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Albert Hamilton FISH

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


A.K.A.: "The Gray Man" - "The Werewolf of Wysteria"
 
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Sex pervert, including cannibalism, coprophilia, urophilia, pedophilia and masochism
Number of victims: 3 - 10 +
Date of murders: 1924 - 1934
Date of arrest: December 13, 1934
Date of birth: May 19, 1870
Victims profile: Francis X. McDonnell, 8 / Billy Gaffney, 8 / Grace Budd, 10
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife - Strangulation
Location: New York, USA
Status: Executed by electrocution at Sing Sing Prison in New York on January 16, 1936
 
 

 
 
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Albert Hamilton Fish (May 19, 1870 – January 16, 1936) was an American sado-masochistic serial killer and cannibal. He was also known as the Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria and possibly the Brooklyn Vampire.

He boasted that he had "had children in every State," putting the figure at around 100, although it is not clear whether he was talking about molestation or cannibalization, less still as to whether it was true or not. He was a suspect in at least five killings 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 kidnap and murder of Grace Budd, and was convicted and executed via electric chair.

Biography

Early life

He was born as Hamilton 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 he 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 many of his early years.

Many members of his family had 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. He was frequently whipped and beaten there, and eventually discovered that he enjoyed physical pain. The beatings would often give him erections, for which the other orphans teased him.

By 1879, his mother got a government job and was able to look after him. However, his various experiences before this had affected him. He started a homosexual relationship in 1882, at the age of 12, with a telegraph boy. The youth also introduced Fish to such practices as drinking urine and coprophagia. Fish began visiting public baths where he could watch 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, he was married to a woman nine years his junior. They had six children: Albert, Anna, Gertrude, Eugene, John, and Henry Fish. He was arrested for embezzlement and was sentenced to incarceration in Sing Sing in 1903. He regularly had sex with men while in prison.

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 began intensifying his visits to brothels where he could be whipped and beaten more often.

In January 1917, his 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.

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. Afterward, he stabbed a mentally retarded boy around 1919 in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.. Consistently, many of his intended victims would be either mentally retarded or African-American, because, he believed, these 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

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. Albert senior was a porter for the Equitable Life Assurance Society. Grace had a sister, Beatrice; and two other brothers, Albert Budd II; and George Budd. Fish left with Grace that day, but never came back.

The police arrested Charles Edward Pope on September 5, 1930 as a suspect of the kidnapping. He was a 66-year-old apartment house superintendent, and he was accused by his estranged wife. He spent 108 days in jail between his arrest and trial on December 22, 1930.

The letter

Seven 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 later admitted to his attorney that he did indeed rape Grace. Fish was a compulsive liar, however, so this may be untrue. He had told the police, when asked, that it "never even entered his head" to rape the girl.

Capture

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 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 murder of Billy Gaffney. 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 wasn't 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. Billy's mother visited Fish in Sing Sing to try and get more details of her son's death. Fish confessed the following:

I brought him to the Riker Avenue 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 Street at 2 a.m. and walked from there home. Next day about 2 p.m., I took tools, a good heavy cat-o-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.

Previous incarceration

Fish married on February 6, 1930 at 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 an African American 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.

Trial and execution

The trial of Albert Fish for the premeditated murder of Grace Budd began on Monday, 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 ten 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. Francis was playing on the front porch of his home near Port Richmond, Staten Island in July 15, 1924. Francis's 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 Francis and his friends play. Francis' body was found in the woods near where a neighbor had seen Francis and the "old man" going earlier that afternoon. He had been assaulted and strangled with his suspenders.

Fish arrived in March of 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." Legend has it, that his execution took longer, due to the numerous needles inserted into his privates which disrupted the flow of electricity.

Victims known

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

Other possible victims

Fish denied involvement with any other murders. However he was a suspect in three other murders. Detective William King believed Fish may have been the "Brooklyn vampire", a rapist and murderer who mainly preyed on children. They were:

  • 1927 - Yetta Abramowitz, age 12, in The Bronx. She was strangled and beaten on the roof of a five-story apartment house at 1013 Simpson Street. She died in a hospital soon after she was found. The murderer escaped, but 20 detectives and many uniformed policemen were hunting for a "tall young man" who was said to have tried to lure several young girls of the neighborhood into dark hallways and alleys on May 14, 1927.

  • 1932 - Mary Ellen O'Connor, age 16, in Far Rockaway in Queens on February 15, 1932. Her mutilated body was found in the woods close to a house that Fish had been painting.

  • 1932 - Benjamin Collings, age 17.

Wikipedia.org
 


Albert Hamilton Fish (May 19, 1870 – January 16, 1936) was an American serial killer and cannibal. He was also known as the Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria and the Brooklyn Vampire.

A Knock at the Door

Edward Budd was an enterprising eighteen-year-old. He was determined to make something of himself and escape the desperate poverty of his parents. On May 25, 1928, he put a classified ad in the Sunday edition of the New York World: "Young man, 18, wishes position in country. Edward Budd, 406 West 15th Street." He was a strapping young fellow who was eager to work and contribute to the well-being of his family. Trapped in the dirty, stinking, crowded city in a miserable tenement with his father, mother and four younger siblings, he longed to work in the country where the air was fresh and clean. On the following Monday, May 28, Edward's mother, Delia, a huge mountain of a woman, answered the door to an elderly man. He introduced himself as Frank Howard, a farmer from Farmingdale, Long Island, who wanted to interview Edward about a job. Delia told her five-year-old Beatrice to get her brother at his friend's apartment. The old man beamed at her and gave her a nickel. While they waited for Edward, Delia had a chance to get a better look at the old man. He had a very kindly face, framed by gray hair and accented by a large droopy gray moustache. He explained to Mrs. Budd that he had earned his living for decades as an interior decorator in the city and then retired to a farm he had bought with his savings. He had six children that he raised by himself since his wife had abandoned them all over a decade ago.

Albert Fish and New Recruits

With the help of his children, five farmhands and a Swedish cook, he had made the farm into a successful one with several hundred chickens and a half-dozen dairy cows. Now, one of his farmhands was moving on and he needed someone to replace him.

At that moment, Edward came in and met Mr. Howard, who remarked at the boy's size and strength. Edward assured the old man he was a hard worker. Mr. Howard offered him fifteen dollars a week, which Edward accepted joyfully. Howard even agreed to hire Willie, Edward's closest friend.

Mr. Howard had to leave for an appointment and promised to come back on Saturday to pick them up. The boys were thrilled and the Budds were happy that a good position with the kindly old gentleman had come so quickly from Edward's modest ad.

Saturday, June 2, was the supposed to be the big day, but Mr. Howard didn't show up. Instead they got a hand-written note from Mr. Howard saying that he had been delayed and would call in the morning.

The next morning around eleven, Frank Howard came to the Budds' apartment bringing gifts of strawberries and fresh creamy pot cheese. "These products come direct from my farm," he explained.

Delia persuaded the old man to stay for lunch. For the first time, Albert Budd, Sr. had an opportunity to talk with his son's new employer. It was the kind of talk that makes a father very happy. Here was this kindly, polite old gentleman rapturously describing his twenty acres of farmland, his friendly crew of farmhands and a simple, hearty country life. He knew it was what his son wanted.

Albert Fish and Gracie

Albert, Sr. was a porter for the Equitable Life Assurance Company and had the air of a man perpetually submissive. He was not very impressed with the way this Frank Howard looked in his rumpled blue suit, but the old man was credible and genteel.

Once they sat down to lunch, the door opened and a lovely ten-year-old girl appeared. Gracie was humming a song. Her huge brown eyes and dark brown hair contrasted with her very pale skin and pink lips. She would be a real heart breaker someday.

Coming right from church, she still wore her Sunday clothes: white silk confirmation dress, white silk stockings, and string of creamy pearls made her look older than her 10 years.

Frank Howard, like most men who came face to face with the radiant Gracie, couldn't take his eyes off the beautiful girl. "Let's see how good a counter you are," he said as he handed her a huge wad of bills to count. The impoverished Budds were flabbergasted by the money the old man was carrying around with him.

"Ninety-two dollars and fifty cents," Gracie told him in short order.

"What a bright little girl," Mr. Howard said, giving her fifty cents to buy candy for herself and her little sister Beatrice.

Howard said that he would come back later in the evening to pick up Edward and Willie, but first he had to go to a birthday party that his sister was throwing for one of her children. He gave the boys two dollars to go to the movies.

Vanished

Just as he was about to leave, he invited Gracie to go with him to his niece's birthday party. He would take good care of her and make sure that Gracie was home before nine o'clock that evening.

Delia asked where Mr. Howard's sister lived and he replied that she lived in an apartment house at Columbus and 137th Street.

Delia wasn't sure that she should let her go, but Albert Sr. convinced her that it would be good for Gracie. "Let the poor kid go. She don't see much good times."

So Delia helped Gracie on with her good coat and her gray hat with the streamers. She followed Gracie and Mr. Howard outside and watched them disappear down the street.

That evening there was no word from Mr. Howard and no sign of Gracie. A terrible sleepless night with no message from their beautiful daughter. The next morning, young Edward was sent down to the police station to report his sister's disappearance.

Without A Trace

The worst thing that Police Lieutenant Samuel Dribben said to the Budds was that the address that "Frank Howard" had given them for his sister's apartment was fictitious. The kindly old man was a fraud. There was no Frank Howard, no farm in Farmingdale, Long Island. None of it was true.

