Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Albert Fish

"Pins and Needles"

X-ray of Fish's pelvis with needles
X-ray of Fish's pelvis with

Initially, Dr. Wertham had some concerns about whether Fish was lying to him, especially when he told the psychiatrist that he had been sticking needles into his body for years in the area between the rectum and the scrotum: "He told of doing it to other people too, especially children. At first, he said, he had only stuck these needles in and pulled them out again. Then he had stuck others in so far that he was unable to get them out, and they stayed there." The doctor had him X-rayed and sure enough, there were at least 29 needles in his pelvic region.

About the age of 55, Fish started to experience hallucinations and delusions. "He had visions of Christ and His angels... he began to be engrossed in religious speculations about purging himself of iniquities and sins, atonement by physical suffering and self-torture, human sacrifices... He would go on endlessly with quotations from the Bible all mixed up with his own sentences, such as 'Happy is he that taketh Thy little ones and dasheth their heads against the stones."

Fish believed that God had ordered him to torment and castrate little boys. He had actually done so a number of times.

Wertham was amazed as Fish described the horrible cannibalism of Billy Gaffney's body. "His state of mind while he described these things in minute detail was a peculiar mixture. He spoke in a matter-of-fact way, like a housewife describing her favorite methods of cooking... But at times his voice and facial expression indicated a kind of satisfaction and ecstatic thrill. I said to myself: However you define the medical and legal borders of sanity, this certainly is beyond that border."


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