Albert Fish confessed to several crimes after being apprehended. Each one was more heinous than the last.
TRIGGER WARNING: The stories of Albert Fish’s crimes are disturbing, and the vile letters written by Albert Fish have been included in this article. They are highly distressing and infuriating. Reader discretion is advised, and the article is not intended for the viewing of younger audiences.
Hamilton Howard “Albert” Fish was an American serial killer, rapist, child molester, and cannibal who killed at least three children between July 1924 and June 1928. Fish was born on May 19, 1870, and died on January 16, 1936.
He was also referred to as The Boogey Man, The Brooklyn Vampire, The Moon Maniac, The Gray Man, and The Werewolf of Wysteria.
Throughout his life, Fish was a suspect in at least five homicides. He admitted to stabbing at least two additional persons in addition to confessing to three murders that the police were able to link to a previous homicide.
Fish once bragged that he “had children in every state,” and he claimed to have taken the lives of roughly 100 people. However, it is unknown if he was referring to rapes or cannibalization or if the assertion was accurate.
On December 13, 1934, Fish was discovered and put on trial for the kidnapping and murder of Grace Budd. At age 65, he was found guilty and killed by an electric chair on January 16, 1936.
How was the Early Life of Albert Fish?
Fish came from a line of mentally disturbed people. His sister Annie was labeled as having a “mental ailment,” his uncle had manic episodes, and one of his brothers was housed in a state mental institution.
His mother experienced “aural and/or visual hallucinations,” and three other relatives suffered mental problems.
A heart attack claimed the life of Fish’s father, a fertilizer manufacturer, in 1875 at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station. According to Congressional Cemetery records, he passed away on October 16 and was buried on October 19.
After that, Fish’s mother placed her child in Saint John’s Orphanage in Washington, where he was often subjected to physical abuse. Fish started to take pleasure in the physical suffering the beatings caused.
By 1880, Fish’s mother had obtained employment with the government and was able to take her son out of the institution. At the age of 12, he started dating a telegraph boy in 1882. The young person exposed Fish to urolagnia (drinking urine) and coprophagia (eating feces), among other customs.
Fish started going to public baths so he could watch other boys undress. He spent a significant amount of his weekends going there. He would send vulgar letters to ladies whose names he had obtained from marriage bureaus and classified ads throughout his life.
The Crimes of Albert Fish: The Werewolf of Wysteria
At the age of 20, Fish relocated to New York City by 1890. He started assaulting and raping boys there, most of whom were under the age of six, while also engaging in male prostitution. Fish’s mother set up his marriage to Anna Mary Hoffman, who was nine years his junior, in 1898.
Their six children were Albert, Anna, Gertrude, Eugene, John, and Henry Fish. Fish was detained in Sing Sing in 1903 after being charged with grand larceny, found guilty, and sentenced.
Later, Fish recalled a time when a man he was seeing took him to a wax museum, where he was mesmerized by a bisection of a human penis and developed an obsession with sexual mutilation.
Around a decade later, in 1910, Fish was working in Wilmington, Delaware, when he met Thomas Kedden, a young man of 19. It is unknown if Fish coerced Kedden into doing these things, but his confession suggests that Kedden was intellectually challenged.
He took Kedden to where he was staying, and the two started a sadomasochistic relationship. Fish took Kedden to “an old country house” after ten days, where he tormented the man for two weeks. Kedden was ultimately tied up and had his penis chopped off by Fish.
Fish later reflected, “I shall never forget his scream or the look he gave me. Fish was going to murder Kedden, dismember him, and carry the pieces home, but he was afraid the heat would make him look bad.
Instead, Fish put peroxide over the wound, coated it in Vaseline, left a $10 bill, kissed Kedden goodbye, and went. “took the first train I could to return home. Never tried to find out what happened to him or heard anything,” said Fish.
Fish’s wife left him in January 1917 in favor of John Straube, a handyman who lodged with the Fish family. Fish was then left to care for his kids alone. Fish told a journalist after his arrest that when his wife left him, she took almost all of the family’s possessions with her.
Fish started experiencing auditory hallucinations; at one point, he covered himself in a carpet while claiming to be acting in accordance with John the Apostle.
Around this time, Fish started sticking needles into his crotch and abdomen as a form of self-harm. Fish had at least 29 needles buried in his pelvis, according to X-rays taken after his arrest. He repeatedly struck himself with a paddle covered in nails, placed a piece of wool into his anus, and lit it on fire.