Police began the normal investigative activities. They checked out everything "Frank Howard" had told the Budds. They also had the Budds go through their "rogue's gallery" of photos and checked on all the known child molesters, mental patients, etc. It came to nothing. No trace of Gracie.

On June 7, New York police mailed out 1,000 fliers to police stations throughout the country with a photo of Gracie and a description of Mr. "Howard." This activity, along with all the local publicity, guaranteed an epidemic of Gracie sightings and crank letters, each of which had to be thoroughly investigated by the 20 plus detectives who had been assigned to the case.

There were a couple of solid clues. Police found the Western Union office in Manhattan from which "Frank Howard" had sent his message to the Budds, plus the original handwritten message. From the writing and grammar, it was clear that "Howard" had some education and refinement. Police also located the pushcart where "Howard" had bought the pot cheese that he had given to the Budds. Both addresses were in East Harlem, which then became a focal point of intense search and investigation.

Where Have You Gone Billy Boy?

The New York police were not strangers to child kidnapping. In fact, there was an oddly similar case just the year before. On February 11, 1927, four-year-old Billy Gaffney played in the hallway outside his apartment with his three-year-old neighbor who was also named Billy. A twelve-year-old neighbor who was babysitting his sleeping baby sister went to join the boys, but went back to his apartment quickly after hearing his sister cry.

A few minutes later, the older boy noticed that the two Billys were gone and told the younger Billy's father. After a desperate search, the father found his three-year-old son alone on the top floor of the building. His son had been up on the roof.

"Where's Billy Gaffney?" the man asked his son.

"The boogey man took him," the little boy replied.

The next day when a platoon of detectives came to investigate the disappearance of the Gaffney boy, they ignored the three-year-old witness, who stuck to his simple explanation. At first the police thought the boy had wandered outside into some of the factory buildings in the neighborhood or, worse, had fallen into the Gowanus canal a few blocks away. People in the community organized a search and the canal was dredged, but there was no sign of little Billy.

Albert Fish (The Boogey Man)

Eventually, someone listened to the three-year-old witness who gave them a description of the "boogey man." He was a slender old man with gray hair and a gray moustache. The police paid no attention to the description and did not connect it to a crime that had been committed by the "Gray Man" a few years earlier.

In July of 1924, eight-year-old Francis McDonnell played on the front porch of his home in the pastoral Charlton Woods section of Staten Island. His mother sat nearby, nursing her infant daughter when she saw a gaunt elderly man with gray hair and moustache in the middle of the street. She stared at the strange shabby old man who constantly clenched and unclenched his fists and mumbled to himself. The man tipped his dusty hat to her and disappeared down the street.

Later that afternoon, the old man was seen again watching Francis and four other boys play ball. The old man called Francis over to him. The other boys continued to play ball. A few minutes later, both the old man and Francis had disappeared. A neighbor noticed a boy that looked like Francis walking that afternoon into a wooded area with an elderly gray-haired tramp behind him.

The disappearance of Francis was not noticed until he missed dinner. His father, a policeman, organized a search. They found the boy in the woods under some branches. He had been horribly assaulted. His clothes had been torn from his body and he had been strangled with his suspenders. Francis had been beaten so badly that police doubted that the "old" tramp could have really been as old and frail as he looked. The beating was so severe that perhaps the old tramp had an accomplice who had the strength to maul the child.

The Manhunt for Albert Fish

In a short period of time, Manhattan fingerprint experts and police photographers were enlisted in the case as well as some two hundred and fifty plainclothesman. The huge manhunt yielded several promising suspects, except that none of them looked like the gray-haired, moustached old tramp. His face was burned forever in the memory of Anna McDonnell: "He came shuffling down the street, mumbling to himself, making queer motions with his hands. I'll never forget those hands. I shuddered when I looked at them...how they opened and shut, opened and shut, opened and shut. I saw him look toward Francis and the others. I saw his thick gray hair, his drooping gray moustache. Everything about him seemed faded and gray."

Despite the massive efforts of the police and the community, the "Gray Man" had vanished into thin air.

In November of 1934, the Budd case was officially still open although nobody ever expected it to be solved. Only one man, William F. King, continued to pursue the case. Every once in awhile, King would plant a phony item about a break in the case with Walter Winchell. On November 2, 1934, Winchell took the bait once again:

"I checked on the Grace Budd mystery," Winchell wrote in his column. "She was eight when she was kidnapped about six years ago. And it is safe to tell you that the Dep't of Missing Persons will break the case, or they expect to, in four weeks."

Ten days later, Delia Budd received a letter that her lack of education fortunately prevented her from reading. Her son Edward read it instead and ran out the door to get Detective King. The letter was singularly barbarous:

A Letter From Hell

"My 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 to 3 Dollars a 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 girls behind which is the sweetest part of the body and sold as veal cutlet brought the highest price. John staid there so long he acquired a taste for human flesh. On his return to N.Y. he stole two boys one 7 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."

A Clue in the Albert Fish Case

Nobody wanted to believe that this letter was true. It had to be the ravings of some perverted, sadistic crank. But, Detective King realized that the details of his meeting with the Budds and Grace were accurate. Also, the handwriting on this horrible letter was identical to the letter the elderly kidnapper had written for the Western Union messenger six years earlier.

The envelope had an important clue: a small hexagonal emblem had the letters N.Y.P.C.B.A. which stood for the New York Private Chauffeur's Benevolent Association. With the cooperation of the president of the association, an emergency meeting of the members was held. In the meantime, police checked out the handwritten membership forms looking for handwriting similar to "Frank Howard's." Detective King then asked the members -- all of whom had passed the handwriting test -- to report anybody who had taken the association's stationery.

A young janitor came forward, admitting that he had taken a couple of sheets of paper and a few envelopes. He had left the stationery in his old rooming house at 200 East 52nd Street. The landlady was shocked when she was given "Frank Howard's" description. He sounded just like the old man who had lived there for two months.

The old man who had checked out of her rooming house just a couple of days earlier.

Albert H. Fish

The former tenant had called himself Albert H. Fish. The landlady mentioned that Fish had told her to hold a letter that he was expecting from his son who worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps in North Carolina. The son regularly sent money to his old dad.

Finally, the post office told Detective King that it had intercepted a letter for Albert Fish. Detective King was becoming worried that Fish had not contacted his former landlady. The police worried that something had scared him away.

On December 13, 1934, the landlady called Detective King. Albert Fish was at the rooming house looking for his letter. The old man was sitting with a teacup when King opened the door. Fish stood up and nodded when King asked him if he was Albert Fish. go

Suddenly, Fish reached into his pocket and produced a razor blade which he held in front of him. Infuriated, King grabbed the old man's hand and twisted it sharply. "I've got you now," he said triumphantly.

Confession of Albert Fish

The confession of Albert Fish would be heard by many law enforcement officials and psychiatrists. A severely edited version of it would appear in the newspapers. It was an odyssey of perversion and unspeakable depravity which seemed unbelievable until detail after detail was corroborated. It was all the more amazing considering how decrepit and harmless Fish appeared. He was a stooped, frail-looking old man about 130 pounds and 5 feet 5 inches tall.

Detective King took the initial confession. Fish told him that in the summer of 1928 he had been overcome by what he called his "blood thirst" -- his need to kill. When he answered Edward Budd's ad for employment, it was the young man, not his sister Gracie, that he intended to lure to a remote location, restrain him and cut off his penis, leaving him to bleed to death.

After he left the Budd house the first time, Fish had purchased the tools he would need to murder and mutilate the boys: a cleaver, saw and butcher knife. He wrapped up these implements of destruction into a bundle which he left at a newsstand before he went to the the Budd home for the second and last time.

When Fish saw the strapping young Edward, the size of a full-grown man, and his friend Willie, he convinced himself he could overpower the two of them. But then Fish had a lot of experience in that regard.

It was only after seeing Gracie that he changed his mind and his plans. It was she he desperately wanted to kill.

One-Way Ticket

With the unsuspecting Gracie in tow, he stopped back at the newsstand to pick up his bundle before taking a train to the Bronx and then to the village of Worthington in Westchester. For Grace, he only bought a one-way ticket.

Grace was enthralled with the forty-minute ride into the countryside. Only twice in her life had she been out of the city. This was a wonderful treat for her.

At the station in Worthington, Fish was so absorbed in his monstrous plan that he left his bundle of tools on the train. Ironically, Grace noticed and reminded him to bring his package.

They walked along a remote road until they reached an abandoned two-story building called Wisteria Cottage in the midst of a wooded area. While Grace entertained herself outside with the various wildflowers, Fish went up to the second floor bedroom, opened up his bundle of tools, and took off his clothes.

Then he called to Gracie to come upstairs.

The Savagery of Albert Fish

With the wildflowers she had gathered arranged in a bouquet, Gracie came into the house and up to the bedroom. When she saw the old man naked, she screamed for her mother and tried to escape. But Fish had grabbed her by her throat and choked her to death. He was sexually aroused by the act of strangling her.

He propped up her head on an old paint can and decapitated her, catching most of the blood in the paint can. Afterwards he threw the bucket of blood out into the yard. He undressed the headless child, then he went back to her body and cut it in two with the butcher knife and cleaver.

