For over a century, the Stiles family has been plagued by a strange physical condition known as ectrodactyly. This rare congenital deformity causes their hands to appear like lobster claws, with the middle fingers either missing or fused to the thumb and pinky. This condition has been passed down through the generations.
Despite being viewed by some as victims of fate due to their handicaps, the Stiles family saw their condition as an opportunity. As early as the 1800s, as the family grew and produced more children with unusual hands and feet, they started a circus with freak shows called "The Lobster Family," which became a popular carnival attraction throughout the early 20th century.
Ectrodactyly – The Medical Condition That Affected The Lobster Family
Ectrodactyly, also known as split hand or cleft hand, gets its name from the Greek words "ektroma-daktylos," which literally means "abortion-finger." This deformity is a rare genetic condition in which the fingers and toes are fused together to form claw-like extremities. It is characterized by the deficiency or absence of one or more central digits of the hand or foot and is also known as split hand and split foot malformation (SHFM).
Grady Stiles – The Lobster Boy
Grady Franklin Stiles Jr., also known as Grady Stiles, was born on June 26, 1937, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His deformity made him well-suited for the family circus and he later worked as a freak show performer in the United States. While many members of the Stiles family had this deformity, Grady Stiles is widely known as "Lobster Boy," perhaps due to his notoriety as both a murderer and a murder victim.
Family History Of The Lobster Boy
According to Grady Stiles' father, the Stiles family had a long history of ectrodactyly dating back to 1840. Grady was the fourth in a line of family members born with this condition, beginning with the birth of William Stiles in 1805. When Grady was born, his father was a sideshow attraction in a traveling carnival and added his son to the act at the age of seven.
Grady Stiles was married twice and had four children, two of whom also had ectrodactyly. The Stiles family, including Grady and his two children with the condition, toured together as "The Lobster Family." When not traveling with the carnival, the Stiles family lived in Gibsonton, Florida, a popular location for carnival performers to spend the winter season.
A Murderer Turned Into A Murder Victim
Grady Stiles was an alcoholic and abusive toward his family. Because of his ectrodactyly, he was unable to walk and primarily used his hands and arms for movement. He developed significant upper body strength, which, when combined with his volatile temper and alcoholism, made him a danger to others. He often used a wheelchair but could also move around on his own using his hands and arms.
In 1978, Grady Stiles shot and killed his oldest daughter's fiance on the eve of their wedding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was brought to trial and openly confessed to the murder, leading to a conviction for third-degree murder.
However, because no state institutions were equipped to care for an inmate with ectrodactyly, Grady was not sent to prison but instead was sentenced to house arrest and 15 years of probation. After this incident, Grady stopped drinking and remarried his first wife, Mary Teresa.
Unfortunately, Grady began drinking again and his family claimed that he became even more abusive. In 1992, Teresa and her son from a previous marriage, Harry Glenn Newman Jr., hired a 17-year-old sideshow performer named Chris Wyant to kill Grady for $1,500. Chris carried out the murder on November 29, 1992, in Gibsonton, Florida.
Chris was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Harry Newman was given life in prison for his role in the plot, and Teresa was given 43 years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder. Teresa claimed that she had to do it for the safety of her family.
Grady Stiles III, the son of Grady Stiles, disputes the claim that Teresa had his father murdered. According to Grady III, his father and stepmother, Teresa, were arguing and Teresa said, "Something needs to be done." Teresa's son overheard the argument and told a neighbor about it.
Shortly after, as Grady Stiles was smoking and watching TV on the couch, the neighbor entered his home with a semi-automatic pistol and shot him three times in the head, killing him. Grady Stiles was so disliked in the local community that only 10 people attended his funeral, and nobody volunteered to be a pallbearer for his coffin.
The Burial Site Of Grady Stiles – The Lobster Boy
There has been some disagreement over the final resting place of Grady Stiles, also known as the Lobster Boy. However, all indications point to him being buried in Showman Rest Cemetery in Tampa, Florida, while others say he rests in Sunset Memory Gardens in Thonotosassa, Hillsborough County, Florida.