Albert Fish, the Werewolf of Wisteria

By | January 17, 2019

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Albert Fish. Source: (

One of the oldest men to be executed in the electric chair, Albert Fish earned many nicknames including the Gray Man, the Boogeyman, and the Werewolf of Wysteria. He has also been referred to as “a real-life Hannibal Lector.” Despite his grandfatherly demeanor, Fish was a cannibalistic serial killer and child molester who preyed on children in the early 1900s.

Born on May 19, 1870, as Hamilton Howard Fish in Washington, D.C., Fish was no stranger to mental illness. His mother experienced hallucinations and at least two members of his family died while institutionalized. Due to his mother’s instability, he was sent to St. John’s Orphanage, where he was humiliated and abused by his teachers. He eventually changed his name to Albert to avoid being mocked by schoolmates.

In 1898, Fish married Anna Mary Hoffman, with whom he had six children. His psychotic behavior began after she left him for a handyman named John Straube. She later returned but brought Straube with her, sneaking him into the attic when Fish refused to let him stay. Once Fish discovered Straube living in the attic, he insisted he leave and Mary left with him. After their departure, Fish took his children to live at Wisteria Cottage in Westchester County, New York where he began self-mutilating, inserting needles into himself, and asking children to paddle him. His children claimed he’d eat large amounts of raw meat during the full moon. 

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Newspaper Coverage of Billy Gaffney’s murder. Source: (

Fish confessed to dozens of murders but only three of his victims are known. The first was an eight-year-old boy named Francis McDonnell, reported missing on July 14, 1924. Witnesses saw him walking off with a man with a gray mustache. Francis was later found hanging from a tree, having been strangled with his suspenders, with the flesh stripped from one of his legs. According to Fish’s confession, the body had been spared further mutilation only because someone had shown up, forcing him to flee to avoid discovery.

His second victim, four-year-old Billy Gaffney, was murdered on February 11, 1927. According to the friends who were with Billy just before he disappeared, “the bogeyman took him.” The primary suspect at the time was another serial killer named Peter Kudzinowski; however, after Fish’s photo appeared in a newspaper, he was identified by a witness who had seen him with a child resembling Billy on the day he disappeared. Fish later confessed to the crime, but Billy’s body was never recovered.