Grady Stiles

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Grady Franklin Stiles Jr. (June 26, 1937 – November 29, 1992) was an American freak show performer and murderer. His deformity was the genetic condition ectrodactyly, in which the fingers and toes are fused together to form claw-like extremities. Because of this, Stiles performed under the stage name "Lobster Boy".

Family history[edit]

According to Grady's father, the Stiles family had a long history of ectrodactyly, dating back to 1840. Grady Stiles Jr. was the fourth child of Grady F. Stiles Sr. and his wife Edna, whose first child was William Stiles, born in 1905. Capitalizing on his deformity, Grady Stiles Sr. was a sideshow attraction in a traveling carnival. After Grady Jr. was born he was folded into his father's sideshow act at the age of seven.[1] Stiles married twice and had four children, two of whom also had ectrodactyly. Stiles and his two children toured together as The Lobster Family. When not traveling with the carnival, the Stiles family lived in Gibsonton, Florida, where many other carnival performers lived during the winter season.

Murder[edit]

Stiles was an alcoholic and was abusive to his family.[1] Due to his ectrodactyly, he was unable to walk. While he sometimes used a wheelchair, he most commonly used his hands and arms for locomotion. He developed substantial upper body strength that, when combined with his bad temper and alcoholism, made him dangerous to others.

In 1978 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Stiles shot and killed his oldest daughter's fiancé on the eve of their wedding. He was brought to trial, where he openly confessed to killing the man and was convicted of third-degree murder.[2][3] He was not sent to prison as no state institution was equipped to care for an inmate with ectrodactyly. Stiles was instead sentenced to house arrest and fifteen years' probation.

Stiles stopped drinking thereafter, and during this period remarried his first wife, Mary Teresa. However, he soon began drinking again and his family claimed that he became even more abusive. In 1992, Teresa, together with her son from a previous marriage, Harry Glenn Newman Jr., hired a seventeen-year-old sideshow performer named Chris Wyant to kill Stiles for $300.[4]

Wyant was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 27 years in prison. Harry Newman was given life in prison for his role as the mastermind and Teresa was given 43 years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder.

Further information[edit]

Stiles' son, Grady Stiles III, disputes the claim that Teresa had him murdered. According to him, his stepmother, Teresa, and father were arguing. Teresa had said 'Something needs to be done.' Teresa's son overheard this, and went to a neighbor and repeated those words. Shortly after this happened, as Stiles smoked a cigarette while watching television on the sofa, the neighbor entered his home with a semi-automatic pistol and shot him in the head twice, killing him. Stiles was hated so much by the local community that only 10 people came to his funeral, and nobody volunteered as a pallbearer to carry his coffin.[5]

Media[edit]

Fred Rosen wrote a book on the case called Lobster Boy: The Bizarre Life and Brutal Death of Grady Stiles Jr., and E! made a True Hollywood Story episode based on the case titled "The Murder of Lobster Boy". A&E Network also made a City Confidential episode based on the case called "Gibsonton: The Last Side Show".

Stiles' likeness appears on the album cover for Silverchair's Freak Show.

A person like Grady, going by the name of "Lobster Boy", appears in a Deadpool comic. Deadpool was hired to assassinate him, but fails when he figures out he is possessed by Xaphan, a fallen angel, and starts possessing the souls. He was later saved by the two Ghost Riders, but at the end is shot again in the head by Deadpool for being cruel to other freaks.[6]

On HBO's Carnivàle, set on a traveling carnival during the Great Depression, the central character, Ben Hawkins, is sent out by his employers to investigate rumors of a "Scorpion Boy" in a nearby town in the episode "Lonnigan, Texas".

American Freakshow: The Terrible Tale of Sloth Boy, a graphic novel published by IDW Publishing, tells the tale of Dante Browning, a carnival sideshow performer with clawed hands who, because of his abuse and cruelty to his family, is shot to death by a hit man hired by his wife and stepson while in his home in Gibsonton, Florida.[7]

American Horror Story: Freak Show has a Lobster Boy character. It also includes a small statue in the likeness of Stiles in the opening credits. In addition, a snapshot of Stiles is briefly seen at the American Morbidity Museum in the third episode ("Edward Mordrake, Part I").

John Strohm wrote "Ballad of Lobster Boy," inspired by Grady Stiles and recorded the song for his 1999 album Vestavia.[8]

In his memoir Tibetan Peach Pie, author Tom Robbins refers to Stiles' life and death.

American History comedy Podcast, The Dollop, did an episode in 2014 discussing Grady Stiles.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Pednaud, J. Tithonus (2006-08-09). "Grady Stiles Jr. – The Murderous Lobster Man". The Human Marvels. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  2. ^ Rosen, Fred (1995). Lobster Boy. Pinnacle Books. p. 134. ISBN 0-7860-0133-X.
  3. ^ Ireton, Gabriel (February 23, 1979). "'Lobster Man' Guilty In Kin's Fiance Death". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved October 2, 2013.
  4. ^ Rosen, pp. 166–7
  5. ^ Moye, David (2014-05-17). "Son Of Lobster Boy Discusses Dad's Grisly Murder On 'Freakshow'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  6. ^ Deadpool Team-Up#897
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-08-17. Retrieved 2010-09-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Vestavia – John P. Strohm | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic.
  9. ^ Comedy, All Things (2020-01-02). "45 – Smollop – Lobster Boy". All Things Comedy. Retrieved 2020-04-10.

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