The likes of Bundy and Ed Gein have gained high levels of notoriety for their crimes, but lets take a look at America’s most notorious 20th- century cannibal, Albert Fish.
Born May 19th 1870, Hamilton Fish, was the product of a respected family living in Washington, D.C.
Albert Fish was five years old when his father died. His mother placed him in an orphanage while she worked to support herself. Records describe young Fish as a problem child who “ran away every Saturday,” and persistently wetting the bed until his eleventh year. Graduating from public school at age 15, he began to call himself “Albert,” discarding his hated first name.
In 1898 he married a woman nine years his junior, fathering six children before his wife ran away with a man named John Straube. She came back with Straube in tow, and Fish took her back on the condition that she send her lover away. He discovered sometime later that his wife was keeping Straube in the attic and she departed after a stormy argument, never to return.
By his own account, Fish committed his first murder in 1910, killing a man in Wilmington, Delaware. His children began to notice their father’s stranger behavior as he would shake his fist at the sky and repeatedly scream, “I am Christ!” Fish was obsessed with sin, sacrifice, and atonement through pain, encouraging his children and their friends to paddle him until his buttocks bled. He also developed a growing obsession with cannibalism, often preparing himself a dinner consisting solely of raw meat, sometimes serving it to his children.
On his own, he inserted numerous needles in his groin, losing track of some as they sank out of sight. (A prison X-ray revealed at least 29 separate needles, some eroded with time to mere fragments). Fish also slipped needles under his own fingernails and on other occasions, would soak cotton balls in alcohol, insert them into his anus, and set them on fire.
Around 1919, at the age of 41, during his stay in St. Louis, Fish began sexually molesting an intellectually disabled man named Kedden. He attempted to mutilate the 19-year-old with a pair of scissors. After this, Fish then increased the frequency of his visits to brothels, where he engaged in sadomasochism.
Though never divorcing from his first wife, Fish married three more times, enjoying a sex life which court psychiatrists would describe as one of “unparalleled perversity” from such acts like coprophagia – consumption of excrement.
Also known as the Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria, the Brooklyn Vampire, the Moon Maniac and The Boogey Man, Fish was a child rapist and a cannibal. Boasting that he had “had children in every state” and was ordered “by God” to castrate young boys. Albert Fish tortured, mutilated and murdered both sexes of young children with his “implements of Hell”: a meat cleaver, butcher knife, and a small handsaw.
Obscene letters were another of his passions, and Fish mailed countless examples to strangers, their addresses obtained from matrimonial agencies or newspaper “lonely-hearts” columns.
In 1928, posing as “Mr. Howard,” Fish befriended the Budd family in White Plains, New York. On June 3, while escorting 12-year-old Grace Budd to a mythical children’s party, he took the child to an isolated cottage and there dismembered her body, saving several pieces for a stew which he later consumed.
Two years later, with the Budd case still unsolved, Fish was confined to a psychiatric hospital for the first time. After two months of observation, he was discharged with a note reading: “Not insane; psychopathic personality; sexual type.” In 1931, after arresting Fish once more on a charge of mailing obscene letters, police found a well-used cat-o’-nine-tails in his room. He was released after two more weeks of observation in a psychiatric ward.
Compelled to gloat about his crimes, Fish sent a letter to the Budd Family in 1934 detailing how he killed and ate their daughter.
Traced by police through the letter, Fish readily confessed to other homicides, including children killed in 1919, 1927, and 1934. At trial, Fish was sentenced to die and was electrocuted at Sing Sing prison on January 16, 1936. It took two jolts before the chair, short-circuited by all the needles Fish had planted in his body, could complete its work.