Vampires are pretty big these days, albeit not in the original form as created by writers like John William Polidori or Bram Stoker, or even a more modern-day example like Anne Rice. Obviously, it takes some creative liberties to turn blood-sucking killers into mainstream entertainment heroes as seen in the Twilight series and its ilk, at the risk of making old school horror fan’s stomachs churn over the thought. Of course, not even the classic originators of the genre could come up with anything half as terrifying as the world’s (hopefully) only real-life version of the monster, Albert Fish.
Before we go any further, no, Albert Fish wasn't technically one of the walking undead, wandering Earth and preying on the necks of innocents. However, the serial killer/child sexual abuser was, in all reality, a cannibal, generally eating the whole bodies of his least fortunate victims. Throughout the 1920s to the 1930s, Fish killed at least three people and tortured or sexually assaulted countless others, with court estimates of his true victim count occasionally reaching the triple digits. While Fish denied it himself, psychiatrists agreed his sole motive for any of his senseless acts was sexual gratification, adding an entire extra layer of disgusting creepiness to his crimes.
The extent of the horror Albert Fish caused to his victims can hardly be explained in a few short words, and it should go without saying the details provided in the following article are not for the squeamish. If you think you can handle it, though, and maybe want a reminder about what actual horror looks like in a world of sparkly creatures of the night, keep reading for 15 absolutely terrifying facts about “The Brooklyn Vampire” Albert Fish.
15 He Was Abused In An Orphanage
The Albert Fish nightmare began on May 19, 1870, when an elderly man named Randall Fish and his much younger wife, Ellen, produced their first child, Hamilton. Early on, Hamilton decided to change his name to Albert, largely due to teasing received while in an orphanage throughout his childhood. Given his father’s advanced age, it was almost inevitable the senior Fish would die when his son was still young, and Albert’s mother couldn’t handle the boy on her own. Because of this, he wound up at Saint John’s Orphanage despite one of his parents remaining alive, which may have been the start of his downfall. According to Fish, he was regularly abused in foster care, specifically getting whipped, and it happened with such frequency he began to enjoy it. This pattern of behavior isn’t that uncommon for future serial killers, yet Fish’s case is still extreme due to what came next.
14 His Disturbing Sexual Behavior Began By The Time He Was 12
By the time Albert Fish was 9, his mother had apparently gotten her life together well enough to let him back into her life and out of the orphanage. This wasn’t entirely a positive, however, as it allowed Fish back into the world at large, where he soon started to exhibit highly disturbing sexual perversions. Fish’s behavior especially exploded after beginning a relationship with a telegraph boy who regularly visited his house and taught young Albert some extremely unsettling behaviors. Strangest of all was definitely his propensity for urolagnia and coprophagia, drinking and eating human waste, respectively. Fish also took up a habit of watching and spying on other young men undress at public baths and wherever else naked strangers could be found. It was also around this time that Fish began one of his longest-lasting criminal activities, writing obscene letters to random women who offered their information in classified ads.
13 He Somehow Raised Six Children
This list has barely begun, and enough of Albert Fish’s life has already been covered that some readers probably hope the guy never had any offspring. On the contrary, Fish almost impossibly found a woman willing to settle down with him, at least for a little while, and the relationship produced six children. Most sources indicate the only reason Anna Mary Hoffman and Fish even met is that Albert’s mother had arranged their marriage, and it seems Hoffman didn’t even care much for him outside of birthing his progeny. Despite having half a dozen children together, Fish and Hoffman divorced after less than ten years of matrimony, or more accurately, Hoffman left her deadbeat husband for another man. While we totally understand wanting to leave this freak, Hoffman apparently had no concern for the six kids she left in his care. Thankfully, Fish never physically abused his own children, but he did invite and perhaps force them to do so to him, which is almost just as devastating on an emotional level.
12 He Started Torturing People In 1910
Having been on a dark path since his days in the Saint John’s Orphanage, Albert Fish’s crimes gradually escalated to attempted murder for the first time in 1910. Fish was still married to Anna Hoffman at this time, yet was able to sneak away and conceal from her a relationship with a man named Thomas Keddon, who happened to be half his age -- not that age had anything to do with it, as Fish wasn’t looking for a romantic partner, to begin with, but rather a victim. After gaining his trust through a fake friendship, Fish lured Keddon to an abandoned barn and violently tortured him over a two-week span. Fish’s final act before leaving Keddon to die was cutting off half of his penis, with the sadistic abuser later remarking he would never forget his victim’s screams at that moment. While he originally intended to kill Keddon (who probably wanted to die at that point anyway), Fish feared doing so would draw attention to him, so he instead poorly bandaged the wound and left Keddon to fend for himself. Because police didn’t know about this until Fish’s confession years later, the poor man’s ultimate fate remains a mystery.
