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The Curious Life of Albert Fish

Albert Fish was one of America’s infamous serial killers of the early 19th century, for reasons beyond just the killing of children. He ate them too.

The term the Boogie man relates to Fish as he became known. Although confessing to over 100 children killed, it was the brutal killing of Grace Budd that gripped the nation that sent Fish to ‘old Sparky.’

Born on May 19th, 1870 to Randell, 75, yes, 75 years old. His mother, Ellen, was 32. An age discrepancy of 32 years. Named Hamilton Howard Albert Fish and was the youngest of four children. After one of his brothers died, he reverted to being called Albert because the other children nicknamed him and jibed him with the name ‘ham and eggs.’

Randell, his father passed away when Fish was 5. His mother couldn’t afford to run the house with all the children and made the impossible decision to place all the children in an orphanage to make ends meet. Fish entered the Saint John’s orphanage, which became building blocks to the monster that Fish would become.

Mocked and bullied, Fish realised that he enjoyed the pain inflicted on him. Instead of running away from the tormenting bullies, he embraced it, encouraged it even. For five years Fish rebounded in the orphanage, being remorselessly picked on. It wasn’t until he reached the age of ten when his mother had secured a long-term employment contract did she send for the children. Times were very different then.

It was a little too late; it already did the damage to Fish; he left the orphanage a ruined boy, and the early glimmers of his psychopathy were emerging.

At 12, Fish had befriended a telegram-boy of similar age. It was here that the two boys would drink each others urine and eat their faeces; we do not know where this habit comes from, the psychological term is urolagnia and coprophagia. These triggers come from a place of lack, degrading, low self worth and emotional abuse. How Fish had developed this at such a young age is impossible to determine.

He would sit in secret hiding places in the public baths and spy on young boys getting undressed. He would answer ads in the newspaper to lonely women who were seeking marriage proposals. He would write to them, sending obscene letters, first drawing them in to a penpal relationship, then send letter’s that were filled with filthy content.

The concept of a serial killer and the mental illness that Fish had was not fully understood in these times. It was still the 1800s, remember.

By the age of 20, Fish was living in New York and pedalling sex tricks. It was during this time that he would seek young boys and rape them. 

His mother thought he should marry, and not unusually during this period, she had arranged a marriage with a girl called Anna-Mary that gave him six children. And Fish tried to live a normal life. Becoming a painter, but this did little for his urges as a predatory sex monster. He continued to abuse young boys.

Fish became obsessed with the dissection of the penis after visiting a wax museum with a friend, using his victims as experiments from sexual mutilation, it was the common trend that he would mutilate the genitals of his victims. 

The first documented victim was a young man called Thomas Keddon, 19. Keddon was an impressionable man who lived in Wilmington, Delaware, who Fish met in 1910. 

From records Fish forced the young man into a relationship with Fish, using manipulation. The culmination of the relationship was when Fish took Keddon to an abandoned farmhouse, tied him up and tortured the young man for two weeks. The torture ended when Fish cut the man’s penis off.

Fish wanted to cut Keddon up into smaller pieces and take him home piece by piece to what the authorities considered, to eat him.

The weather at the time was hot with an unbearable humidity. Realising the precious meat would spoil,  Fish bathed the wound in peroxide, which must have been excruciating. Lathered Vaseline over the groin. He untied Keddon, kissed him on the lips and gave him a $10 bill. Fish never saw him again.

“I shall never forget the scream or the look he gave me as I sliced his monkey off,” Fish later said.

At 37, Anna-Mary left Fish, taking all the children with her and eloped with the building handy-man in which they lived with. They took everything that fish owned, leaving him with nothing while he was still at work. Fish returned to an empty home. Not knowing the exact timings, Mary-Anne returned with the children and the empty-headed handy-man in tow. They needed place to stay. Like the brass balls on a monkey. But little did she know at this point that Fish was a brutal sadist and had killed.

Anna-Mary and the kids could of course stay, but Straube, the handy-man, had to go.

It didn’t take long for fish to realise that Anna-Mary was taking food to the loft where, on that discovery, Straube and Anna-Mary fled. She never saw her children again. 

