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New York Mason failed initiation - shot dead



A Freemason was killed during an initiation ceremony at a Masonic Lodge in New York earlier this month.

Apparently the Masons were only trying "to frighten the new member." The incident is being treated as an accident.

Mr James was shot in the head by Mr Eid at Southside Masonic Lodge in Suffolk County. According to police, "the Masons had sat Mr. James in a chair and placed cans on a small platform around his head." We have no details about what happened next, but one only has to use their imagination. If Mr James was aiming at the tin cans, evidently he missed.

Mr Eid owns two guns. The gun that he used to kill Mr James was a .32 calibre pistol, but police say "it was not clear why he took it to the ceremony".

According to Grand Master Carl Fitje of the New York State Freemasons, guns are not used "in any officially sanctioned lodge ceremonies".

If the gun that killed Mr James was not part of a genuine ceremony, why was it brought to the Lodge that night?


SOURCES

Washington Times (US), "Mason fatally shot in initiation ritual", 10 March 2004.
[ http://www.washtimes.com/national/20040309-112637-4114r.htm ]
    PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (AP) A man was killed during a Masonic initiation ceremony when another member fired a gun loaded with real bullets instead of the expected blanks and shot him in the face, police said yesterday.
    A 76-year-old man accused of firing the shot was charged with manslaughter.
    William James, 47, was shot while participating in an induction Monday night at the Southside Masonic Lodge, Suffolk County police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
    Detective Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick said the ritual that went "tragically wrong" involves making a loud noise to frighten the new member.
    "The ceremony was designed to create a state of anxiety," he said.
    The lieutenant said the Masons had sat Mr. James in a chair and placed cans on a small platform around his head.
    The man accused of shooting, Albert Eid, had been standing about 20 feet away holding a gun, Lt. Fitzpatrick said at a news conference. When the gun was fired, a man who had been holding a stick out of sight was supposed to knock the cans off the platform to make the inductee think he had been struck by bullets.
    Mr. Eid had two guns one with blanks and one with real bullets and apparently pulled the wrong one out of his pocket and fired, shooting Mr. James in the face, the lieutenant said.
    "We believe it was completely accidental," Lt. Fitzpatrick said. Mr. Eid was quite "stunned and distraught" at Mr. James' death, he said.
    Mr. Eid, of Patchogue, had a permit since 1951 for the .32-caliber handgun, but it was not clear why he took it to the ceremony, police said. He pleaded not guilty to a manslaughter charge, and bail was set at $2,500. His next court date was scheduled for April 27.
    Mr. Eid's lawyer did not return a call seeking comment.
    Carl Fitje, grand master of the New York State Freemasons, issued a statement yesterday denying that guns play a role in any officially sanctioned lodge ceremonies.
    "We don't use pistols," Steve Mayo, who described himself as a senior deacon of the lodge, told reporters yesterday. "This is not a Masonic ceremony where we bring pistols."
    Lt. Fitzpatrick, however, said members told police that the rite involving a gun goes back at least 70 years.
    Mr. Mayo said the Monday night ceremony was an initiation into the Fellow Craft, which is the second degree within the multilevel Masonic system.
    Mr. Mayo said Mr. James, of Medford, had been a member of the lodge for a few months and Mr. Eid had been a member for many years.
    "This is very upsetting, very upsetting that one of our brothers was accidentally killed," Mr. Mayo said.
    Mr. James worked for the planning department of the Long Island town of Brookhaven, spokesman Dave Kennedy said.

IHT, "Rite ends in death at Masonic lodge", 11 March 2004.
[ http://www.iht.com/articles/509723.html ]
    Initiation-gone-wrong opens up secretive society to scrutiny
    PATCHOGUE, New York The initiation rituals at the Masonic lodge in Patchogue, a town in New York's Long Island suburbs, had been bathed in secrecy over the years.
    The climax of Monday night's ceremony was to have been simple enough. A new member of the Fellow Craft Club, a select group in the lodge, would sit in a chair while an another member stood 20 feet, or 6 meters, away and fired a handgun loaded with blanks.
    But things went terribly wrong in Southside Masonic Lodge No. 493, in a basement littered with rat traps, tin cans, a guillotine and a setup designed to mimic walking a plank.
    The gunman, a 76-year-old Mason, Albert Eid, was carrying two guns, a .22-caliber pistol loaded with blanks in his left pocket and a .32-caliber loaded with live rounds in his right pocket.
    He reached into his right pants pocket, pulled out the wrong gun and shot William James, a 47-year-old fellow Mason, in the face, killing him, the authorities said.
    Eid, a World War II veteran who had a license to carry his own pistol and often did, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge of manslaughter. He was wearing his blue Masonic jacket during his arraignment. The Suffolk County police called the shooting an accident, the consequence of one man's confusion during a decades-old ritual.
    Mystery and suspicion are woven into the history of the Freemasons, who trace their roots to the stone workers' guilds that built medieval Gothic cathedrals. The guilds evolved into clubs over the years with secret handshakes, ritual, and symbols like an all-seeing eye, pyramid and compass.
    Kirk MacNulty, a Mason who has written about the organization's symbols, said in a telephone interview from Virginia that the secretive society "communicates its meanings through ritual dramas. Freemasonry is a codification of the philosophical essence of the Renaissance, and that philosophical essence has to do with personal growth. Personal growth is something you learn by analogy, not by sitting down and listening to text."
    The shooting incident exposed the Masons to a rare degree of scrutiny.
    Late Monday night, the police carried evidence and ritual objects out of the Masons' one-story lodge in Patchogue. All day Tuesday, television trucks and curious neighbors examined the club's bricked-over windows and peered into the front door to glimpse a bulletin board announcing the order's recent charity efforts.
    Masonic leaders across the state were quick to disavow the ritual and shooting. Ron Steiner, a spokesman for the New York State Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, which oversees all Masonic lodges in the state, said the Fellow Craft Club was not officially tied to the Masonic organization.
    "This is so far beyond the concept of reality it's mind-boggling," Steiner said. "I've never heard of anything like this."
    Over the years, the Southside Masonic Lodge members developed their own initiation rituals for the club that set them apart from most other Masonic organizations, members said.
    No members of the lodge could remember pistols being used in the rituals - they are not allowed in Masonic clubhouses - but some described initiations that were part prank, part exercise in trust.
    One member, Michael Paquette, said that when he was initiated into the group five years ago, two mouse traps were placed before him, and he was told that one worked and one was broken. Another member tested the broken trap and then told Paquette to touch the live one. He did and discovered that it, too, was a dud. He also had to cross an elevated plank without looking down and was told that if he fell he would tumble into "a bed of fire."
    "It was really harmless things," Paquette said. "It was just for you to be there and realize you were in good hands, and you didn't have to fear anything."
    On Monday night, James and Eid were among 10 men who were set to perform the club's initiation.
    James, the first to be initiated, sat down in a chair, and two tin cans were placed on a shelf by his head. The idea was for Eid to fire two blank rounds, and a man standing behind James would knock the cans down with a stick. And then it all went wrong.
    "This is a tragedy," said Eid's lawyer, James O'Rourke. "He is absolutely beyond grief-stricken. This is a mistake, not a criminal act."
    The New York Times

"The Insider" mailing list article, 18 March 2004.

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