11 He Took Self-Harm And Masochism To Shocking Extremes
Ultimately, there’s nothing particularly wrong with being a sexual masochist, albeit with the caveat that like with all sexual acts, masochism should only be practiced when all parties consent. While this obviously wasn’t the case when Fish took his perversions and escalated to murder, it was initially true of his own desire toward self-harm. Fish’s preferred implement of self-torture was a paddle he had affixed with large needles, which he regularly used to give himself spankings. The act wasn’t entirely innocent, as he brought great trauma to his children by asking them to administer beatings, a request he also made to neighbors. Fish needed no help in his next behavior, however, that being sticking giant needles into his own pelvic and genital region. Later x-rays would reveal no less than 29 various needles inside Fish’s abdomen, as pictured above, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. There are also reports he would insert highly flammable wool into his rectum and light it ablaze, amongst other horrifying self-mutilating sexual acts.
10 He Experienced Powerful Religious Delusions
Whether or not she knew the full extent of her husband’s crimes, Anna Hoffman-Fish knew she wanted nothing to do with the deranged man she married. In the modern era, she probably would've simply divorced him, but it wasn’t that easy to do so back in the early 1900s. Instead, Hoffman simply started dating someone else, a handyman named John Straube, openly flaunting the relationship in front of Fish, who did little to stop them from carrying on. When Hoffman and Straube had enough of the taunting and simply left for good, Fish was left on his own with six children, and the fact may have driven him to madness. According to Fish’s children, shortly after their mother left, he took them to a family cottage and had them watch as he repeatedly screamed, “I am Christ!” while shaking his hands at the sky from atop a large hill. As his crimes began escalating, Fish fell back on the religious excuse, saying God must have wanted him to kill, or else, He would've sent an angel to stop him.
9 He Fantasized About Cannibalism For Years
Not satisfied merely going down in history as a prolific murderer and sexual abuser, Albert Fish ensured his terror would be remembered forever by adding another proclivity to his repertoire. Before Fish even committed his first murder, although probably after he had started practicing torture, he developed a noted interest in cannibalism. Fish exhausted every piece of literature he could on the subject, and so delighted was he at what he found, he would apparently carry around his favorite passages with him at all times. His children would later claim they saw signs of this frightening disposition around the same period their mother left and Fish’s religious delusions began. Albert had begun eating large quantities of bloody raw meat, sometimes also serving it to his kids as their sole source of food. Eventually, all the reading and raw meat would escalate to the most gruesome aspect of Fish’s crimes.
8 His Most Infamous Victim Was A 10-Year-Old Girl Named Grace Budd
It’s pointless to try and rank which of Albert Fish’s victims was most important, as each life lost was an indelible blow to that victim's family and loved ones. However, it’s easy to point out which case was most integral to police finally stopping this monster from wreaking further havoc. Fish’s most infamous crime began when he read an ad placed by an 18-year-old farmhand looking for work on May 25, 1928. Initially planning to kidnap and kill the boy, Fish found a more suitable victim in his smaller, weaker, younger sister, Grace Budd. The first step was assuming the alias "Frank Howard" and offering the boy a large sum of money and a job. Moved by Mr. Howard’s false generosity, the Budds also accepted his offer to take Grace with him to a friend’s child’s birthday party. Grace never returned home, and Fish vanished without a trace, easily disposing of anything connected to his fake name and resuming his life without suspicion.
7 He Wrote An Extremely Disturbing Letter To His Victim’s Mother
For six years, police had absolutely no idea where to look in the disappearance and presumed murder of Grace Budd. They held a strong belief Frank Howard had kidnapped her, but it appeared such a man didn’t actually exist, bringing them straight back to square one. Out of nowhere, the Budd family received a letter from their daughter’s killer that described in horrifically graphic detail exactly how he had murdered her and then had eaten most of her body. Fish also gave a slight explanation for his actions through a story about a man he had met who had told him human flesh was delicious, as though this could in any way lessen the horror of what he had done. He also made sure to point out that he hadn’t sexually assaulted the poor girl before killing her, treating it like some kind of courtesy. Quite frankly, this letter contains several of the vilest strings of thoughts ever committed to paper, and yet it also played invaluable in helping police finally capture the guy who sent it, almost justifying its existence.