Fish encouraged his kids and their friends to paddle his buttocks with the same nail-studded paddle he used to beat himself, even though he was never believed to have physically harmed or assaulted his kids.
Albert Fish’s Crimes Intensifies
Fish stabbed a young kid with intellectual disabilities in Georgetown sometime in 1919. He later said he targeted African Americans and persons with mental disabilities because he believed they would not be missed when slain.
Later, Fish would admit that he had occasionally hired boys to find him and other kids. Fish used a meat cleaver, a butcher knife, and a tiny handsaw as his “implements of Hell” to torture, mutilate and kill young boys.
On July 11, 1924, Fish saw Beatrice Kiel, then eight years old, playing by herself on her family’s farm in Staten Island, New York. He offered her payment to assist him in searching for rhubarb, and she accepted.
When her mother shooed Fish away, she was about to leave the property. Fish left but later returned to the barn where the Kiels were staying. There, he tried to fall asleep, but Beatrice’s father caught him and had him leave.
Francis McDonnell, who lived on Staten Island, was killed three days later by Fish. The 54-year-old psychotic Fish believed that God was ordering him to torment and sexually abuse children in 1924 when he was suffering from psychosis.
Fish made an effort to test his “implements of Hell” on Cyril Quinn, a young boy he had been abusing just before he kidnapped Grace Budd. Fish asked Quinn and his friend if they had eaten lunch while playing box ball on a sidewalk.
He offered them sandwiches in his apartment when they said they hadn’t. The two boys displaced Fish’s mattress as they wrestled on his bed, revealing a knife, a tiny handsaw, and a meat cleaver underneath.
They fled the flat in fear, alarmed.
The above given song is done by Steampianist.
Bigamy of Albert Fish
Fish wed Estella Wilcox on February 6, 1930, in Waterloo, New York. For “sending an obscene letter to a woman who answered an advertisement for a maid,” Fish was detained in May 1930. He was taken to the Bellevue Hospital for observation following that arrest and another one in 1931.
How Did Albert Fish Kill Grace Budd?
On May 25, 1928, Fish came across a classified item in the New York World’s Sunday edition that stated, “18-year-old man wants a job in his nation. 406 West 15th Street, Edward Budd.”
Fish, who was 58 years old at the time, pretended to be hiring Edward when he visited the Budd family in Manhattan on May 28. Fish later said that his true intentions were to bind Edward up, mutilate him, and let him bleed to death.
Frank Howard, a farmer from Farmingdale, New York, was Fish’s introduction. He stated that he would send for Budd and his friend Willie in a few days and that he would pledge to recruit them. Fish did not show up, but he apologized and scheduled a new date in a telegram to the Budd family.
Fish met 10-year-old Grace Budd, Edward’s younger sister when he got back. He hastily concocted a lie about having to go to his niece’s birthday party after suddenly changing his mind about being amorous with Grace.
He persuaded Grace’s parents, Delia Flanagan and Albert Budd, to let her go to the party with him that night. Fish then drove Grace to “Wysteria Cottage,” a run-down residence at 359 Mountain Road in Irvington, New York, where he had previously decided to carry out the murder of his next victim. He killed the girl there, then ate her.
On September 5, 1930, the police detained 66-year-old superintendent Charles Edward Pope after his divorced wife suspected him of being responsible for Grace’s abduction.
What is the Albert Fish Letter?
An anonymous letter to Grace’s parents in November 1934 eventually directed the police to Fish. Because Mrs. Budd was illiterate and unable to read the letter for herself, she asked her son to do so. The original letter, which contains all of Fish’s spelling and grammar mistakes, is as follows:
Greetings, Mrs. Budd.
Capt. John Davis, a friend of mine, served as a deckhand on the steamer Tacoma in 1894. From San Francisco, they boarded a ship for Hong Kong, China. When he arrived there, he and two other people went ashore and became wasted.
The boat was gone when they came back. China was experiencing famine at the time. Any type of meat costs between $1 and $3 per pound. The level of misery among the extremely poor was so extreme that all children under the age of 12 were sold to butchers to be cut up and sold for food to prevent other children from going hungry.
Anyone under the age of 14 should avoid the street. You may enter any store and request stew beef, chops, or steak. Just what you desired would be to cut off a portion of the boy’s or girl’s bare body that was brought out.
