Albert Fish PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 05 March 2009 18:04

Albert Hamilton Fish

Born: May 19, 1870

Died: January 16, 1936

Age: 65

Cause of death: Execution by electric chair.

Notable because: Seemingly respectable suburban father of 6 is closet self-harmer and serial killer who enjoys cannibalism and writing to his child victims parents to detail the experience. A very religious man who heard Gods voice from an early age, whilst also enjoying urolagnia and coprophagia.

Albert  Fish was an American serial killer. He was also known as the Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria, the Brooklyn Vampire, and The Boogeyman. A child molester and cannibal, he boasted that he had "had children in every state," and at one time put the figure at around 100. However, it is not clear whether he was talking about molestation or cannibalization, less still as to whether he was telling the truth. He was a suspect in at least five murders in his lifetime. Fish confessed to three murders that police were able to trace to a known homicide, and confessed to stabbing at least two other people. He was put on trial for the kidnapping and murder of Grace Budd, and was convicted and executed via electric chair.

He was born as Hamy Fish in Washington, D.C., to Randall Fish (1795-1875). He said he had been named after Hamilton Fish, a distant relative. His father was 43 years older than his mother. Fish was the youngest child and had three living siblings: Walter, Annie, and Edwin Fish. He wished to be called "Albert" after a dead sibling, and to escape the nickname 'Ham and Eggs' that he was given at an orphanage in which he spent much of his childhood.

His family had a long history of mental illness, and one suffered from religious mania. His father was a river boat captain, but by 1870 he was a fertilizer manufacturer. The elder Fish died of a heart attack at the Sixth Street Station of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1875 in Washington, D.C. Fish's mother put him into an orphanage where he was frequently whipped and beaten, and eventually discovered that he enjoyed physical pain. The beatings would often give him erections, for which the other orphans teased him.

By 1880, his mother got a government job and was able to look after him. In 1882, at age 12, he began a relationship with a telegraph boy. The youth introduced Fish to such practices as drinking urine and coprophagia. Fish also began visiting public baths where he could watch other boys undress, and spent a great portion of his weekends on these visits.


By 1890, Fish had arrived in New York City, and he said he became a male prostitute. He also said he began raping young boys, a crime he kept committing even after his mother arranged a marriage.

In 1898, Fish was married to a woman nine years his junior. They had six children: Albert, Anna, Gertrude, Eugene, John, and Henry Fish.

Throughout 1898 he worked as a house painter, and he said he continued molesting children, mostly boys under six. He later recounted an incident in which a male lover took him to a waxworks museum, where Fish was fascinated by a bisection of a penis; soon after, he developed a morbid interest in castration. During a relationship with a mentally retarded man, Fish attempted to castrate him after tying him up. The man became frightened and fled. Fish then increased the frequency of his visits to brothels where he could be whipped and beaten. In 1903 he was arrested for embezzlement and was sentenced to incarceration in Sing Sing.

Over a dozen needles Fish self-embedded into his pelvis and perineum.

In January 1917, Fish's wife left him for John Straube, a handyman who boarded with the Fish family. Following this rejection, Fish began to hear voices; for example, he once wrapped himself up in a carpet, explaining that he was following the instructions of John the Apostle. It was around this time that Fish began deliberately harming himself. He would self-embed needles into his groin, which he normally would remove afterwards, but soon he began to insert them so deep that they were impossible to take out. Later x-rays revealed that Fish had at least 29 needles lodged in his pelvic region. He also hit himself repeatedly with a nail-studded paddle.

At the age of 55, Fish began to experience delusions and hallucinations that God commanded him to torment and castrate little boys. Doctors said he suffered from a religious psychosis.

Early attacks and attempted abductions

Fish committed what may have been his first attack on a child named Thomas Bedden in Wilmington, Delaware in 1910. Later, he stabbed a mentally challenged boy around 1919 in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.. Consistently, many of his intended victims would be either mentally challenged or African-American, because he believed they would not be missed.

On July 11, 1924, Fish found eight-year-old Beatrice Kiel playing alone on her parents' Staten Island farm. He offered her money to come and help him look for rhubarb in the neighboring fields. She was about to leave the farm when her mother chased Fish away. Fish left, but returned later to the Kiels' barn where he tried to sleep for the night before being discovered by Hans Kiel and told to leave.