6 He Later Confessed To Three Murders And “Hundreds” Of Sexual Assaults
As with most of the worst serial killers in history, the true extent of Albert Fish’s terror will probably never fully be known. Throw in the fact nothing close to forensic evidence as we now know it existed back in his day, and there’s little chance technology will ever catch up with this menace and fully understand what he had done. What we do have is a confession, in which Fish admitted to three confirmed murders plus dozens of others, although police couldn’t prove them all. They did, however, find over 50 amputated fingers, legs, and various other bones along with a large number of discarded male and female clothing on Fish’s property after his arrest, implying other victims were definitely possible. And that’s not even to mention Fish’s other horrible crime, sexually assaulting young men without killing them, an act of villainy authorities believe Fish committed on over 100 victims. Fish himself claimed there were at least 50, or as he put it, “a boy for every state,” yet this was another of his unprovable claims.
5 Most Of His Victims Were Young Children Or Minorities
With well over 100 victims spread widely throughout the United States, one would think Albert Fish caught the attention of police significantly earlier than he did. While Fish was in and out of prison much of his life for sending obscene letters to strangers, petty larceny, and other minor crimes, no cops ever connected the quiet middle-aged man to the child sexual assaults that took place in the same area. Rather, it may be more accurate to say the police didn’t know about the assaults, as Fish looked for victims who wouldn’t be missed. Given the timeframe, this meant his victims were mostly African Americans, the mentally challenged, and poor or impoverished young children. This is the sort of malicious aforethought that proves his actions were well thought out from the beginning, which later damaged his insanity plea.
4 Where The Nicknames Come From
So, anyone paying attention thus far would probably agree Albert Fish was a menace to society in the worst way, and yet you might be a little confused about “The Brooklyn Vampire” thing. There are also Fish’s other equally chilling nicknames we haven’t mentioned, like the “Gray Man” and “Boogey Man.” The Brooklyn Vampire moniker relates to the fact his cannibalistic crimes all took place in New York, albeit not that specific borough. Though drinking blood was never part of Fish’s M.O., he would try and consume all parts of his victims each time, so it wasn’t wholly inaccurate. Another name comes from a child who witnessed Fish abduct his best friend, Billy Gaffney, able only to tell authorities “the Boogey Man” had taken him. “Gray Man” came from an earlier victim, Francis McDonnell, whose mother had witnessed an old man with a gray mustache shortly before her son disappeared.
3 He Plead Insanity To No Avail
Describe the life and times of Albert Fish to the average person and ask if they think the man was insane at the end, and all rational humans polled will reply with a resounding yes. That said, the legal definition of insanity isn’t the same as a person simply committing unspeakably evil atrocities and takes into consideration the idea of malice aforethought and a criminal’s sense of knowing that what he or she did was wrong. The actions committed by Fish were things the vast majority of sane people could never imagine, but at the same time, he clearly gave his desires serious amounts of thought before acting on them. Naturally, Fish’s legal defense called psychiatrists who disagreed with this and argued he was indeed insane, but four rebuttal witnesses of the state were able to shut down their arguments.
2 He Was Sentenced To Death By The Electric Chair
Rumor has it that when viewing all the evidence stacked up against him, the jury assigned to the case of Albert Fish all knew the man was absolutely insane, yet they felt the need to execute him was too great to accept an insanity defense. While there’s no way to prove if this is true or not, as the jury never gave detailed interviews after the case, it certainly seems believable. Regardless of their thought process, it's known that the jury deliberated and made their decision in no time flat, deciding Fish was sane and guilty, allowing the judge to implement a death sentence. Despite seemingly having tried to avoid it through the trial, Fish was unsettlingly gleeful over the news, and his chilling behavior once again escalated from there. When the time came for his actual execution, Fish briskly headed straight to the electric chair and even helped his executors strap him in and attach electrodes in the proper places.
1 His Last Thoughts Were Too Offensive To Be Read Aloud
Nowadays, every executed criminal is allowed to give a final statement to those witnessing their exit from this world. Back when Albert Fish terrorized society, it wasn’t quite the same, so instead, he left an extremely long handwritten note to his lawyer, James Dempsey, looking to serve the same purpose as a final statement. Dempsey explained this note was shoddily written in the immediate moments prior to Fish’s execution, yet this is as far as he will go in revealing what exactly it was his client wrote. Although journalists of the day were naturally interested and repeatedly tried to make him tell, Dempsey would only say he would never do such a thing because, as he said, “It was the most filthy string of obscenities that I have ever read.” Considering Dempsey also must have read the letter Fish had written to Grace Budd’s family, that’s saying a whole lot, as the world is probably better off not knowing the details.
Sources: NY Daily News, Gizmodo, news.com.au, The Mirror, Prairie Ghosts, The Line-Up