History buffs and the conspiracy-curious have two new books to satiate their appetite, and they are doozies. Fleshing Out Skull & Bones, Investigations into America’s Most Powerful Secret Society dives into the history of Yale’s secret society and its links to politicians, including three U.S. Presidents and over twenty senators). Fleshing… is a dense book, full of historical documents and lots of mystical speculation (JFK’s murder was a ritual Masonic sacrifice), plus lists of Skull & Bones members by class year at Yale. With a collection of 40 essays covering all manner of Skull & Bones stories and alleged plots (Mind control! World domination! Drug smuggling! Funding Hitler! War! Illuminati!), Fleshing… makes for a fun read for the skeptical, especially in short bursts. But like any history book, should not be one’s only source.

Barry & “The Boys”: The CIA the Mob and America’s Secret’s History is a more rollicking look at some of the same subjects (it’s also referenced in Fleshing Out Skull & Bones, reminding us that in the world of conspiracy theorists there’s a whole lot of ::gulp:: ouroboros going on) using the mysterious figure of Barry Seal as the throughline. Seal, who the Wall Street Journal called

the ghost haunting the Whitewater probe

was–according to author Daniel Hopsicker, a former TV news producer–an active participant in the Bay of Pigs, the assassination of JFK, Watergate, and the importing of tons of cocaine from Colombia into the US through a little town called Mena in Arkansas, laying the ground work for what has been called the scandal behind the scandal in Iran-Contra and Whitewater.

Seal was murdered, gunned down in 1986 ostensibly by a Colombian cartel assassin after flipping from smuggler to federal informant. According to Hopsicker, he had President George “Poppy” Bush’s phone number in his pocket at the time of his death.

Conspiracy theories are part and parcel of the American consciousness, going back all the way to Salem. There are conspiracy theories linking mortgage fraud and Michael Jackson, the evil Illuminati (as opposed to the good one) with rap and rock music, conspiracies claiming we never landed on the moon, and that the Easter Bunny is Satanic, that space aliens control us…

And really do these theories help us or hinder us in our search for personal freedom and the self-determination? Are they merely distractions to keep us from moving forward?

Both these books, Fleshing Out Skull & Bones and Barry & the Boys are fun reads, if you take them such. Otherwise you’ll need to order a case of tin foil and retire from the world.

Bonus if you live in Los Angeles: Authors Daniel Hopsicker, Kris Millegan & Cheri Seymour, will be signing tomorrow, April 20th from 6pm to 9pm, at La Luz de Jesus and a music performance, by The Normal Bean Band, featuring Prairie Prince of The Tubes.