Wednesday, 10 March, 2004
Man killed in Masonic gun ritual
By Emma Simpson
BBC News, New York
An initiation ceremony at a Masonic Lodge in New York has ended in tragedy after a man was killed during a ritual for new members.
William James was accidentally shot in the head when a lodge member used a real gun instead of a blank pistol by mistake.
The alleged gunman, a freemason aged 74, has been charged with manslaughter.
It was supposed to have been the climax of the initiation rituals at the Southside Masonic Lodge in Long Island.
Police said that William James was forced to sit in a chair with a gun pointed straight at him.
Aim was to frighten
Cans were placed on a small platform around his head.
When the gun was fired another member was supposed to knock the cans off as if they had been hit by bullets.
The aim was to frighten their new recruit.
But Albert Eid, a long-serving freemason, had two guns in his pocket, one with blanks and one with real bullets.
He apparently pulled the wrong one, killing Mr James.
The initiation rituals and symbols of the Masons have long been shrouded in secrecy but the grandmaster of the New York State Freemasons issued a statement denying that guns played any role in official lodge ceremonies.
William James was apparently being sworn into a select group within his lodge but it was a prank which went fatally wrong.