Grace Budd

Grace Budd (1918-1928)

On May 25, 1928, Edward Budd put a classified ad in the Sunday edition of the New York World that read: "Young man, 18, wishes position in country. Edward Budd, 406 West 15th Street." On May 28, 1928, Fish, then 58 years old, visited the Budd family in Manhattan, New York City under the pretense of hiring Edward. He introduced himself as Frank Howard, a farmer from Farmingdale, New York. When he arrived, Fish met Budd's younger sister, 10-year-old Grace. Fish promised to hire Budd and said he would send for him in a few days. On his second visit he agreed to hire Budd, then convinced the parents, Delia Flanagan and Albert Budd I, to let Grace accompany him to a birthday party that evening at his sister's home. The elder Albert Budd was a porter for the Equitable Life Assurance Society. Grace had a sister, Beatrice; and two other brothers, Albert Budd II; and George Budd. Grace left with Fish that day, but never came back.

The police arrested Charles Edward Pope on September 5, 1930 as a suspect in the kidnapping. He was a 66-year-old apartment house superintendent, and was accused by his estranged wife. He spent 108 days in jail between his arrest and trial on December 22, 1930. He was found not guilty.

The letter

Six years later, in November 1934, an anonymous letter was sent to the girl's parents which led the police to Albert Fish. The letter is quoted here, with all of Fish's misspellings and grammatical errors:

Dear Mrs. Budd.

In 1894 a friend of mine shipped as a deck hand on the Steamer Tacoma, Capt. John Davis. They sailed from San Francisco for Hong Kong, China. On arriving there he and two others went ashore and got drunk. When they returned the boat was gone. At that time there was famine in China. Meat of any kind was from $1-3 per pound. So great was the suffering among the very poor that all children under 12 were sold for food in order to keep others from starving. A boy or girl under 14 was not safe in the street. You could go in any shop and ask for steak—chops—or stew meat. Part of the naked body of a boy or girl would be brought out and just what you wanted cut from it. A boy or girl's behind which is the sweetest part of the body and sold as veal cutlet brought the highest price. John staid [sic] there so long he acquired a taste for human flesh. On his return to N.Y. he stole two boys, one 7 and one 11. Took them to his home stripped them naked tied them in a closet. Then burned everything they had on. Several times every day and night he spanked them – tortured them – to make their meat good and tender. First he killed the 11 year old boy, because he had the fattest ass and of course the most meat on it. Every part of his body was cooked and eaten except the head—bones and guts. He was roasted in the oven (all of his ass), boiled, broiled, fried and stewed. The little boy was next, went the same way. At that time, I was living at 409 E 100 St. near—right side. He told me so often how good human flesh was I made up my mind to taste it. On Sunday June the 3, 1928 I called on you at 406 W 15 St. Brought you pot cheese— strawberries. We had lunch. Grace sat in my lap and kissed me. I made up my mind to eat her. On the pretense of taking her to a party. You said yes she could go. I took her to an empty house in Westchester I had already picked out. When we got there, I told her to remain outside. She picked wildflowers. I went upstairs and stripped all my clothes off. I knew if I did not I would get her blood on them. When all was ready I went to the window and called her. Then I hid in a closet until she was in the room. When she saw me all naked she began to cry and tried to run down the stairs. I grabbed her and she said she would tell her mamma. First I stripped her naked. How she did kick – bite and scratch. I choked her to death, then cut her in small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms. Cook and eat it. How sweet and tender her little ass was roasted in the oven. It took me 9 days to eat her entire body. I did not fuck her tho I could of had I wished. She died a virgin.

Mrs. Budd was illiterate and could not read the letter herself, so she had her son read it instead. Fish had told the police, when asked, that it "never even entered his head" to rape the girl, but he later admitted to his attorney that he did indeed rape Grace.


The letter was delivered in an envelope that had a small hexagonal emblem with the letters "N.Y.P.C.B.A." standing for "New York Private Chauffeur's Benevolent Association". A janitor at the company told police he had taken some of the stationery home but left it at his rooming house at 200 East 52nd Street when he moved out. The landlady of the rooming house said that Fish had checked out of that room a few days earlier. She said that Fish's son sent him money and he had asked her to hold his next check for him. William F. King, the lead investigator, waited outside the room until Fish returned. He agreed to go to the headquarters for questioning, but at the street door Fish lunged at King with a razor in each hand. King disarmed Fish and took him to police headquarters. Fish made no attempt to deny the Grace Budd murder, saying that he had meant to go to the house to kill Edward Budd, Grace's brother.

