Wednesday, April 4, 2007

This "Fish" Sure Ain't Abe Vigoda

It’s funny how history is often regarded as a string of highlights, with the spaces in-between largely going unspoken for.

Camp Douglas is a prime example, a Union Civil War prison camp (based in Chicago) which housed Confederate POWs in awful conditions said to rival that of another notorious hellhole: Andersonville, Georgia. Yet though stories of that prison are well-known, few know about Camp Douglas, the former site of which is marked only by a small monument.

Honestly, it’s not unreasonable that public schools and colleges teach history like this, as truly hitting all beats from start to finish would take too long to manage, much less learn.

Yet it’s in these little gaps where real history often lives in all its gory detail.

This said, from a little-known corner of America’s past comes the ghoulish story of Albert Fish (1870-1936), a murderer and cannibal who also molested over 100 children in Depression-era New York, and the subject of a new film by Jon Borowski whose previous effort focused on Chicago serial killer H.H. Holmes (of “Devil in The White City” fame).

Quite frankly, I’d prefer not to go into detail surrounding Fish’s crimes, one aspect of which involves him brutally murdering at least one child. But the good news, I suppose, is that he was finally caught by NYPD (via a tip letter) and jailed until his execution in 1936.

Today, Albert Fish would doubtless be confined to a secure mental hospital, as by all accounts of his behavior, he was certifiably insane.

It’s one thing when fictional serial killers like Hannibal Lector perform their grisly deeds on-screen, because despite his actions, we know he’s not a real person. But when we read about actual psychopaths like Fish, Holmes, and Ed Gein (as horribly fascinating as their crimes may be), the gravity of their actions seems to hit home all the more to those who finally read about them.

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