Warning: The Real Demons series is a collection of explicit stories about some of the most extreme crimes I’ve come across. These stories involve highly taboo subjects, and after much consideration, I’ve decided to keep details I initially felt were too severe to include. Thus, the stories are deeply disturbing – and, of course, all true. If you’re not fully comfortable with this, avoid the whole series.
Recent history is littered with serial killers who paved such a trail of bloodshed and destruction that their crimes are remembered even today. Some, like Jack the Ripper and Ted Bundy, became household names, while others, like Albert Fish, were relatively forgotten. I’ve read about a fair few of them over the years, and to put it simply, Albert Fish is among those I’d describe as the worst of the worst. Fish started molesting and raping children as a teenager in the late 1800s, and this worsened over the years. However, due to the lack of information about these earlier incidents, we’ll have to begin around 1910. It’s worth mentioning that what we do know of Fish’s crimes came from his own confession around 25 years later.
THOMAS KEDDEN, 19
Fish was around 40 years old when he met Thomas Kedden, 19, in Wilmington, Delaware. Kedden had some sort of intellectual disability and had run away from home with no money, so Fish got them some dinner and took him to where he was staying. He would later describe his time with Kedden as his ‘first sadistic overwhelming.’ Over the next ten days, Fish and Kedden engaged in a sadomasochistic sexual relationship, both taking turns to inflict pain on one another. This included father/son punishment scenarios that involved hitting each other with various objects, as well as more ‘ordinary’ acts such as fellatio and sex.
It’s unknown whether Kedden had been willing or forced; Fish described him as silly in his behaviour and easy to control like a child, which means it’s most likely that he took advantage of him in order to have someone with whom he could act out his abnormal sexual fantasies. After 10 days however, Fish desired something more; he wanted to torture Kedden and ‘hear him scream with pain.’ He took Kedden to a barn behind an abandoned farmhouse, got him to strip naked, and locked him in.
The next day, Fish returned with some thorned branches from a blackberry bush, and a couple of straps that he used to tie Kedden’s hands and feet. Fish turned him onto his front and savagely beat his buttocks with the thorned branches, often dragging it across to further rip into his bleeding wounds. He then took a knife, sliced Kedden between his buttocks, and drank his blood.
The next evening, he returned with a small hammer, needles and some candles. For five days, Kedden received nothing but water and whippings. Fish eventually brought the starving boy some sandwiches and coffee, though he wasn’t allowed to eat it until he’d eaten his own faeces. He continued to mutilate Kedden’s buttocks, this time by inserting a whole package of needles into his buttocks, one by one, before doing the same to his genitals; one through his penis and one between his scrotum. He then left the boy like that and went home.
During the five weeks that Kedden was held captive and tortured, Fish deliberately fed him just once a day to keep him weak. Starved and desperate, Kedden would often resort to eating his own faeces. When Fish returned the next day, he pulled out all the needles he’d inserted into Kedden’s buttocks and genitals, the latter of which bled until it turned blue. After letting him rest for a while, Fish woke Kedden up by stabbing him in the stomach with a long needle. He spent the whole day torturing him by whipping and cutting him, and took it even further by pouring alcohol on Kedden’s buttocks and genitals, and setting them alight. Fish later openly admitted to clapping his hands and jumping with joy at the sound of Kedden’s agonised screams.
The torture continued until Fish was worn out, at which point he defecated on Kedden and made him eat it. The roles changed after that, as he wanted Kedden to do all the same to him. Fish was whipped, cut and burned on his buttocks, getting a big thrill out of the pain. He claimed that he and Kedden had eaten over 4.5kg of faeces and drunk gallons of urine (which he referred to, respectively, as ‘peanut butter’ and ‘cider’) during those five weeks.
In the end, Fish had intended to kill and eat Kedden, but he thought it was too risky as the body would smell in the hot weather. Instead, he used a knife to slice off half of Kedden’s penis, before pouring cold water and peroxide on the wound, and bandaging it. Fish then untied him, gave him ten dollars, and left for good. He never knew what happened to the boy.