Postcapture discoveries

Billy Gaffney

A child named Billy Gaffney was playing in the hallway outside of his family's apartment in Brooklyn with his friend, Billy Beaton, on February 11, 1927. Both of the boys disappeared, but the friend was found on the roof of the apartment house. When asked what happened to Gaffney, Beaton said "the boogey man took him." Initially Peter Kudzinowski was a suspect in the boy's murder. Then, Joseph Meehan, a motorman on a Brooklyn trolley, saw a picture of Fish in the newspaper and identified him as the old man that he saw February 11, 1927, who was trying to quiet a little boy sitting with him on the trolley. The boy was not wearing a jacket and was crying for his mother and was dragged by the man on and off the trolley. Police matched the description of the child to Billy Gaffney. Gaffney's body was never recovered. Gaffney's mother visited Fish in Sing Sing to try to get more details of her son's death. Fish confessed the following:

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. Next day about 2 P.M., I took tools, a good heavy cat-of-nine tails. Home made. Short handle. Cut one of my belts in half, slit these halves in six strips about 8 inches long. I whipped his bare behind till the blood ran from his legs. I cut off his ears - nose - slit his mouth from ear to ear. Gouged out his eyes. He was dead then. I stuck the knife in his belly and held my mouth to his body and drank his blood. I picked up four old potato sacks and gathered a pile of stones. Then I cut him up. I had a grip with me. I put his nose, ears and a few slices of his belly in the grip. Then I cut him through the middle of his body. Just below the belly button. Then through his legs about 2 inches below his behind. I put this in my grip with a lot of paper. I cut off the head - feet - arms - hands and the legs below the knee. This I put in sacks weighed with stones, tied the ends and threw them into the pools of slimy water you will see all along the road going to North Beach. I came home with my meat. I had the front of his body I liked best. His monkey and pee wees and a nice little fat behind to roast in the oven and eat. I made a stew out of his ears -- nose -- pieces of his face and belly. I put onions, carrots, turnips, celery, salt and pepper. It was good. Then I split the cheeks of his behind open, cut off his monkey and pee wees and washed them first. I put strips of bacon on each cheek of his behind and put them in the oven. Then I picked 4 onions and when the meat had roasted about 1/4 hour, I poured about a pint of water over it for gravy and put in the onions. At frequent intervals I basted his behind with a wooden spoon. So the meat would be nice and juicy. In about 2 hours, it was nice and brown, cooked through. I never ate any roast turkey that tasted half as good as his sweet fat little behind did. I ate every bit of the meat in about four days. His little monkey was a sweet as a nut, but his pee-wees I could not chew. Threw them in the toilet.

 Second incarceration

Fish married on February 6, 1930, in Waterloo, New York, to "Mrs. Estella Wilcox" and divorced after one week. Fish had been arrested in May 1930 for "sending an obscene letter to a woman who answered an advertisement for a maid." He had been sent to the Bellevue psychiatric hospital in 1930 and 1931 for observation, following his arrests.

The trial of Albert Fish for the premeditated murder of Grace Budd began on March 11, 1935, in White Plains, New York with Frederick P. Close as judge, and Chief Assistant District Attorney, Elbert F. Gallagher, as the prosecuting attorney. James Dempsey was Fish's defense attorney. The trial lasted for 10 days. Fish pleaded insanity, and claimed to have heard voices from God telling him to kill children. Several psychiatrists testified about Fish's sexual fetishes, including coprophilia, urophilia, pedophilia and masochism, but there was disagreement as to whether these activities meant he was insane. The defense's chief expert witness was Fredric Wertham, a psychiatrist with a focus on child development who conducted psychiatric examinations for the New York criminal courts; Wertham stated that Fish was insane. Another defense witness was Mary Nicholas, Fish's 17-year-old stepdaughter. She described how Fish taught her and her brothers and sisters a "game" involving overtones of masochism and child molestation. The jury found him to be sane and guilty, and the judge ordered the death sentence. After being sentenced, Fish confessed to the murder of eight-year-old Francis X. McDonnell, killed on Staten Island. McDonnell was playing on the front porch of his home near Port Richmond, Staten Island in July 15, 1924. His mother saw an "old man" walk by clenching and unclenching his fists. He walked past without saying anything. Later in the day, the old man was seen again, but this time he was watching McDonnell and his friends play. McDonnell's body was found in the woods near where a neighbor had seen the "old man" taking the boy earlier that afternoon. He had been assaulted and strangled with his suspenders.

