This story begins with a apparently inexplicable disappearance, connected to a strange subject whose investigation will end up uncovering a terrible and unfathomable story. Let’s proceed in order.
The disappearance of Grace
Edward Budd is an eighteen-year-old man living in Manhattan, eager to find a job to support his family financially.
On May 25, 1928, he puts an advertisement in the New York World newspaper that reads:
“Young man, 18, wants employment in the country. Edward Budd, 406 West 15th Street.”
Three days pass when a man of about sixty years old, gray haired and with a mustache, shows up at his house.
He says his name is Frank Howard, that he has an industrial business and is interested in hiring Edward. He promises to come back a few days later.
On June 3 Frank returns and is invited to stop for lunch. The man has a cordial and kind demeanor, declaring himself also available to help with the children of the family.
Playing with Grace, her 10-year-old daughter, he proposes to take her to her niece’s birthday party, promising to bring her back home in the evening. Edward Budd and his wife agree and the two leave the house together.
From then on, no one will see Grace ever again.
The parents alarm everybody, but the girl is not traceable. As if that weren’t enough, there is no industrialist named Frank Howard. The man used a pseudonym.
A lot of time passes by and the affair remains suspended without further developments.
November 1934. Seven years have passed when an anonymous letter reaches the Budd family. Its contents are shocking.
The author claims to be Grace’s killer. He reveals that he killed her by choking her and subsequently ate her remains.
A chilling confession.
The letter is brought to the investigators, who note that the envelope used bears an emblem with the words “N.Y.P.C.B.A.” or “New York Private Chauffeur’s Benevolent Association”.
The agents start an investigation, questioning the members of the association. The caretaker of the company building admits that he had forgotten some letters and envelopes in his home at 200 East 52nd Street, and that he never found them again.
The police then consult the owner of the facility, who recognizes in the description of “Frank Howard” a man who had stayed there until recently. He was supposed to return to collect some communications from his son.
The subject is called Albert Fish. On December 13, 1934, once he returns to the apartment, he is immediately arrested. Cornered, the man claims to be Grace’s killer.
While Fish is in custody, a witness recognizes him and remembers seeing him on February 11, 1927, in a suspicious behavior with another child, Billy Gaffney, who disappeared on that date.
The defendant also confesses to this murder, admitting that he tortured and killed Billy, cutting his face from ear to ear. After his death he drank his blood, tore it to pieces, and threw part of his body into a pond, while he ate the rest.
A barbaric act and an unimaginable cruelty. Unfortunately the death toll does not stop there.
It transpires that Fish killed another child, Francis X. Mc Donnell, 8, found dead in a wood on July 15, 1924. He admitted having beaten and strangled him with his own braces, removing the ears from the body and eating them once back home.
There will be three confirmed murders, but many are convinced that the trail of blood perpetrated by the man is actually much longer, and that it could even reach 100 killings, considering the numerous disappearances of children and adolescents in that period.
Born on May 19, 1870 in Washington, he is the youngest of four children.
His family lives in a rather difficult situation as many members suffer from mental disorders and religious delusions. In 1875 his father, Randall Fish, dies and Albert is placed in an orphanage. He returns home in 1879.
At the age of twelve he begins a homosexual relationship with a telegraph operator. In 1890 he moveds to New York to work as a gigolo.
He got married in 1898, with an arranged marriage, from which six children were born. After 19 years of union in 1917 his wife left him to go to live with another man.
After this episode Fish begins to sink into depression and suffer from hallucinations.
The man pushes it to the limit and begins to molest children.
Having now reached the apex of perversion, he transforms himself into a murderer, choosing young victims, killing them with sadistic methods and acts of cannibalism.
The doctors who examined him certified that the man had numerous pins permanently inserted into the body. His psychological picture presented many paraphilias. At trial, the defense focuses entirely on mental illness, but in the end the accused is judged capable of discernment and hence the jury issues the death sentence.
On January 16, 1936 he is executed in the electric chair.
With this act ends the life of one of the most perverse and disturbing serial killers in history.
The figure of Albert Fish seems in all respects the earthly representation of evil. Also known as the Gray Man or the Brooklyn Vampire, his crimes and his depravities have marked entire lives and still cause terror and anguish.
A cynical and impenetrable character, who became the protagonist of frightening murders against innocent victims.