While most do not believe in demons, all acknowledge monsters. Because they live amongst us. A movie was released in 2007 called “The Gray Man,” recording the events of about a century prior. Born on the 19th of May 1870 in Washington D.C. to Randall and Ellen Fish, Albert Fish was the youngest of four siblings, who were Walter, the eldest, Annie, and Edwin.
He had named himself after his dead brother, “Albert,” and was of English, Scottish and Irish ancestry. His family was ridden with mental illnesses. His uncle was diagnosed with mania, his brother was admitted into an asylum, his sister and three other relatives had similar mental conditions, and his mother was plagued with hallucinations. His father died of a heart attack on 16th October 1875, when he was 75 years old. Abandoning a five-year-old Albert and his father.
He and his siblings were put into Saint John’s Orphanage, where the caregivers had a habit of abusing the children and encouraging them to abuse each other. His continuous ill-treatment, as said by Albert, fueled his passion for pain. His mother, then mentally stable and holding a government job, brought him home in 1880 when he was nine.
By twelve, he had an affair with a telegraph boy in 1882 who introduced the prepubescent child to coprophagia and urolagnia, the ingestion of human feces and urine. As he grew older, his homosexual and heterosexual promiscuity grew. But this was only the budding of a monster that would truly become evil.
In 1890, he relocated to New York City and engaged in male prostitution by 20. Soon, the tendencies grew wilder, leading to the sodomy of boys younger than six. He acquired a piece of special equipment to torture his victims— a paddle with nails embedded in it. Unknown to this gruesome truth, his mother married him to Anna Mary Hoffman in 1898, with whom he fathered six children and remarkably never expressed his diabolic character before them. He also had been incarcerated at Sing Sing Prison.
Albert Fish was said to be first enamored with mutilation when his male lover took him to a max museum. Later he met and started an affair with Thomas Kedden, a 19-year-old thought to be intellectually disabled, in Delaware. Albert lured him to an abandoned farmhouse where he mutilated him and left him with $10 and a kiss.
On the other hand, Anna left him for a man boarding in their home, John Straube, in 1917. Leaving him to fend for his children as his madness grew. He indulged in varied sadomasochistic practices like piercing needles into his groin, of which 29 were found stuck in his pelvis, encouraging his children and their friends to whack him with the paddle, flogging, and torturing his body. He developed a taste for raw meat, and he invited his children to feast with him. His illness led to auditory hallucinations professing that his acts were done on the bidding of Apostle John while wrapped in a carpet.
The Gruesome Murder Of Grace Budd
By 1919, Albert Fish was on the hunt for orphans to prey on. He assaulted a boy similar to Kedden in Georgetown. On the 11th of July 1924, he tried to lure an eight-year-old called Beatrice Kiel of Staten Island, but on failing, he took the life of Francis McDonnell in her stead. He was often found searching the papers for information on youths for hire. On the 25th of May 1928, he spotted in the papers a young man called Edward Budds asking to be hired in New York World’s Sunday edition.
He followed the boy to his home in Manhattan, having chosen him as his next victim. While introducing himself as Frank Howard, he was taken by a 10-year-old Grace hiding behind her parents. He made up a story of his imaginary niece’s hypothetical birthday party and convinced the parents, Delia and Albert, to send her with him. After she had not returned for a long time, the frightened parents filed a complaint which led to the arrest of Charles Edward Pope in 1930 but was released 108 days later, the jury finding him not guilty.
Albert committed bigamy by marrying Estella Wilcox in 1930 but was divorced the next week. He was nabbed by police and admitted to Bellevue Hospital after inappropriate conduct towards a woman searching for work as a maid in 1931.
It was not until the November of 1934 that the estranged family came to know the truth of what happened to their young girl. The Budds received a letter that Edward read out to his parents as each letter choked his throat and filled him with anguish and terror. The letter gave an explicit account of what had happened to little Grace. He talked about his fellow deckhand Capt John Davis, who acquired a taste for human flesh while staying in China during a famine (which could not be verified), and he decided to try it when he exclaimed how good it was.
Subsequently, he abducted Grace and took her to Wisteria Cottage in East Irvington, where he killed her and cannibalized her for nine days. Though thoroughly devastated, the letter was handed over to the police, who traced the paper to New York Private Chauffeur’s Benevolent Association. Upon arriving and questioning in the office, the janitor confessed to having taken the paper but left it at his previous boarding at 200 East 52nd Street. Officer, William F. King, nabbed Albert there and dragged him to the station for questioning after he was identified to resemble Frank Howard.
The Monster Amongst Us
Albert Fish quickly admitted to Grace’s gruesome murder. He engaged them in vivid details of her murder and the murders of other young children. He also admitted to the mutilation, sexual humiliation, and cannibalism of a four-year-old, Billy Gaffney, who disappeared in Brooklyn while playing with his friend on the 11th of February, 1927. The young boy and a passing motorman both described a graying slender old man with a gray mustache, whom the little friend called “bogeyman”.
He admitted to the horrors he committed on the boy before proceeding to cannibalize the child in immaculate detail of the dish he prepared. When the deceased boy’s mother, Elizabeth, came to ask about her son’s death, he would not answer and continued weeping.
Fredric Wertham, Albert’s psychiatrist for the trial, tried to convince the jury of his madness. He told that he was hallucinating God’s voice demanding sacrifices of young boys like in the story of Abraham and Isaac and believed cannibalism as communion, pleading for a verdict of not guilty per insanity.
But after long deliberation, the jury would not believe him to be insane as per witnesses’ accounts of the prosecution and sentenced him to death by electric chair. On the 16th of January, 1936, at 11:09 pm, Albert Fish was pronounced dead in Sing Sing Prison. After the execution, when reporters asked for Albert’s statement from his lawyer, James Dempsey, he denied the plea saying that the gruesome horrors in those pages are something he “will never show”.