Fish arrived in March 1935, and was executed on January 16, 1936, in the electric chair at Sing Sing. He entered the chamber at 11:06 p.m. and was pronounced dead three minutes later. He was buried in the Sing Sing Prison Cemetery. He was recorded to have said that electrocution would be "the supreme thrill of my life". Just before the switch was flipped, he stated "I don't even know why I am here." According to one witness present, it took two jolts before Fish died, creating the legend that the apparatus was short-circuited by the needles Fish previously inserted into his body.


  • Francis X. McDonnell, age 8, July 15, 1924
  • Billy Gaffney, age 8, February 11, 1927
  • Grace Budd, age 10, June 3, 1928

Possible victims

  • Yetta Abramowitz, age 12, 1927
  • Mary Ellen O'Connor, age 16, February 15, 1932
  • Benjamin Collings, age 17, December 15, 1932


In the words of a doctor who treated Albert Fish, "There was no known perversion which he did not practice and practice frequently". Indeed, Fish could be described as everything evil, compacted and rolled into a bundle.

Fish was born in Washington, D.C. in 1870. By the age of five he was abandoned after the death of his father, and spent the majority of the rest of his childhood in an orphanage. Managing to carve out a life that seemed somwhat normal, Fish married in 1898 and fathered six children. His eccentric and perverted behavior evidently lay beneath the surface of a normal family man until his wife left him for another man in 1917. Alone and faced with the responsibility of caring for his children alone, his true self began to emerge. Reportedly, he occasionally would screm into the sky "I am Christ!" and forced his own children to paddle him until he bled. Later on, living with his grown son Albert Jr., he admitted that he used the nail-studded paddles his boy found in his father's room on himself, citing the need to torture himself. He also collected literature on cannabilism and other bizarre subjects.

Fish took to answering ads placed in the newspapers by single women, though definitely not in the fashion they desired. He wrote the ladies back with obscene proposals, which included having them paddle him. Just this sort of behavior landed Fish in minor trouble with the law, but he was largely regarded as just a nuisance. Nobody imagined that he was a sadistic killer until 1928.

On June 3 of that year Fish took 12-year-old Grace Budd to his isolated cottage in White Plains, New York from her home in New York City. Once there he strangled the helpless girl, decapitated her and used a saw to cut her in half. He ate bits of her flesh in a stew later and drank some of the girl's blood. The Budd's, who allowed their daughter to go to a fictitious birthday party with the killer they knew as Frank Howard, never heard anything about here daughter until Fish inexplicably sent them a letter telling them he had killed their daughter, adding that he "didn't fuck with her" and that she died a virgin. An address that Fish had not erased well enough on the back of the letter's envelope led police to the old man and the child killer was immediately arrested.

Because of the passage of time and lack of follow up that is customary nowadays, it is uncertain exactly what killings Fish actually confessed to while in custody. He evidently laid some claim to a few killings including the 1910 killing of a man in Delaware, the torture and mutilation death of a retarded boy in 1919,and the killing of a twelve-year-old boy in 1917. He alluded to many others but his confessions were never truly verified and he himself admitted his memory had deteriorated in his last few years. He reportedly admitted to the molestation of approximately 400 children, and incredibly horrifying number if true.

Charged with murder in the Budd killing, Fish's lawyers predictably pursued an insanity defense in his 1935 trial. Just as predictably, it did not succeed and the child killer was sentenced to die in the electric chair at Sing Sing. The aging sadist looked forward to the chair, saying it was the untimate thrill and the only one he hadn't tried. On January 16, 1936, Fish got his wish, but not without some added drama. One of his many perversions was to shove needles into the flesh between his testicles and anus. Quite often the needles went too far in and became lodged. Hundreds of tiny needles remained stuck in the man's body at the time of his electrocution and they short-circuited the first electrocution attempt leaving Fish charred, but alive. It took a second massive current to send this monster to his grave.


Last Updated on Friday, 21 May 2010 13:47

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