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Hannibal Lecter and Albert Fish - Summary

The movie cannibal, Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), is loosely based on the real life story of Hamilton Albert Fish. Fish is an innocent looking old man, good father of six children, and a man with strange habits. Albert Fish presents himself as a grandfatherly farmer seeking a farmhand, but the truth is much darker: Albert Fish tortures and kills children, then eats parts of their bodies. Not only does he find pleasure in the suffering of others, he also practices torturing himself. Albert Fish is the product of a miserable childhood. As an adult, Fish beats himself with a nail-studded paddle and shoves needles into his body to “atone for his sins”. 

Fish’s most famous crime involves the kidnapping, torture, and murder of Gracie Budd. Fish responds to a newspaper ad for employment that Gracie’s older brother Edward places. Fish presents himself as Frank Howard, a wealthy farmer who needs a farmhand. His plan is to take Edward, until he sees Gracie, who is only 11 years old. He quickly invents a children’s birthday party for his sister’s children, and talks Gracie’s family into letting him take Gracie. Instead, Fish takes her to an empty house, Wisteria Cottage. There he murders Gracie, and then takes parts of her body home to eat. 

Many years pass before the Budd family knows what happens to Gracie. William F. King, the New York detective who works the case, refuses to give up. Hoping to draw the murderer out, he often asks the media to run stories about Gracie’s disappearance. A popular newspaper journalist, Walter Winchell, makes up a story about a break in the case and runs it in his column. Fish sees it, and writes a letter to Gracie’s family, bragging about how he has killed Gracie. 

Albert Fish makes one mistake by writing this letter. He uses an envelope that leads the police to his boarding house. Upon his return, police are waiting to arrest him. During his trial, Fish’s testimony seems unbelievable. He admits killing Gracie, but not the cannibalism. He finally admits his inhuman acts to Dr. Frederic Wertham, who is his defense psychiatrist. Dr. Wertham informs the jury of the cannibalistic acts by Albert Fish, who is the real-life model for the fictional Hannibal Lecter. 

Hoping to prove that Albert Fish is insane, Dr. Wertham and the defense talk about Fish’s acts of cannibalism. Even though the jury believes that Albert Fish is insane, they still find him guilty and think he should die in the electric chair.  Legend has it that Fish’s body causes the electric chair to short-circuit because of the needles that he has shoved into his stomach. This report is a rumor, and it is said that Fish dies “like other men."  Hannibal Lecter’s fictional crimes pale in comparison to the real-life evil of Albert Fish.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 01, 1999

Updated Last Revision: Nov 04, 2016


To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Hannibal Lecter and Albert Fish" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 01, 1999. Oct 21, 2017.
       <https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/Hannibal-Lecter-and-Albert-Fish/Summary>.
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