The Disturbing Truth Of What Was Found In Albert Fish's X-Ray

Albert Fish, known as both "The Gray Man" and the "Werewolf of Wisteria," is a serial killer who was arrested for the murder of young Grace Budd on December 13, 1934 (via Murderpedia). The details of the horrific murder and cannibalism of Fish's 10-year-old victim were outlined in a letter that Fish himself penned and sent to Budd's mother. Budd, who had been missing since 1928, left her home with a man who promised her that he was taking her to his niece's birthday party. As her body had never been discovered, she was still considered possibly alive until the day her mother opened the mail. 

In the letter, Fish led with his desire to eat his young victim upon first sight. He described how he lured Budd into an abandoned house, where he beat and strangled her. The letter continued to outline in lurid detail how he used a saw and cleaver to dismember her body and how it took him nine days to eat her body. The stationery Fish used eventually led to his arrest. Investigators tracked him down to a boarding house in New York City, where he was apprehended while drinking a cup of tea. During his interrogation, Fish admitted to torturing countless victims using a variety of methods, including shoving pins and needles into their bodies. When questioned by the court-appointed psychiatrist, Fish even admitted to doing this to himself.

Needles and pins

Dr. Fredric Wertham wasn't sure whether or not to believe everything that Albert Fish was telling him. Along with vague confessions to the murders of hundreds of victims across the northeastern United States, Fish claimed that he had inserted dozen of needles and pins into his body — between his rectum and scrotum — and left them there. He went on to explain that he took pleasure in inserting and removing these objects from his body. After doing this for a period of time, Fish began to insert them too far into his body to be retrieved. Wertham decided that an X-ray would be the best way to determine if Fish was telling the truth.

The results of the X-ray were astonishing. As it turns out, Fish was at least telling the truth about his masochistic tendencies. Inside Fish's body, the X-ray showed that there were nearly 30 pins and sewing needles in his pelvic region. Fish claimed that he liked pain, no matter where, how, or upon who it was administered (via Murderpedia).

He didn't stop at needles

According to All That's Interesting, Fish's perverse gratifications were rooted in his deeply troubled childhood. After his elderly father's death, his mother was unable to care for him and sent the young boy to an orphanage. There, Fish and the other children were frequently beaten and abused. Unlike the others, he found that he savored the beatings (via Serial Killer Shop). Although his mother eventually took him out of the orphanage, Fish's fate was sealed. He later began to eat urine and feces. Eventually, this transformed into Fish torturing himself. He was said to have enjoyed beating himself with a nail-studded paddle.

In fact, Ranker reports that his son, Albert Fish Jr. allegedly witnessed Fish using this nail paddle on one occasion. After observing this behavior Fish Jr. stated that "... I've never wanted anything to do with him and I'll not lift a hand to help him" (per Serial Killer Calendar). Furthermore, Fish asked others, including children, to use the nail paddle on him. His self-mutilation only kept escalating. It's believed that Fish would insert a wool cloth with lighter fluid into his anus before setting it on fire. Fish Jr. later said he was not shocked when his father was arrested.

Albert Fish on trial

Following a lengthy trial, Albert Fish was found to be legally sane. While Dr. Fredric Wertham and two other psychiatric professionals argued that Fish experienced severe delusions and was clinically insane, the court sided with the prosecution's psychiatric experts, who determined that Fish was legally sane and responsible for his own actions (via Murderpedia). This determination led to the court rendering a verdict of guilty. Fish was sentenced to die by electric chair, an act that was carried out in Sing Sing prison on January 16, 1936, by the state of New York (via Investigation Discovery). 

After Fish was executed, he was tied to the murders of two other juveniles. Later evidence showed that Fish strangled 8-year-old Francis McDonnell to death and murdered and cannibalized 4-year-old Billy Gaffney several years before being arrested for Grace Budd's murder. While Fish claimed to have killed a child in every state, no other victims have been directly tied to him, although experts have always thought he was sure to have had others in his lifetime.