His favourite dish!
His favourite dish!
Not many people would remember that rhyme today. And probably even fewer people would remember the fellow named Albert Fish…which is probably just as well, considering who he was.
Growing up, all children are invariably taught never to talk to strangers, never to wander off, never to take candy from people they don’t know and never to follow someone they don’t know to somewhere they don’t know, or to get into a car with a driver they’ve never met.
Well. Albert Fish was living proof (if ever any was needed), that such rules aren’t just around to scare kids out of their wits at night, and if you’ve any naughty kids who aren’t listening to their parents about keeping away from strangers…the story of Mr. Fish might bear repeating.
The Man Behind the Monster
Hamilton Howard Fish was born in 1870, the son of Randall Fish, who was old enough to be his grandfather (at age 75!). Considering that Hamilton Howard Fish’s first and second names were the same as a pair of famous watch-companies (The Hamilton Watch. Co. and the Howard Watch. Co), it’s probably not surprising that soon after his birth, he changed his name to Albert. Okay seriously, he wasn’t named after a pair of watch-manufacturies (The Hamilton Watch. Co. didn’t exist when Fish was born). He was actually named after Hamilton Fish, a distant relation who was the 16th governor of the State of New York.
Albert Fish’s life was miserable at the best of times. His family had a history of mental illness; a branch of medical science generally misunderstood in the 19th century. How severe was his family’s mental instability? Well…one of his uncles was a maniac, one of his brothers was locked in a lunatic asylum, another brother of his died from the condition commonly known as “Water on the Brain”, his mother was prone to hallucinations and a sister of his was also diagnosed with an undisclosed “mental affliction”.
All in all…not a happy family.
Young Albert was a homosexual masochist (a person who derives pleasure from pain); something that he discovered about himself from a very young age. When in school, he discovered that he enjoyed being caned. He had affairs with other boys and even got a job at a local bathhouse, just so that he could see other boys undress!…and he wasn’t even twenty yet!
Fish’s sexual experimentations grew more and more extreme as the years continued. By his early twenties, he became a prostitute, a homosexual rapist and had developed a highly disturbing fascination with castration. Amazingly, despite all this, he did actually get married and produced six children of his own!
Not surprisingly, Fish’s marriage did not last, and his wife soon left him. His mental state went spiralling out of control as he continued raping and molesting boys from as young as five years old and upwards. He developed a fascination with self-harm (the less said about that, the better) and began to suffer from hallucinations, claiming that God told him to do things to children. Doctors diagnosed Fish with religious mania.
The Attacks Begin
By the 1920s, by which time Fish had already served two jail-terms for molestation, he had well and truly started the actions for which he became infamous: Abucting, torturing and killing children. He often selected younger children, African-American children or those with mental retardation. His most famous kidnap-and-murder victim was Grace Budd.
Grace Budd lived with her parents, her sister and older brothers. She was just ten years old.
It all started one day in 1928. Edward Budd, one of Grace’s brothers, put an advertisement in the local newspaper (the now defunct ‘New York World’). He said that he was an 18-year-old lad looking for a job on a farm somewhere in the country. Interested employers should come to the Budd home to see if Edward was suitable for work on their properties.
If young Edward knew who was about to show up on his father’s front doorstep, he probably would’ve burnt down the building where the New York World was printed! On the 28th of May, 1928, Albert Fish came calling. Only, he wasn’t Albert Fish, the infamous rapist and sexual deviant…he was Frank Howard, a farmer living in New York state. Edward Budd wasn’t home, but Fish met young Grace and became very interested in her.
The next time Fish called, he met Edward and agreed to hire him. He also met Mr. Albert Budd I, Edward and Grace’s father. Fish asked if he could take Grace to his sister’s house. There was a birthday party there that the girl might like to attend. Once the party was over, Fish could return Grace back home. Mr. and Mrs. Budd thought this was a wonderful idea, and agreed to let Fish take their baby girl to his sister’s ‘birthday party’.
It was a trap, of course. There was no birthday party. And Mr. and Mrs. Budd would never see Grace again.
Once the Budds realised that Grace had been abducted, they contacted the police, but despite frantic efforts, the child was not found. Nothing more was heard until one day in 1934, a full six years later. On that day, Mrs. Budd received a letter which was unsigned. Not being able to read due to her illiteracy, she left the letter alone, until one of her sons returned home to read it for her. The text of the letter is written below (with original spelling retained). It is not for faint of heart…
- 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 [sic] I could of had I wished. She died a virgin.
The Budd Family was horrified and disgusted at the letter and demanded police-action. By examining the envelope which carried the letter, and its postmarks, the police were eventually able to track down Albert Fish to an address at 200, East 52nd Street, Manhattan. Officers and detectives waited for Fish in his bedroom until he arrived home. William F. King, the arresting officer, confronted Fish with the evidence and the accusation of murder. Fish agreed to be taken in for questioning, however at the last minute, he tried to slash King with a straight-razor! King successfully disarmed Fish and arrested him, taking him off to be questioned.
Under questioning, the police soon discovered the true barbarity that bubbled away inside Fish’s head. He had not actually intended to kidnap Grace, but had actually wanted to kidnap Edward (and a friend of his), take them to the woods, strip them naked, tie them up, castrate them and leave them to bleed to death.
After the initial questioning was over, Edward Budd and his father Albert, were driven to the police-station by investigators, to positively identify Fish as the man who had kidnapped their sister and daughter. When Edward spotted Mr. Fish, he threw himself on the old man, screaming out: “You old bastard! Dirty son of a bitch!” and had to be physically restrained by police!
Trial and Execution
For the kidnapping, murder and cannibalisation of Grace Budd (amongst others), Albert Fish was sentenced to death. The court-case was one of the most amazing ever seen, and it took some pretty extraordinary pieces of evidence from the prosecution (such as an x-ray photograph of Fish’s pelvis, with nearly thirty nails permanently embedded in it!) to show the court that Fish really was the sick and twisted manical lunatic who would, and did, kidnap, rape, butcher and eat children and teenagers.
The trial of Albert Fish lasted all of ten days. On the last day, the jury, who had seen such morbid pieces of evidence such as x-rays, photographs and even Grace Budd’s skull and who had heard testimonies from both the Fish and Budd families took less than an hour to find Fish guilty of murder. The judge promptly sentenced Fish to death. Obviously, Fish was not pleased about this…but he livened up a bit when he discovered he was going to be electrocuted in the electric-chair, and thanked the judge for the sentence and opportunity.
In 1935, Fish was sent up the river to the state penitentiary, Sing Sing Prison, New York where, on the 16th of January, 1936, Albert Fish was executed by electric-chair. He was sixty-five years old.