Albert Fish made up his mind to kill Grace Budd the moment she sat on his lap.
He had answered an ad placed in the New York World newspaper that read, “Young man, 18, wishes position in country. Edward Budd, 406 West 15th Street.” Upon paying a visit to Edward and his family on May 28th, 1928, he introduced himself as a farmer named Frank Howard. Operating under the pretense of hiring Edward to work on his farm, Fish’s true motivations were anything but pure. In reality, he planned to get the boy far away from his family, tie him up, and mutilate him. But when he returned for his second a visit the following week, he met Edward’s sister Grace and knew he must have her.
Grace Budd was, by all accounts, a well-mannered and sweet 10 year old girl. She had just returned home from church that Sunday morning to the visitor at her home. Eager to trust the grandfatherly-looking, meek old man, she spoke to him, sat on his lap, and played with his money. She even kissed him for being so nice and friendly towards her. It didn’t seem like such a bad idea, then, when “Mr. Howard” asked if she would like to attend his niece’s birthday party with him a short drive away. She thought it was a lovely idea. Her parents weren’t so keen on it, but seeing as how Mr. Howard would be employing their older son, and Grace seemed so taken with him, they finally relented. It would be the biggest mistake of their lives. They would never see Grace again.
They began to grow concerned later that evening when she wasn’t home by the time promised. Police were called, but because Fish’s true identity was unknown at the time, and the details they had were scarce, the investigation quickly hit a dead end. Over two years later, however, police did eventually arrest one man, Charles Edward Pope, based mostly on the evidence that his estranged wife believed him to be the child’s kidnapper. After spending over 100 days in jail, Pope was found not guilty at trial, a victim of police tunnel vision in an effort to solve a sensational case.
In fact, what happened to little Grace Budd was known to only one person, her true abductor, Albert Fish. The details were made clear when, some six and a half years later, Fish wrote a letter to her mother detailing Grace’s horrific fate. Reproduced here are the relevant parts of that letter. It is not for the squeamish:
“My dear Mrs. Budd,
…On Sunday June the 3 – 1928 I called on you at 406 W 15 St. Brought you pot cheese – strawberries. We had lunch. Grace sat in my lap and kissed me. I made up my mind to eat her, on the pretense of taking her to a party. You said Yes she could go. I took her to an empty house in Westchester I had already picked out. When we got there, I told her to remain outside. She picked wild flowers. I went upstairs and stripped all my clothes off. I knew if I did not I would get her blood on them. When all was ready I went to the window and called her. Then I hid in a closet until she was in the room. When she saw me all naked she began to cry and tried to run down stairs. I grabbed her and she said she would tell her mama. First I stripped her naked. How she did kick – bite and scratch. I choked her to death then cut her in small pieces so I could take my meat to my rooms, cook and eat it. How sweet and tender her little ass was roasted in the oven. It took me 9 days to eat her entire body. I did not fuck her, though, I could of had I wished. She died a virgin.”
Albert Fish was arrested when the envelope he used to send the letter was traced to a rooming house he had recently checked out of. He went on trial in March of 1935 where the extent of his perversions became public record. Psychiatrists testified to his sadism, masochism, as well as how he drank urine and ate feces. Perhaps even more strange was his desire to pierce sensitive parts of his anatomy with needles. An X-ray of Fish’s pelvis and perineum, used as evidence during his trial, showed more than 24 needles he had embedded in himself. He was also obsessed with religion, particularly the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac, and apparently believed that sacrificing a child would absolve him of sins.
Fish was convicted and ultimately executed the following January in the electric chair at Sing Sing. His last words were reported to be “I don’t even know why I’m here.”
Map A Murder:
The “empty house” that Albert Fish took Grace Budd to cook and eat her was called Wisteria Cottage, and was located behind a home that, in the 1930s, was known as Wisteria House. Though the cottage itself was torn down, the house it sat behind still exists, and is located at 379 Mountain Road in Irvington, New York. Here is your virtual window into the scene, where you can peek around and still get a decent view of the property where this ghastly murder occurred.