The Bohemian Club of San Francisco started in 1872 in the back offices of the Chronicle. The journalists added artists and musicians to the mix and would meet regularly nearby. However, William Randolph Hearst soon realized that the boys were spending more time at the “club” than at the office. To appease their boss, higher-ups such as corporate types and local military officers were included. Since 1893, their summer retreats have been held at the present location in the redwood hills of Monte Rio along the Russian River.
During the early years, access to the Bohemian Grove was by train, which entered the compound via a trestle over the Russian River near the present day ninth tee at Northwood Golf Course (I have in my possession an old railroad spike that was found along the fifth fairway). This bridge was washed out in a flood around 1910. Supposedly, every ex-Republican President since 1893 has attended the Grove. The July encampment starts off with a Cremation of Care ceremony. A plaque above the front entrance to the S.F. building says: “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here”, implying that all business deals be left outside.
The opening night’s celebration involves the poling across an artificial lake of a small boat containing a child-size bundle (called “Dull Care”). Dark, hooded figures receive this effigy from the ferryman and place it on an altar. Warnings of impending evils screech from a forty-foot owl (in yesteryear, the owl’s voice was Walter Cronkite) and soon thereafter the bundle is set on fire. Claims of paganism and conspiracy theories eventually followed. The devil must have made them do it.