New York Post
GUNS & GUILLOTINES
By LISA PULITZER and BILL SANDERSON
- Peter Matthews
March 10, 2004
-- Guns, a guillotine and mechanical rat traps played a regular role in a secret Masonic ritual that turned deadly for a Long Island man, police said yesterday.
Initiates to the Fellowcraft Club of the Southside Masonic Temple in Patchogue also walked blindfolded along a narrow plank, said Suffolk cops investigating the shooting death of William James, 47, a father of two from Medford.
The Grand Lodge, which oversees all Masonic organizations in New York, declined comment on the tragedy except to say guns are not a normal part of its rituals.
Members of the Patchogue lodge claim they've used guns in some initiation ceremonies for more than 70 years, police said.
An expert on Masonic practices said guns and guillotines play no role in the organization's most ancient traditions.
"Sometimes, lodges come into habits on their own, and no one knows about them," said Richard Fletcher of the Masonic Information Center, which represents Masonic groups nationally.
"We were formed in the Middle Ages, before there were guns," Fletcher said.
The rat traps were snapped shut in front of initiates' faces to startle them, said Suffolk Detective Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick. He was unsure what role the guillotine played.
Albert Eid, 76, was charged with second-degree manslaughter. He was freed on $2,500 bail after arraignment in Central Islip District Court yesterday.
At the ceremony, James was to be inducted into the Fellowcraft Club - the second level of membership in the Masons, a fraternal and charitable group.
As part of the ritual, James sat on a chair in a basement. From 20 feet away, Eid was supposed to aim a blank pistol at James' head and pull the trigger. Behind James, someone was to knock over a stack of cans. The noisy ritual was supposed to startle James.
But instead of using the blank pistol in his left pocket, Eid pulled a loaded .32-caliber pistol from his right pocket and fired, said Fitzpatrick.
The bullet entered James' head through his nose.
The 10 people at the ceremony "were quite stunned," said Fitzpatrick. "They attempted to render CPR. One ran upstairs to use the phone, but it wasn't working. So they ran outside and flagged down a cop."
"We believe that he mistakenly pulled the loaded actual weapon and fired when he thought he was firing a blank," Fitzpatrick said.
"We received no reason why he was carrying a loaded pistol."