This Was Serial Killer Albert Fish's Motive

By the time authorities finally caught Albert Fish on December 13, 1934, he had earned a number of nicknames in the press — the Grey Man, the Brooklyn Vampire, Moon Maniac, and the Werewolf of Wysteria, among them — for his appetite for killing and cannibalizing children. The most famous case among them that gripped the nation for years was Fish kidnapping, killing, butchering, and cooking 10-year-old Grace Budd, before gorging on her flesh. It took the police six years and self-incriminating letters from Fish himself before they were able to catch him.

The letter [via Rare] read, in part: "I took her to an empty house in Westchester I had already picked out. When we got there, I told her to remain outside. . . . When all was ready I went to the window and called her. Then I hid in a closet until she was in the room. When she saw me all naked she began to cry and tried to run down stairs. . . . I choked her to death then cut her in small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms, cook and eat it. How sweet and tender her little a** was roasted in the oven."

The chilling letters and a confession from Fish led police to the abandoned Westchester house, where they not only found the remains of Grace Budd, but also several other children.

What was the motive for Albert Fish's crimes?

It might be nearly impossible to fathom what could possibly constitute as motivation for something so depraved as the murder and consumption of children. But the police listed sexual gratification as Albert Fish's motive. During his 10-day trial, Fish pleaded insanity, and he claimed to have heard voices. Among them, he said, was God's voice telling him to kill children, according to All That's Interesting. A number of psychiatrists provided testimony on Fish's mental state and his sexual fetishes, which included sadomasochism, pedophilia, necrophilia, cannibalism, infibulation, coprophagia and urophilia — a combination that made him an outlier according to psychiatrists at the time.

Fredric Wertham, the defense's chief psychiatric witness, who readily agreed Fish was insane, offered a different explanation on motive. He posited that Fish's obsession with religion — and the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac — explained much about his transgressions, as chronicled in the book, Albert Fish in His Own Words. Wertham said that, in Fish's twisted mind, "sacrificing" a child would be penance for his own sins and angels would prevent him from doing it, if God did not approve. Wertham further argued that Fish associated cannibalism with communion, according to Harold Schecter's book, Deranged

The jury agreed with the insanity plea, but determined he should be executed, nonetheless. On January 16, 1936, at Sing Sing prison, Albert Fish was executed by electric chair. History.com noted Fish was perversely excited by what was to transpire, calling it "the supreme thrill."