Parts of her body he took with him wrapped in newspaper. The rest he left there until he returned several days later when he threw the portions of her body over a stone wall in the back of the house. He disposed of his tools in the same fashion. After his confession, Detective King had a final question: What caused him to do this horrible thing?

"You know," Fish answered. "I never could account for it."

Captain John Stein asked him why he had written the letter to the Budds and Fish responded that he didn't know why. "I just had a mania for writing."

Finding Gracie

That day, the police went to Wisteria Cottage and recovered the remains of Gracie. Albert Fish stood nearby, completely without emotion of any kind.

That night at 10 P.M. Fish was interrogated by Assistant District Attorney P. Francis Marro. When Marro asked Fish why he had murdered Gracie, he explained that "a sort of blood thirst" had overwhelmed him. Once it was done, he was overcome with sorrow. "I would have given my life within a half-hour after I done it to restore it to her."

Marro asked if he had raped Gracie and Fish was adamant: "It never entered my head."

Nothing was asked at that time nor was anything volunteered about the cannibalism mentioned in Fish's letter to the Budds. The police may have considered it too insane to be true. Or, perhaps, they were already thinking that including horrible details about cannibalism would bolster the inevitable defense case for insanity.

That night the capture of Albert Fish had leaked to the newspapers and reporters descended on the Budd apartment with the news. Shortly afterwards, Detective King drove Mr. Budd and his son Edward to the police station to identify Fish.

Edward did more than identify Fish. He threw himself at the old man. "You old bastard! Dirty son of a bitch!"

Mr. Budd was surprised at Fish's lack of emotion. "Don't you know me?" he asked the old man.

"Yes," Fish answered politely. "You're Mr. Budd."

"And you're the man who came to my home as a guest and took my little girl away," he said in tears.

The Criminal History of Albert Fish

Albert Fish, not surprisingly, was no stranger to police. His record stretched back to 1903 when he had been jailed for grand larceny. Since then, he had been arrested six times for various petty crimes, such as sending obscene letters and petty theft. Half of those arrests occurred around the time of Gracie's abduction. Each time, the charges were dismissed. He had been in mental institutions more than once.

When asked about his background, Fish said: "I was born May 19, 1870, in Washington, D.C. We lived on B Street, N.E., between Second and Third. My father was Captain Randall Fish, 32nd-degree Mason, and he is buried in the Grand Lodge grounds of the Congressional cemetery. He was a Potomac River boat captain, running from D.C. to Marshall Hall, Virginia.

"My father dropped dead October 15, 1875, in the old Pennsylvania Station where President Garfield was shot, and I was placed in St. John's Orphanage in Washington. I was there till I was nearly nine, and that's where I got started wrong. We were unmercifully whipped. I saw boys doing many things they should not have done. I sang in the choir from 1880 to 1884 -- soprano, at St. John's. I came to New York. I was a good painter -- interiors or anything.

"I got an apartment and brought my mother up from Washington. We lived at 76 West 101st Street, and that's where I met my wife. After our six children were born, she left me. She took all the furniture and didn't even leave a mattress for the children to sleep on.

"I'm still worried about my children," he sniffled. His six children ranged from age 21 to 35. "You'd think they'd come to visit their old dad in jail, but they haven't."

The Unspeakable

Albert Fish was facing indictments in Manhattan and Westchester County. First Westchester County indicted him on a charge of first degree murder, while Manhattan was preparing an indictment for kidnapping.

Meanwhile police got a really major break. The motorman on the Brooklyn trolley line saw a picture of Fish in the newspaper and came forward to identify Fish as the nervous old man that he saw February 11, 1927, who was trying to quiet the little boy sitting with him on the trolley. Joseph Meehan, the retired motorman, watched the two carefully. The little boy, who didn't have a jacket or coat, was crying for his mother continuously and had to be dragged by the old man on and off the trolley. The little boy, as it turned out, was the kidnapped Billy Gaffney.

Ultimately, Fish did confess the unspeakable things he did to Billy Gaffney: "I brought him to the Riker Ave. dumps. There is a house that stands alone, not far from where I took himI 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.

Cannibalistic Cravings

During his interviews with police Fish further confessed, "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."

Days later, a man from Staten Island came forward to identify Fish as the man who had tried to lure his then eight-year-old daughter into the woods not far from where Francis O'Donnell was murdered three days later in 1924. The girl, in her late teens, saw him in his cell and recognized him. The "Gray Man" was found.

Fish was also tied to the 1932 murder of a fifteen-year-old girl named Mary O'Connor in Far Rockaway. The girl's mauled body was found in some woods close to a house that Fish had been painting.

With all of those indictments in different counties. There was very little chance that Albert Fish was going to be acquitted. His only opportunity to beat the death penalty was to have the alienists or forensic psychiatrists declare him insane.

The Alienists

Dr. Fredric Wertham in his book The Show of Violence describes his first meeting with Albert Fish in his jail cell. He was shocked at how "meek, gentle, benevolent and polite" Fish was. "If you wanted someone to entrust your children to, he would be the one you would choose."

Fish's attitude towards his situation was one of complete detachment. "I have no particular desire to live. I have no particular desire to be killed. It is a matter of indifference to me. I do not think I am altogether right."

When Dr. Wertham asked if he meant that he was insane. Fish answered, "Not exactly...I never could understand myself."

Psychosis seemed to have galloped through Fish's family history from what Dr. Wertham could ascertain: "One paternal uncle suffered from a religious psychosis and died in a state hospital. A half brother also died in a state hospital. A younger brother was feeble-minded and died of hydrocephalus. His mother was held to be 'very queer' and was said to hear and see things. A paternal aunt was considered 'completely crazy.' A brother suffered from chronic alcoholism. A sister had some sort of 'mental affliction.'

He claimed that his real name was Hamilton Fish, named after a distant relative who was President Grant's Secretary of State. Tired of being teased about that name, he took the name of Albert instead.

When he was twenty-six, he married a young woman of nineteen and had six children. When the youngest was three, she ran off with another man, leaving Fish to raise the children. Subsequently, he "married" three other times, although they were not legal since he had never been divorced from his first wife.

A True Sadist

Dr. Wertham considered Fish's unparalleled perversity unique in the annals of psychiatric and criminal literature. "Sado-masochism directed against children, particularly boys, took the lead in his sexually regressive development."

Fish told him: "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."

Wertham told "experiences with excreta of every imaginable kind were practiced by him, actively and passively. He took bits of cotton, saturated them with alcohol, inserted them into his rectum, and set fire to them. He also did that with his child victims."

Fish confided in Dr. Wertham a long history of preying on children -- "at least a hundred." Fish would bribe them with money or candy. He usually chose African-American children because he believed that the police did not pay much attention when they were hurt or missing.

He never went back to the same neighborhood. He said that he had lived in at least 23 states and in each one he had killed at least one child. Sometimes, he lost his job as a painter because he was suspiciously connected to these dead or mutilated children.

He had a compulsion to write obscene letters and did so frequently. According to Dr. Wertham," they were not the typical obscene letters based on fantasies and daydreams to supply a vicarious thrill. They were offers to practice his inclinations with the people he wrote his graphic suggestions to."

Pins and Needles

Initially, Dr. Wertham had some concerns about whether Fish was lying to him, especially when he told the psychiatrist that he had been sticking needles into his body for years in the area between the rectum and the scrotum: "He told of doing it to other people too, especially children. At first, he said, he had only stuck these needles in and pulled them out again. Then he had stuck others in so far that he was unable to get them out, and they stayed there." The doctor had him X-rayed and sure enough, there were at least twenty-nine needles in his pelvic region.

About the age of fifty-five, Fish started to experience hallucinations and delusions. "He had visions of Christ and His angels....he began to be engrossed in religious speculations about purging himself of iniquities and sins, atonement by physical suffering and self-torture, human sacrifices....He would go on endlessly with quotations from the Bible all mixed up with his own sentences, such as 'Happy is he that taketh Thy little ones and dasheth their heads against the stones."

Fish believed that God had ordered him to torment and castrate little boys. He had actually done so a number of times.

Wertham was amazed as Fish described the horrible cannibalism of Billy Gaffney's body. "His state of mind while he described these things in minute detail was a peculiar mixture. He spoke in a matter-of-fact way, like a housewife describing her favorite methods of cooking....But at times his voice and facial expression indicated a kind of satisfaction and ecstatic thrill. I said to myself: However you define the medical and legal borders of sanity, this certainly is beyond that border."

Was Albert Fish Legally Insane?

That Fish was suffering from some religious psychosis was a given as far as Dr. Wertham was concerned. Fish's children had seen him "hitting himself on his nude body with a nail-studded paddle until he was covered with blood. They also saw him stand alone on a hill with his hands raised, shouting: 'I am Christ.'"

Fish told him: "What I did must have been right or an angel would have stopped me, just as an angel stopped Abraham in the Bible [from sacrificing his son]."

Dr. Wertham, the defense alienist, believed that Fish was legally insane: "I characterized his personality as introverted and extremely infantilistic...I outlined his abnormal mental make-up, and his mental disease, which I diagnosed as paranoid psychosis....Because Fish suffered from delusions and particularly was so mixed up about the questions of punishment, sin, atonement, religion, torture, self-punishment, he had a perverted, a distorted -- if you want, an insane -- knowledge of right and wrong. His test was that if it had been wrong he would have been stopped, as Abraham was stopped, by an angel."

Wertham believed that Fish had actually killed fifteen children and mutilated about a hundred others. "That figure was verified many times to me by police officials in later years."

