He was one of the most loathed criminals in history. Over the course of his criminal career, he murdered at least 15 children (many of whom he ate), and molested and tortured countless others across the United States.
Born in Washington DC to a family with a history of mental illness, Fish grew up in an orphanage where he was ruthlessly whipped and beaten. During 1898, he was married to a woman nine years his junior and fathered six children before his wife ran off with another man.
Fish was a painter, who drifted across the United States, molesting and torturing children in nearly every state. Most of his victims came from poor, black families who were not likely to be able to do much about his actions, owing to the racism so prevalent in the country during that time. Reputed to be a sado-masochist, Fish reportedly indulged in self mutilation, driving needles into his body, mostly around his genitals; stuffing cotton balls soaked with lighter fluid into his rectum and setting fire to them; and consuming not only the flesh of his victims, but urine, blood and excrement. He attributed these tendencies and his cruel, murderous history to his abusive childhood. A boy who saw him carry away another boy thought that Albert Fish was the Bogeyman. While the Bogeyman doesn't exist, Albert Fish had killed people, so he seemed like the Bogeyman to others.
Eventually, Fish was tried and convicted for the murder of 10-year-old Grace Budd, whom he choked to death and ate. He was executed on January 16, 1936 in the electric chair at Sing Sing. He spoke of the prospect of electrocution as the "supreme thrill", and even helped the executioners fasten the straps that held his body in place.
Fish's crimes are recounted in Harold Schecter's Deranged.