Well it is already well known that serial killer Albert Fish was indeed a killer as well as a cannibal. He preyed on children: torturing them, and sometimes their families, in ways that one might never wish to know.
Aside from his well known exploits and his ultimate execution via the electric chair, there is much and more to know about this disturbed, deluded, deranged, and delusional individual. Below are recounted the ways in which he successfully exploited the social norms of the time, the manner in which he was raised, and the harrowing and horrifying steps that slowly, but clearly led to his ultimate transformation into “The Boogey Man”.
While there are no graphic photos below, there is surely graphic description of some of Albert Fish’s personal practises, which he acted upon not only on others, but also on himself. One will also discover the way in which he was finally captured and brought to justice, though one will likely walk away from this article feeling that both the reason he was caught, as well as the manner in which he was executed, are both sad, sorry excuses for justice.
15. He Exploited Racism And Social Norms Of The Time
Now remember, it was a different time back at the turn of the last century. In such a time, before the Civil Rights Movement, and before psychiatry was really taken seriously, it should come as no surprise that someone might exploit the racism inherent in the nation at the time. Unfortunately, the way in which Albert Fish exploited the racism and social norms at the time was more sinister than turning people away from employment, or paying them lower wages, or making them use different washrooms. Fish’s exploitation was to select victims who were either African American, or mentally handicapped in one way or another. Supposedly Fish has only had up to nine victims, but in such racist, and socially inept conditions as that of the United States Circa the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it would not take a great leap to gather that there may very well have been other victims. That’s all just conjecture, but the truth remains that Albert Fish used the poor social constructs of the U.S. to his advantage… and people still do.
14. Charges Were Altered To Avoid Talk Of Cannibalism
Back in the day, it was a difficult thing for people to hear about certain untoward actions, like cannibalism. Given that fact, the courts made an effort to dissuade any sort of discussion on the matter, and the prosecution therefore argued that the crimes were sexually motivated, so as not to make mention at all about Albert Fish’s other proclivities. There was little to go on in regards to the crime being in any way sexually motivated, but the case made worked all the same. In a little chat with his attorney, Fish said that it “never even entered [his] head” to go about raping the little girl he killed. But he did admit that, whilst kneeling on Grace Budd’s chest, strangling her to death, he did have two, apparently involuntary, ejaculations. This small tidbit of information was evidently enough for the prosecution to continue on the grounds of sexual motive, and cannibalism was entirely avoided, astoundingly.
13. A Troubled Childhood
It should be no surprise whatsoever to learn that Albert Fish had a rather troubled childhood. It seems rather likely to assume that to become the deranged man that he did, there was no way Fish could have had what one might consider a normal youth. Born Hamilton Howard Fish, he decided to go by the name of Albert, after a dead sibling (and also to escape the nickname ‘Ham and eggs’ from other kids). To make matters worse, there was a slew of mental illness surrounding young Albert, even before he made the leap into his particular psychoses himself. Fish’s family had a fairly intense history of mental illness. His uncle suffered from mania. A brother was confined in a state mental hospital (and one can only imagine what happened to him there at such a time in history). His sister was diagnosed with a so-called “mental affliction”. In addition, three other relatives were diagnosed with mental illnesses of one sort or another, and his mother had frequent hallucinations. He was well on his way down that road before he even got a chance to turn back.
12. A Family Man
In spite of his dirty deeds as a child (which will be detailed more fully below), Albert’s mother arranged a marriage for him. He married a woman nine years his junior (Which was nothing given the 43-year difference between Albert’s parents), and from her were born six children: Albert, Anna, Gertrude, Eugene, John, and Henry. In spite of his family life, he continually molested young boys (typically younger than age six). Thankfully (for a time) Fish was incarcerated at Sing Sing for grand larceny. After his return home, however, his wife left him for the handy man, and Albert was left to fend for himself and his six children. Well, he seemed to fend more for himself than his children. Taking the kids to their summer cottage, out in the country in New York state, he would have them, and neighbourhood children, repeatedly strike his backside with a paddle, studded with inch-and-a-half nails in it. He found joy in pain, and his children suffered as he got off, essentially. He would climb a hill and cry “I am Christ”, he’d have the children beat him, and he would insert needles into his abdomen and genitals… certainly no ‘father of the year’.
11. God Told Him To Do It
Nearing the 1920s, Albert Fish was truly a full-blown psychotic. There was no mistaking it by this point. Especially considering that it wasn’t enough for him to strategically choose his victims, so as to have his crimes go unnoticed, but he justified the means with which he carried out his crimes by way of God. Apparently, God demanded of Albert that he torture and mutilate his little victims with meat cleavers and hand saws. Like so many killers before and after him, Fish’s calling from the divine certainly raised eyebrows. Given the atrocities of the Old Testament, it would be in no way surprising (should God exist) that he might call upon Albert to do these deeds. But as it would happen, there is no good evidence to bring to a court to argue the case for divine intervention. Thankfully the courts do not anymore (and hopefully will never again) take such babble into consideration for anything other than a plea for insanity. A plea which could very well have been granted in Albert’s case, but in spite of such awareness, the court took it upon itself to discard the notion, and put Fish on trial.
