While the name Albert Fish is synonymous with cannibalism, sexual fetishes, and his most famous victim Grace Bud, the rabbit hole goes much deeper. Although Fish is always included on lists of infamous serial killers, those who name him rarely explain why he is considered alongside Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy. Although Fish is most widely known for the dreadful murder of Bud, he was also a pedophilic, and a prolific serial killer with an almost comical list of fetishes that make him noteworthy in true crime history,
Albert Fish’s horrendous childhood set the stage for his adult life and the crimes he committed. Born in 1870, in Washington DC, to a prominent family he was subjected to abuse from his alcoholic father who drank himself to death. After Fish’s father passed, his mother placed him into a St. John’s Orphanage since she claimed she had to find a job and couldn’t take care of her young son. At just five years of age Fish was brutally beaten by the caretakers of the institution but, instead of crying himself to sleep like the other boys, he began to take sexual pleasure in it. This early development of sexuality at such a young age led Fish to have mixed feelings about sexual experiences, introducing traces of sadomasochism in him.
Fish’s mother picked him up from the orphanage when he was ten, but the damage from his father’s abuse and his time at the orphanage had already set itself in stone. Fish’s fetishes continued to develop as he aged and when he was twelve he met an older delivery boy who broadened Fish’s horizons with acts of urolagnia (drinking urine) and coprophagia (eating feces). During this pivotal point in his teen years, he later claimed, he would frequent bath houses to watch young boys undress and would write obscene letters to women who had ads in the classified section of the newspaper looking for eligible bachelors.
When Fish turned twenty he left D.C. for the big apple, New York City, to prowl the streets as a male prostitute and prey on young boys, molesting and raping them. However, eight years later his mother was decidedly fed up with him being single and arranged a marriage between her seemingly odd son and a young woman who gave him six children. By all accounts, even from his children, Fish kept the darkness inside of him at bay when he was with his family. He did not harm or molest any of his offspring and was even praised for being a family man and a good father. However, while he was raising his flesh and blood he led a violent double life where he raped children, tortured a mentally disabled man, and self-mutilated by sticking pins and needles inside his pelvic region, among other things. Pictured below are actual x-rays of Albert Fish’s body that had pins inside him.
Fish’s wife eventually left him, with their entire family in tow, unaware of what her husband was actually capable. Things began to escalate for Fish soon after, both at home and within his darker self. In private, he encouraged his bare bottom with a paddle of sharp nails, but on the streets he went from rape and molestation to murdering children. By the time he was in his mid-fifties, the aging man had claimed a couple of victims who were in fact missed, but there was no clue as to who their killer was. Fish was careful with his crimes right up until the murder of Grace Bud.
Albert Fish met ten year old Grace Bud when he answered a classified ad from a young man who was desperately seeking employment. Before Fish arrived to pick the man up, he had already planned a particularly gruesome murder of the young worker, until he met Bud. She crawled in his lap and they ate strawberries together and it was at this moment that Fish decided he was going to kidnap, murder, and eat the young girl. Unfortunately, as a sign of the times, the girl’s parents agreed to let Fish, a total stranger, take her away to a fake birthday party which was really an abandoned house where Grace was strangled, dismembered, and wrapped in butcher paper to be cooked later. Fish had initially given a false name to the family, so there was no trouble there, but he then wrote Grace’s family a chilling letter describing his crimes. The stationary that Fish used was unique and police easily tracked the almost sixty year old killer and arrested him.
After he was taken into custody, the murders of two other children were tied to Fish and he was subsequently convicted in 1935, despite making a fairly interesting case for insanity. Although he was a main suspect in the murders of five other children, he claimed to have over one hundred victims, saying that God himself had instilled in him the destiny to sexually abuse children.
Unfortunately, most true crime shows or websites only discuss Albert Fish as the murderer of Grace Bud and read his grotesque letter (that still sends chills up the spine). However, he was more than a singular murderer; he was a pedophiliac serial killer with issues that could fill an entire psychology textbook. Despite his prolific criminal career Fish should be best remembered so we can catch people like this in the future.