In 1917, Albert suffered a gut-wrenching loss: His wife left him and their six children. This emotional upheaval set in motion Fish’s dark side. Without the stability of a caring wife and family, his fascination with pain and suffering turned into a series of child murders.
A Barren Home
Albert stood in the doorway to his home. A home he and Anna shared for the last 17 years with their children.
It was barren now. The sofa Anna laid on while reading her romance novels, gone. The coffee table John, Gertrude and Henry would eat breakfast on, gone. The lamp Albert’s mother gave the couple on their wedding day, gone.
There was nothing. Nothing but a handwritten letter from Anna. Her penmanship had big loops for Js, Gs and As. All in the names of the children she just left.
Albert read over the letter, tripping over some words. He never read well and had a difficult time spelling. His mind didn’t understand why some words aren’t spelled the way they sound.
She explained why she had to leave. Those words hurt Albert. Words like “odd,” “weird,”and “strange,” but one word stabbed him in the heart.
It was love.
But it wasn’t in regard to Albert. It was for John Straube, a boarder in the house. A man who helped with repairs around town. A man with a less-than-desirable background.
Albert seethed, his hands clenched and shredded the letter. Its bits flew into the empty living room like confetti. He stomped up the stairs to his and Anna’s bedroom.
There was only the bed left inside. The dresser where Anna kept her makeup and hairbrush, gone. The chest Albert received from his father’s will, gone. The mirror Albert bought Anna after she gave birth to John, gone.
Albert’s rage grew. His face turned red, veins bulged on his temples, and his eyes narrowed, creating ravines from laugh lines. A darkness crept over his mind. He wanted to hurt. Hurt someone, anyone or anything. It didn’t matter what it was. It just needed to suffer and bleed.
He lifted the mattress and reached under. Albert pulled out a wood paddle with rows of bent carpenter’s nails. This paddle had saved Albert’s loved ones time and again. When the darkness came, the smack and piercing from the paddle released his evil. The pain eased his urges. Urges that involved killing his children.
Albert dropped his pants and underwear to the wood floor, bent over and swung the paddle down on the back of his lanky thighs. The nails met his flesh with a thwack and punctured his skin. Tiny raspberries of bruising formed, then blood streamed down his legs.
He swung again and again. Each hit bringing more joy, releasing the darkness bit by bit, blow by blow.
The door creaked now. Little Gertrude stood in the doorway, her hair in ponytails with baby blue ribbons, and her green eyes wide and fixed on her naked, bleeding father.
Albert turned to Gertrude and handed her the blood-covered paddle.
“If you love your daddy,” he said in a calm, soothing voice.
Single Father, Six Kids
In 1917, Fish’s wife, Anna Mary left him and took most of the family’s belongings with her. She was having an affair with a boarder at the family’s home. His name was John Straube.
Anna became concerned about Albert’s increasing eccentricities, namely self-masochism. You see, Albert would beat himself with a nail-lined paddle and pushed pins into his groin and abdomen. He would also ‘hear’ Christ and the Apostles speaking to him. In this regard, Albert inherited his mother’s mental illness.
Now, Albert had to raise 6 children on his own. Anna did return to the house at some point. Some historical reports say that was 6 months after she left Albert. He let her stay at the house, even after her affair, but without Straube. Anna agreed, but lied to Albert. You see, Anna let Straube live in the attic. Once Albert found out, he said she could still live there, but Straube had to go.
Anna chose Straube and never returned.
In the next chapter, Fish develops his “Implements from Hell” and lures innocents to his death trap.
Unleashing the Boogeyman
Albert tried to control his dark side while married to Anna and raising his children. But he became unravelled after Anna left him.
He began to self-mutilate more and more. Flogging himself. Beating himself with a paddle. Shoving pins into his groin. He had even begun to eat raw meat, a precursor to cannibalism, and have his children punish him. Anything to stop him from hurting them.
This masochism continued for 2 years until he couldn’t control it any more. Fish began to murder children in 1919.
While historians don’t know how many children and teens he killed, they do know he stabbed a mentally-disabled child in Washington, DC while he travelled for work during the summer of 1919. This boy was Albert’s first attempt at child murder.
Fish targeted mentally-ill teens, African-American children, and kids who suffered from intellectual disabilities. Society didn’t care, nor track, these poor souls. They were easy to find, kill and dump.
Albert even recruited other children to bring him victims.
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No author. “Albert Fish, serial killer & cannibal: Inside the grisly 1928 murder of Grace Budd,” New York Daily News, Tribune Publishing, various dates: 1934-1936, https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/1928-murder-grace-budd-albert-fish-gallery-1.1277430.