10. Grace Budd Wasn’t The Intended Victim
Not the last, but the most sensationalized, and perhaps most gruesome and cruel crime of Fish’s, did not in fact go the way he expected. In 1928, six years before his capture, Fish answered an ad from eighteen-year-old Edward Budd, who was looking for work out in the country. Posing as a farmer, Fish went to visit the Budd residence in Manhattan, intent on offering the young man a job, luring him away for the slaughter (meaning to mutilate him and bleed him to death). The plan seemed a good one to Albert, until he happened to meet little Grace Budd. Only ten years old, Fish decided he had to have her (in unfortunately more ways than one would like to think of). Contriving a story of a niece’s birthday that evening, Albert offered to take Grace along to play with the children there. Her parents consented… and that was the last they saw of her. The Grace Budd murder is perhaps the most infamously known of Fish’s crimes, and it is made far more haunting to know that, had she not been noticed by Albert, she would have lived, and her brother Edward, an able bodied youth of eighteen, may have stood a chance at overpowering the now aging Albert Fish.
9. Thomas Kedden: The First Victim
At age forty, during his marriage, Albert Fish engaged in a torrid, sadomasochistic relationship with a nineteen-year-old man named Thomas Kedden. Though by no means the first to have been sexually assaulted by Fish, Kedden is most likely the first victim to have died at the hands of Mr. Fish. Taking Kedden to an abandoned barn and tying him up (which would have been no unusual practise in such a relationship), Fish proceeded to torture the young man for two weeks. “I shall never forget his scream, or the look he gave me”, said Fish, who had cut off half of the man’s penis. Originally, Fish intended to kill and cut up the mentally infirm youth, taking bits of him home to do with as he pleased, but he feared the hot weather would draw attention to such an act. So, in a horrific act of kindness, Fish poured peroxide over Kedden’s mutilated genitalia, wrapped it in a Vaseline-soaked handkerchief, left a ten dollar bill by the young man, and kissed him farewell. “Took first train I could get back home. Never heard what become of him, or tried to find out”, was Fish’s final comment on Kedden. It seems no one else learned what became of him either.
8. A Man Of Many Names
This horrific man is one of many names. And that’s disregarding such adjectives as insane, psychotic, sadomasochistic, strange, deranged, diabolical, and evil. Due to his incredibly greyed complexion and fairly thick grey hair, Fish was often referred to as the ‘Gray Man’ (American spelling). He also received the moniker of ‘Werewolf of Wysteria’ (Wysteria Cottage being the name of his summer home in Westchester County, New York). Perhaps the werewolf reference came of the Big Bad Wolf who terrorized Little Red Riding Hood. He also received the title of ‘Brooklyn Vampire’ (and no, this is not what Wes Craven’s film with Eddie Murphy was at all based on). Fish admittedly drank the blood of Grace Budd, and while she was not from Brooklyn, Fish was, by this point, a New Yorker. Perhaps for carrying out the majority of his molestations by night, Fish was also known as the ‘Moon Maniac’. And lastly, as surely so many haunting men like him are called, Albert Fish was said to be ‘The Boogey Man’. This last nickname has more to do with the friends of little Billy Gaffney, who could only say that The Boogey Man had taken their friend.
7. He Was An Orphan
At the age of five, Albert’s father passed away (at eighty years old). Unable to care for him, Fish’s mother placed him in an orphanage. At such a young age, Albert was constantly beaten, but he learned something from the beatings of the orphanage staff… he liked it. He liked it so much that he received additional ridicule from other orphans for getting erections during his routine beatings. “I was there ’til I was nearly nine, and that’s where I got started wrong. We were unmercifully whipped. I saw boys doing many things they should not have done.” Surely he did not just witness these things, but also began to participate in them himself. No one can truly blame one’s family and environment for their ultimate actions. Nature and nurture to play a very large role in how one thinks and feels, but actions are personal, and while influenced by the outside world, it is choice that begins every action. That being said, it is difficult to realize that the inability of his family to care for him, mixed with the ill behaviour of not only the children, but also the staff at the orphanage, must have heavily influenced the way in which his mind worked.
Speaking of the way his mind worked, at the age of twelve, not three years after leaving the orphanage, Fish engaged in a relationship with a telegraph boy. This boy introduced Albert to a number of practises that may have served as a gateway of sorts for his atrocious actions in the future. Paraphilia (atypical sexual interests), though still a rather controversial study of sexual proclivities, is perhaps the best way in which to begin classifying Fish’s bizarre practises. Beginning with urolagnia and coprophagia (the drinking of urine, and the eating of feces respectively), the telegraph boy opened young Albert Fish up to a world of sexual deviance. Fish then began visiting public bathhouses in order to watch boys undress, and he spent a great deal of his youth doing this, as well as engaging in the aforementioned activities. It’s no wonder that this beaten and perverse youth came to be the monster that he was.
