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The Wretched Life of Albert Fish

Updated on December 14, 2012
Does he look harmless to you?
Does he look harmless to you? | Source

A True Fiend

The 1920’s and ‘30’s saw the Stock Market Crash, which was terrible for the economy, and that incident caused a lot of people to always save what they had. It affected their minds deeply, for it could happen again, and they wanted to be ready. But also in the late 1920’s, the most insane, fiendish, and cunning man ever lived. He had many interests, the most vile of which, was killing children. It took a number of years to bring him to justice, and it has never been proven, but it is believed that he was responsible for the deaths of fifteen children. Was he a serial killer? That cannot be proven. He admitted to the killing of three youngsters between 1924 and 1928, but we have no information on the others…

Detective William King with Prisoner Albert Fish
Detective William King with Prisoner Albert Fish | Source

The Gray Man and His Victims

Albert Hamilton Fish was born to folks that had mental illness on both sides of their families, which could well have doomed him from the beginning. He found his own father prone to his own proclivities as a boy. He turned out the same way, but his father never killed anyone.

Fish married and had six children, and one son knew that his father wasn’t well, especially when the moon was full. This son lived with him for several years, and witnessed his father self-flagellating, identifying himself as Christ, and placing sewing needles in his perenium.

Albert claimed his first victim in 1924, 8-year-old Francis McDonnell, the son of a Staten Island police officer. He disappeared in Port Richmond in an isolated woodland near the family home, strangled with his own suspenders. He was not dismembered, as someone was heard coming and that was the only thing that prevented Fish from doing further harm to the boy's body.

In 1927, he captured and brutally slay 4-year-old Billy Gaffney, disposing of him in the Riker Avenue dumps. He was beaten one day and killed the next, but not buried with all of his body.

Fish was also fond of seeking out potential partners for his sado-masochistic activities in the newspaper. He would write horrific letters and mail them to unsuspecting women in hopes that they would indulge his fetishes. Since his wife left him with their children he learned to seek out those that would have interests of their own.

In 1928, Fish found an ad in the paper under situations wanted from a young man seeking a job in the country. He showed up to “interview” the boy, but found that he liked his little sister better. He concocted a story that his niece was having a birthday party, and asked to take little Grace Budd with him, aged 10. The parents consented, and he killed her, as well. She saw the same type of fate that did little Billy Gaffney.

The “Gray Man” was captured six years later, due to the fact that he mailed a letter with a pre-printed business address and was tracked down. He was captured retrieving a check from his son at a prior residence. He had been searched for relentlessly all those years, when Detective William King got the break that he was looking for.

The Facts and the Verdict

Only then was it discovered how truly sick and perverted that Fish really was, during the investigation and court trial. He was deemed insane by a jury of his peers, given the chair in 1936, fearful at first when he learned that he would be electrocuted. Then he was quoted as saying “that was the only thing that he hadn’t tried.”

In summation, Fish’s perversions were listed as sadism, masochism, active and passive flagellation, castration and self-castration, exhibitionism, voyeurism, piqueurism, pedophilia, homosexuality, fellatio, cunnilingus, anilingus, coprophagia, undinism, fetishism, cannibalism, and hypererotism.

These were the 1930’s and a lot has changed since then, but I guarantee you this. With what we consider just a little off-base now, he is still, even by today’s standards, pretty far out in left field.

I have deliberately left out much of the account of the facts, as readers might want to read about Albert Fish for themselves. It is a demented story and true crime. If you have a strong constitution and would like to learn the facts of the matter, you may obtain the book(s) here:


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    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Indeed, very horrible, Anita. Those were the days that we didn't hear a lot about some of our least upstanding citizen.s

    • Anita Hasch profile image

      Anita Hasch 

      2 years ago from Port Elizabeth

      What a horrible creature. Very well written.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      That's right, Alun. They have no empathy, no feelings at all, other than for themselves. If yu look at all of them historically, they cry for themselves when they ae convicted, not for the victims.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      2 years ago from Essex, UK

      It is difficult to understand what goes on in the mind of people who are both perverted and evilly brutal Deb. A total lack of empathy is the only common factor in such people - they simply cannot relate to the suffering of others.