Two other defense alienists testified that Fish was insane. The four alienists who were called by the prosecution testified that Fish was sane. One of those prosecution alienists was the head of the psychiatric hospital where Fish had been detailed for observation a couple of years after the Budd and other murders and where he had been judged "both harmless and sane."

The Trial of Albert Fish

The trial of Albert Fish for the premeditated murder of Grace Budd began on Monday, March 11, 1935, in White Plains, N.Y. in Justice Frederick P. Close's court. Chief Assistant District Attorney Elbert F. Gallagher was in charge of the prosecution and James Dempsey was the defense attorney.

Dempsey planned to attack the competence of the Bellevue Hospital alienists who had observed Fish in 1930 and declared him sane. He also planned to establish that Fish was suffering from "lead colic," a dementia often suffered by house painters.

Gallagher's key strategy was summarized early in the trial: "Now in this case, there is a presumption of sanity. The proof, briefly, will be that this defendant is legally sane and that he knows the difference between right and wrong and the nature and quality of his acts, that he is not defective mentally, that he had a wonderful memory for a man of his age, that he has complete orientation as to his immediate surroundings, that there is no mental deterioration, but that he is sexually abnormal, that he is known medically as a sex pervert or a sex psychopath, that his acts were abnormal, but that when he took this girl from her home on the third day of June, 1928, and in doing that act and in procuring the tools with which he killed her, bringing her up here to Westchester County, and taking her into this empty house surrounded by woods in the back of it, he knew it was wrong to do that, and that he is legally sane and should answer for his acts."

Defense attorney Dempsey focused on Fish's strange life and the self-flagellation with nail-studded paddles and needles. Then he brought up Fish's competence as a father and his love for his children: "In spite of all these brutal, criminal and vicious proclivities, there is another side to this defendant. He has been a very fine father. He never once in his life laid a hand on one of his children. He says grace at every meal in his house. In 1917, when the youngest one of his six children was three, his wife left him. And from that time down until shortly before the Grace Budd murder in 1928 he was a mother and father to those children." He closed his remarks by reminding the jury that it was up to the prosecution to prove that a man who killed and ate children was sane.

Testimonies Against Albert Fish

Grace's parents and brother Albert, Jr., testified. Dempsey seemed determined to make the point that both Delia and Albert, Sr., gave their consent to Grace going to a birthday party with Fish. When it came time for Grace's father to testify, he was overcome with emotion and began to weep loudly.

On the third day of the trial, over the strenuous objections of the defense attorney, a box of Grace Budd's remains was brought into the courtroom as evidence, while Detective King recreated from Fish's confession how the girl was killed. Then Gallagher reached into the box and held out the small skull of the dead girl. It was a very dramatic moment. Dempsey sought a mistrial.

Dempsey focused on the cannibalism issue as a central part of the insanity defense. It was clear that he was trying to establish that Fish had eaten parts of the girl's body -- something that no sane person would do. But he was unsuccessful in establishing and proving that Fish actually did what he said he did with her body.

Fish appeared to be completely indifferent throughout the trial. Although, at one point, he expressed to his attorney that he had a desire to life because "God still has work for me to do."

Dempsey put several of Fish's children on the stand to testify to his bizarre behavior -- self-flagellation and sticking needles in his body, as well as his religious delusions. They also testified that he was a good father who always provided for them and never physically abused them.

On Hands and Knees

To further demonstrate Fish's strange behavior, Dempsey called to the stand a woman who had received several obscene letters from Albert Fish. The courtroom was cleared of women as Dempsey read the obscene correspondence.

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. "He went into his room and he had a little pair of trunks, brown trunks, that he put on. He put those on and came out into the front room, and he got down on his hands and knees, and he had a paint stick that he stirred paint with."

"He would give the stick to one of us, and then he would get down on his hands and knees and we would sit on his back, one at a time, with our back facing him, and then we would put up so many fingers, and he was to tell how many fingers we had up, and if he guessed right, which he never did, why, we weren't supposed to hit him. Sometimes, he would even say more fingers than we really had. And if he never guessed right, why, we would hit him as many fingers as we would have up."

Sometimes a hairbrush was used instead of the paint stick. He also stuck pins under his fingernails in front of the children.

Signs of Psychosis

Eventually, Dempsey had a chance to attack the prosecution alienists. Dr. Charles Lambert, after a three-hour interview with Fish," pronounced him a "psychopathic personality without a psychosis."

Dempsey asked Lambert, "Assume that this man not only killed this girl but took her flesh to eat it. Will you state that that man could for nine days eat that flesh and still not have a psychosis?"

Lambert answered, "Well, there is no accounting for taste, Mr. Dempsey."

Dempsey persisted: "Tell me how many cases in your experience you have seen people who actually ate human feces."

"Oh, I know individuals prominent in society...one in particular that we all know who used it as a side dish in his salad," Lambert remarked casually.

Dempsey had better luck with one of the other defense alienists, who could see signs of psychosis in Fish's behavior.

From the Frying Pan into the Fire

The trial lasted ten days and the jury took less than an hour to reach its verdict.

"We find the defendant guilty as charged," the foreman said.

Fish was not happy with the verdict, but the prospect of being electrocuted had its appeal to him. A Daily News reporter wrote, "his watery eyes gleamed at the thought of being burned by a heat more intense than the flames with which he often seared his flesh to gratify his lust."

Fish thanked the judge for his sentence of death by electrocution. On January 16, 1936, Albert Fish was executed.

Inspiration for Hannibal Lecter

Hannibal Lecter's gruesome habits are hard to break. Watching the fictional character on screen, we safely conclude: "Well, it's only a movie. It's not like it's real or anything."

Except that Hannibal Lecter is loosely based on a real man. A man so fiendish that his story makes Hannibal's exploits seem tame by comparison. At least Hannibal Lecter didn't harm children.

Hamilton Albert Fish - the real-life cannibal - was tried and electrocuted for doing unspeakable things to innocent children. What he did in real life would never be part of a movie script. No reasonable person would take fiction that far.

For some time the old man had harmed himself. A painter by trade, living in Manhattan, Albert Fish and his first wife Anna had six children. By all accounts he was a good dad, although his children knew he had strange habits. Those habits got especially weird after Anna Fish left her family for another man.

A paddle, hidden in the kitchen cupboard, wasn't used to discipline misbehaving children in the Fish household. It was kept by the father to discipline himself. The nails embedded in the paddle must have caused excruciating pain whenever Fish struck himself with it.

But it was the needles that really defy belief. Later, after Fish was arrested for his unspeakable crimes, even the detectives and psychiatrists disbelieved his story. Who would actually stick needles so far into his body that he couldn't get them out? Even an insane person wouldn't do such a thing. Yes, Fish walked with a strange gait. Yes, when he sat down he sometimes seemed to wince in pain. But self-inflicted needles shoved into his peritoneum? No way!

Turns out an x-ray verified the old man's story. The radiologist had never seen anything like it. Twenty-nine needles were permanent fixtures inside the body of Albert Fish. It was something he did to atone for his sins. And, as he later told Dr. Wertham:
I always seemed to enjoy everything that hurt.

How did this man who looked like a grandfather end up hurting others more than he hurt himself? The doctors could not be sure, but they had a few clues from Fish's twisted, early childhood.

Albert Fish was born in Washington, D.C. on May 19, 1870. After his arrest 65 years later, the soon-to-be-convicted killer described his early life to the New York City press.

My father dropped dead October 15, 1875, in the old Pennsylvania Station where President Garfield was shot, and I was placed in St. John's Orphanage in Washington. I was there till I was nearly nine, and that's where I got started wrong. We were unmercifully whipped. I saw boys doing many things they should not have done.

Granted, Albert Fish had a tough break when his elderly father died and his mother placed him in the orphanage at 20th and F Street (not far from the White House). But many children have tough starts in life, and they do not end up on death row. What made Albert Fish different?

His defense lawyer later argued that all his years as a painter caused Fish to develop "lead colic." That hardly explains his dastardly, criminal deeds. Even if he had that illness, it doesn't excuse the horror he inflicted on beautiful little Grace Budd.

It was June 3, 1928. Albert Fish had a plan. It wasn't the first plan he had to harm a child.

Fish, however, knew how to take care of himself. He knew when he was in over his head. His intended victim, Edward Budd, was an 18-year-old who could defend himself. Better to choose someone who couldn't fight back.

During Fish's trial, Elbert F. Gallagher (Chief Assistant District Attorney and later State Supreme Court Justice) told the jury what happened that Sunday morning.

In 1928, the People will prove, there lived in the city of New York the Budd family. They lived at 406 West 15th Street. They lived in a small apartment in the rear of the apartment house. There was the father Albert, the mother Delia, there was Grace, there was Edward, and several other members of the family.

Edward Budd was looking for a job. And so he made application to the New York World to have them put an ad in their newspaper. That ad appeared on Sunday, May 27, 1928, under the classified ad section, situations wanted, and it read as follows in substance: ‘Youth 18 wishes position in country. Signed, Edward A. Budd, 406 West 15th Street.'

Today, people usually keep their address out of the classifieds. What happened to the Budd family explains why. Albert Fish, calling himself Frank Howard, showed up at the family's apartment the day the ad ran. He offered Edward a job on his non-existent "farm".