After his wife had fled, Fish said that he had auditory hallucinations, it was at this time that Fish began a process of self harm by pushing needles into his groin, testicles and anus. He would often self flagellate himself with a wooden paddle that had nails sticking out of it. Often asking his children to take turns to smack his buttocks until they bled. Another weird pastime was to push lighter fluid soaked material into his anus and set a light to it. The latter was for fun. 

The notion of cannibalization was becoming an escalation of his behaviour. It was an obsession. He prepared entire meals where the meat was raw. Chicken, pork, and beef. The children forced to eat the food, this was a poor attempt to stop the urges to eat human meat.

Throughout his 30s, Fish was evaluated by psychiatric services and deemed sane, ‘normal’ one report even stated. It was at this point he would walk around all the time carrying a meat clever, a handsaw and a butcher’s knife in a carpetbag. Such items were with him on one psychiatric evaluation. It even made Fish chuckle to himself.

One letter he sent to Estella Wilcox. So vile was the content that when arrested, he was detained in the local psychiatric hospital for observation, but released with a clean bill of health. The narcissist was strong in this man.

The date from here is not determined, but around 1919, Fish would scour the streets for disabled men and African Americans. The war had ended, there was a glut of demobbed injured military veterans a growing black community and also death was omnipresent because of the ravages of the Spanish Flu pandemic. He preyed on a demographic of society that, according to Fish, wouldn’t be missed. He paid other children to help catch these unfortunate people, and then Fish would torture and murder them. 

There were some reports that a aging man was prowling for kids. Names to mention here are Cyril Quinn, a boy that Fish would repeatedly molest for cash, and an abduction attempt of Beatrice Kiel. Chased off the farm twice. 

At 58, the year was 1928, Edward Budd placed an ad in the local paper looking for work as his family was struggling financially. Edward wanting to take the financial burden off his father, to make things easier. 

Fish answered the ad. He came across as normal, friendly, charming even. A respectable old man. When Fish came to visit, he introduced himself as Frank Howard, a farmer willing to pay Edward $15 per week to help around Fish’s house. The Budd’s thought  this was a miracle. The family thought all of their Christmases had come at once. Little did they know that Fish was planning to tie up Edward, mutilate him, then kill him, and then eat his remains.

Fish had made plans to come and fetch Edward the next week.

On the planned meet, Fish came to the Budd’s home, where he met little Grace Budd. So fascinated with the small girl, fish immediately changed his plans.

Fish, thinking quick, thought up a story. A niece not far away was having a birthday party, and it would be amazing to take grace. Because Fish, this genial old man that had no malice nor darkness about him, the Budd’s thought this was a splendid idea… Can you imagine doing that now?

Grace went with Fish happily, and they never saw again her. 

A side note, the police pursued the wrong suspect for Grace’s disappearance. A police superintendent by the name of Charles Edward Pope spent over three months in jail before being found not guilty. The reason for this is Grace’s parents had received a letter which became the key to Fish’s arrest.

The Letter which is preserved in all its grammar and spelling errors is widely distributed.

Six years after they had reported grace missing, her father never once giving up hope in finding his daughter. 

The letter arrived and addressed to Mrs Budd. She was illiterate, like most people of the time. Her son had to read the letter, a letter so repugnant for a parent to receive, was read by Graces brother, an equally hideous notion. 

The one thing that Fish failed to omit from this key piece of evidence, the envelope carried a hexagonal logo of the boarding house in which the stationary form. 

The small logo had the letters N.Y.C.B.A embossed into it. The letters stood for the New York Private Chauffeurs Benevolent Association. It was discovered that after a line of questioning from the police, discovered that an employee would steal the stationary and take it to his room in a boarding house. The thief had left the room, but Albert Fish was the next occupant. When the police knocked on the door, Fish pulled out a switchblade but was quickly disarmed.

He never denied murdering Grace, but maintains that he didn’t take her virginity, but felt several orgasms while strangling her, which as a man a strongly disbelieve. he was a narcissist and would say things for effect, to shock. From a physiological perspective, I’m not sure that is even possible.