      In recent times there have been many cases in the news both in America and Europe of 'lone wolf' gunmen, bombers, and terrorists wantonly killing members of the public. In Nice, France, a man recently used a truck to deliberately drive into a crowd, wanting to kill as many as possible. Although the motivations may be very different to those of Albert Fish, the utter lack of any empathy with normal human feelings is the same. They don't care about another person's life or another person's distress. It means nothing to them. Alun

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, klidstone. This is the most perverted person that I have ever heard about.

    • klidstone1970 profile image

      இڿڰۣ-- кιмвєяℓєу 

      5 years ago from Niagara Region, Canada

      It's hard to say why a person stoops so low as to act on urges as low as this. Although these children have been gone for many years, I still feel sorry for what these families must have gone through. A very interesting hub nonetheless.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Well, that's just the thing. Not everyone wants to hear about it, yet have an idea on what can occur when least expected. That's why I included sources for the books, if anyone wants the details. Just being polite, you know.

    • gamby79 profile image


      6 years ago

      I too have researched and read my share of many of these killers. More scary than any horror flick because it is real and there are still many out there. I had never heard of this guy. Very informative and I too am glad you didn't go into gory detail yet got across what a vile killer he was.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Actually M. Propp, there are things back in the 1800's. Don't forget about Jack the Ripper, too. His identity was never proven, though.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      Wow, what a vile human being. I hadn't heard of him before.... I went through a reading stage about 15 years ago when I read a lot of true crime and serial killer books, but I didn't realize they had cases documented back to the 1920s. Very interesting hub.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Undeniably, CR Rookwood. When humanity was created, those flaws were included. Now, was it deliberate or not?

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Oh, this character is not the only one, Tammy. This certainly is not the place for those details, as people can read about Albert Fish themselves. Thanks for reading, and I will be seeing you!

    • CR Rookwood profile image

      Pamela Hutson 

      6 years ago from Moonlight Maine

      OMG. It is hard to read this sort of thing. It must have been hard to write. It took me years to watch "Silence of the Lambs" because I was so scared before I even watched it I just avoided it. It's weird because i can watch any ghost or monster movie and I'm fine, ditto Satan movies, possession, blah blah--but serial killers like this, I know it's real, so it terrifies me. The darkness inside human beings--that is the deepest horror.

    • tammyswallow profile image


      6 years ago from North Carolina

      How grueling. I didn't realize there were actually serial killers of children. This is a sad story. Very interesting account of the details and I applaud you for not going into the gory details. :)

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Some of these people are really something else, Highland Terrier. That's what happens when things aren't right upstairs and at home.

    • Highland Terrier profile image

      Highland Terrier 

      6 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Interesting if horrific read.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Nell. It isn't just one thing that causes the short-circuit, it appears. It is several, criminilogically, sociologically, and psychologically. His primary influence, he mother, did not help matters.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Nothing changes much in the minds of evil men, avian. Why they do it, or even today is just beyond me, fascinating reading though, voted up! nell

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Brenda. No, he was crude and gross enough, all by his lonesome. What bhappened to him, most likely had to do with the nature and nurture thing.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      That happens upon occasion, but there are very few rogue bears in comparison to bears that refuse to have anything to do with humans. Strange things happen!

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You're right, kashmir. There are so many more out there.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, shiningirisheyes. The chair only scared him for a minute, then he was enthralled with the idea.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I had never heard of this awful man. He obviously had given himself over to Satan and to evil. My heart aches to know that children have always been a vulnerable target for these horrible people. You wrote this well and gave information without being crude or gross. Good job.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      I'm thinking what to write and Phil Hendrie, on the radio, just did a routine about a bear eating a man. This made his assistant throw up on the radio. Weird.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend great hub, It is a shame that these type of people roam this earth preying young children. These are the few that got caught .

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      6 years ago from Upstate, New York

      The scourge of the earth and it provides me some justice to know the chair scared him. Although disturbing, this is a fantastic hub.

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, MattMack, he sure is. There are more and more of them as time goes by, and the first thing that they want to do is protect themselves from getting caught.

    • MattMack profile image


      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      When I was in high school I researched a lot of serial killers, I think it is that macabre feel that they give off that interested me. Albert Fish was one of the most disgusting and vile killers I had ever learned about!

    • aviannovice profile imageAUTHOR

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Pollyannalana, the odd thing about this tale is that nobody could have ever known until the events unfolded. He was crafty enough to avoid capture. They worry not about their victims, but what horrors will happen to them if they are found.

    • Pollyannalana profile image


      6 years ago from US

      What a monster. I really think men like this if 100% DNA proven should die right away, they deserve no better.


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