During The First Gulf War in late 1990 at a dusty base on the Saudi Peninsula, I picked up a donated paperback out of a cardboard carebox full of them from the States. That musty-smelling little book changed my life by opening my eyes—not to goodness and light, but to darkness and evil.
It wasn’t a self-help book—in fact, it was anything but uplifting. The story within its faded covers was about a hideous horrible pseudo-man named Fish. For the two or three days it took me to get through it I could hardly eat. The thought that men of his ilk walk among us sickened the appetite right out of me.
The story I cringingly read was about the perverted life of Albert Fish. He was a psychopath, probably along the same lines as Ted Bundy. Their similarities were more numerous than their differences. The slick talking, good-looking Bundy bit, tortured and murdered women; while ugly Albert kidnapped, tormented and consumed children. Both were confidence men who satisfied their sick cravings through their magnetic charm and sly lies. They made people trust them, and then they betrayed that trust in the most unspeakable ways.
Even now, just the thought of Albert Fish makes me queasy. So, how did reading about this sicko change my life, and what does it have to do with the missing Madeleine? It’s obvious really. I first became a father in 1979 to a precious baby girl, and I was blessed with several more children after that. Of course, when I see pictures of little Madeleine and read of her family’s anguish I think of my OWN children. To me, lost children belong to ALL of us. WE must find them! And sadly, now that she IS missing, and for so long, I am once again reminded of Fish.
I also remember my own childhood, when I was 4. Back then, we lived in a trailer park in the middle of the woods just walking distance from Mud Lake, Maine. In 1961, I don’t think my parents had ever heard of Albert Fish, because my little sister and I pretty much wandered about and played anywhere we had a mind to. I know for certain that there were times that my mother did not know where the heck I was. But things were different back then. People were more trusting, perhaps naively so; because people like Fish have always been around, living among us, and waiting for an opportunity to strike.
After finding out about evil beings like Albert Fish, I have never looked at anyone quite the same again, especially while considering the love and responsibility I felt and feel for my own kids. My first batch of children are long grown and on their own. Just the same, Madeleine’s disappearance is very poignant to me because as I write this I have two little girls depending on me to see them through—they are 4 and 6, and I watch over them like a hawk. Admittedly, I wasn’t nearly as mindful of my “pre-Fish children,” but post-Fish, I became super-protective and super-vigilant—NO ONE is going to hurt my girls!
I know if the McCann’s could go back in time to that fateful evening, they would never have left their children in a strange house alone and unprotected. But I would never consider blaming them; because pre-Fish, I might have done something similar. It’s a hard thing to ponder—that there are sub-humans out there that would hurt our kids. Nevertheless, thanks to a book about a monster named Fish I became nauseatingly aware of them.
In 1936, Albert Fish was put to death in the electric chair at Sing Sing. Through some pretty good detective work he was arrested, put on trial and found guilty of the 1928 murder of 10-year-old Grace Budd. If you can believe it, after meeting with her parents just twice, they agreed to let her go with the grandfatherly benign-looking 58-year-old Fish, supposedly to his sister’s birthday party. They left hand-in-hand and then, nothing. She was gone forever. As far as what happened to her, what he told the police is unutterable for me.
Once sentenced to death, with nothing to lose, he described ad nauseum the life-long personal history of his attacks, killings and molestations. He was into a wide gamut of perversions, things that I never heard of; but I couldn’t care less about that. His sick fetish for torturing, killing and cannibalizing children is what turned my stomach and turned me into a whole new dad—a very very wary one.
Learning about this guy made the world a dreadfully menacing place for me, but knowing about “the dark side” of people can also be useful, if it keeps one from becoming complacent.Keep your children close, and keep praying for little Madeleine.
See also Finding Madeleine McCann