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Yale’s Secret Societies Are Revealed in ‘Skulls and Keys’

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Secret societies have always held a certain fascination for America, the mystery around their operations and initiations inspiring hundreds of rumors of just how much influence they have, and how far that influence can reach.

Skulls and Keys David RichardsIn an era of sororities and fraternities becoming more open and public with their workings, collegiate secret societies have once more come under the spotlight. Often having a long-standing presence in university history, these organizations have only become more renowned for the lack of transparency in their workings, and the secrecy of whether they are even still active. Out of all the colleges, however, no campus is more aware of the presence of secret societies than Yale University, home to over a dozen secret societies, some of which can trace their beginnings to the mid-18th century. For all our questions about collegiate secret societies, Skulls and Keys: The Hidden History of Yale’s Secret Societies provides the answers.

From author David Alan Richards, an alumnus of Yale and the secret society Skull and Bones himself, Skulls and Keys: The Hidden History of Yale’s Secret Societies covers not only the beginnings of the secret societies at Yale, but their hidden, progressive history as well. This is a side we rarely hear about that has a tendency to be overlooked in lieu of a more sensationalized viewpoint, which often involves rumors of blood oaths and election-rigging, and conspiracies of world control. The 2000 movie The Skulls was even based completely on the rumors around Yale’s secret society Skull and Bones.

Richards covers key chronology and history, looking at how Yale’s secret societies operated in events like World War II, and the influence expanded in the cultural shift of the 1960s, for the election of women, gay men, and people of color. More than just an exposé, this book is a scholarly history, with evidence of the very real impact that Yale’s secret societies have had not just in society and culture, but also on leadership and higher education.

In Skulls and Keys: The Hidden History of Yale’s Secret Societies, Richards dispels of the rumors and casts light and clarity on the real history of Yale’s secret societies, still full of intrigue and revelations, but without the dubious conspiracies of global domination.


David Alan Richards was tasked by Yale President Kingman Brewster to write a history of the Yale Corporation. His novel Rudyard Kipling: A Bibliographywas nominated for the bibliography prize of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.



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Rachel Fogle De Souza was born and raised in Connecticut, and traveled extensively throughout Europe, parts of Asia, and the United States, before attending college at the University of California, Davis, where she received a B.A. in Comparative Literature, with a double minor in Women, Gender and Sexualities studies, and Middle Eastern/South Asian studies. When she's not writing, she's reading, boxing, or thinking about traveling.

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