Once Rory Gilmore enrolled at the prestigious Yale University on Gilmore Girls, we all definitely wondered if she would come across one of those famous Ivy League secret societies. The show had kind of tackled the subject before when Rory got into the Puffs, her high school's so-called secret society. Yale, though, is especially known for its not-so-secret student groups that boast famous alumni — the notorious Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, and Wolf's Head among them. So it wasn't a huge surprise when Rory tries to get the scoop on the clandestine affairs of the Life and Death Brigade for the Yale Daily News. But is Gilmore Girls' Life and Death Brigade real and on the Yale's long list of secret societies?
Unfortunately, the LDBers are fictional, but it clearly takes inspiration from the university's other infamous groups. For instance, most of the societies have names with the format "something-and-something," bizarre initiation rituals, and a very hush-hush nature, yet everyone knows they exist. The Life and Death Brigade and its traditions make a brief, but memorable appearance in two episodes of Season 5, but how does the LDB compare to Yale's real-life secret clubs? Well, the Gilmore Girls version is way less intense — and it led Rory to grow closer to future boyfriend Logan Huntzberger.
Schemes and Stunts
During Rory's investigation for her newspaper article, she gets invited to an actual hush-hush Life and Death Brigade event: Jumping off a high scaffolding in formal wear with umbrellas. Sure, why not? It certainly looks romantic in photos and it got Rory to do something daring in a gorgeous dress. The LDB also has events where they dress in 1930s clothes and conversations that don't contain the letter "E." After all, their motto is "In omnia paratus" (translation: Ready for anything).
Many of the real secret society members do perform stunts, have wild parties, and just hang out together. Earlier this year, two sexual assaults were reported at a Yale secret society dominatrix party. Yikes. It's not always this extreme, though. In a Reddit AMA, a Yale secret society member revealed that sometimes he and his cohort just chill with "movies, TV, drinking, laser tag, mixer with another landed society."
Not much is known about the initiation procedure for the Life and Death Brigade. Its members seem to have a penchant for champagne, gorilla masks, and formal wear. After Rory takes her big jump with Logan off that high platform, she returns to her dorm room to find a gorilla mask and champagne. Was that the formal "welcome to the family" message from the society? Or just a gift from Logan? Sadly, we never got our answer.
At real-life Yale, a tradition called Tap Night exists and it's the fateful day when lucky upperclassmen undergrads receive their bids to join the university's secretive elite. What we do know about some initiations is that they are, well, kinda strange. There's definitely oaths of secrecy involved. Alexandra Robbins, a Yale grad who authored the book Secrets of the Tomb about Skull and Bones, described one of their secret society initiations:
There is a devil, a Don Quixote and a Pope who has one foot sheathed in a white monogrammed slipper resting on a stone skull. The initiates are led into the room one at a time. And once an initiate is inside, the Bonesmen shriek at him. Finally, the Bonesman is shoved to his knees in front of Don Quixote as the shrieking crowd falls silent. And Don Quixote lifts his sword and taps the Bonesman on his left shoulder and says, "By order of our order, I dub thee knight of Euloga."
It probably made sense to those in the know, right?
The only famous alum we knew of the Life and Death Brigade is Logan's father, newspaper mogul Mitchum Huntzberger. No word if fellow Yale alum Richard Gilmore was also in the LBD — or another one of the university's groups. We do know that Rory's grandfather was a member of the school's very famous a capella group, the Whiffenpoofs.
Yale's oldest secret society Skull and Bones boasts a very elite list of members: Presidents William Howard Taft, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, along with Secretary of State and former presidential candidate John Kerry. While group historically only tapped white males to join, recently classes of Skull and Bones selectees have included more diversity.
It's too bad we didn't get to know the LBD more throughout the series. I guess the rest of the details of the Gilmore secret society are just that — totally secret.