Meet Albert Fish: a real-life nightmare, who preyed upon children as if they were food.
This turn-of-the-century cannibal was born in Washington D.C. on May 19, 1870. He was christened Hamilton Fish but went by Albert, the name of a dead brother.
His father was 75 years old at the time of his birth, and his mother was 32. For unclear reasons, Fish spent his early childhood in an orphanage until his mother removed him around age 10.
Two years later, Fish’s dark side emerged.
He began a clandestine relationship with another boy, who introduced Fish to paraphilia – sexual perversions involving human excrement. By age 20, he had moved to New York City and started working as a prostitute, but in his free time, he sexually assaulted young boys.
In 1898, a bout of forced normalcy arrived when Fish’s mother arranged a marriage for him. He and his wife conceived six children. But the hardworking family man could not keep the darkness at bay.
In 1910, Fish fell into a sadomasochistic relationship with a 19-year-old man by the name of Thomas Kedden. It wasn’t long before Fish took things too far. He brought Kedden to an abandoned barn and proceeded to torture him for two weeks.
The culmination? Fish tied up Kedden and cut off half of his penis.
He recounts: “I shall never forget his scream, or the look he gave me.”
Fish had planned to kill Kedden and cut his body into pieces, but the fear of being caught overtook him. Instead, he disinfected the wound, covered it with petroleum jelly, gave Kedden a kiss, and fled. Whatever became of Kedden is unknown.
In 1917, Fish’s wife left him for another man, sending Albert into a tailspin. The now-single parent wandered the house swaddled in carpets and took to self-harm. He would press multiple needles into his abdomen, whack himself with a nail-studded paddle, even stuff wool drenched with lighter fluid into his anus … and set it ablaze.
It was at this time that Fish developed a taste for raw meat, often preparing it for dinner. The bloody meals opened the door to Fish’s final perversion – cannibalism.
He selected victims he felt no one would miss. They mainly included mentally handicapped and African-American children, whom he tortured with his “implements from Hell.”
By this point, Fish was a full-blown psychotic, believing that God demanded he torture and mutilate his victims with meat cleavers and handsaws. Many escaped Albert’s grasp, but others did not.
In 1928, a 58-year-old Fish answered an ad in the paper from a young man named Edward Budd, who was looking for work in the country. Fish visited the family home in Manhattan. He introduced himself as a farmer and asked for Edward – whom he planned to lure away and slaughter. Fish quickly changed plans, however, when he met young Grace Budd.
The little girl was just 10 years old. He told the Budd family that he would love to take their daughter to his niece’s birthday party, and they obliged.
Off went Grace with Albert. She was never heard from again.
Six years later, the Budd family received an anonymous letter riddled with spelling errors that detailed a man’s descent into madness and cannibalism. The letter’s author spoke of a seaman he once knew who traveled to China. It was there that this man claimed to have encountered famine-stricken people killing and consuming children to survive. The sailor developed such an appetite for young flesh that upon his return to New York, he abducted two children, killed them, and cooked them.
The letter’s author became curious, as well. In the letter’s disturbing final paragraph, he graphically recounts abducting Grace Budd, killing her, and consuming her flesh.
The letter bore no signature – yet its details clearly proved the author was Grace’s killer. Police traced the stationary back to a boarding house, where they found Albert Fish.
It didn’t take long before he confessed to the murder. The Boogeyman was busted.
Although no one doubted his insanity, Fish was deemed mentally fit to stand trial. He was handed the death penalty and executed in 1936 by electric chair at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. He boasted of having “had a child in every state.”
It’s believed that Fish had between three and nine victims total, including 8-year-old Francis McDonnell, who was found in Staten Island, and 4-year-old Billy Gaffney, of Brooklyn, whose body was never found. Of Billy’s disappearance, his friend said, “the boogeyman took him.”
Letter #1 The Confession of Killing Gracie Budd
"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."
Letter #2 The Disturbing Account of Eating 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."