Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Peculiar Tale of the Child Eating Fish


Albert sat in his room on a frigid January morning. He had become accustomed to entertaining himself with the vivid images, thoughts and memories that occupied the four corners of his mind. Some of the memories were decent, most depraved, but all of them were his property. He recalled a poverty stricken childhood filled with pain and suffering. Even now, memories of Saint John’s Orphanage were clear as a bell. Just as clear as if it all happened yesterday. The death of his father left his mother and siblings in dire straits.  As the youngest of four, he was the child forced to live at the orphanage. “They tried to break me!” Albert thought to himself.  The staff would administer ungodly beatings to the children for the slightest infraction. “They broke the other children”, Albert reminisced, “but not me, I embraced the pain.” Albert sat back and closed his eyes, not only had he embraced the pain, he fell in love with it; it would be a love affair that would endure throughout his life.
Nearly drifting into sleep, Albert was awakened by the piercing sound of his mother’s voice.  He looked around the small room then realized it was simply a dream. Albert was almost nine when his mother came and “rescued” him from the orphanage.  He then thought of the little boy he met when he was 12. The feelings he had for the telegraph boy were feelings that he had been taught were for a girl. Though these feelings initially frightened the young Albert, his suitor eased his conscience and assured him that his feelings were virtuous and that they should continue their relationship.  Albert’s young friend introduced him to urolagnia and coprophagia and taught Albert that the taste for urine and feces was an acquired one; but one that he would learn to enjoy.
Fighting off the sleepiness that was beginning to fall upon him, Albert smiled when he remembered being a young man in New York City. Unable to find employment, Albert made a living doing something he truly enjoyed, having sex with men. Unhappy with Albert’s status at that time, his mother introduced him to his would be wife. “Did I truly love her?” Albert thought to himself. The word love had become so distorted and twisted in his life that he was truthfully unsure about any emotions as they related to him. Ironically, just as his mother once did, his wife abandoned him and left Albert with six children to raise. While raising his children, Albert would attempt to teach them the joy and ecstasy of pain. He would fashion a paddle filled with nails and have the children paddle him until he bled.
Suddenly a loud noise down the hall interrupted his daydream, but Albert soon quelled his anxiety and resumed his reminiscent state of being.  As he turned the pages of his life, a malevolent spirit seemed to invade Albert.  The once pleasant atmosphere had become somber as Albert began to think about “the boys.”  Beginning in 1890, about the time he arrived in New York, Albert began having “urges.”  He could always hear the voices that would speak to him, giving him disturbing tasks to carry out. Ordinarily, he was strong enough not to relent to their power. But now, now he wanted to succumb to them. He would become a willing participant to their ungodly requests. Albert thought of all of the little boys that he had tortured and raped. Albert then stood up and walked over to the mirror on the wall. Gazing at his reflection, he formed a wry smile, “I wanted them to enjoy the pain as I did,” he whispered to himself. Having traveled across the country extensively, Albert once bragged to someone that he had children in every state. The true and horrific nature of that claim had yet to be revealed at that time
Albert looked around the room and scoffed at the peeling paint, “what a shotty job,” he thought to himself. Having been a painter himself, he was extremely critical of the work of others. Albert sat down again and thought about the children that he’d extended his special brand of caring to over the years. Unrepentant, he enjoyed memories of the pain and suffering he inflicted upon these young victims. The mere recollection of their torture sent Albert into a sexually aroused state.  He recalled his” instruments of Hell” consisting of a paddle of nails, meat cleaver and knives and how he used them on the children.  Their screams were a sheer delight to Albert; to him their cries were like the songbird in flight.
