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Grady Stiles – the Lobster Boy


Grady Stiles as a teenagerGrady Franklin Stiles, Jr., born in Pittsburgh on July 18, 1937, suffered from ectrodactyly, a condition where the fingers and toes are fused together to form a crab-claw like appendage. Ectrodactyly literally means “monstrous fingers” and is generally a highly hereditary condition (as evidenced by the Stiles family) although it can occur spontaneously. Grady’s family had a long history of the condition. His father was a sideshow attraction and shortly after Grady was born, added him to the show when he was six years old and booking him as “The Lobster Boy”. Grady was married twice and had four children, two of whom were also born with ectrodactyly. The Stiles family lived in Gibsonton, Florida when not travelling (strangely, many other carnival performers also lived in Gibsonton during the winter season).

Grady could not walk and thus was confined to a wheelchair. He used his arms for movement and hence, was known to be incredibly strong. Grady was also a chronic alcoholic and reported to have abused his family (both wife and children) on many occasions. His wife Mary once recounted a story of Grady holding a butcher knife to her neck and threatening to kill her and the entire family. She also claimed he regularly beat and sexually abused her.

In 1978, Stiles shot and killed his oldest daughter’s fiancé on the eve of their wedding. He was tried and convicted of the murder but since no state institution was capable of handling a prisoner with his condition, he was given 15 years probation instead.

Grady Stiles and his daughterAfter narrowly avoiding a murder sentence, Grady became even more abusive to his family. After several years of viscous abuse, his wife decided to act. In 1992, Maria, and her son-in-law Harry Newman, hired a 19-year-old sideshow performer (who was also a neighbor in Gibsonton) named Chris Wyant to kill Stiles for $1500. Late at night, Wyant rapped on the trailer window as a warning to Grady’s wife and kids so they could leave before the murder took place. Stiles was shot three times in the head by Wyant on November 29, 1992 while watching TV in his mobile home. He was 55 years old. Maria, Newman, and Wyant were brought to trial and convicted with Mary receiving 12 years in prison and Wyant receiving a 27 years. Newman, who actually hired the hitman, received a life sentence.

Grady is buried is Showman Rest Cemetery in Tampa, Florida.

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