the bed.
"OK," said Violet. "I think we've got it."
She switched on the TV to reveal an indistinct blob of green to the right of the screen. We squinted our eyes.
"I don't understand what I'm seeing," said Violet. "The picture is very blurry and crooked, honey."
"Nobody has ever lived to get this footage out before," snapped Mike.
"I think it might be Eden's Garden Soloist," I suggested.
"Who?" said Mike.
"The elf in the leaf-covered lederhosen," I said.
"Glorious! Glorious! Oh twigs! Oh boughs! Oh trees ...!" sang Eden's Garden Soloist.
"Look!" said Alex. "Torches! Two torches! Now there's three torches! See them? More torches! It was some kind of sick torchlight procession."
Sure enough, specks of light had appeared at a perplexing ninety-degree angle in the corner of the TV screen.
"Damn," said Alex. "The camera must have toppled over."
"That's so scary," said Violet. "I would have been terrified. How terrifying is that?"
"That's nothing," said Alex. "They start worshipping the owl any minute."
"Hail, Bohemians!" began the High Priest. "The ripple of waters, the song of birds, such music as inspires the soul ..."
"Were you scared?" Violet asked Mike.
"I'm not going to lie," he replied. "I was scared to death in there. The whole place was full of owl statues and gods. Just owls everywhere."
"But surely that's like going to a Hilton and getting freaked out because they had H's everywhere," I reasoned. "The owls were a motif."
Mike stared at me as if I was mad.
IT WAS CLEAR that the Texans' interpretation of the ceremony differed from my own. My lasting impression was of an all-pervading sense of immaturity: the Elvis impersonators, the pseudo-pagan spooky rituals, the heavy drinking. These people might have reached the apex of their professions but emotionally they seemed to be trapped in their college years. I wondered whether the Bohemians shrouded themselves in secrecy for reasons no more sinister than that they thought it was cool.
I remembered something that my Bilderberg Deep Throat had said to me on the telephone one Sunday evening shortly before I set off for the Grove. He said that far from being fed up with hearing wild conspiracy theories about themselves, many of the Bilderbergers actually thoroughly enjoy it.
He also said that, in all honesty, neither Bilderberg nor Bohemian Grove attract the caliber that they used to. The current members are getting older and older, and the prospective newcomers -- the world leaders of tomorrow -- don't seem all that interested in getting involved.
"Let's face it," my Deep Throat had said to me, "nobody rules the world anymore. The markets rule the world. Maybe that's why your conspiracy theorists make up all those crazy things. Because the truth is so much more frightening. Nobody rules the world. Nobody controls anything."
"Maybe," I said, "that's why you Bilderbergers love to hear the conspiracy theories. So you can pretend to yourselves that you do still rule the world."
"Maybe so," he said.
"Fools!" roared Dull Care on the video in my bedroom.
"Oh my God!" shrieked Violet, clutching Alex's arm. "How is that normal? That is so Satanic!"
Mike washed his face at my sink. He said he wanted to get the hell out of northern California. He said that as long as only one copy of the videotape existed all our lives were in danger.
"We should make copies," said Mike, "give one to Jon, mail another back home, and keep the third with us at all times."
Alex and Mike and Violet plotted the future of their video. Once home, they would stream it on their Web site. Then they would release the complete version as a mail-order VHS.
"Look," said Alex, "I'm not into the occult. I deal with concrete things. Waco. Ruby Ridge. I deal with hardcore things. But this was much worse than I expected. The catcalls and the insane cackling. After it was over I was walking through the crowd and I was hearing little bits of conversation. Old men were going, 'Yes! That's the key! We must burn him again! I do want to burn him again.' These people were in a fever."
"Even so," I said, "it isn't as if you overheard any of them secretly discussing global control or anything like that."
There was a short silence.
"Yes I did," said Alex.
"Did you?" I asked.
"Yes," said Alex. "I heard old men going around bragging about how they manipulate the world. I heard two guys going, 'Yes, we're going to get him elected.'"
"Did you hear someone say, 'Yes, we're going to get him elected'?" I asked.
"I swear to God," said Alex. "Mike was right there with me."
"Is that word for word?" I said.
"Another guy said, 'Our new missile system is really on top form. They're delivering the reactor next week,'" said Alex.
"You're making this up," I said.
"No I'm not," said Alex.
"These people are sick," said Mike. "This was sick for America."
"You do seem freaked out," I said.
"I am very much freaked out," he said. "I'm so tired of these people telling us that David Koresh ran a cult. That was a cult. I have never seen the Branch Davidians worship an idol."
This was a good point. I wrote the line down in my notepad.
"Write this down," said Alex. "The government is so good at calling people weirdos and ... and .... cult members ..." Alex paused, stumbling on his words. "I'm so tired," he said.
"The government," prompted Violet, "are saying the Branch Davidians are a cult but here's a bunch of old guys that run America in their black robes ..."
"I'm exhausted," said Alex.
"I'd be exhausted too if I'd been through what you've been through," said Violet. She leant over to hug Alex. But he flinched away.
"The point I'm trying to make is this," said Alex. "These people point their fingers every day. If you're against the government you're an extremist. You're crazy. But this was a pagan ceremony worshiping the earth and engaging in human sacrifice."
"Oh, come on," I said. "Mock human sacrifice. At worst."
"I know the Branch Davidians," continued Alex. "They have their little five-hour Bible-study meetings every Saturday. They are really boring, to be frank ..."
"That wasn't boring," I admitted.