The tastiest part of a boy or girl’s body, the rear, which is offered as a veal cutlet, brought the greatest price. John remained there for so long that he craved human flesh. He kidnapped two youngsters, ages 7 and 11, upon his return to New York.
He brought them to his house, stripped them bare, tied them up, and torched everything they wore. He repeatedly spanked and tortured them day and night to render their meat excellent and tender. Because the 11-year-old had the fattest ass and naturally the most meat on it, he slaughtered him first.
Except for the head’s bones and guts, every component of his body was cooked and consumed. He was baked, grilled, fried, stewed, and had his entire ass boiled. The young boy who followed did the same and was next.
I was residing at 409 E 100 St at the time, on the rear and right side. He praised human flesh so frequently that I decided to try it. I visited you on Sunday, June 3, 1928, at 406 W 15 St. and brought you strawberries and pot cheese. We had a meal.
Grace kissed me as she sat on my lap. Under the guise of taking her to a party, I decided to eat her. She might leave, you said. I drove her to a vacant home in Westchester that I had already chosen. I instructed her to remain outside once we arrived. She chose some wildflowers. I walked upstairs and undressed completely.
I was afraid I would spill her blood on them if I didn’t. I went to the window and summoned her once everything was ready. After that, I hid in a closet until she entered the space. She started crying and tried to rush down the stairs when she saw me completely naked.
She stated she would inform her mama when I grabbed her. I started by stripping her naked. She bit, scratched and kicked. After I strangled her to death, I dismembered her and took the meat to my quarters, where I could cook and consume it.
How deliciously and tenderly the roasting of her tiny ass in the oven was. I needed nine days to consume her entire body. Despite having the option, I chose not to fuck her. She died a virgin.
The police examined the letter. It could not verify the claim about “Capt. Davis” and the “famine” in Hong Kong. Although it was unable to prove whether Fish had actually eaten any of Grace’s body, the portion of the letter describing Grace’s murder was found to be true in its depiction of the kidnapping and events that followed.
How was Albert Fish Caught?
The letter was enclosed in an envelope that read, “New York Private Chauffeur’s Benevolent Association,” and had a small hexagonal insignia on it. A janitor at the business admitted to the police that he had taken some of the stationery homes but had left it behind when he moved out to his rooming house at 200 East 52nd Street.
Fish checked out of that room a few days prior, according to the rooming house’s landlady. She claimed that he requested her to hold his upcoming check on his behalf after Fish’s kid sent him money.
The case’s lead investigator, William F. King, waited outside the room until Fish entered. He waved a razor blade before agreeing to be questioned at headquarters. King escorted Fish to the police department after disarming him.
Fish stated that he intended to travel to the residence to kill Grace Budd’s brother Edward but made no attempt to refute her murder. Fish claimed that raping the girl “never even crossed [his] mind,” but he subsequently told his lawyer that he had two unconscious ejaculations while kneeling on Grace’s chest and strangling her.
This evidence was presented at trial to argue that the kidnapping was motivated by sexual desire, omitting any mention of cannibalism.
The Known Victims of Albert Fish
Francis McDonnell, a nine-year-old boy from Port Richmond, Staten Island, was reported missing on the evening of July 14, 1924, after he didn’t come home after playing catch with friends.
Following a search, his body was discovered in a forested area near his house, hanging from a tree. His suspenders had been used to choke him during a sexual assault.
McDonnell’s acquaintances informed the authorities that a gray-mustachioed older man had abducted him. The youngster and a male with a similar appearance were seen by a neighbor strolling along a grassy path toward the neighboring woods; the neighbor also reported to the authorities.
Anna McDonnell, Francis’ mother, told reporters that she had seen the same man earlier in the day. “He strolled down the street while talking to himself and making odd hand signals. I caught a glimpse of his beard and thick, grey hair. He was worn and grey in every way.”
The enigmatic visitor came to be referred to as “The Grey Man” due to this depiction. Up until the murder of Grace Budd, the McDonnell murder remained unsolved.
Richmond County District Attorney Thomas J. Walsh declared his intention to seek an indictment against Fish for the boy’s murder after several eyewitnesses, including Staten Island farmer Hans Kiel, positively identified Fish as the strange stranger seen around Port Richmond on the day of McDonnell’s disappearance.
Fish first refuted the accusations. Only in March 1935, following the conclusion of his trial for the murder of Budd and his confession to the murder of Billy Gaffney, did he formally admit to raping and killing McDonnell.