Albert stood up to look in the mirror again, staring at his reflection; he began to think of two men that greatly influenced his life. The first man was a past lover of his. On a romantic afternoon, the two had visited a waxworks museum.  Albert became fascinated by an exhibit that demonstrated the bisection of a penis; soon after, he developed a morbid interest in castration. Still gazing at his reflection, he remembered how, as a younger man, he had mastered the art of seduction. The young Albert had men at his beck & call back then. There was one man; Albert sat down, struggling to recall his name. “Kenner, Kenny no Kedden, Kedden was his name,” Albert said aloud.  Kedden was a retarded man that Albert had seduced. When he first laid eyes on Kedden, Albert had decided that he would be the one to satisfy his newly found fixation with castration. After tying up a naked Kedden, Albert began to cut around his penis. Smiling, Albert sat back on his bed, reliving the moment then suddenly; his cheerful demeanor became sullen as he remembered the look of anguish on Kedden’s face. It frightened him so that Albert administered first aid to the wound, left a $10.00 bill on Kedden’s knee and left town, never to return to St. Louis.
Albert thought of the second man as a godsend. Throughout his younger years Albert could not understand the insatiable hunger that he felt. His ravenous desires had gone undiagnosed until he ran into an old friend, Capt. John Davis. Davis would entertain Albert with tales of his adventures on the Steamer Tacoma.  Albert chose to lie down to fully relive Davis’ accounts of his exploits in China. Albert smiled as he remembered how Capt. Davis emphasized to him the state of poverty and starvation that the Chinese were going through. How the meat of children drew top dollar during the famine. He especially enjoyed the graphic description of the whipping of the children to tenderize the meat for consumption.
Albert then relived the pleasures that were derived from his encounters with these men. As he lay, hunger pains actually set in when he recounted the children he had devoured over the years. He remembered how much he enjoyed preparing the children for his meal. No longer was the whipping of the children to no avail, the whippings were now used to tenderize the children’s flesh. In his own mind the recipes he had conjured up were delectable. Utilizing his vivid imagination, he could see the faces of “his children,” as he so affectionately referred to them. Albert recalled watching Francis X. McDonnell play with the other boys. He’d been able to lure him away, sexually assault him and just when he was about ready to dismember him to take home; he heard voices and people coming. He hadn’t eaten Francis, but as he thought back now, he could visualize the possibilities. The name Billy Gaffney popped into Albert’s head. He remembered this little boy as well as the methods and efforts he used to create a fine meal of the four year old. “Little Grace,” Albert whispered to himself, as he sat down on the bed. Albert reminisced about how cute Grace Budd was. Seven years after abducting Grace, Albert wrote a horrifying letter to the Budd family detailing the kidnapping and demise of their beautiful daughter. He had actually come to the Budd home to take their son Edward, “Grace sat in my lap and kissed me. I made up my mind to eat her,” he repeated to himself a line he’d written in his letter to the Budd family. Suddenly, his mood changed from reflective to irate.  “Why did I write that letter?” Albert said while banging his head against the wall. The letter, that infuriated Albert, had been a key component in alerting the world of his depraved existence.
Albert’s once blissful demeanor had now been replaced with rage. Again he stood and looked into the mirror. This time he saw something else, he saw an imprisoned old man. His recollection of the letter he’d written to the Budd family brought him swiftly into the sobering reality of his current situation. The letter also reminded him of a face; angrily Albert spat into the toilet, not the face of a child but that of Detective William F. King. He remembered his arrest and interview at the police station. Albert vehemently denied any involvement in any kidnapping or murder. “I don’t know anything about those bones they say they’ve found. And cannibalism! The very thought sickens me,” Albert recited the testimony to himself in the exact same manner that he told police on the day of his arrest. However, due to Detective King’s tenacious questioning, Albert soon recanted and confessed, signing a full statement filled with the horrendous details.  Albert’s face took on a smug look as he recalled Detective King transcribing the declaration of guilt he provided. He remembered the officers’ look of utter disgust as he gave the account of Billy Gaffney’s death, dismemberment and consumption in full detail. Albert was no stranger to the police or to prison, however this time; there were no sexual escapades with the other men as there were on his first arrest. Absent were the nice calming doctors and comfortable hospital stays as in his second arrest. The only comforting aspect of Albert’s current predicament is that it would soon be over.
