Military & Secret Society Deaths

Armed Forces Hazing Deaths:
Breaking news
Excerpt: Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez begins what is scheduled to be a three-week trial at Norfolk Naval Station, Virginia, on charges of conspiracy, assault, obstruction of justice, involuntary manslaughter, hazing, false official statements and felony murder in the June 4, 2017, death of Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar.
1976St. John’s University (New York)Pershing Rifles Bayonet stabbing during hazing incident

ROTC pledge Thomas Fitzgerald, a student at another school (Queens) who had applied for admission into the elite St. John’s chapter, was accidentally impaled by a bayonet blade during a stunt meant merely to intimidate him. Police said James Savino wielded the deadly blade. School and military officials refused to call the incident hazing, referring to it euphemistically as “unauthorized training.” Alcohol use not cited in press reports.

Navy HazingCrossing the Line ceremonyHazing with electricityReporters wrote that seaman Russell Barnwell Wiebye died in “a playful initiation” in which an electric current was administered to shock him.1945Military HazingCrossing the Line ceremony: ElectrocutionShipfitter 2C Jack P. Jarosz died while touching an electrified trident during the King Neptune portion of his hazing for the U.S. Navy, according to the San Bernardino (CA) County Sun (April 3, 1946). He was also kneeling on an electric plate charged with 115 volts of electrical charge. No surprise: Liuetenant cleared of wrongdoing by Navy Brass. See clipping from Richmond Palladium Item, October 3, 1946 below.


Military Hazing

Dunking ceremony for new Guard member


SPL 4C Walter R. Van Vickle screamed “I can’t swim” as five veterans stripped him and threw him into deep water. The five were charged with involuntary manslaughter. The National Guard declined to order a court martial for the five.


Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Unofficial Officers Club initiation

Alcohol-related suffocation death

An alcoholic concoction made up of seven bottles of champagne and five bottles of vodka resulted in the death of paratrooper Lt. Robert Reeves, 23, of Charleston, S.C. His comrades were initiating him to celebrate his first qualified jump.


United States Marines; Military

Hazing Suicide after mental and physical abuse.

Lance Corporal Harry Lew was a suicide by a self-inflicted wound after fellow Marines punished him for falling asleep on sentry duty. A judge punished participants but found cause to doubt that the hazing was directly responsible for Lew taking his life.



United States Marines

Suicide after Physical hazing

Chinese-American Danny Chen allegedly was targeted for hazing in his outfit and killed himself.


United States Marines

Muslim dies following reports of heavy hazing

Recruit Raheel Sidiqui death reported by New York Times Magazine.


Green Beret,

Involuntary homicide during a hazing punishment session

Army Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar, a Green Beret, stopped breathing while being taped and beaten by comrades in Mali. The first was sentenced in June 2019 to one year in prison. One perpetrator later behaved in a creepy manner with the widow. Thank you to Lt. Col Dan for your correction.



Masonic and Other Adult Secret Societies:


1737PhiladelphiaMasonsHazing prankDaniel Rees, a man who wanted nothing more than to be a Freemason, was killed by thrown boiling liquid during a faked initiation in which he had to kiss the backsides of the pranksters and submit to other indignities. Freemason Benjamin Franklin’s reputation was tarnished in The American Mercury when he admitted to laughing at the cruel prank instead of ordering the hazers to desist. The entire tale is told in Hank Nuwer’s “Hazing: Destroying Young Lives” (Indiana University, 2018). 

1890 (January)

Royal Arch Masons

Huntington, W.V.

Death during initiation for the Royal Arch degree

The Rev. J. W. Johnson of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Huntington, WV died of injuries days after he fell to his death during a climbing initiation.



Iowa Elks

Hazing Prank

Bizarre death of Edward W. Curry following an “initiation” by the Elks. He was “accidentally” fried in an electric chair stunt. Cause of death was blood poisoning due to infection. He died November 19, 1896. He was an Iowa state Democratic party chair at the time of death.



Toledo, Ohio

Catholic Young Mens Association

Rough hazing resulting in fatal lung hemorrhage On his deathbed Charles Steinie accused members of punching him in the dark as the cause of his wounds that led to his death.



Carbondale, Illinois

Select Knight of the Royal Arch (a trade society for liquor sellers and salesmen)

Killed during initiation by explosive device

During initiation ceremonies, a sort-of “paddle” with a gun barrel four inches long was employed with a single 32-calibre cartridge that explodes upon an intentional tap. Apparently, traveling salesman Gus Giesek, the initiation’s master of ceremonies, accidentally mishandled the device and shot William Lafayette Deason (1849-1899), a Civil War veteran, in the right hip. Infection set in and Deason “died in awful agony,” according to the article “Initiation KIlled Him,” Mercersburg (Pa.) Journal, December 1, 1899.



Birmingham, Alabama

Loyal Order of Moose

Hazing deaths Initiates Donald A. Kenny and Christopher Gustin were being given a prank initiation in which both thought they had consented to a branding. Although they passed out, the initiation continued with deadly consequences, according to the Pittston Gazette (July 25, 1913).



Chicago, Illinois K

Knights of Columbus Initiation death

Tossing candidates into the air on blankets and so on was once a common form of horseplay during initiations. John C. Van Sistine, 25, suffered a broken neck. Van Sistine had been married during the previous year.



Camden, N.J.

Colored Els of Camden

Samuel A. Wilson died after being strapped into an electric chair.




Independent Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks

Physical hazing

Cephas Mills, 19, an African-American youth, died during his initiation by some 30 members. He was placed on an electrified hot seat with current set high enough to kill him. It was under police investigation. I am trying to find out if anyone was charged with a crime. Newspaper account below.



McKeesport, PA

Colored Elks Lodge,   Initiate Allen Singleton died of a massive heart attack while members were shocking him with an electric razor.  Members were released after an investigation. Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette, July 5, 1945.



Patchogue, NY

Southside Masonic Lodge 493

Shooting death during hazing

Accidental shooting death of new member A shooting during a bizarre “William Tell” ritual with live ammunition at Southside Masonic Lodge 493 killed William James, 47. The shooter served no prison time.


Occupational Hazing


SS Frederick Galbraith work ship

Crossing the Line ceremony, non-military Occupational hazing

Teenage workers Leroy Robert Bragg, 14, and Stanford Fluit, 16, died from an overdose of saltpeter during a ship’s hazing at the Equator. Other crewmen became ill but lived.

Survivors: Milton Fleishman and Harry Rose



Occupational Hazing

Denton County, Texas

Republic Energy Drilling Company

In 2004, a fatal occupational initiation in Denton County, Texas, led to a jury trial that ended with a 38-year-old drilling rig hazer receiving an 18-year prison sentence—only two years less than the maximum penalty the law allowed. 23-year-old Shawn Davis, a new employee of Republic Energy Drilling Company, was hooked to a cable by veteran workers and then accidentally tossed and dragged to his death.

Hazing Deaths in Non-North American Nations (Under construction)



Medical School Hazing

Adelaide, Australia

Drowning by hazing prank

John Gregory Neill, a medical student who could not swim, perished after upperclass students threw him into the River Torrens, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.



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