Other known victims.

Francis McDonnell, 9 years old when the young boy encountered Fish. Fish had hung him from a tree. He had attempted to castrate the boy, but disturbed by walkers and took off. It corroborated the evidence to this. This murder had remained unsolved for many years until they caught Fish. The description of the suspect was a grey old man, earning the nickname The Grey Man, aspects of the crime were only known to the police and the killer.

The case of Billy Gafney was difficult to comprehend. The 4-year-old abducted and subjected to a horrendous death. The letter is what he wrote to the Billy’s lawyers to be passed onto the mother.

“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 inch 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.”

“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 in the oven. Then I picked four onions and when meat had roasted about 1/4 hr., 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 hr., it was nice and brown, cooked thru. 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 as sweet as a nut, but his pee-wees I could not chew. Threw them in the toilet.”

Billys mother demanded to see Fish, but he refused to see the scorned mother. As a condemned man, this was his right. Billys mother maintained that Fish was not the killer, Billys killer was someone else. But the letter to the family highlighted aspects to the case that were not pertinent to the public. It convinced the police that Fish was the killer, and I don’t dispute that. What I dispute was how Fish killed him. He tortured, raped and then killed the boy, there is no doubt, but the level of mutilation he described was embellished. That this narcissist refused an audience with the boy’s mother confirms this to me. If he did the things he said, he would want to have had that five minutes with the mother to see into her soul the pain and suffering he caused.

Fish maybe doesn’t earn the right to be called the most sadistic child killer in history, as I will show, but there is no doubt he ranks high on the chart. They sent him to the electric chair where he helped the executioner place the electrodes on his body. The chair shorting out weirdly. They think because of the metal needles that Fish had inserted into his body, needed a higher dose of power from the electric chair. These needles were clear on a pelvic X-Ray.

He told the executioner 

“What a thrill that will be if I have to die in the electric chair. It will be the supreme thrill. The only one I haven’t tried.”

Fish also said, “I always had a desire to inflict pain on others and to have others inflict pain on me. I always seemed to enjoy everything that hurt,” which is a paradox to the mind of a sadist. How does a sadist cross the line to have the pain he enjoys causing be inflicted on him too? I don’t buy that. I think he self-harmed as a process with the emotional trauma that he experienced as a child and used this as a coping mechanism.

Fish was a psychopath and coupled with malignant narcism. At what point do we say it was all about the orphanage, the orphanage bears some responsibility to how Fish turned out? A complete unregulated part of the social system that was perpetrated by the clergy and the people of power, exploiting vulnerable children. We have all heard the stories and I come from an age where we knew it happed but never really talked about it. I went to the boarding school where our vicar was forcibly removed from the premises by the police. The child in question that came forward was exposed to a torment of bullying of which ashamedly I also perpetrated of which I am truly sorry for. 

But another piece of me says Fish was born bad. It would be impossible to determine now his level of psychopathy, however, I am convinced, Fish could carryout his heinous acts because a system that wasn’t in place, drifting from one place to another preying on the young for so long because he was driven.

Also, it’s interesting to note that psychologists determined that fish was in fact sane gives rise to the narcism he showed all the characteristics of malignant narcism. That is narcism, anti-social behaviour, aggression and sadism.

Fish was vain, egocentric and had an inflated ego of himself. His pseudonyms were of people of money and power and never of a lower class. His behaviour was by nature antisocial, even at a young age. Drinking urine and eating poo defines antisocial behaviour. His aggression was documented and his mood swings gave rise to almost psychotic rages. And then there’s the sadism that speaks for itself.

I think today, Fish would have spent most of his life incarcerated, there’s no way his behaviour today would ever pass muster. His behaviour is because of where we are today. He is one of the thousand’s of killers that have been studied extensively, which brings out an understanding of how killers are made

After his death, his lawyer stated that Fish had written many notes and letters of which will never see the light of day, so vile were the words and intentions. 

As always, we remember the victims, both living and the dead.

Rest in peace.

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