On June 3, "Frank Howard" returned to the Budd apartment. His plan was "to take Edward to the farm." Instead, he met Edward's little sister, Gracie. She was nearly 11 years old. By the end of the day, she would be dead.

Everyone who knew Gracie said she was a sweet, well-behaved child. When she returned from church that Sunday morning, there was a visitor at her home. The man, "Frank Howard," had called on the family a week before. He was to be Edward's new employer. "Frank" invited Gracie to sit on his lap where she played with his money.

Gallagher's opening statement continued:

...While she was sitting there, he said to the Budd parents that his sister was giving a birthday party for her children, up at 135th Street in the city of New York, and he thought it would be nice if Grace would go along with him. He said he loved children, he would return early that night, they need not worry, it would be all right. They hesitated to let her go, but finally consented.

It was a decision Gracie's parents would regret the rest of their lives. She never came home. Many years passed before her family knew where she had gone and what had happened to her. But as the defense psychiatrist Dr. Frederic Wertham wrote in his book, The Show of Violence:

He looked like a meek and innocuous little old man, gentle and benevolent, friendly and polite. If you wanted someone to entrust your children to, he would be the one you would choose.

One New York City detective, William F. King, never gave up on the case. Periodically he would ask one of the popular media personalities to run a story on Grace Budd's disappearance. His hope was to draw out the criminal. In 1934, his patience finally paid off.

Walter Winchell, the popular newspaper journalist, was Detective King's biggest ally in 1934. Just about everyone (including Albert Fish) read his column, "On Broadway," published in the New York Daily Mirror. Here's an excerpt from Winchell's November 2, 1934 column:

I checked on the Grace Budd mystery. She was eight when she was kidnapped about six years ago. And it is safe to tell you that the Dep't of Missing Persons will break the case, or they expect to, in four weeks. They are holding a "cokie" [a cocaine addict] now at Randall's Island, who is said to know most about the crime. Grace is supposed to have been done away with in lime, but another legend is that her skeleton is buried in a local spot.

Winchell, of course, made up the story to help Detective King. But as events transpired over the next few weeks, his column proved to be amazingly prescient.

On November 12, Gracie's mother received a letter that would crack the case. Functionally illiterate, Delia gave the letter to her son. Edward's face turned white as he read:

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.

The letter went on. It described what had happened to Grace. Only someone with a deranged mind could have written it. But was the letter true? Was Gracie the victim of a crime so heinous it would make the final kitchen scenes in Hannibal seem mild by comparison?

Detective King was soon to learn the truth. The answer to the question is "yes." Hannibal Lecter, the fictional character, would have been shocked by Hamilton Albert Fish, his real-life model. And members of the New York City Police Department were about to learn how totally depraved a man can be.

Using stationery left by someone else at Frieda Schneider's New York City boarding house, Albert Fish obliterated the return address on the pre-printed envelope. But he failed to obscure the emblem with its initials "NYPCBA" (New York Private Chauffeur's Benevolent Association). Detective King wanted to know: Was the writer of the perverse letter part of that group?

Detective King tried to match the handwriting of the letter with the handwriting on 400 NYPCBA membership forms. None matched. Had someone removed association stationery from the office? Yes, the janitor had. He had taken it to his prior boarding house at 200 East 52nd Street - room 7.

Frieda Schneider was shocked when Detective King questioned her about her current tenants. The description of the man King was looking for sounded just like the man who had moved out of room 7 on November 11. Undaunted, King examined the boarding house sign-in log. The register handwriting matched the letter handwriting with one major difference. The register bore a signature: "Albert H. Fish."

Fortunately for the police, Fish had a reason to return to the boarding house. Every month Fish received his son's paycheck from the North Carolina Civilian Conservation Corps. Fish would be back for that $25 check. And when he came by for the money, Detective King would come by for the arrest.

King didn't have to wait long.

It wasn't the first time Albert Fish had been arrested by the New York Police. In 1931, he had been picked up and institutionalized at Bellevue Hospital. His crime? Writing obscene letters to women. His penalty? A few months in Bellevue where he was examined by psychiatrists, including Dr. Menas Gregory. His treatment? Nothing much, since Dr. Gregory let him go.

Although Gregory determined Fish "has manifested sex perversion from early life," he did not exhibit "mental deterioration or dementia." In short, Fish was a pervert who knew what he was doing. According to Gregory's report:

As a result of our psychiatric examination we are of the opinion that this man at the present time is not insane.

Four years later the prosecution would advocate his sanity throughout the trial. So would Dr. Gregory. But as the police first listened to Fish tell his tale of horrifying proportions, no one believed he was telling the truth. No one wanted to believe a man (sane or insane) could kill a child and then commit further atrocities so ghastly as to make the act of murder less heinous than its aftermath.

Fish admitted to killing Grace Budd at Wisteria cottage in Westchester. He showed the police where to recover her remains, including her little skull. Gathering those remains in a basket, the police kept them as evidence. That evidence would later be used as a trial exhibit, despite the strong objections of Fish's lawyer, James Dempsey.

But what of the claims of cannibalism? Initially, he denied it to reporters just as he denied involvement in the deaths of other children:

I don't know anything about those other bones they say they've found. And cannibalism! The very thought sickens me.

The act should have sickened him as much as the thought. Instead, Hamilton Albert Fish will be forever remembered as the real-life model for Hannibal Lecter. It was up to Dr. Wertham to tell the jury what Fish had told him. After the testimony was over, no one doubted Fish had done what he had denied to reporters.

Trial for the kidnap and murder of Grace Budd took place in White Plains, New York. There could be only one defense: Insanity.

Throughout the trial, the prosecution fought that theory. Staying away from facts about the ultimate outrage, Gallagher tried to convince the jury Fish was sane. He knew right from wrong. He murdered Gracie in cold blood. He planned it. He pre-selected the place where he would do it. He had flat-out lied to her parents. He was evil, but he was sane.

Dempsey had one issue that MIGHT convince the jury his client was utterly and hopelessly insane. To make his case, he HAD to talk about the ultimate outrage. Only an insane person would engage in acts of cannibalism.

Dr. Wertham, who had spent more time with Fish than anyone else, was Dempsey's only hope. If convicted, Fish would be given the mandatory sentence: Death in Sing Sing's electric chair. Dr. Wertham testified:

This defendant is suffering from a mental disease. He is so mixed up about the question of punishment, of sin, of atonement, of religion, of torture that he is in a particularly bad state to know the difference between right and wrong. He is even worse off than that, because he actually has a perverted, a distorted, if you will, an insane, knowledge of right and wrong.

James Dempsey knew he had little chance to save his client's life. His final argument was filled with passion:

In the course of human nature ten of you twelve men will die in full possession of your reason and memory. When that hour comes, when the blood begins to congeal and the breath to fail, when death snaps one by one the strings of life, when you look back to the past and forward to judgment, remember Albert Fish, that when he was helpless and defenseless and pleaded with you for his life, that you said, ‘Let him live,' or ‘Let him die,' and if you said ‘Let him die,' may He who breathed into your nostrils the breath of life judge you more mercifully than you judged this maniac.

It wasn't enough to save Fish. John Partelow, the jury foreman, read the verdict:

We find the defendant guilty as charged in the indictment.

One juror told news reporters most of the panel thought Fish was insane. Even so, they thought he should meet his end in the electric chair.
Sing Sing prison was Albert Fish's next stop. He wouldn't be there long.

The "death house" was the place where hundreds of people met their end in Sing Sing's electric chair. Death in the chair (invented in 1887 by an employee of Thomas Edison) was particularly gruesome. Although he was in charge of at least 300 Sing Sing executions, Warden Lewis Lawes did not support the death penalty. That is easy to understand, given how many deaths he oversaw.

Legend has it that Albert Fish looked forward to this "supreme thrill." Other reports depict a man who didn't want to die.

It didn't take long for the Court of Appeals to turn down Dempsey's request to spare his client's life. The Governor of New York, Herbert Lehman, went through the motions of listening to a plea for clemency. It, too, was denied.

Less than a year after his trial, Hamilton Albert Fish ate his last meal. Shortly after 11 p.m. on January 16, 1936 Fish was strapped into the chair. Harold Schechter, in Deranged, describes the end:

At the sight of the electric chair, Fish did not quail, as even the hardest men often did, though he did not seem like someone who was looking forward to the "supreme thrill" of his life, either. Hands clasped in prayer, he lowered himself into the chair and allowed the straps to be adjusted around his arms, legs and torso.
His face looked very pale in the instant before Robert Elliott, the gaunt, gray-haired executioner, slipped the black death mask over it. The leather cap with its electrode was fitted to the old man's close-shaven head. After fastening the chin-strap, Elliott stooped to secure the second electrode to Fish's right leg beneath the trouser slit. Then he stepped to the control panel.

Part of the legend surrounding the demise of the real-life model for Hannibal Lecter happened at the moment of his death. The needles that were part of his body were claimed to have short-circuited the first effort to end his life. But Schechter disputes that:

Afterward, stories circulated that the needles in the old man's body had produced a burst of blue sparks when the electricity was activated. But this was simply part of the folklore that grew up around Fish in the following years. There were no pyrotechnics. Fish died like other men.

By 11:09 p.m. Fish was dead. Nothing Hannibal Lecter could ever do on screen would be as bad as Hamilton Albert Fish did in real life.

