GRADY STILES JR. – The Murderous Lobster Man

GRADY-STILES-The-Lobster-Boy-2

Grady Stiles Jr. is a rarity in the world of Human Marvels. By many accounts, this teratological terror was every bit the monster he appeared to be.

The Stiles family has been afflicted for over a century with ectrodactyly, a condition commonly known as ‘Lobster Claw’ syndrome. It is a rare congenital deformity of the hand where the middle digit is missing and the hand is cleft where the metacarpal of the finger should be. This split often gives the hands the appearance of lobster claws although cases range in severity. Often this condition occurs in both the hands and the feet and, while it is an inherited condition, it can skip a generation. While the term ectrodactyly sounds medically sterile when compared to ‘Lobster Claw Syndrome’.

William Stiles was apparently the first in the family to display the condition in 1805. He was followed by Jacob Stiles, Elisha Stiles and Grady Stiles Sr. Grady Sr. was a sideshow attraction and when Grady Franklin Stiles, Jr., ‘The Lobster Boy’, was born in Pittsburgh on July 18, 1937 his father added him to the show at a young age.

Grady’s condition was severe and he was unable to walk. He learned to use his hands and arms for locomotion and, as a result, developed incredible upper body strength. He married twice and had four children. Two of those children, a girl, Cathy, and a boy, Grady III, were born with variations of ectrodactyly. Although the siblings were from different mothers, they sometimes toured together as The Lobster Family.

Grady had a dark side. He was known to be a highly abusive drunk. He often used his frightening strength to beat his wives and his children. When his oldest daughter Donna fell in love and became engaged with a young man in 1978, Grady didn’t approve with her choice. Perhaps the young man stuck up for Donna, perhaps he confronted Grady. The night before the pair was to be married; Grady picked up a shotgun and murdered the young groom in cold blood.

The trial was a media circus. In court Grady openly confessed to his crime and showed little remorse. However, he did not serve any time for the murder. He used his condition to his advantage. It was stated that since the prison system was not equipped to deal with his ‘disability’, confining him to such an institution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Grady was let off on 15 years probation.

Following these events, Grady felt invincible. When he resumed beating his family one of his favourite taunts was ‘I killed before and got away with it, I can do it again’. Amazingly, during this time Stiles remarried his first wife Maria. She left her new husband, a sideshow dwarf, to remarry Grady and almost instantly regretted the choice.

Eventually, the family had had enough. On November 29, 1993 Grady was gunned down by a hired assassin. The hitman was then 19 year old sideshow performer Chris Wyant, a neighbor to the Stiles family. He was paid $1500 in cash by Maria and her stepson Harry, to put three bullets into the skull of Grady Stiles Jr.

Wyant was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to twenty-seven years. Harry was considered the mastermind behind the plot. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Maria was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to twelve years in prison.

In her defense, Maria stated ‘My husband was going to kill my family. I believe that from the bottom of my heart. I’m sorry this happened, but my family is safe now’.

The family has carried on. Grady III has a daughter, Sara, who does not have ectrodactyly. Cathy is married and has a lobster-clawed daughter named Misty. The three of them still perform on occasion. Cathy has taken up acting and has appeared in the series Carnivale and in the Tim Burton film Big Fish.

image: Grady postcard in the author’s collection. The reverse was signed by Grady himself in 1961.

For more information on medical marvels,I highly recommend Mutants by Armand Marie Leroi.

Author, researcher and an expert of the odd, J. Tithonus Pednaud has been chronicling bizarre history and highlighting the lives of those born exceeding different for over a decade.

31 Comments

  • Reply October 15, 2008

    Anonymous

    It is so tragic that he that he allowed his deformity to make him so bitter and cruel. He could have been remembered as a great over-comer, but instead he is know as a vindictive murderer.

    Thank you so much for this fantastic website. Most of these people are heros who deserve to have their stories told.

    I did notice one little typo. At the top of the page is says “I chronicle thier inspirational stories…”, their is ei not ie.

    Thanks Again!

  • Reply December 30, 2008

    weis

    My mother saw the above man in this piece, most likely, as Pittsburgh is nearby to where she saw a man called ‘lobster man’. His appearance was so shocking it scarred her for life. This would have been in the last 1940′s early 1950′s. She told me about it many yrs later and told us to always avoid sideshows at ‘carnivals’ or fairs.

  • Reply January 16, 2009

    jason kenny

    Do you know where people can get a GalileoScope?

  • Reply January 31, 2009

    MIKE PARLA

    I MET GRADY STILES IN THE LATE 1960′S. MORE THAN HIS ANOMALY, I REMEMBER HE WAS A SON OF A BITCH.

  • Reply February 21, 2009

    mark hunter

    my name is mark an i liv ein Australia i was born with the same thing , but i would,nt think of being that way to other people , i just try my best to get by each day in my life though .. i do have the trouble of young ladies not wishing to be my partner though cause of how i was born nothing new about that though .

  • Reply March 5, 2009

    Lexie Jones

    Awww Mark! I bet you’re very handsome. (Especially with that Aussie accent!)) Don’t worry about women- your difference makes you even more handsome and someday a woman will recognize that and love you more than you can imagine.

    It’s sad that people let their differences hurt them and make them bitter when really, it’s a wonderful, beautiful thing. And people are so mean to people with differences- it’s horrible.
    Stiles shouldn’t have done what he did. Hurting people because people hurt him… he must have been a scared, sad person.

    -Kisses to Mark! ^_~
    Stay happy cutie pie!

  • Reply May 27, 2009

    FoxLuvr72

    Hey Mark. I’m a fellow aussie and just by reading your comment I can tell you’re a nice person. A deformity is just physical. What is inside a person (the soul) is what counts most.