The New York Daily Mirror reported that when the McDonnell confession became public, it cemented Fish’s image as “the most ruthless child slayer in criminal history.”
What Happened to Billy Gaffney?
Billy Beaton, 3, his brother, 12, and Billy Gaffney, 4, were playing in the Brooklyn hallway of their apartment on February 11, 1927. Both younger boys vanished as the 12-year-old went to his apartment; Beaton was later discovered on the apartment’s roof.
Beaton answered, “The bogeyman took him,” when questioned about what had become of Gaffney. The remains of Gaffney were never found.
At first, Peter Kudzinowski, a serial killer, was thought to be responsible for Gaffney’s death. Then, Fish was recognized as the elderly guy who had been attempting to calm a young child seated next to him on the trolley by Joseph Meehan, a motorman on a Brooklyn trolley, after he saw a photograph of Fish in a newspaper.
The man hauled the youngster onto and off the trolley without a jacket, wailing for his mother. Fish’s description of the “bogeyman” corresponded with Beaton’s. Police identified Gaffney as the youngster based on the description.
Fish was hired as a house painter by a Brooklyn real estate company in February 1927. On the day of Gaffney’s disappearance, he was working just a few miles from the spot where the boy was kidnapped, detectives with the Manhattan Missing Persons Bureau were able to confirm.
In a letter to his lawyer, Fish asserted the following:
I took him to the dumpsters on Riker Avenue. Not far from where I took him is a house that is all by itself. The G boy and I went there. He was stripped naked, his hands and feet were bound, and a piece of filthy fabric I pulled out of the trash was used to choke him.
Then I set fire to his clothing. Put his shoes in the trash. After that, around two in the morning, I got the trolley to 59 St. From there, I walked home. The following day, around 2:00 PM, I took tools and a sturdy cat with nine tails. Made at home.
The little handle I divided a belt in half and cut the half into six strips, each about 8 inches long. I beat his bare ass till his legs started to bleed. I severed his ears, nose, and mouth, going from ear to ear. His eyes were gouged out. At that point, he died.
I stabbed him in the stomach, kept my mouth close to his body, and drank his blood. I grabbed a group of stones and four used potato bags. I then chopped him up. I could control myself. I inserted a few slices of his belly, ears, and nose into the grip. Then I sliced into the center of his body.
His abdominal button was just below. Then passed through his legs only 2 inches below his back. I grabbed this while holding much paper. I removed the hands, feet, arms, legs below the knee, and the skull.
You will find pools of slimy water all along the road leading to North Beach, which I filled with this and placed in bags weighted with stones, tied the ends, and flung them into. 3–4 feet of water are submerged. They all fell at once.
I brought my meat home. The part of his physique I preferred most was the front. He had a monkey, pee wees, and a tasty little fat behind that he roasted in the oven. I turned his ears, nose, chunks of his face, and belly into a stew.
I added celery, onions, carrots, turnips, salt, and pepper. It was great. Then I chopped out his monkey, and pee wees, split his behind up, and washed them first. His rear was covered in bacon slices, which I then baked.
Then, after the meat had roasted for approximately a quarter of an hour, I picked four onions and added them along with roughly a pint of water for gravy. I frequently used a wooden spoon to baste his rear. Meat would be delicious and juicy as a result.
It was nicely browned and fully cooked in about two hours. He had a lovely, fat little behind that tasted better than any roast turkey I’ve ever consumed. I finished the entire piece of beef in about four days. Although his little monkey was as sweet as a nut, I could not chew his pee-wees. Put them in the bathroom sink.
Detective King and two other men went to see Fish in Sing Sing with Gaffney’s mother, Elizabeth. Fish turned down her request to speak with him about her son’s passing. Fish started sobbing and pleaded to be left alone.
Mrs. Gaffney tried to interview him for two hours through his attorney James Dempsey before giving up. She remained dubious that Fish was responsible for her son’s death.
The Trial and Death of Albert Fish
In White Plains, New York, on March 11, 1935, Fish’s murder trial got underway. Elbert F. Gallagher, chief assistant district attorney for Westchester County, served as the prosecutor and Frederick P. Close served as the judge.
James Dempsey, a former prosecutor and former mayor of Peekskill, New York, represented Fish in his defense. Ten days were spent on the trial. Fish argued that he was insane and said God had spoken to him, commanding him to kill children.