"That was occultic," said Alex. "You've got former and current presidents, all these old men in the crowd chuckling their mirthful death rattles. 'Burn him! Burn him!"
"They're cheering for this guy to be killed!" yelled Mike. "It's disgusting!"
"That's not normal," said Violet.
"It just got weirder and weirder and weirder," said Alex. "You've got eighty-year-old men peeing on trees and going, 'Here! Let's pee!' You've got the Fortune 500 crowd, politicians, peeing on trees, out in public. I mean on concrete paved roads. Even though they've got toilets, like, five feet away. Whipping it out and peeing and peeing and peeing. It's running down the street. Now they're worshiping owls and burning humans in effigy. You've got death on a black boat bringing a papier-mache person so they can burn him for some idol, some owl god, some demon."
"Oh, come on," I said. "They were only saying that for two weeks they should forget their worldly cares. Be reasonable:
"Look," snapped Alex, "we understand that they're not literally killing a person, OK? We understand that. But, Jon, let's get this straight. They were burning a human in effigy in deference to their great owl god. This was a simulated human sacrifice complete with the person begging and pleading for his life. This was bizarre Luciferian garbage."
Mike stood up. He paced the room. He rapped the walls with his knuckles.
"They did not kill an effigy of a person," I said. "They burnt a symbol of their troubles so they can enjoy their bloody summer holiday."
"THEY WERE KILLING AN EFFIGY OF A PERSON!" roared Alex.
"THEY BLOODY WERE NOT!" I yelled. "YOU'RE DOING TO THEM" -- I pointed furiously at the TV screen -- " EXACTLY WHAT THEY DID TO RANDY WEAVER AND DAVID KORESH! SURE! THEY'RE BEROBED! SURE! THEY RULE THE WORLD! SURE! THEY'VE GOT A GIANT STONE OWL AND THEY'RE BURNING A -- UM -- HUMAN-ISH EFFIGY IN FRONT OF IT! BUT YOU'RE PUTTING TWO AND TWO TOGETHER AND MAKING FIVE IN EXACTLY THE SAME WAY THAT THEY SAW THAT RANDY WEAVER WAS HIGHLY ARMED AND HE FREQUENTED ARYAN NATIONS AND THEY CONSEQUENTLY DECIDED THAT HE MUST BE A HIGHLY ARMED -- UM -- WHITE SUPREMACIST!"'
I paused for breath and saw that Alex and Mike and Violet were staring at me with incredulity.
"Look, I'm sorry," I said. "It's just been an exhilarating night."
"This will not fly with the American people," said Mike. "How do you think the American people will react when we tell them?"
"What are you going to tell them?" I asked.
"That it's all true!" yelled Mike. "I looked the New World Order in the face out there! I saw a bunch of old rich white men, our leaders, out there sacrificing something to an owl god. I think they're sacrificing people in the real world too. Ruby Ridge. Waco. Oklahoma City."
Mike splashed cold water onto his face.
"There will be an outcry about this," he said. "These are the doctors who make the vaccines that get pumped into our children. These are the people who make the movies our children watch. They're at the top, bringing all that stuff down on us. These are the people that bomb innocent countries and justify it by making them demons. It wasn't fun and games to me. I had a tear in my eye."
Mike had a tear in his eye now. I gave up. I be1ieved I was right, but who knows? Perhaps Alex and Mike's interpretation was equally correct. Alex patted Mike on the shoulder.
"Good job, Mike," he said.
THE NEXT MORNING, as Mike had recommended, Alex copied all of his undercover Bohemian Grove footage for me. I watched the tape being transferred. I watched the ceremony again in my hotel room in Los Angeles on my way back home to London. I placed the tape underneath my clothes in my suitcase. I checked my suitcase in at the airport. I retrieved it at Gatwick. When I arrived home, I put the tape into my VCR and pressed Play. There was Alex and Mike diving into the undergrowth. There they were wandering through the grounds. There they were heading down to the lagoon at dusk. And then -- and I offer no explanation for this, no theories -- the tape blanked out. The ceremony had somehow been erased.
Bombshell: elitist Bohemian Grove cult blown wide open!
In the weeks that followed, Alex did, indeed, stream his video on his Web site. It immediately became an underground blockbuster. Everywhere I looked, the Internet was aflame with news of the daring raid.
First ever video from inside the Northern Californian globalist retreat obtained! Leaders from politics, big business, academia, and the arts captured on tape worshiping a 50~foot horned owl and engaging in mock human sacrifice.
Radio Talk-Show Host and Documentary Filmmaker Alex Jones infiltrated the cult on one of their highest holy days to witness the infamous "Cremation of Care." On July 15, 2000, Jones, carefully disguised as a "Grover," spent four hours inside the elite cult compound. Armed with two hidden digital video cameras, he observed and documented bizarre public urination and the worship of a giant stone horned owl deity.
The Bush Gang: wanted for international murder, child abuse, drug running, and genocide. You know the father now meet the son.
NATO leaders controlled by Bilderberg. Bilderberg summit closes in Portugal under massive security.
... Reporter Jon Ronson was understandably disturbed by the experience of being trailed by security men in a green Lancia K throughout Wednesday. According to Ronson, the British Embassy had told him not to provoke any incidents and that his fate was in his own hands ...
Why was The Spotlight's Jim Tucker and reporter Jon Ronson chased by Bilderberg security in Portugal?
Perhaps the whole reason was just so Tucker could write an outlandish article about it that nobody would believe because of The Spotlight's racist tendencies. Perhaps they were chased just so nobody would believe them.
I got tired. I turned off my computer.