How does a boy born in Washington D. C. in the 1870’s grow up into one of the most unspeakable serial killers of all time? The Werewolf of Wisteria earned this and many other epithets as his normal demeanor belied a demented child molester, abductor and murderer. Hamilton Howard Fish – aka – Albert Fish, and The Gray Man, presented as a grandfatherly old-timer with genteel leanings, yet his hidden true self was a saturated prism of unspeakable lusts and forbidden practices.
The nature of the killings of Albert Fish are more gruesome and detached from a human sensitivity than maybe any other serial killer. Trophy “recipes” prepared by Fish from the bodies of victims display the power politics whereby he enjoyed sexual pleasure. The playfulness of emotion is stomach-turning. Albert Fish admitted to some killings but may have been guilty of a hundred murders.
The times would ordinarily not produce such a psychotic misfit. But Fish had a father who was over forty years older than his mother when he was born. The man was 75 years old when Albert Fish was born and suffered a heart attack shortly after. His mother had to give him up for adoption due to financial hardship. A history of mental illness ran in the character of almost every relative he had. Yet ironically he was first imprisoned for embezzlement!
The programming in the orphanage caused erections during whippings and his lifelong tendency toward the unsavory sexual or behavioral escapade was set. A fascination with the consumption of feces, drinking urine, and castrating other men and boys happened early. Fish molested many small boys when working as a house painter. The sheer volume of Fish’s victims leaves an uneasy trail of wariness, since abused children tend to become abusive parents and adults later on.
The abduction and rape episodes reveal how crafty Fish was premeditating his crimes. He believed mentally retarded men and African Americans at that time would not be pursued or valued as highly as white normal victims. Small children and unwitting acquaintances became dinner menu items in the company of Albert Fish. Fish never acquainted himself with companion murderers, peers, friends, or any kind of social network within his evil mindset and alter ego.
The transition from religious orphanage survivor to explicitly deranged erotic adventurer, Fish seemed to arrive directly at the mature stage of his sexual exploits without a “rehearsal’ or debut period common to serial killers. Sexual extremism from the homosexual tinge may have laid some groundwork, but the actual consumption of human flesh identifies the enjoyment of the taboo, the illicit, the most distasteful and unsound of pursuits.
The unbroken record of his victims is a sad testimony to law enforcement technology and practices of the times. Like many serial killers, Fish exploited a naïve civilization where a pleasant appearance and deprecating manner could allow unthinkable risks to innocent children and other victims.
Albert Fish lived in his own world, without achievement, social redemption, or moral judgment. His religious commitments and beliefs seem less like orthodox Christianity and more like a dogma he could upend to create perverted pleasure against. Fish referred to the pain of his upcoming electrocution as a new thrill. The motif of a mature, bowler-hatted gentleman in that era who practiced the most vicious and deviant homicide acts defies acceptable reason.
Answering newspaper advertisements for young men and widows yielded his victims. The extremes of the Albert Fish personality set against the façade of the natty silver-haired oldster is a terrifying last image for any murder victim. One can imagine the terror of an unsuspecting child or youth when the eyes of lust and manic perversion were suddenly and fatally revealed. The language of the Albert Fish letters is both deranged and lurid, detailed and erratically graphic.
Tricking a young girl into her doom when supposedly en route to a party, writing obscene letters, or pursuing sexual practices lurid even in the early 1930’s, Albert Fish was a monster with no qualification unearned. His modus operandi included stripping himself to deflect evidence and gore, and stewing the fruits of his deadly labor at his rooming house. His steady career of abduction, killing, and cannibalistic cuisine is a horror show to even the most leaden sensibilities.
By 1928, Hamilton Howard (Albert) Fish the family man had become an almost anachronistic serial killer whose tendencies were starting to flower into real abductions and targeting unsuspecting victims. A stint serving as a male prostitute in Europe briefly had trained Fish’ appetites. But Albert Fish had evolved beyond mere sexual deviancy. Fish’ benign manner belied his predatory traits.
Born in 1870, the crimes of alcoholism or mental problems were not always excesses. Yet Albert Fish was a young painter and decorator, whose orphanage upbringing whetted an appetite for S & M. The father of six children encouraged the kids to spank him with a nail studded paddles. Sadomasochistic homosexuality in his private life foreshadowed dangerous proclivities.
Hamilton Fish was the kind of serial killer who wrote the parents of his victim (Grace Budd) describing her murder and then the cooking habits of preparing the dead flesh for consumption. Fish dissected his victims and enjoyed a sexual thrill consuming their flesh. The morbid “afterlife” influence may have been somewhat vampire induced as a fantasy role.
A deep rooted belief in religion may have colored the dark edges of Fish’s imagination without limit. Fish’s death at Sing Sing killed that infamous appetite although not without difficulty. The masochistic insertion of needles into his body was shown by an x-ray revealing twenty seven needles in his pelvic area. The metal short circuited the electric chair and the effort had to be adjusted before Albert Fish was ended.
In all Albert Fish was tagged with the murder of only three people, though Fish suggested he may have murdered as many as 100. We may never know just how many people Albert Fish killed.
Article by Roy Whyte. Visit his Google+ page for more.