SerialKillerCalendar.com


Albert Fish

by Marilyn Bardsley


Gracie

Edward Budd was an enterprising eighteen-year-old. He was determined to make something of himself and escape the desperate poverty of his parents. On May 25, 1928, he put a classified ad in the Sunday edition of the New York World: "Young man, 18, wishes position in country. Edward Budd, 406 West 15th Street." He was a strapping young fellow who was eager to work and contribute to the well-being of his family. Trapped in the dirty, stinking, crowded city in a miserable tenement with his father, mother and four younger siblings, he longed to work in the country where the air was fresh and clean.

On the following Monday, May 28, Edward's mother Delia, a huge mountain of a woman, answered the door to an elderly man. He introduced himself as Frank Howard, a farmer from Farmingdale, Long Island, who wanted to interview Edward about a job.

Delia told her five-year-old Beatrice to get her brother at his friend's apartment. The old man beamed at her and gave her a nickel.

While they waited for Edward, Delia had a chance to get a better look at the old man. He had a very kindly face, framed by gray hair and accented by a large droopy gray moustache. He explained to Mrs. Budd that he had earned his living for decades as an interior decorator in the city and then retired to a farm he had bought with his savings. He had six children that he raised by himself since his wife had abandoned them all over a decade ago.

With the help of his children, five farmhands and a Swedish cook, he had made the farm into a successful one with several hundred chickens and a half-dozen dairy cows. Now, one of his farmhands was moving on and he needed someone to replace him.

At that moment, Edward came in and met Mr. Howard, who remarked at the boy's size and strength. Edward assured the old man he was a hard worker. Mr. Howard offered him fifteen dollars a week, which Edward accepted joyfully. Howard even agreed to hire Willie, Edward's closest friend.

Mr. Howard had to leave for an appointment and promised to come back on Saturday to pick them up. The boys were thrilled and the Budds were happy that a good position with the kindly old gentleman had come so quickly from Edward's modest ad.

*****

Saturday, June 2, was the supposed to be the big day, but Mr. Howard didn't show up. Instead they got a hand-written note from Mr. Howard saying that he had been delayed and would call in the morning.

The next morning around eleven, Frank Howard came to the Budd's apartment bringing gifts of strawberries and fresh creamy pot cheese. " These products come direct from my farm," he explained.

Delia persuaded the old man to stay for lunch. For the first time, Albert Budd, Sr., had an opportunity to talk with his son's new employer. It was the kind of talk that makes a father very happy. Here was this kindly, polite old gentleman rapturously describing his twenty acres of farmland, his friendly crew of farmhands and a simple, hearty country life. He knew it was what his son wanted.

Albert, Sr., was a porter for the Equitable Life Assurance Company and had the air of a man perpetually submissive. He was not very impressed with the way this Frank Howard looked in his rumpled blue suit, but the old man was credible and genteel.

Once they sat down to lunch, the door opened and a lovely ten-year-old girl appeared. Gracie was humming a song. Her huge brown eyes and dark brown hair contrasted with her very pale skin and pink lips. She would be a real heart breaker someday.

Coming right from church, she still wore her Sunday clothes: white silk confirmation dress, white silk stockings, and string of creamy pearls made her look older than her 10 years.

Frank Howard, like most men who came face to face with the radiant Gracie, couldn't take his eyes off the beautiful girl. "Let's see how good a counter you are," he said as he handed her a huge wad of bills to count. The impoverished Budds were flabbergasted by the money the old man was carrying around with him.

"Ninety-two dollars and fifty cents," Gracie told him in short order.

"What a bright little girl," Mr. Howard said, giving her fifty cents to buy candy for herself and her little sister Beatrice.

Howard said that he would come back later in the evening to pick up Edward and Willie, but first he had to go to a birthday party that his sister was throwing for one of her children. He gave the boys two dollars to go to the movies.

Just as he was about to leave, he invited Gracie to go with him to his niece's birthday party. He would take good care of her and make sure that Gracie was home before nine o'clock that evening.

Delia asked where Mr. Howard's sister lived and he replied that she lived in an apartment house at Columbus and 137th Street.

Delia wasn't sure that she should let her go, but Albert, Sr. convinced her that it would be good for Gracie. "Let the poor kid go. She don't see much good times."

So Delia helped Gracie on with her good coat and her gray hat with the streamers. She followed Gracie and Mr. Howard outside and watched them disappear down the street.

That evening there was no word from Mr. Howard and no sign of Gracie. A terrible sleepless night with no message from their beautiful daughter. The next morning, young Edward was sent down to the police station to report his sister's disappearance.


The Gray Man

The worst thing that Police Lieutenant Samuel Dribben said to the Budds was that the address that "Frank Howard" had given them for his sister's apartment was fictitious. The kindly old man was a fraud. There was no Frank Howard, no farm in Farmingdale, Long Island. None of it was true.

Police began the normal investigative activities. They checked out everything "Frank Howard" had told the Budds. They also had the Budds go through their "rogue's gallery" of photos and checked on all the known child molesters, mental patients, etc. It came to nothing. No trace of Gracie.

On June 7, New York police mailed out 1,000 fliers to police stations throughout the country with a photo of Gracie and a description of Mr. "Howard." This activity, along with all the local publicity, guaranteed an epidemic of Gracie sightings and crank letters, each of which had to be thoroughly investigated by the 20 plus detectives who had been assigned to the case.

There were a couple of solid clues. Police found the Western Union office in Manhattan from which "Frank Howard" had sent his message to the Budds, plus the original handwritten message. From the writing and grammar, it was clear that "Howard" had some education and refinement. Police also located the pushcart where "Howard" had bought the pot cheese that he had given to the Budds. Both addresses were in East Harlem, which then became a focal point of intense search and investigation.

The New York police were not strangers to child kidnapping. In fact, there was an oddly similar case just the year before. On February 11, 1927, four-year-old Billy Gaffney played in the hallway outside his apartment with his three-year-old neighbor who was also named Billy. A twelve-year-old neighbor who was babysitting his sleeping baby sister went to join the boys, but went back to his apartment quickly after hearing his sister cry.

A few minutes later, the older boy noticed that the two Billys were gone and told the younger Billy's father. After a desperate search, the father found his three-year-old son alone on the top floor of the building. His son had been up on the roof.

"Where's Billy Gaffney?" the man asked his son.

"The boogey man took him," the little boy replied.

The next day when a platoon of detectives came to investigate the disappearance of the Gaffney boy, they ignored the three-year-old witness, who stuck to his simple explanation. At first the police thought the boy had wandered outside into some of the factory buildings in the neighborhood or, worse, had fallen into the Gowanus canal a few blocks away. People in the community organized a search and the canal was dredged, but there was no sign of little Billy.

Eventually, someone listened to the three-year-old witness who gave them a description of the "boogey man." He was a slender old man with gray hair and a gray moustache. The police paid no attention to the description and did not connect it to a crime that had been committed by the "Gray Man" a few years earlier.

In July of 1924, eight-year-old Francis McDonnell played on the front porch of his home in the pastoral Charlton Woods section of Staten Island. His mother sat nearby, nursing her infant daughter when she saw a gaunt elderly man with gray hair and moustache in the middle of the street. She stared at the strange shabby old man who constantly clenched and unclenched his fists and mumbled to himself. The man tipped his dusty hat to her and disappeared down the street.

Later that afternoon, the old man was seen again watching Francis and four other boys play ball. The old man called Francis over to him. The other boys continued to play ball. A few minutes later, both the old man and Francis had disappeared. A neighbor noticed a boy that looked like Francis walking that afternoon into a wooded area with an elderly gray-haired tramp behind him.

The disappearance of Francis was not noticed until he missed dinner. His father, a policeman, organized a search. They found the boy in the woods under some branches. He had been horribly assaulted. His clothes had been torn from his body and he had been strangled with his suspenders. Francis had been beaten so badly that police doubted that the "old" tramp could have really been as old and frail as he looked. The beating was so severe that perhaps the old tramp had an accomplice who had the strength to maul the child..

In a short period of time, Manhattan fingerprint experts and police photographers were enlisted in the case as well as some two hundred and fifty plainclothesman. The huge manhunt yielded several promising suspects, except that none of them looked like the gray-haired, moustached old tramp. His face was burned forever in the memory of Anna McDonnell: "He came shuffling down the street, mumbling to himself, making queer motions with his hands. I'll never forget those hands. I shuddered when I looked at them...how they opened and shut, opened and shut, opened and shut. I saw him look toward Francis and the others. I saw his thick gray hair, his drooping gray moustache. Everything about him seemed faded and gray."

Despite the massive efforts of the police and the community, the "Gray Man" had vanished into thin air.


Capture

In November of 1934, the Budd case was officially still open although nobody ever expected it to be solved. Only one man, William F. King, continued to pursue the case. Every once in awhile, King would plant a phony item about a break in the case with Walter Winchell. On November 2, 1934, Winchell took the bait once again:

"I checked on the Grace Budd mystery," Winchell wrote in his column. "She was eight when she was kidnapped about six years ago. And it is safe to tell you that the Dep't of Missing Persons will break the case, or they expect to, in four weeks."

Ten days later, Delia Budd received a letter that her lack of education fortunately prevented her from reading. Her son Edward read it instead and ran out the door to get Detective King. The letter was singularly barbarous:

"My 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 to 3 Dollars a 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 girls behind which is the sweetest part of the body and sold as veal cutlet brought the highest price.

