Throughout his years as a prolific and truly disturbing serial killer, Albert Fish was called many things: the Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria, the Brooklyn Vampire, the Moon Maniac, and The Boogey Man. But these monikers just scratch the surface of how completely twisted and terrifying Fish was—the Boogey Man would have even winced if he witnessed the terrible things Fish inflicted upon his victims, who were almost exclusively young children. Fish is not only one of the worst and most prolific serial killers in American history, but he was also a sickening cannibal, who literally licked the bones clean of his many victims.
Hamilton Fish, who would later changed his name to Albert, after his dead older brother, was born in Washington D.C. in 1870. At the time of his birth, Fish's father was 75 years old and his mother was 32.
A few years after Fish was born his father died. His mother then sent Fish to live in an orphanage, where his fascination with pain and torture began. In the orphanage, Fish was subjected to merciless beatings, and after awhile he began to enjoy the pain. Fish stayed in that orphanage until he was nearly 10, when his mother finally got a well-paying job and could afford to look after him.
But just because he was back in his mother's care did not mean that his life would be like any other normal boy's upbringing. In 1882, when Fish was 12 years old, he met another boy who introduced him to coprophagia, which is the act of eating feces. He then spent most of his weekends as a peeping Tom, in public baths watching boys undress.
In 1890, as a young adult, Fish moved to New York City, became a prostitute, and started raping young boys. In 1898, after years of Fish working as a prostitute, his mother had enough and arranged a marriage for him with a woman. Together they had six children.
Around this time, Fish switched professions from prostitute to house painter, but he continued to secretly pursue his favorite pastime—molesting children, mostly boys under the age of six years old. However, his perversions began to grow, and after visiting a waxworks museum with a male lover, he became obsessed with sexual mutilation.
In 1903, Fish was arrested for grand larceny, but was released from prison shortly after.
In 1910, Fish moved to Delaware, where he met 19-year-old Thomas Kedden. The two began a sadomasochistic relationship. It's unclear if Kedden consented to it, however a later confession by Fish implied that Kedden might have been intellectually disabled.
It wasn't long until Fish was no longer satisfied with simple sadomasochism—he craved more. Fish took Kedden to a secluded farm house, where he tortured him for two weeks. Fish's original intent was to kill Kedden and cut up his body and bring it home, but he was scared of being caught. Instead, after severing half his penis, Fish cleaned Kedden's wounds, gave him 10 dollars, and disappeared. Fish finally had a taste for blood and flesh and craved more.
To this day, it is not known what happened to Kedden after that.
In 1917, Fish's wife left him and he became a single parent. It was around this time that Fish began to experience auditory hallucinations. Allegedly, Fish once wrapped himself in a carpet because John the Apostle told him to do so.
He also began to enjoy self-harm. Fish often hit himself with a nail-studded paddle and sometimes even asked his children to hit him with it. Surprisingly, there is little evidence that Fish molested or harmed his own children, beyond this request. But the nail-studded paddle was nothing compared to another favorite self-harm method: Fish would stuff wool drenched in lighter fluid into his anus and set it on fire. When Fish was finally arrested and examined, X-rays revealed 29 needles imbedded in his pelvis (shown here).
And from extreme self-harm, it was only a small leap to a growing fascination with cannibalism. To quench his fascination, Fish began to eat meals of only raw meat. He sometimes even served raw meat to his children.
However, raw meat would not hold Fish over for long. Starting in 1919, Fish began to target people, mostly children, who were either mentally handicapped or African-American. Once he found a victim, he would torture, mutilate, and finally kill him using his "implements of Hell," which were a butcher knife, a meat cleaver, and handsaw. Afterwards, he would feast on the flesh for days.
For years, Fish got away with raping and murdering children followed by cooking and eating their flesh. Fish thought that children tasted the best and once commented: "I like children, they are tasty."
But Fish's motives were not just sexual or cannibalistic—he suffered from from psychosis and believed that God was telling him to torture and sexually mutilate children.
In May 1928, Fish responded to a newspaper advertisement for an 18-year-old boy named Edward Budd, who was looking for work in the country. Fish targeted Edward as his next victim, but when he arrived at his home in Farmingdale, New York, he saw that Edward was much larger than he had anticipated. Instead, Fish decided to go after Edward's sister, 10-year-old Grace Budd.
Fish promised to hire Edward and his friend, and that he would return in a few days for them. Fish never showed up, but did send a telegram apologizing profusely. A few days later, Fish showed up at Budd's home again, this time with an elaborate story about his niece's birthday party and then somehow convinced Grace's parents to let him bring Grace along. That was the last time anyone saw Grace.
Police were in a frenzy to find Grace's abductor, but were at a loss. In 1930, police arrested the wrong man and jailed him for 108 days. He was eventually found not guilty.
The police finally got their first real clue in November 1934—nearly six years after Grace's disappearance—when an anonymous letter was sent to Grace's parents. The letter, which was full of spelling errors, began with a strange story of a sailor stranded in Hong Kong, where he was exposed to cannibalism for the first time. The second half of the letter described in horrifying detail how Grace was murdered and then eaten. The author wrote, "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."
Although the letter was not signed, police were able to track the stationary back to Fish, who was immediately arrested. One of the most horrific child serial killers in American history was finally caught.
It did not take long for Fish to confess to to killing and eating Grace. Fish later also confessed to a few other murders, but never stood trial for them.
On March 11, 1935, Fish's trial for the murder of Grace Budd began.
Fish pleaded insanity and said that he heard several voices of God telling him to kill children. His trial only lasted 10 days, and in the end he was found sane and guilty. Fish was sentenced to death.
Later, it was revealed that many of the jurors believed Fish was insane, but thought he should be executed anyway.
Fish was executed on January 16, 1936 by electric chair at Sing Sing prison.