It seems that disorders affecting the digits are almost always hereditary and inherited – and likely dominant. The family of the famous modern Lobster Boy, Grady Stiles, had their particular disorder (ectrodactyly or monsterous fingers) in their family since the 1800’s. In fact, most of his children carry the same trait as do a number of his grandchildren.
The trait of ectrodactyly was documented as far back as 1685 with a somewhat mythical tale. In the remote Galloway village of Wigtown in Scotland a pair of women were executed for religious dissent. The pair pleaded their innocence and the executioner proved to be quite cruel as he drowned the pair in the River Bladnoch. Margaret Wilson, one of the women, called upon the crabs to curse the executioner as she was being drowned. Shortly thereafter the executioner – a man named by the name of Bell – fathered a child with ‘crab hands’. The trait carried down the family line for some 300 years.
It is likely that the first person to likely take up the epithet of ‘Lobster Boy’ was a gentleman by the name of Fred Wilson. Wilson (pictured ) was born in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1866. He had ectrodactyl of the hands and legs. Furthermore, he apparently suffered from a slight dental deformity. It is very unfortunate that so little information exists for the original Lobster Boy. However, as the image below, taken from Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, illustrates there were at least a ‘handful’ of people from his era to share his affliction.