  • Reply October 5, 2009

    2PenniesWorth

    What I find absolutely shocking about this case is that after murdering his daughters to-be husband he is let free with 15 years probabtion (which was useless anyway as the same logic that set him free would still stand when he broke the terms of his probabtion) a mother defending her children from a man above the law serves 12 years and the boy who arguably saved his family from this bloody brute gets 27 years. Had the justice system lived up to its name rather than allowing a self confessed murderer to go free, emboldening him to step up his reign of terror; this poor family wouldn’t have been in a situation where their actions were necessary.

  • Reply January 22, 2010

    aurora

    que manos

  • Reply May 4, 2010

    akia

    I knew Grady in late 70s. Met him in OKC where I hired 2 Frenchmen (both illegals) that he was having setup his joint from him after they finished.

    Yea he drank most of the day but at least the year I toured next to him he seemed an OK guy and his family ate at the cookshack like everybody else (his son usually wore gloves though).

  • Reply May 13, 2010

    JackAsh

    The justice system works, clearly.

  • READ THE BOOK AND SO APPRECIATE YOUR SITE HERE

    VERY INFORMATIVE

    HAVE A SWEET DAY AND HUGGZZ TO MARK IN AUSSIE LAND ..

  • Reply July 16, 2010

    missi taylor

    grady is my grandfather i never met him he was gone when i met my birth mom i was able to visit my uncle in prison and from the stories he told me about him i am glad i never knew him the only reason i some what claim that side of the family is because its a good conversation starter

  • Reply July 17, 2010

    bobbie

    i met the lobster boys wife mary when i was serving a prison sentence for burglary she was there for killing him… ewww that freaked me out being a young person who just got caught up in the wrong place but wow to met her she was very strange and crazy!

  • Reply July 22, 2010

    Eleanor

    My goodness….this man, mr stiles, was a horrid person from the looks of it! Beating his family, and killing a young man! Heavens.

  • Reply October 26, 2010

    monash

    its quite arrogant and hypocrat of him 2 behave in such manner with his family……..

  • Reply October 29, 2010

    Mary Cicero

    Is Lobster boy Going to be a movie and what is the recent News on the wife and her son? Are they still in Jail.

  • Reply May 22, 2011

    Rebecca Newman

    My name is Becky Newman and I am married to Harry Glenn Newman’s cousin and as far as I can see it yes this man put my cousin and his mother through a lot of hell.I just pray that no one else in this family will act or treat others the way he has.I am sorry for the way this whole situation played out but may God Have Mercy on everyone involved.Please do not judge the whole family because of what one idiot has done.

    • Reply November 14, 2012

      Rita Roach

      Is Mary still in prison? I hope not.

  • [...] lobsters). His handicap left him unable to walk, but because he constantly used his arms to move he developed massive upper body strength, allowing him to deliver vicious pinches, punches, headbutts and choke holds to any and all who [...]

  • Reply November 13, 2011

    Joe

    Look at that guy’s hands! What a freak!!

  • Reply December 18, 2011

    Molly

    I read about this man on Cracked… he sounds awful. Granted, this mutation sucks, but still… it’s crazy, reading about all of these people making great things out of what they have, then Grady Stiles pops up and makes an appearance as a complete loser, personality-wise.

  • Reply January 9, 2012

    An avid reader

    Alcoholism and an angry outlook on life will destroy anyone, physical handicapped or not.

  • Reply January 20, 2012

    Snake Pliskin

    I remember seeing him at a Red Lobster in Toledo in 1973. If I recall correctly, my wife Erma ordered him off the menu and he got so upset he spit a giant loogie into my clam chowder.

  • Reply February 29, 2012

    Steve Hancock

    15 year’s probation? Sounds like Carter-era US “Justice” alright!

  • Reply April 24, 2013

    Mike

    I seen him at the Dunkirk fair when I was a kid.

  • Reply June 7, 2013

    Tara OLeary

    I watched a documentary about Mr. Stiles years ago, and distinctly remember one thing. More than anything, he hoped for his children to be afflicted with ectrodactyly, as well. He was so proud that his daughter Cathy’s affliction was even more severe than his own. He was a petty, miserable human being.

  • Reply July 24, 2013

    jim

    Wow, I saw him a few weeks (or just over a year?) before he died at a small county fair in NC in the fall. I paid to go and see him and hear his story and he was just hanging out in a lay-z-boy and watching TV stopping to say “I am the Great Lobster Boy” and answering a few questions.

    I then realized after hearing his story that the barker/money collector was one of his kids (don’t remember if it was the son or daughter but I did see both there that evening) and they were wearing gloves to hide the visibility of the condition.

    Sorry to hear he was such a jerk. I hope the rest of the family is getting along better now.

  • Reply September 9, 2013

    Hugh J

    I hope that those who were involved with Stiles murder aren’t still in prison. What a travesty of justice that a brutal, violent, abusive man gets off and continues to terrorize his family due to the judicial system and they are put in the position of having to kill him to feel safe. How many times will our courts, prosecutors, judges, and juries spit in the face of justice? My heart breaks for these people.

    I mean, seriously, these folks should sue the holy hell out of the state and government. I’m literally sick and ashamed over this. Those involved in his murder, who were the victims and not the perpetrators, could rightfully consider the American courts Grady’s accomplice. Shame, shame, shame. I wish that I was president, or governor if it was not a federal case. I’d pardon them all my first day in office.

  • […] of the most famous acts to ever grace a carnival side show was Lobster Boy, promoted as a human with lobster-like claws. But the Maine State Aquarium switched things up, […]

  • […] of a many famous acts to ever beauty a fair side uncover was Lobster Boy, promoted as a tellurian with lobster-like claws. But a Maine State Aquarium switched things up, […]

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