John staid there so long he acquired a taste for human flesh. On his return to N.Y. he stole two boys one 7 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."

Nobody wanted to believe that this letter was true. It had to be the ravings of some perverted, sadistic crank. But, Detective King realized that the details of his meeting with the Budds and Grace were accurate. Also, the handwriting on this horrible letter was identical to the letter the elderly kidnapper had written for the Western Union messenger six years earlier.

The envelope had an important clue: a small hexagonal emblem had the letters N.Y.P.C.B.A. which stood for the New York Private Chauffeur's Benevolent Association. With the cooperation of the president of the association, an emergency meeting of the members was held. In the meantime, police checked out the handwritten membership forms looking for handwriting similar to "Frank Howard's." Detective King then asked the members -- all of whom had passed the handwriting test -- to report anybody who had taken the association's stationery.

A young janitor came forward, admitting that he had taken a couple of sheets of paper and a few envelopes. He had left the stationery in his old rooming house at 200 East 52nd Street. The landlady was shocked when she was given "Frank Howard's" description. He sounded just like the old man who had lived there for two months.

The old man who had checked out of her rooming house just a couple of days earlier.

The former tenant had called himself Albert H. Fish. The landlady mentioned that Fish had told her to hold a letter that he was expecting from his son who worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps in North Carolina. The son regularly sent money to his old dad.

Finally, the post office told Detective King that it had intercepted a letter for Albert Fish. Detective King was becoming worried that Fish had not contacted his former landlady. The police worried that something had scared him away.

On December 13, 1934, the landlady called Detective King. Albert Fish was at the rooming house looking for his letter. The old man was sitting with a teacup when King opened the door. Fish stood up and nodded when King asked him if he was Albert Fish.

Suddenly, Fish reached into his pocket and produced a razor blade which he held in front of him. Infuriated, King grabbed the old man's hand and twisted it sharply. "I've got you now," he said triumphantly.


Confession

The confession of Albert Fish would be heard by many law enforcement officials and psychiatrists. A severely edited version of it would appear in the newspapers. It was an odyssey of perversion and unspeakable depravity which seemed unbelievable until detail after detail was corroborated. It was all the more amazing considering how decrepit and harmless Fish appeared. He was a stooped, frail-looking old man about 130 pounds and 5 feet 5 inches tall.

Detective King took the initial confession. Fish told him that in the summer of 1928 he had been overcome by what he called his "blood thirst" -- his need to kill. When he answered Edward Budd's ad for employment, it was the young man, not his sister Gracie, that he intended to lure to a remote location, restrain him and cut off his penis, leaving him to bleed to death.

After he left the Budd house the first time, Fish had purchased the tools he would need to murder and mutilate the boys: a cleaver, saw and butcher knife. He wrapped up these implements of destruction into a bundle which he left at a newsstand before he went the the Budd home for the second and last time.

When Fish saw the strapping young Edward, the size of a full-grown man, and his friend Willie, he convinced himself he could overpower the two of them. But then Fish had a lot of experience in that regard.

It was only after seeing Gracie that he changed his mind and his plans. It was she he desperately wanted to kill.

With the unsuspecting Gracie in tow, he stopped back at the newsstand to pick up his bundle before taking a train to the Bronx and then to the village of Worthington in Westchester. For Grace, he only bought a one-way ticket.

Grace was enthralled with the forty-minute ride into the countryside. Only twice in her life had she been out of the city. This was a wonderful treat for her.

At the station in Worthington, Fish was so absorbed in his monstrous plan that he left his bundle of tools on the train. Ironically, Grace noticed and reminded him to bring his package.

They walked along a remote road until they reached an abandoned two-story building called Wisteria Cottage in the midst of a wooded area. While Grace entertained herself outside with the various wildflowers, Fish went up to the second floor bedroom, opened up his bundle of tools, and took off his clothes.

Then he called to Gracie to come upstairs.

With the wildflowers she had gathered arranged in a bouquet, Gracie came into the house and up to the bedroom. When she saw the old man naked, she screamed for her mother and tried to escape. But Fish had grabbed her by her throat and choked her to death. He was sexually aroused by the act of strangling her.

He propped up her head on an old paint can and decapitated her, catching most of the blood in the paint can. Afterwards he threw the bucket of blood out into the yard. He undressed the headless child, then he went back to her body and cut it in two with the butcher knife and cleaver.

Parts of her body he took with him wrapped in newspaper. The rest he left there until he returned several days later when he threw the portions of her body over a stone wall in the back of the house. He disposed of his tools in the same fashion. After his confession, Detective King had a final question: What caused him to do this horrible thing?

"You know," Fish answered. "I never could account for it."

Captain John Stein asked him why he had written the letter to the Budds and Fish responded that he didn't know why. "I just had a mania for writing."

That day, the police went to Wisteria Cottage and recovered the remains of Gracie. Albert Fish stood nearby, completely without emotion of any kind.

That night at 10 P.M. Fish was interrogated by Assistant District Attorney P. Francis Marro. When Marro asked Fish why he had murdered Gracie, he explained that "a sort of blood thirst" had overwhelmed him. Once it was done, he was overcome with sorrow. "I would have given my life within a half-hour after I done it to restore it to her."

Marro asked if he had raped Gracie and Fish was adamant: "It never entered my head."

Nothing was asked at that time nor was anything volunteered about the cannibalism mentioned in Fish's letter to the Budds. The police may have considered it too insane to be true. Or, perhaps, they were already thinking that including horrible details about cannibalism would bolster the inevitable defense case for insanity.

That night the capture of Albert Fish had leaked to the newspapers and reporters descended on the Budd apartment with the news. Shortly afterwards, Detective King drove Mr. Budd and his son Edward to the police station to identify Fish.

Edward did more than identify Fish. He threw himself at the old man. "You old bastard! Dirty son of a bitch!"

Mr. Budd was surprised at Fish's lack of emotion. "Don't you know me?" he asked the old man.

"Yes," Fish answered politely. "You're Mr. Budd."

"And you're the man who came to my home as a guest and took my little girl away," he said in tears.

Albert Fish, not surprisingly, was no stranger to police. His record stretched back to 1903 when he had been jailed for grand larceny. Since then, he had been arrested six times for various petty crimes, such as sending obscene letters and petty theft. Half of those arrests occurred around the time of Gracie's abduction. Each time, the charges were dismissed. He had been in mental institutions more than once.

When asked about his background, Fish said: "I was born May 19, 1870, in Washington, D.C. We lived on B Street, N.E., between Second and Third. My father was Captain Randall Fish, 32nd-degree Mason, and he is buried in the Grand Lodge grounds of the Congressional cemetery. He was a Potomac River boat captain, running from D.C. to Marshall Hall, Virginia.

"My father dropped dead October 15, 1875, in the old Pennsylvania Station where President Garfield was shot, and I was placed in St. John's Orphanage in Washington. I was there till I was nearly nine, and that's where I got started wrong. We were unmercifully whipped. I saw boys doing many things they should not have done. I sang in the choir from 1880 to 1884 -- soprano, at St. John's. I came to New York. I was a good painter -- interiors or anything.

"I got an apartment and brought my mother up from Washington. We lived at 76 West 101st Street, and that's where I met my wife. After our six children were born, she left me. She took all the furniture and didn't even leave a mattress for the children to sleep on.

"I'm still worried about my children," he sniffled. His six children ranged from age 21 to 35. "You'd think they'd come to visit their old dad in jail, but they haven't."

Albert Fish was facing indictments in Manhattan and Westchester County. First Westchester County indicted him on a charge of first degree murder, while Manhattan was preparing an indictment for kidnapping.

Meanwhile police got a really major break. The motorman on the Brooklyn trolley line saw a picture of Fish in the newspaper and came forward to identify Fish as the nervous old man that he saw February 11, 1927, who was trying to quiet the little boy sitting with him on the trolley. Joseph Meehan, the retired motorman, watched the two carefully. The little boy, who didn't have a jacket or coat, was crying for his mother continuously and had to be dragged by the old man on and off the trolley. The little boy, as it turned out, was the kidnapped Billy Gaffney.

Ultimately, Fish did confess the unspeakable things he did to Billy Gaffney: "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."

Days later, a man from Staten Island came forward to identify Fish as the man who had tried to lure his then eight-year-old daughter into the woods not far from where Francis O'Donnell was murdered three days later in 1924. The girl, in her late teens, saw him in his cell and recognized him. The "Gray Man" was found.

Fish was also tied to the 1932 murder of a fifteen-year-old girl named Mary O'Connor in Far Rockaway. The girl's mauled body was found in some woods close to a house that Fish had been painting.

With all of those indictments in different counties. There was very little chance that Albert Fish was going to be acquitted. His only opportunity to beat the death penalty was to have the alienists or forensic psychiatrists declare him insane.


The Alienists

Dr. Fredric Wertham in his book The Show of Violence describes his first meeting with Albert Fish in his jail cell. He was shocked at how "meek, gentle, benevolent and polite" Fish was. "If you wanted someone to entrust your children to, he would be the one you would choose."

Fish's attitude towards his situation was one of complete detachment. "I have no particular desire to live. I have no particular desire to be killed. It is a matter of indifference to me. I do not think I am altogether right."

When Dr. Wertham asked if he meant that he was insane. Fish answered, "Not exactly...I never could understand myself."