5. This Man Was A Prostitute
That’s right. In 1890, at the age of twenty, Albert Fish became a prostitute. Making money by selling his body, he spent his ‘off time’ wandering the city, preying on and raping little boys. This was by no means relegated to New York alone either. Fish boasted to have had a child in every state. This claim is likely far-fetched, but it’s been gathered that Fish likely molested, assaulted, and raped over one hundred children in his time, apart from any of the approximately nine murders he likely committed. After eight years of working the streets and the dark alleyways of New York, Fish’s mother then came to him with the aforementioned arrangement of marriage. Not necessarily a pleasant change of pace for Fish, but he did, for a time, manage to tame his tastes. One could imagine that working the streets of New York, one would know well the little nooks and crannies one might lure a little child to. It is this sort of notion that conjures up images of The Boogey Man.
4. He Liked Raw Meat
Albert Fish was absolutely known to be a cannibal, in spite of such discussion being withheld from the courtroom during his trial. It is perhaps what he is famous for, as a serial killer. Even the title of this article does nothing but promote just that notion. Given that, it is worthwhile to understand that Fish got his taste for the other, other white meat in a rather odd way. For some reason, once he had returned from prison (where sex was plentiful, though little boys were not) and his wife had left him, Fish began to eat raw meat. He would even do so in front of his children. In addition to this new hunger, he began collecting all manner of literature on the subject of cannibalism, though of the deed, he would do nothing. Examined by several psychiatrists at Bellevue, he was deemed “disturbed but sane” (which might go to show how young the work of psychiatry was at this point), and would therefore be released. There is no clear indication as to why this sudden taste for raw flesh began, and it is interesting to note that while he ate other meats raw, he always ingested cooked human flesh.
Some of this was mentioned above. His own, as well as neighbourhood children, were asked by Fish to strike his backside with a paddle fixed with nails. He told them to strike him until he bled. In addition to this, he would press multiple needles into his abdomen and genitals, and would even give himself a sound thrashing when the children weren’t there to play. He fashioned his own cat-o-nine-tails, which is a devastating whip (the likes of which allegedly tore into the flesh of Jesus Christ). As if that wasn’t enough, Fish got rather more… creative with how he self-mutilated. He even went as far as soaking pieces of wool in lighter fluid… then after they had become significantly saturated, he would insert them into his anus and light them on fire. It’s almost unfortunate that this depraved man received the death penalty by way of the electric chair. For a man who loves nothing more than to be in pain, this could only be looked at as a final gift before death. Indeed he thought as much: “Going to the electric chair will be the supreme thrill of my life.”
2. A Letter To A Grieving Mother
One cannot begin to think just what possessed Albert Fish to, after being six years removed from the murder and consumption of Grace Budd, write to the little girl’s mother, detailing just what he did to her and how much he enjoyed it. What is worse still than the mother of this missing girl receiving such horrifying news, was that she was illiterate and her son was made to read the letter. Imagine, as a family, discovering six years on what had truly happened. There is a strange tale of cannibalism that starts out the letter that, so far, has had no corroborating evidence to show the truth of it. But true or feign, the story clearly serves as an opening into the details of the horrible crime committed. As horrible as this letter is and as sad as it is to say, if not for this letter, it is likely that Albert Fish would have continued on molesting, killing, and eating his fill, until he died of old age (he was already 65 at the time of his execution). The letter was put on stationary from a specific place and after a short time, police tracked down the old villain and arrested him. As is so often the case, this killer literally spelled out his own defeat.
1. Little Billy Gaffney
His title of ‘Brooklyn Vampire’, may very well come from this horrifying story of Billy Gaffney. This is also, as it happens, the story from which the nickname ‘Boogey Man’ also arose. Serial killer Peter Kudzinowski was first to be suspected of the murder, and then a Brooklyn motorman by the name of Joseph Meehan. It turned out of course to be Albert Fish. “I brought him to the Riker Ave. dumps. There is a house that stands alone, not far from where I took him. I took the boy there. Stripped him naked and tied his hands and feet and gagged him with a piece of dirty rag I picked out of the dump. Then I burned his clothes. Threw his shoes in the dump. Then I walked back and took the trolley to 59 St. at 2 A.M. and walked from there home.” Saving the rest of the details for those who wish to horrify themselves, this author will simply say that he had his cut of the little boy, disposed of the viscera in large puddles nearby (filling potato sacks with the leavings and weighing it all down with stones), and took his coveted meat home to indulge. The boy was only four years old.