Grady Stiles Jr. (June 26, 1937 November 29, 1992) was a freak show performer who was given the stage name “lobster boy”. Stiles suffered from a rare congenital deformity called ectrodactyly.
Ectrodactyly (which is also known as split hand, cleft hand, and split hand/split foot malformation) can occur in both the hands and feet. People who suffer with this condition will have a deficiency or an absence of at least one center digit of the hand or foot. In some cases, the extremities (hands or feet) may only have a thumb and just a single finger that is present. Depending on the severity of the condition, the deformity may actually make the hand or foot the look like a lobster’s claw.
The Lobster Family
The history of ectrodactyly goes way back for the Stiles family. It all started in 1805 with the birth of William Stiles. Grady was the sixth in line, and the condition was passed on. Two of his four children also inherited the condition. The extremely rare abnormality is what gave Stiles and his two children employment in the sideshow business. They toured together as The Lobster Family.
Stiles’ father was a popular sideshow attraction in a traveling carnival. At the young age of seven, Grady started working in the sideshow business. His father decided he would be a great addition to the act. His father certainly made a good move because for decades, Stiles was one of the most popular sideshow acts in the entire carnival. On stage, he not only provided entertainment for all of his fans, but he also had a very charming personality.
Of course, many people were fascinated with Stiles’ abnormality. He would often answer many curious questions from his audience such as “How do you go to the bathroom?” He was not just charming to his audience, but also to women. Despite dealing with a rare deformity, he had no trouble finding a date. You can say that his disability became his ability to charm women. He would often show off his deformity, and would also brag about his success and popularity in the carnival business. Stiles’ wife was Mary Teresa, who was also a magician’s assistant. Her stage name was “Blade Box Girl”.
The Real Grady Stiles
Grady Stiles may have been a charming guy to his fans, but to his family, he was hated (to say the least). He was a mean drunk who would often abuse his family. Although he was unable to walk and would mostly use a wheelchair to get around, since he would use his hands and arms for locomotion, his upper body strength was extremely powerful. If you combine a hot-tempered man, some alcohol, and incredible upper body strength, you have someone who can be extremely dangerous to others.
The Murder Of Stiles’ Oldest Daughter’s Fiance
Stiles was not just a mean and abusive drunk, but also a sociopath. He also wanted to rule over his entire family. In 1978 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Stiles wanted to meet with his daughter’s fiance. However, he only wanted to meet with him in private. When his daughter’s fiance met up with Stiles, the man had no idea what was coming for him. Instead of allowing him to marry his daughter, Stiles shot him twice in the chest. Sadly, the man died on the eve of his wedding.
How Stiles Got Away With Murder
The reason Stiles shot and killed the man is because he posed a threat to his authority and also his rule over his daughter and the rest of the family. Grady was charged with first-degree murder. However, he claimed that he killed him in self defense. Although Lobster Boy confessed to the murder, he convinced a jury to let him off with just a verdict of manslaughter. He was not even sent to prison because no state institution was equipped to care for an inmate who had the rare condition called ectrodactyly. Then, he somehow convinced a judge to only give him fifteen years probation. Grady basically got a way with murder and was proud of it. Amazingly, he was let go and went back to the carnival business.
The Murder Of Stiles
In late November of 1992, Stiles was murdered. He was shot 4 times at close range. Stiles was dead by the time the police arrived. Since there were no witnesses, police had no idea of who wanted to kill Grady Stiles. However, they were not aware that many wanted him dead.
Below is a list of the potential suspects police questioned in the investigation.
Suspect #1 Gorilla Girl (Grady’s oldest daughter)
Suspect #2 Midget Man (a performer in the carnival)
Suspect #3 Blade Box Girl (Grady’s wife)
Suspect #4 Blockhead (a performer in the carnival)
Police were very suspicious of Stiles’ daughter. After all, her father murdered her fiance who she loved dearly. However, after further investigation, there was no evidence to support her involvement. She was cleared of murder. Although police had questioned two out of the four possible suspects on their list, which were eventually cleared of murder, they still had two more people to question.
Mary Teresa (Grady’s wife) certainly had a motive to murder Stiles. She had put up with many years of his physical and mental abuse. Teresa finally decided she had enough. Harry Glenn Newman Jr. (Block Head) was Teresa’s son from a previous marriage. Like many others, he was also physically abused for years by Stiles. He was also mentally abused as Stiles would often belittle him and also brag that he could never be as famous and well-liked as him.
Teresa had asked Newman to hire a hitman to kill Stiles for a total of $1,500. After police had questioned Newman, he eventually admitted to playing a part in the murder. However, he also claimed that he did not act alone. Newman said he was not the man who pulled the trigger.
Chris Wyant was a 17-year-old sideshow performer who was also the man hired to murder Stiles. He was convicted of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 27 years in prison. Mary Teresa was sentenced to 12 years for her role in the murder. Harry Newman refused a plea deal that would have given him only 12 years in prison. Instead, he chose a trial. Unfortunately, for Newman, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his role as the mastermind.
For decades, Stiles had entertained many people who flocked to see him. To this day, many would argue that he is still one of the greatest sideshow acts of all time. However, although he may have been an excellent entertainer, little did his fans know how terrible of a man he really was. Of course, he didn’t deserve to be murdered just because he was a mean and abusive person.
Grady Stiles use his disability to his advantage his whole life. Although his condition may have helped him get away with murder, it didn’t prevent him from being murdered. For the man better known as “Lobster Boy”, on November 29, of 1992, his career and life would come to an end.