The Grabber (The Black Phone) (2023)

The Grabber (The Black Phone) (1)

Char Aznable has declared The Grabber (The Black Phone) is to be renamed to
The Grabber

for the following reason(s): No other villain as of now is named "The Grabber".
Please discuss it on the talk page for this article.
"I told you I am not Casval, I am Char Aznable."

The Grabber (The Black Phone) (2)

The Grabber (The Black Phone) (3)

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You don't need to be scared. Because nothing bad is going to happen to you here. You got my word Johny.
~ The Grabber trying to reassure Finney Blake after abducting him.
Hang up the phone! Now!
~ The Grabber instructing Finney to hang up the phone.
Wanna see a magic trick?
~ The Grabber

Albert Shaw, better known as The Grabber, is the main antagonist of the 2022 supernatural horror film The Black Phone, which is based on the 2004 short story of the same name by Joe Hill from his 20th Century Ghosts collection.

He is a serial child abductor and killer who preyed on the boys of a Denver suburb. By the time of the film's events, the Grabber kidnaps Finney Blake, intending to keep him trapped in his basement for the rest of his life, before changing his mind later in the film and wanting to torture and kill him instead. He is the archenemy of the film's protagonist Finney Blake.

He was portrayed by Ethan Hawke, who also played Martin Asher in Taking Lives, The Fizzle Bomber in Predestination and Arthur Harrow in Moon Knight.


  • 1 History
    • 1.1 Past
    • 1.2 The Black Phone
  • 3 Gallery
  • 4 Trivia



Not much is known about the serial child murderer known as the Grabber. What is known is he lives with his drug addict brother in a Denver suburb and has a day job. For reasons unknown, the Grabber abducts young boys and imprisons them in his basement unbeknownst to his brother. He would eventually kill the boys and bury the bodies in a house across the street. He had killed a total of five children, with Finney Blake's friends Bruce and Robin being his latest victims. He seems to have the same abilities than Finney has by being able to hear the black phone too, even if he denies it, claiming it's just static electricity sparking the phone's exposed wiring.

The Black Phone

In 1978, the Grabber kidnaps Finney when he lured him into helping him after dropping his groceries. Trapping him in the basement, the Grabber, now wearing a mask, informs Finney that he won't hurt him, that nothing bad will happen to him anymore and that the black phone on the wall doesn't work when the boy tried to use it (this is later debunked by the ghost boys who confirm that he actually can hear them). While trapped, Finney receives a call from Bruce who had no recollection of his life prior to his kidnapping and untimely end. He tells Finney that there was a floor tile that he tried to dig out before being stopped by the Grabber. Finney does as he is told and covers the hole with a rug.

Sometime later, the Grabber offers Finney food and tells him that he thinks to let him go but asks him what his name was. Finney instead lies leading to the Grabber becoming enraged and angrily smashing the plate containing eggs and a soda bottle on the ground and revealing a newspaper detailing his disappearance. Showing that’s how he knows his name.

After that fails, Finney is stopped from going upstairs by another ghost child named Billy. Explaining that the Grabber deliberately leaves the door unlocked so he could beat the child to death in a game of "Naughty Boy," Billy has Finney find a chord that he tried to use to escape through the window. However, that too fails.

Finney's sister Gwen has several visions in her dreams describing the Grabber's abductions until she learns the address to what she assumed was the Grabber's lair. She then dials the police to investigate. Meanwhile, Finney receives another phone call, this time from Griffin, who explains that the Grabber took a lock from his bike and used it to lock the front door, but Griffin has written the code on one of the basement wall. He also senses that the Grabber was asleep. Finney takes advantage of this and sneaks upstairs. After unsuccessfully trying to undo the lock, Finney finally finds the combination and flees. Unfortunately, the Grabber's dog alerts its master and the Grabber sprints after the young boy. He grabs him and threatens to gut him and use his intestines to strangle the life out of him should he scream, before knock him out.

