Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Albert Fish

Without A Trace

The worst thing that Police Lieutenant Samuel Dribben said to the Budds was that the address that "Frank Howard" had given them for his sister's apartment was fictitious. The kindly old man was a fraud. There was no Frank Howard, no farm in Farmingdale, Long Island. None of it was true.


Police began the normal investigative activities. They checked out everything "Frank Howard" had told the Budds. They also had the Budds go through their "rogue's gallery" of photos and checked on all the known child molesters, mental patients, etc. It came to nothing. No trace of Gracie.

On June 7, New York police mailed out 1,000 fliers to police stations throughout the country with a photo of Gracie and a description of Mr. "Howard." This activity, along with all the local publicity, guaranteed an epidemic of Gracie sightings and crank letters, each of which had to be thoroughly investigated by the 20 plus detectives who had been assigned to the case.

There were a couple of solid clues. Police found the Western Union office in Manhattan from which "Frank Howard" had sent his message to the Budds, plus the original handwritten message. From the writing and grammar, it was clear that "Howard" had some education and refinement. Police also located the pushcart where "Howard" had bought the pot cheese that he had given to the Budds. Both addresses were in East Harlem, which then became a focal point of intense search and investigation.


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