Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Albert Fish

The Boogey Man

Eventually, someone listened to the three-year-old witness who gave them a description of the "boogey man." He was a slender old man with gray hair and a gray moustache. The police paid no attention to the description and did not connect it to a crime that had been committed by the "Gray Man" a few years earlier.

Albert Fish, the
Albert Fish, the "Grey Man"

In July of 1924, eight-year-old Francis McDonnell played on the front porch of his home in the pastoral Charlton Woods section of Staten Island. His mother sat nearby, nursing her infant daughter when she saw a gaunt elderly man with gray hair and moustache in the middle of the street. She stared at the strange shabby old man who constantly clenched and unclenched his fists and mumbled to himself. The man tipped his dusty hat to her and disappeared down the street.

Later that afternoon, the old man was seen again watching Francis and four other boys play ball. The old man called Francis over to him. The other boys continued to play ball. A few minutes later, both the old man and Francis had disappeared. A neighbor noticed a boy that looked like Francis walking that afternoon into a wooded area with an elderly gray-haired tramp behind him.

The disappearance of Francis was not noticed until he missed dinner. His father, a policeman, organized a search. They found the boy in the woods under some branches. He had been horribly assaulted. His clothes had been torn from his body and he had been strangled with his suspenders. Francis had been beaten so badly that police doubted that the "old" tramp could have really been as old and frail as he looked. The beating was so severe that perhaps the old tramp had an accomplice who had the strength to maul the child.