Hamilton Howard "Albert" Fish (May 19, 1870 – January 16, 1936) was an American serial killer. He was also known as the Gray Man, the Werewolf of Wysteria, the Brooklyn Vampire, the Moon Maniac and The Boogey Man. A child rapist and cannibal, he boasted that he "had children in every state," and at one time put the figure at around 100. However, it is not clear whether he was talking about rapes or cannibalization, less still whether he was telling the truth. He was a suspect in at least five murders in his lifetime. Fish confessed to three murders that police were able to trace to a known homicide, and he confessed to stabbing at least two other people. He was put on trial for the kidnapping and murder of Grace Budd, and was convicted and executed by electric chair.
He was born Hamilton Howard Fish in Washington, D.C. on May 19, 1870, to Ellen and Randall Fish (1795–1875). His mother was born in Ireland. He said he had been named after Hamilton Fish, a distant relative. His father was 43 years older than his mother and 75 years old at the time of his birth. Fish was the youngest child and had three living siblings: Walter, Annie, and Edwin Fish. He wished to be called "Albert" after a dead sibling and to escape the nickname "Ham & Eggs" that he was given at an orphanage in which he spent much of his childhood.
His family had a history of mental illness. His uncle suffered from religious mania. A brother was placed in the state mental hospital. His sister was diagnosed with a "mental affliction". Three other relatives were diagnosed with mental illnesses and his mother had "aural and/or visual hallucinations". His father had been a river boat captain, but by 1870 he was a fertilizer manufacturer. The elder Fish died in 1875 at the Sixth Street Station of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Washington, D.C. of a myocardial infarction. Fish's mother then put him into Saint John's Orphanage in Washington, where he was frequently treated sadistically. He began to enjoy the physical pain that the beatings brought. Of his time at the orphanage, Fish remarked, "I was there till I was nearly nine, and that's where I got started wrong. We were unmercifully whipped. I saw boys doing many things they should not have done."
By 1880, his mother had a government job and was able to remove Fish from the orphanage. In 1882, at age 12, he began a relationship with a telegraph boy. The youth introduced Fish to such practices as drinking urine and eating feces. Fish began visiting public baths where he could watch other boys undress, and spent a great portion of his weekends on these visits.
Throughout his life he would write obscene letters to women whose names he acquired from classified advertising and matrimonial agencies.
By 1890, Fish had arrived in New York City, and he said he became a male prostitute. He also said he began raping young boys, a crime he kept committing even after his mother arranged a marriage. In 1898, Fish was married to a woman nine years younger than him. They had six children: Albert, Anna, Gertrude, Eugene, John, and Henry Fish.
Throughout 1898 he worked as a house painter. He said he continued molesting children, mostly young boys under the age of six. He later recounted an incident in which a male lover took him to a waxworks museum, where Fish was fascinated by a bisection of a penis. After that he became obsessed with castration. During a relationship with a mentally retarded man, Fish attempted to castrate him after tying him up. The man's screams frightened Fish and he fled after leaving him a $10 bill. Fish then increased the frequency of his visits to brothels, where he engaged in sadomasochism. In 1903, he was arrested for embezzlement and was sentenced to incarceration in Sing Sing.
In January of 1917, Fish's wife left him for John Straube, a handyman who boarded with the Fish family. Fish then had to raise his children as a single parent.
After that he began to have auditory hallucinations. He once wrapped himself up in an area rug, saying that he was following the instructions of John the Apostle.
It was around this time that Fish began to indulge in self-harm. He would self-embed needles into his groin. After his arrest, X-rays revealed that Fish had at least 29 needles lodged in his pelvic region. He also hit himself repeatedly with a nail-studded paddle and inserted wool doused with lighter fluid into his anus and set it on fire.