WASHINGTON, DC – Sometime earlier this year, one of the most elite social events in Washington took place, but without any fanfare or news coverage.
It drew about 1,800 attendees and Grammy-winning rocker Lenny Kravitz performed. Yet there were no written invitations, and the actual date and location were carefully guarded secrets.
The annual charitable event is mischievously known as Spookstock. While many Washington insiders, let alone the public, haven’t heard of it, the gala has become a centerpiece for the capital region’s tightknit intelligence and military special operations communities.
“I’ve done my share of formal events and black dress nights. This is a lot more fun,” said retired Maj. Gen. Clay Hutmacher, the former director of operations for U.S. Special Operations Command. “It’s very casual. If you want to show up in a Def Leppard T-shirt, that’s fine.”
Now in its seventh year, Spookstock has raised millions for the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which look after the families of CIA officers and special operations forces killed in the field. Last year, after expenses, each charity received about $400,000, according to Spookstock board member Mark Kelton.
The event is essentially fueled by defense contractors and mainstays of the military-industrial complex that pay big money for a table or a balcony box. Kelton, a retired CIA officer, would only say those corporate boxes are “not cheap.” Other government employees or members of military who secure an invitation pay a much lower, but still undisclosed, rate.
The invitation list and event details are closely guarded by Kelton and the four-member board. Given the clandestine nature of some of the participants’ work life, news coverage and social media postings are avoided. The only real online traces are a smattering of articles, some briefs in intelligence-focused newsletters and a few unauthorized YouTube videos.
A visit to the Spookstock website reveals a parody of the original Woodstock logo, a password box and nothing else. Spookstocks have been held at a warehouse in Springfield, Virginia, and a farm in Loudoun County, Virginia. Previous attendees have included actors Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keitel. Kelton says he’s constantly fending off invitation requests and adds somewhat proudly that he has never extended an invitation to an active politician.