The STILES Family
he 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’.
Grady Stiles, Sr., 1912-1988
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 just days after he was born.
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 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. And on the day before his daughter, Donna's wedding Grady picked up a shotgun and murdered her fiance in cold blood, he didn't like the way the young groom stood up for her. He was brought to trial where he openly confessed to killing the man and was convicted of third degree murder. Because of his disability the courts decided prison time would be cruel and unusual punishment and put him on 15 year probation. His daughter Donna never spoke to him again.
Stiles stopped drinking thereafter, and during this period remarried his first wife, Maria. However, he soon began drinking again and his family claimed that he became even more abusive. In 1992 Maria (picture below) and her son from a previous marriage, Harry Glenn Newman Jr., hired a seventeen year-old sideshow performer named Chris Wyant to kill Stiles for $1500
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, though she was released after just two.
At he trial, Mrs. Stiles told the judge, '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.'
During an interview with E! Harry stated he was happy in prison because he was finally free.
But that wasn't the end to the Lobster family legacy, 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.