THE bizarre rituals of one of America's most exclusive clubs, which counts both President Bush and his father among its members, have been laid bare by a hidden camera.
The all-male Skull and Bones club at Yale University has long been held up as an example of the powerful cabals that run America from behind the scenes. Fifteen new members in their final year at Yale are initiated annually and remain in the club for life.
Besides the Presidents Bush, the club has among its members Wall Street businessmen, ambassadors, politicians and judges. Soon after he entered the White House, George W Bush held a private dinner for his year of Bonesmen, as they are called.
The initiation rites at the club, however, have always been a mystery. Initiates simply disappeared into The Tomb, the club's gothic building at Yale, and emerged as Bonesmen, set up with a network that would see them through life.
A night-vision camera, however, planted by fellow students at Yale caught this year's initiation. For Mr Bush, it will reinforce his image as an establishment scion rather than man of the people.
It shows one member posing as George W Bush, wearing a cape and speaking in a Texas twang threatening an initiate: "I'm gonna kill you like I killed Al Gore!" Initiates are then seen kneeling and kissing a skull at the feet of the members, while they are bombarded with sexual insults and shouts of "Run Neophytes".
The group then joins in chanting the Skull and Bones mantra, part of the ritual since the club's founding in 1856: "The Hangman Equals Death/The Devil Equals Death/Death Equals Death."
During the initiation, new members undergo a mock throat-cutting ceremony and then take turns to lie in a coffin and recount their personal and sexual histories to forge a bond of secrecy within the club. Having died as "barbarians" they step from the coffin reborn as members of "The Order".