We’ve all heard about the bogeyman. That’s the monster that hid under the beds and in the closets when you were a kid. He made you have nightmares and scared you of the dark (or the other way around). But what happens when a real bogeyman exists? In the early 1900s, too many unhappy children discovered it.
He is known by two different names: “The Werewolf of Wysteria”, “The Grey Man”, even the “Brooklyn Vampire”. Whatever the alias, Albert Fish is a famous Serial Killer whose attacks took place over a period of ten years, causing terror in New York and throughout the United States.
Born Hamilton Fish, he changed his name to Albert to commemorate the death of a brother or sister. Fish’s father was 43 years older than his mother, and he died before Albert was five. Many of the facts about his early years are largely unknown; however, the small details we have indicate a deeply troubling childhood.
Mental illness and religious madness were present in his family. After his father died of a heart attack, Fish’s mother placed him in an orphanage. The reasons for this situation are unknown, but we can assume that they are related to her mother’s hesitant income and her inability to care for the four children she had.
Fish was exposed to violence for the first time at the orphanage. He was whipped and beaten several times. After these beatings lasted for some time, Fish began to find sexual pleasure in it, which caused vicious teasing from the other children in the orphanage. In 1882 his mother got a government job, which he was able to get Fish back under his roof, but by that time things were not the same….
Albert Fish, then begins a consensual relationship with a 12-year-old boy. He discovered less accepted sexual practices, including the consumption of urine and feces. Fish goes to public baths on weekends, watching the young boys undress. He was only in his early teens.
Upon his arrival in New York in 1890, Fish claimed that he was a prostitute (therefore unproven). When that wasn’t enough to satisfy his desire, he started raping young boys. Between two, he married by force through an organized marriage of his mother, he will have 6 children. However, it is not this one that stops him.
He was later arrested for embezzlement and spent a handful of years in prison. During this time, he had sexual relations with countless men. When he is released, an affair with a lover is formed, despite his marriage. One afternoon, Fish and the man visited a wax museum where the couple witnessed the bisection of a penis; from that moment on, Fish developed a fascination for castration.
Later and during sex, Fish managed to tie up his male partner, who thought it was part of a game. But when Fish tried to castrate him, the man panicked, managed to escape and fled. Nobody knows what happened to him.
After that, Fish increased his movements to dark places, where he asked to be beaten and whipped.
In January 1917 Fish’s wife left him for the handyman who was staying with them. She took their six children with her. Soon after they left, Fish started hearing voices. Once he rolled himself in a rug saying that he was following John the apostle’s orders.
What could have been Fish’s first attack was recorded in 1910: a knife wound killed a child named Thomas Bedden. A few years later, in 1919, Fish stabs a mentally handicapped boy. From that moment on, Fish’s victims were almost always either mentally handicapped or African Americans: Albert Fish believed no one would notice these children missing.
Over the next decade, Fish’s crimes became increasingly violent and frequent. Although the number of children he killed is unknown, partly due to his tendency to choose unnoticed victims, Fish’s murder of three children can be confirmed.
Young Francis McDonnell was discovered missing by his parents in 1924. McDonnell never went home during the day. McDonnell’s friends and mother both said they saw a “grey man” watching the boys play. After a search, McDonnell’s body was discovered, with numerous signs of torture and sexual assault.
Another exception to Fish’s rule of choosing victims at the edge of society, like Billy Gaffney. Fish attacked Gaffney, who was playing in the hallway outside his family’s apartment in Brooklyn with his friend Billy Beaton in 1927. The two boys mysteriously disappeared. The neighbours immediately started looking for them, but a few hours later Beaton was found alive on the roof. When asked what had happened to Gaffney, the child replied “the bogeyman took it”.
Then observations began to flow in nearby, including one claiming to have seen an older man with the boy on a cart. The boy cried for his mother while the man tried to calm him down. Finally, the man dragged the boy out of the cart. The police compared the description to Gaffney’s, but the young boy’s body will never be found. Fish later confessed to killing him, dismembering the body, cooking and eating it.
A little over a year after this crime, Fish committed perhaps his most infamous murder, but also the most thoughtful…
One day, he found an ad in the Sunday newspaper of a young immigrant, Edward Budd, looking for a job. Fish replied, posing as a farmer who wanted to hire a farm labourer.
In discussing this crime with the authorities after his arrest, he noted that he intended to abduct and kill Budd. But he saw Budd’s younger sister Grace, and his plans changed. He offered Budd the job and very quickly asked if Grace’s parents would allow Grace to accompany Fish to her niece’s birthday party that night at her sister’s house, which was obviously fake. He argues that the girls were about the same age and would probably make great friends. The parents agreed to Grace leaving with Fish that day. However, she will never return.
What’s scariest about all this? After his disappearance, not only was the wrong man tried for the crime, serving nearly a year in prison before the real culprit was arrested. The family also received a letter from Fish. Loaded with spelling mistakes, the note explained exactly what had happened to the girl he had eaten and how Fish got to his thirst for human meat. Although Fish claimed in the letter that the girl was a “dead virgin”, he confessed during an interrogation with the police that he had raped her. However, Fish was known to lie compulsively, so it is impossible to know the facts of the case.
The trial for the murders of the three children lasted ten days. Fish pleaded insanity, claiming to have heard God’s voice telling him to kill the children. The jury heard testimony from his children, doctors and family members of his victims. The most famous and disturbing evidence was an X-ray of Albert Fish’s genitals. More than 20 needles had been inlaid by Fish himself. There was much debate about whether his sexual fetishes meant they were insane, but in the end, the jury found him sane and guilty, and the judge ordered the death penalty.
Crédit-Image à la une : Murderpedia