8 most famous collegiate secret societies

Anna Lanfreschi | HLN | 3 Sept 2014

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a member of a secret society? To be tapped on the shoulder as part of the selection process, to attend private meetings or learn the meaning of mysterious symbols?

Today, students on college campuses across the country — typically juniors and seniors — continue to join these 100-year-old honor societies, often as a recognition of their leadership, philanthropic or academic abilities. Not a lot of information is available about many of these societies, but some archived literature does exist. Take a peek into the eight most famous collegiate societies:

  • The Order of the Skull and Bones: Founded in 1832, it is one of the most well-known and longest surviving secret collegiate societies to date. It is a senior society at Yale University and is one of more than 20 secret societies on campus. A number of other secret societies across multiple colleges are said to be based on Skull and Bones. Some of its most famous members include former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, as well as Secretary of State John Kerry. Although the society is secret, the names of newly tapped members are published in Yale’s college newspapers each spring.
  • The ‘Flat Hat Club’: Housed at the College of William and Mary, this collegiate secret society is the first known one in the United States. It was founded in 1750 and was originally called the F.H.C. Society, which stands for “Fraternitas, Humanitas, et Cognitio,” or brotherhood, humaneness and knowledge in Latin. Its most notable member was President Thomas Jefferson, but it does have some historical interruptions. It was revived twice, in 1916 and again in 1972.
  • Quill and Dagger: Founded in 1893, this is one of two secret societies that still operate on the campus of Cornell University. It was the first Ivy League secret society to admit women as its members. Like Skull and Bones, the list of its newly tapped members is published in the Cornell Daily Sun. The society does include honorary members, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Janet Reno.
  • Wolf’s Head: Another senior secret society at Yale, its biggest rival is the Order of the Skull and Bones, according to the Huffington Post. It was originally founded as the Third Society, in response to a disagreement over rejection of certain members to Bones.
  • Cadaver Society: One of two secret societies at Washington and Lee University, it was founded in 1957. With quite the mischievous mission, Cadaver members run around campus masked and dressed in all black, drawing symbols throughout or yelling in a high-pitched voice while running through a sorority house, according to HerCampus. Membership is as anonymous as can be.
  • The Order of Gimghoul: Founded in 1889, this secret society is headquartered in a castle on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Originally based on the legend of a student who vanished from campus and meant to uphold chivalry and history, it is now known for socializing.
  • Seven Society: Founded around 1905, this University of Virginia secret society is extremely secretive and its members are only revealed after their death. However, its presence is clear, with multiple markings of the number seven throughout the campus. It is also known for its philanthropic efforts benefiting the university.
  • The Anak Society: The oldest-known secret society at the Georgia Institute of Technology, it was founded in 1908, although its membership did not become private until the 1960s. It admits junior and senior students who excel in leadership and college spirit.

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