After Kedden, Fish continued preying on children, most of whom were black or had mental disabilities, as he thought the police wouldn’t spend much time looking for them. He’d bribe the children with money or candy, kidnap them, and take them to a location where he’d slowly torture and kill them. His desire to kill intensified as he got older, resulting in an escalation of attacks on children. As a housepainter who travelled around, he claimed to have lived in twenty-three states, and killed at least one child in each state.
In the late 1910s, when Fish was approaching 50 years old, his indulgence in self-harm became more prevalent. He began embedding needles into his stomach and groin, especially behind the scrotum, he’d hit himself with a nail-studded paddle, and he’d insert wool soaked with lighter fluid into his anus and set it alight. His obsession with cannibalism also grew.
FRANCIS MCDONNELL, 8
Although Fish had been preying on children for many years prior, Francis is the earliest definite victim we know of. In the afternoon of 14th July 1924, in Staten Island, New York, Francis was out with his younger brother, Albert, playing with the neighbourhood kids when the group noticed a shabby old man standing nearby, beckoning to them. Needless to say, the old man was Albert Fish. Francis went over to him while the others continued their game. It was the last time they’d ever see him. Within a few moments, Francis and Fish were gone.
At around 4.30pm, Francis was last seen alive by a neighbour who’d noticed him walking into the local woods with the same old man behind him. By dinner time, Francis still wasn’t home, and this is when Albert told his parents about the old man. Francis’s father, a policeman, went looking for him around the neighbourhood. Unable to find him, he got the police involved.
A massive search effort was conducted, and Francis’s corpse was found the next day in the same local woods, hidden under a pile of leaves and branches. His clothes below the waist had been ripped from him, and he’d been savagely tortured and sexually assaulted. His face was terribly bruised and he’d been strangled by his suspenders which were wound tightly around his neck.
BILLY GAFFNEY, 4
Billy Gaffney is the second definite victim we know of. Late in the afternoon of 11th February 1927, in Brooklyn, New York, Billy was playing with a friend, Billy Beaton, in the hallway outside his apartment. An older kid, Johnny, joined them for while, though he had to pop back home for a few minutes at one point. When he returned, both Billy’s were gone.
Johnny told Billy Beaton’s father what happened, and he went searching for the boys. He couldn’t find them anywhere, until he reached the top floor, where he found his son standing by the roof access ladder. But Billy Gaffney was nowhere to be seen. When he asked his son where the other Billy was, the boy replied, “the boogey man took him.”
Fish had snatched Billy and taken him to an isolated house. There, he stripped the boy naked, tied his hands and feet, gagged him, and then went home. Fish returned the next afternoon and whipped Billy’s buttocks until he bled. He then cut off the boy’s ears and nose, slit his mouth from ear to ear, and gouged his eyes out. He stabbed Billy in the stomach and drank his blood, before butchering his body and disposing of his head, arms, legs and feet. Fish took the rest of Billy’s body home to eat. In a confession letter to his attorney years later, Fish described in detail how he prepared and cooked Billy’s remains:
‘I had the front of his body I liked best. His monkey and pee-wees and a nice little fat behind to roast in the oven and eat. I made a stew out of his ears, nose pieces of his fact and belly. I put onions, carrots, turnips, celery, salt and pepper. It was good.
Then I split the cheeks of his behind open, cut off his monkey and pee-wees and washed them first. I put all in a roasting pan, lit the gas in the oven. Then I put strips of bacon on each cheek of his behind and put in the oven. Then I picked four onions, and when meat had been roasted about one quarter hour, I poured about a pint of water over it for gravy and put in the onions. At frequent intervals I basted his behind with a wooden spoon. So the meat would be nice and juicy.