Albert continued to stare into the mirror. Raising his head and gazing into the light, Albert began to pray. He had always heard voices in his head, during his confession he admitted that everything he had done was at the command of God. Continually looking at his reflection in the mirror, he gave thanks for his frail and gentile demeanor that had given him the ability to abduct and devour children around the country. Albert told Detective King that it had been the voice of John the Baptist that led him to the 23 states that he had lived in. He also informed the detective that in each state, he had killed at least one child. Albert never returned to the same neighborhood.  Though the wickedness of his deeds knew no racial barriers, he had always been partial to Black and disabled children, reasoning that police would be less inclined to look for them. Still gazing at his likeness, Albert took note of his thick gray hair and his drooping gray moustache. While thinking of his beloved rumpled suits, he had an epiphany. The very same qualities that allowed him to ravage the children of various communities in perceived anonymity were the same characteristics people remembered to identify him at his trial. Albert’s head dropped.
As the noises of chains and voices became louder, Albert resumed his prayerful state. He spoke out loud to himself “What I did must have been right or an angel would have stopped me, just as an angel stopped Abraham in the Bible [from sacrificing his son].”  He began to hum hymns that he recalled from his youth in the orphanage. Crying, he fell to his knees and began to recite scriptures, “Happy is he that taketh Thy little ones and dasheth their heads against the stones,” he said piously. At times he would go on endlessly with quotations from the Bible all mixed up with his own sentences.
Hours passed, Albert maneuvered so that he might enjoy the excruciating pain within his hips.  During questioning he admitted that he had been sticking needles into his body for years. He had been placing them in the area between the rectum and the scrotum. At first, he said, he had only stuck these needles in and pulled them out again. In an effort to reach the next plateau of pain, he stuck others in so far that he was unable to get them out, and they stayed there.  To verify his statements, Albert was X-rayed and sure enough, there were at least twenty-nine needles in his pelvic region. The pain caused Albert to think about his children and the games that he’d taught them in their youth.  Though he had wished his children would learn to enjoy the pain as he did, he never forced it upon them. Actually, Albert had been a very fine father. He never once in his life laid a hand on one of his children. Thinking of them sent Albert into a depressed state, he whispered to himself, “I’m still worried about my children,” he sniffled. His six children ranged from age 21 to 35. “You’d think they’d come to visit their old dad in jail, but they haven’t.”
The voices in the hallway moved closer to Albert.  The rattling of the chains reminded him of the inevitable. The facial expressions of the jury were seared into Albert’s consciousness. He remembered looking at them as they listened attentively to the prosecution read the ghastly account of his alleged crimes. Ten hours of testimony was resolved in a mere half of an hour, “We find the defendant guilty as charged,” the jury foreman said. The words of Judge Frederick P. Close were deafening in his mind. ”Death by electric chair,” said Judge Close. Albert thanked the judge for his sentence; he recalled how the thought of experiencing the voltage in his body excited him. Albert enthusiastically welcomed prospect of feeling that much pain. Pain had been the only constant in Albert’s life and he was a loyal friend to it as it was to him.
As the prison cell doors opened to take Albert to his court designated appointment, he fell into a state of emotional numbness. As the officers extracted him from the cell, one of them asked him sarcastically, “are you ready to die?” Albert responded, “I have no particular desire to live. I have no particular desire to be killed. It is a matter of indifference to me.” The officers placed Albert in the chair and fastened the straps, preparing him for his final transition.  As he sat excitedly anticipating the currents that soon  would be coursing throughout his body, Albert had a thought. From this point forward, Hamilton Howard “Albert” Fish would strike fear in the hearts and minds of children for centuries to come and would forever take his place in the annals of American history as,
“The Boogeyman.”
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