Fish’s sexual fetishes included sadism and masochism, flagellation, exhibitionism, voyeurism, picquerism, cannibalism, coprophagia, urophilia, hematologic, pedophilia, necrophilia, and infibulation, which were all detailed in the testimony of several psychiatrists.
In his summary, Dempsey stated that Fish was a “psychiatric phenomenon and that no other person with as many sexual abnormalities was found in any legal or medical records.
Fredric Wertham, a psychiatrist who specializes in child development and conducts mental evaluations for the New York criminal courts, served as the defense’s top expert witness. Wertham described Fish’s religious compulsion and, in particular, his fixation with the biblical account of Abraham and Isaac during the course of two days of testimony (Genesis 22:1–24).
Wertham claimed that Fish thought “sacrificing” a youngster in a similar way would serve as atonement for his own crimes and that, even if the act were immoral, angels would stop it if God disapproved.
Fish had previously attempted the sacrifice but had been unsuccessful due to a passing vehicle. The next target was supposed to be Edward Budd, but when he arrived, he was bigger than planned, so he chose Grace instead.
Fish may have mistaken Grace for a guy even though he knew she was female. Wertham continued by going into depth about Fish’s cannibalism, which in his eyes, was a form of communion.
Dempsey’s final query to Wertham was 15,000 words lengthy, covered every aspect of Fish’s life, and inquired how the physician determined Fish’s mental state in light of this existence. Wertham said, “He is mad.”
To find out if Fish could tell the difference between right and wrong, Gallagher cross-examined Wertham. He acknowledged that he did know but said that his knowledge was distorted and hence “crazy” because it was based on his beliefs about sin, atonement, and religion.
The defense called two additional psychiatrists to back up Wertham’s findings.
Menas Gregory, the former administrator of the Bellevue Hospital, where Fish received treatment in 1930, was the first of the four rebuttal witnesses. According to his testimony, Fish was weird yet sane.
Dempsey was questioned Dempsey during cross-examination on whether coprophilia, urophilia, and pedophilia were signs of a sane or insane individual. Gregory retorted that such a person was not “mentally ill” and that these were “socially completely fine” ordinary perversions.
Gregory said that fish was “no different from millions of other people,” some of whom were well-known and prosperous and had the “exact same” perversions. Perry Lichtenstein, a doctor who works as a resident at The Tombs, was the next witness.
Despite Dempsey’s objections, Justice Close overruled them because the jury may determine how much weight to give a jail doctor’s testimony on the subject of sanity. In response to the question of whether Fish’s self-inflicted suffering was a sign of a mental illness, Lichtenstein said, “That is not masochism,” since he was “punishing himself to get sexual enjoyment.”
The next witness, Charles Lambert, stated that religious cannibalism may be psychopathic but that it “was a matter of taste” and not proof of psychosis. He also stated that coprophilia was a frequent practice. James Vavasour, the final witness, reiterated Lambert’s viewpoint.
Mary Nicholas, Fish’s stepdaughter, was another witness for the defense. She is 17 years old. She explained how Fish taught her and her sibling several games with masochistic and child molestation undertones.
None of the jurors questioned Fish’s insanity, but as one later recalled, they ultimately decided he should be put to death nonetheless. The judge gave the defendant a death by electrocution sentence after determining that he was insane and guilty.
Fish entered prison in March 1935 and was put to death in the electric chair at Sing Sing on January 16, 1936. He was declared dead three minutes after entering the chamber at 11:06 p.m. He was laid to rest in the cemetery at Sing Sing Prison.
What were Albert Fish’s Last Words?
According to reports, Fish assisted the executioner in placing the electrodes on his body. He reportedly said, “I don’t even know why I’m here,” as his last words. It reportedly took two shocks until Fish passed away, which led to the notion that the device was short-circuited by the needles that Fish implanted into his body.
These claims were eventually disproved because Fish is said to have perished in the electric chair similarly and within the same time frame as other prisoners.
James Dempsey, Fish’s attorney, disclosed that he was in possession of his client’s “last statement” during a conference with reporters following the execution.
This came to several pages of handwritten notes, apparently made by Fish in the hours before his death. When questioned by the assembled journalists, Dempsey declined to divulge the document’s contents, saying, “Never will I show it to anyone. I have never read such a foul litany of profanities.”
Burn in hell, Albert Fish.
Next, read about Danny Rolling, The Man Who Went on a 4 Day Killing Spree, and then, if you’re interested in the paranormal, you would like the story of The Autopsy of an Alien at Roswell!
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