Released in 1960, the movie “Psycho” is loosely based on the exploits of a man named Ed Gein. The novel, by Robert Bloch, was published the year before, and Bloch was once asked why the public found Gein so fascinating.
replied, “Because they are not aware of Albert Fish.”
like myself, who are regular readers of the true crime genre,
assuredly are aware of Albert Fish, and probably know he is believed
to have killed upwards of nine people.
Fish was born in 1870, in Washington, D.C. His father was
seventy-five years old, his mother, thirty-two, and for reasons which remain
unclear, Albert Fish spent the bulk of his pre-pubescent years in an orphanage.
he was 10, Fish's mother removed him from the orphanage, and he would later recount the acts of sadism he was subjected to there.
20, Fish moved to New York City, and supported himself through prostitution. Displeased with her youngest child's lifestyle, Fish's mother arranged for him to be married. This union produced six children, none of whom, as far as we know, shared their father's predilections.
1928, Albert Fish responded to a classified ad posted by a young man
who was seeking employment; Fish told Edward Budd's family he was a farmer, and assured them a position on his farm would mean steady employment for Ed. Fish's true intention was to lure young Edward
away from the family home and slaughter him, for god only knows what reason.
then, he met Grace Budd.
age 10, Grace was the youngest of the Budd children. Fish came to
the Budd family home on a Sunday afternoon, and apparently changed
his mind about Edward after meeting Grace. He told the family he was
going to a niece's birthday party and would like to take Grace with
Budd left wearing the white dress she wore to church that morning,
and was never seen again.
years later, a letter came to the Budd home, addressed to Grace's
mother; this bizarre missive described, in detail, what was done to
Grace Budd. Suffice it to say that in addition to being a murderer, rapist and pedophile, Albert Fish also indulged in cannibalism, and
but for that letter, he might never have been caught.
1936, at Sing Sing prison, Albert Fish died in the electric chair.
In A Death in Belmont, author Sebastian Junger writes:
some ways there is nothing less relevant than an old murder case.
The reason it is important is this: Here is a group of people who
have gathered to judge—and possibly execute—a fellow citizen.
It's the highest calling there is, the very thing that separates us
from social anarchy, and it has to be done well. A trial, however,
is just a microcosm of the entire political system. When a
democratic government decides to raise taxes or wage war or write
child safety laws, it is essentially saying to an enormous jury,
“This is our theory of how the world works, and this is our
proposal for dealing with it. If our theory makes sense to you, vote
for us in the next election. If it doesn't, throw us out.” The
ability of citizens to scrutinize the theories insisted on by their
government is their only protection against abuse of power, and
ultimately, against tyranny. If ordinary citizens can't coolly and
rationally evaluate a prosecutor's summation in a criminal trial,
they won't have a chance at calling to task a deceitful government.”
To be certain, Fish's
grandfatherly demeanor was a factor in his predatory success. Nothing in his appearance made the Budd family suspect what was in store for little Grace on that otherwise normal Sunday, and the reason it is important is this.
There are people in this world who walk like you and talk like you, who eat, drink, sleep and brush their teeth like you, and the similarity between you and them, stops at those essentials; your only chance at calling them to task, in politics or in everyday life, is your ability, and your willingness, to see past the surface they present.
We fall in the direction we are
leaning, is my theory of how the world works. My proposal for dealing with it
is to simply be aware, there are more where Albert Fish came from.