Albert Fish

The “Gray Man”

Albert Fish is one of those serial killers with many nicknames. He was known as “the gray man” by children who witnessed his terrors. He was also known as the “Brooklyn Vampire,” since he seemed to lurk the streets of New York without leaving a trace. But, to the people who he introduced himself to, he called himself Frank Howard as an alibi. In person, he seemed harmless and grandfatherly, so despite his constant run ins with the police, his charges were always dismissed.

The Psychological Profile

While biology is not a huge factor when it comes to reasons why a person commits crime, it’s an important thing to note in case there are patterns. I only say this because Fish’s biological family was plagued with mental illness of all kinds. ***I just want to know that history of mental illness does NOT in any way prelude serial killer tendencies!*** However, with parents and siblings with severe mental illness, his family had no inkling of being stable, so he ended up in an orphanage where, at a tender age, he began experiencing pain as punishment, which ultimately turned into sexual deviancy.

Fish’s X-Ray revealing the needles in his body

After being removed from the orphanage by his birth mother, Fish began associating with a young man who introduced him to urolagnia and coprophagia, or the consuming of human waste. He then moved on to sexual self-mutilation, where he would insert needles into his groin area, where they would remain until his capture (doctors found 29 needles inside of him after doing an x-ray).

The Crimes

Self mutilation proved to not be enough after a certain amount of time, so he sought out a relationship with others to perhaps perform some sort of sadomasochism. One man he got involved with, Thomas Kedden, was lured to an abandoned farmhouse where Fish tortured and mutilated his body for two weeks. He went as far as cutting off Kedden’s genitalia, and then releasing him with $10 “for his troubles.”

However, the most notorious of his crimes began with a young man’s ad in the paper looking for work. Edward Budd released the ad that caught Fish’s attention, and he went to the house. He introduced himself as Frank Howard, and while he was there, he laid eyes on Edward’s younger sister, Grace. He gained the trust of Edward, his siblings, and their parents. He convinced Mr. and Mrs. Budd to allow him to take Grace to his niece’s birthday party. They allowed him to take her, since they trusted him and thought of him as a gracious man. He took her to his farmhouse, where he had set up a torture chamber originally for her brother, but he confessed that as soon as he saw Grace, he decided to kill her. He strangled and killed her, and afterwards he mutilated and cut up her and ate pieces of his body.

His Capture

Fish’s Execution

He sent a confession letter (without giving up his true identity) to Grace Budd’s parents. It was graphic and disgusting, and it was the only reason that her family and authorities knew what the young girl’s fate ended up being. However, the paper he wrote the letter on was traced back to a janitor who worked at the same place that Albert fish rented a room from. They realized Fish matched the description of Frank Howard, so they decided to question him. There, he recounted numerous crimes and detailed obscene murders. The defense team tried to claim he was not guilty by reason of insanity, but the jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to death by electric chair in 1935.