In about two hours, it was nice and brown, cooked through. I never ate any roast turkey that tasted half as good as his sweet fat little behind did. I ate every bit of the meat in about four days. His little monkey was a sweet as a nut, but his pee-wees I could not chew. Threw them in the toilet.’
Like Francis before him, Billy’s murder was only definitely connected to Fish after his arrest in 1934. However, unlike Francis, whatever was left of Billy’s remains were never found.
GRACE BUDD, 10
On 25th May 1928, Edward Budd, 18, an able-bodied young man, put an ad in a newspaper in search of summer work in the country. A few days later, an elderly man named Frank Howard arrived at the Budds’ home in New York, looking for help with his farm in Long Island. Of course, Frank Howard was none other than Albert Fish. Satisfied with Edward, he arranged to come back in a few days to pick him up.
When Howard returned on 3rd June, Mrs. Budd invited him in for lunch as Edward was out. Howard sat with Mr. Budd and spoke more of his farm and his family. Grace Budd eventually came into the room, capturing Howard’s attention. He sat her on his knee and spoke to her, complimenting her beauty, caressing her hair and telling her she reminded him of his granddaughter.
A little while later, Howard was about to leave to go to his niece’s birthday party when an idea struck him. He told Mr. and Mrs. Budd that Grace could come to the party too, where there was lots of kids and games. He promised to have her home by nine pm. Although they were hesitant, Mr. and Mrs. Budd let her go, not wanting to offend the kindly old man who’d been so generous with them, and was a grandfather with his own family too.
Grace was dressed in her finest, and left with Howard towards a subway station. Before boarding, he retrieved a canvas bundle that he’d stashed behind a news stand earlier that day. Howard and Grace travelled on a couple of trains, until they arrived at Westchester County, NY. They walked along the countryside for a while, finally arriving at an empty, isolated house known locally as Wysteria Cottage.
Fish entered the cottage and went upstairs to the bedroom while Grace picked flowers outside. He unrolled the canvas bundle and laid out its contents; a saw, a cleaver and a double-edged knife – what he called his ‘instruments of hell.’ He then stripped naked and called Grace into the cottage. Here’s part of a letter he sent to the Budds’ years later, describing the events of that day:
'On Sunday June 3, 1928, I called on you at 406 W 15 Street. Brought you pot cheese- strawberries. We had lunch. Grace sat on 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 wildflowers. 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 downstairs. I grabbed her and she said she would tell her mamma. 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 her 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 tho I could of had I wished. She died a virgin.'
The parts of Grace that didn’t go home with Fish were scattered around the cottage and would later be discovered by investigators.
CAPTURING THE BOOGEY MAN
It took another six years after Grace’s murder before police apprehended Fish. The letter that he’d sent to Grace Budd’s mother, dated 11th November 1934, was what ultimately led to his identification. The envelope he’d used had been left by the previous tenant of the room Fish now occupied, and although it had an emblem and address on it, he’d crossed out the address quite lazily, so investigators were still able to make it out.
The letter was the first link in the chain of events that took place over the next few weeks; with the help of some witnesses and old-fashioned detective work, Fish was caught on 13th December 1934. Fish’s confession detailed acts so extreme that investigators found it hard to believe him. However, when his chief psychiatrist conducted an X-ray on him to prove whether or not he was lying about inserting needles into himself, they were surprised to find that he was telling the truth. Fish had twenty-nine needles shoved inside his pelvic region. Since this turned out to be true, it suggested that the extremely abnormal acts that he’d admitted to were also true.
Fish had always been obsessed with religion, and, like so many others throughout history, used it to justify his bloodlust. In his own words; “It seemed to me that I had to offer a child for sacrifice, to purge myself of sins, iniquities, and abominations in the sight of God.”
Fish had molested hundreds of children, and murdered at least fifteen before he was caught, though it’s likely the number of murdered was higher. There was no doubt among the jury that Fish was insane. Even so, they felt he needed to die, and sentenced him to the electric chair. He was executed on 16th January 1936, aged 65.