Back in the basement, Finney gets a call from a punk named Vance. Learning of a hole in the wall, Finney grabs the toilet lid and breaks his way through the wall only to realize he was trapped behind a refrigerator. Distraught, Finney has a breakdown as the phone rings again. Picking it up, he learns his friend Robin was on the other side. He comforts him and urges him to fight back so his death would not be in vain, and teaches him how to fight, as they both have a heartfelt goodbye. Finney prepares his last chance to beat the Grabber and escape, he prepares the trap and takes the phone, ripping it from the cord and fills it with the dirt he had dug out earlier.

Max, the Grabber's brother, discovers Finney and tried to help him only to be murdered by his own brother who then shifts the blame on Finney when it was the Grabber’s own choice. He comes at Finney with the ax, but Finney fights back. The Grabber stumbles into the hole that was previously covered, and he breaks his ankle and is unable to get out. An enraged Finney proceeds to hit The Grabber continuously in the neck and face with the phone, to the point where he cannot even speak properly and he just mumbles nonsense and coughs up blood. Finney continues to punt his captor in the face, before wrapping the cord around his neck and strangling him in a rage. The phone rings, Finney tells him it’s for him as the five Ghosts of the kids he murdered mock their tormentor through the phone, tormenting him and calling him pathetic. Much to his shock to both that the phone works and realization how Finney got a step a head of him all the way.

Realizing his peril, The Grabber attempts to escape Finney's grasp, but the ghosts of Bruce Yamada and Robin give Finney the confidence to stop The Grabber once and for all. Finney tightens his grip on the phone cord and yanks it, completely crushing The Grabber's neck and killing him instantly.

Cut to roughly a month later, The Grabber's body was presumably discarded of, and the town is now safe. The children's corpses are laid to rest, and Finney is greatly respected in school, finally being left alone by his bullies.


I was really starting to like you... Finney. I almost let you go.
~ The Grabber to Finney.
Now See What You Made Me Do! You made me kill my own brother! He was an idiot. But he was my idiot.
~ The Grabber after killing his brother.
The creepiest damn thing...
~ The Grabber


The Grabber's smiling mask.

The Grabber unmasked.

The Grabber after murdering his brother.

The Grabber's blank mask.

The Grabber's frowning mask.

The Grabber carrying Finney in the basement.

The Grabber at The Black Phone premier.

The Grabber sleeping after waiting for Finny to come upstairs.

The ghosts of all the child victims of The Grabber.


  • While the Grabber’s name wasn’t mentioned during the movie, his real name was revealed to be Albert in the original book
  • It is implied in the film that the Grabber may have Dissociative Identity Disorder, when Finney Blake asks if The Grabber killed any of his kidnapping victims, he denies saying another person killed them. Another hint is that the Grabber wears a different mask every time he is seen; and has a different accent for every scene he is in.
  • The Black Phone came out on the same year as Hawke’s other villain role in the TV series Moon Knight.
  • The Grabber's appearance in the movie is very different from the novel one, becoming a tall, pale, masked man in the movie instead of a fat, grotesque, bald man clearly inspired by John Wayne Gacy.
  • While The Grabber's motivation is never revealed, it was theorized by the creators that his mental instability and the game of "Naughty Boy" come from childhood abuse of his father making him play the same game and that the Grabber is trying to re-live these memories in a routine-type way to invoke nostalgia. Some evidence to support this theory is:
    • The Grabber claims that the phone hasn't worked since he was a boy, possibly relating to his childhood trauma and trying to re-live that experience.
    • While the film takes place in the 1970s, The Grabber performs a 40s-esc magic routine which is possibly another way to re-live the experience.
    • The Grabber's brother, Max, is a drug addict. It is likely that Max also suffered the same abuse and this is his way of coping compared to his brother's way.
  • The Grabber appears to have a psychological urge to keep his mask on when doing his "ritual", as when Finney ripped it off of him before killing him, The Grabber began screaming and trying to cover his face, even when he was being hit in the chest with the phone, showing that he cared much more about keeping his mask on than protecting his own life. However, in the act of kidnapping the kids and his other day-to-day activities, he is fine with his face being uncovered. This may be related to his possible Dissociative Identity Disorder.
  • He is slightly more evil in the book, since he sprayed Finney with wasp poison instead of just dragging him into his van, and even refused to give him food.
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