By Bryn Fawn
Albert Fish is infamous in the true crime landscape. He checks all the boxes of an interesting and devastating case: kinks, mutilation and the involvement of children. Any true crime fanatic will instantly recognize his name in conversation.
Fish was born in 1870 in Washington D.C. His parents had an unusual age gap of 43 years, and the Fish family suffered from mental ailments. Medicine in the late 1800s for mental health care was almost nonexistent.
Fish was gay, which further ostracized him in society. He had a boyfriend as early as 12 years old. This was also when he began to develop his uncanny fetishes like his enjoyment of urine or voyeurism. He had a few flings with other men, but the relationships went nowhere.
Fish moved to New York City as a young adult and became a prostitute. This was when his violent behavior began. He molested and raped children, little boys being his preference. He continued this behavior, even after confrontation from his mother. She had arranged a marriage for him, to a woman six years younger than him. The two had six children together, but Fish never ceased his predatory behavior.
Then in 1898, he began working as a house painter. This is when he discovered a new fascination, castration and genital mutilation. His boyfriend he had at the time brought him to a museum which sparked Fish’s interest. There he saw a bisection of a penis, which had Fish grow curious on mutilation.
Fish indulged himself in his new interest, tying up a man and attempting to castrate him. Luckily, the man was able to flee. Fish, a masochist, often injured himself or placed himself in situations to be injured. He frequented brothels in order to be beaten and whipped. He also stuck needles in his crotch.
It has been documented he had 29 needles in his pelvic region, which can be seen in an infamous X-Ray.
Fish confessed to three murders, but the exact number of his victims is unknown. His most infamous killing was of a little girl, Grace Budd. Fish found himself with the Budd family under a false name, Frank Howard, under the pretense of working for them. Fish slowly gained the family’s trust.
Fish requested to take Budd to a birthday party, and was given permission. Budd was never seen again. Budd’s family had no idea what had happened to their daughter, until they received a mysterious letter seven years later.
The letter was anonymous and had gruesome details of what happened to their daughter.
“I made up my mind to eat [Budd,]” Fish wrote. “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. 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.”
Fish is a documented compulsive liar, and while he admitted to his lawyer he did in fact rape Budd, it is uncertain what truly happened to Budd. The police soon connected the letter to Fish and he was promptly arrested.
Fish confessed to the police to two other murders: Bill Gaffney and Francis X. McDonnel. He boasted about murdering and assaulting others, and police believed he may have had a part in other deaths, but there was no concrete evidence leading to Fish.
Fish later pleaded innocent by reason of insanity. He alleged he heard voices that told him to assault and kill children. He was found guilty and sentenced to death.
Fish was executed Jan. 16, 1936 by electric chair. Fish stated the execution would be the “thrill of [his] life.” Fish entered the chamber at 11:06 p.m. and was pronounced dead three minutes later.
His final words were “I don’t even know why I am here.”
Fish later inspired the infamous Hannibal Lecter, although Lecter’s crimes seem tame compared to Fish’s. Lecter never harmed children, but he did consume his victims. The movie he is most recognized by, “Silence of the Lambs,” has the main character, Buffalo Bill, as a gay transvestite which only pulls more inspirations from Fish’s non-heternormative life.
This edition of Cardinal Sins has been turned into a video episode which can be seen on our Youtube channel.