Psychosis seemed to have galloped through Fish's family history from what Dr. Wertham could ascertain: "One paternal uncle suffered from a religious psychosis and died in a state hospital. A half brother also died in a state hospital. A younger brother was feeble-minded and died of hydrocephalus. His mother was held to be 'very queer' and was said to hear and see things. A paternal aunt was considered 'completely crazy.' A brother suffered from chronic alcoholism. A sister had some sort of 'mental affliction.'

He claimed that his real name was Hamilton Fish, named after a distant relative who was President Grant's Secretary of State. Tired of being teased about that name, he took the name of Albert instead.

When he was twenty-six, he married a young woman of nineteen and had six children. When the youngest was three, she ran off with another man, leaving Fish to raise the children. Subsequently, he "married" three other times, although they were not legal since he had never been divorced from his first wife.

Dr. Wertham considered Fish's unparalleled perversity unique in the annals of psychiatric and criminal literature. "Sado-masochism directed against children, particularly boys, took the lead in his sexually regressive development."

Fish told him: "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."

Wertham told "experiences with excreta of every imaginable kind were practiced by him, actively and passively. He took bits of cotton, saturated them with alcohol, inserted them into his rectum, and set fire to them. He also did that with his child victims."

Fish confided in Dr. Wertham a long history of preying on children -- "at least a hundred." Fish would bribe them with money or candy. He usually chose African-American children because he believed that the police did not pay much attention when they were hurt or missing.

He never went back to the same neighborhood. He said that he had lived in at least 23 states and in each one he had killed at least one child. Sometimes, he lost his job as a painter because he was suspiciously connected to these dead or mutilated children.

He had a compulsion to write obscene letters and did so frequently. According to Dr. Wertham," they were not the typical obscene letters based on fantasies and daydreams to supply a vicarious thrill. They were offers to practice his inclinations with the people he wrote his graphic suggestions to."

Initially, Dr. Wertham had some concerns about whether Fish was lying to him, especially when he told the psychiatrist that he had been sticking needles into his body for years in the area between the rectum and the scrotum: "He told of doing it to other people too, especially children. At first, he said, he had only stuck these needles in and pulled them out again. Then he had stuck others in so far that he was unable to get them out, and they stayed there." The doctor had him X-rayed and sure enough, there were at least twenty-nine needles in his pelvic region.

About the age of fifty-five, Fish started to experience hallucinations and delusions. "He had visions of Christ and His angels....he began to be engrossed in religious speculations about purging himself of iniquities and sins, atonement by physical suffering and self-torture, human sacrifices....He would go on endlessly with quotations from the Bible all mixed up with his own sentences, such as ' Happy is he that taketh Thy little ones and dasheth their heads against the stones."

Fish believed that God had ordered him to torment and castrate little boys. He had actually done so a number of times.

Wertham was amazed as Fish described the horrible cannibalism of Billy Gaffney's body. "His state of mind while he described these things in minute detail was a peculiar mixture. He spoke in a matter-of-fact way, like a housewife describing her favorite methods of cooking....But at times his voice and facial expression indicated a kind of satisfaction and ecstatic thrill. I said to myself: However you define the medical and legal borders of sanity, this certainly is beyond that border."

That Fish was suffering from some religious psychosis was a given as far as Dr. Wertham was concerned. Fish's children had seen him "hitting himself on his nude body with a nail-studded paddle until he was covered with blood. They also saw him stand alone on a hill with his hands raised, shouting: 'I am Christ.'"

Fish told him: "What I did must have been right or an angel would have stopped me, just as an angel stopped Abraham in the Bible [from sacrificing his son]."

Dr. Wertham, the defense alienist, believed that Fish was legally insane: "I characterized his personality as introverted and extremely infantilistic...I outlined his abnormal mental make-up, and his mental disease, which I diagnosed as paranoid psychosis....Because Fish suffered from delusions and particularly was so mixed up about the questions of punishment, sin, atonement, religion, torture, self-punishment, he had a perverted, a distorted -- if you want, an insane -- knowledge of right and wrong. His test was that if it had been wrong he would have been stopped, as Abraham was stopped, by an angel."

Wertham believed that Fish had actually killed fifteen children and mutilated about a hundred others. "That figure was verified many times to me by police officials in later years."

Two other defense alienists testified that Fish was insane. The four alienists who were called by the prosecution testified that Fish was sane. One of those prosecution alienists was the head of the psychiatric hospital where Fish had been detailed for observation a couple of years after the Budd and other murders and where he had been judged "both harmless and sane."


The Trial

The trial of Albert Fish for the premeditated murder of Grace Budd began on Monday, March 11, 1935, in White Plains, N.Y. in Justice Frederick P. Close's court. Chief Assistant District Attorney Elbert F. Gallagher was in charge of the prosecution and James Dempsey was the defense attorney.

Dempsey planned to attack the competence of the Bellevue Hospital alienists who had observed Fish in 1930 and declared him sane. He also planned to establish that Fish was suffering from "lead colic," a dementia often suffered by house painters.

Gallagher's key strategy was summarized early in the trial: "Now in this case, there is a presumption of sanity. The proof, briefly, will be that this defendant is legally sane and that he knows the difference between right and wrong and the nature and quality of his acts, that he is not defective mentally, that he had a wonderful memory for a man of his age, that he has complete orientation as to his immediate surroundings, that there is no mental deterioration, but that he is sexually abnormal, that he is known medically as a sex pervert or a sex psychopath, that his acts were abnormal, but that when he took this girl from her home on the third day of June, 1928, and in doing that act and in procuring the tools with which he killed her, bringing her up here to Westchester County, and taking her into this empty house surrounded by woods in the back of it, he knew it was wrong to do that, and that he is legally sane and should answer for his acts."

Defense attorney Dempsey focused on Fish's strange life and the self-flagellation with nail-studded paddles and needles. Then he brought up Fish's competence as a father and his love for his children: "In spite of all these brutal, criminal and vicious proclivities, there is another side to this defendant. He has been a very fine father. He never once in his life laid a hand on one of his children. He says grace at every meal in his house. In 1917, when the youngest one of his six children was three, his wife left him. And from that time down until shortly before the Grace Budd murder in 1928 he was a mother and father to those children." He closed his remarks by reminding the jury that it was up to the prosecution to prove that a man who killed and ate children was sane.

Grace's parents and brother Albert, Jr., testified. Dempsey seemed determined to make the point that both Delia and Albert, Sr., gave their consent to Grace going to a birthday party with Fish. When it came time for Grace's father to testify, he was overcome with emotion and began to weep loudly.

On the third day of the trial, over the strenuous objections of the defense attorney, a box of Grace Budd's remains was brought into the courtroom as evidence, while Detective King recreated from Fish's confession how the girl was killed. Then Gallagher reached into the box and held out the small skull of the dead girl. It was a very dramatic moment. Dempsey sought a mistrial.

Dempsey focused on the cannibalism issue as a central part of the insanity defense. It was clear that he was trying to establish that Fish had eaten parts of the girl's body -- something that no sane person would do. But he was unsuccessful in establishing and proving that Fish actually did what he said he did with her body.

Fish appeared to be completely indifferent throughout the trial. Although, at one point, he expressed to his attorney that he had a desire to life because "God still has work for me to do."

Dempsey put several of Fish's children on the stand to testify to his bizarre behavior -- self-flagellation and sticking needles in his body, as well as his religious delusions. They also testified that he was a good father who always provided for them and never physically abused them.

To further demonstrate Fish's strange behavior, Dempsey called to the stand a woman who had received several obscene letters from Albert Fish. The courtroom was cleared of women as Dempsey read the obscene correspondence.

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. "He went into his room and he had a little pair of trunks, brown trunks, that he put on. He put those on and came out into the front room, and he got down on his hands and knees, and he had a paint stick that he stirred paint with."

"He would give the stick to one of us, and then he would get down on his hands and knees and we would sit on his back, one at a time, with our back facing him, and then we would put up so many fingers, and he was to tell how many fingers we had up, and if he guessed right, which he never did, why, we weren't supposed to hit him. Sometimes, he would even say more fingers than we really had. And if he never guessed right, why, we would hit him as many fingers as we would have up."

Sometimes a hairbrush was used instead of the paint stick. He also stuck pins under his fingernails in front of the children.

Eventually, Dempsey had a chance to attack the prosecution alienists. Dr. Charles Lambert, after a three-hour interview with Fish," pronounced him a "psychopathic personality without a psychosis."

Dempsey asked Lambert, "Assume that this man not only killed this girl but took her flesh to eat it. Will you state that that man could for nine days eat that flesh and still not have a psychosis?"

Lambert answered, "Well, there is no accounting for taste, Mr. Dempsey."

Dempsey persisted: "Tell me how many cases in your experience you have seen people who actually ate human feces."

"Oh, I know individuals prominent in society...one in particular that we all know who used it as a side dish in his salad," Lambert remarked casually.

Dempsey had better luck with one of the other defense alienists, who could see sign of psychosis in Fish's behavior.

The trial lasted ten days and the jury took less than an hour to reach its verdict.

"We find the defendant guilty as charged," the foreman said.

Fish was not happy with the verdict, but the prospect of being electrocuted had its appeal to him. A Daily News reporter wrote, "his watery eyes gleamed at the thought of being burned by a heat more intense than the flames with which he often seared his flesh to gratify his lust."

Fish thanked the judge for his sentence of death by electrocution. On January 16, 1936, Albert Fish was executed.

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