What is known as Ectrodactyly, is a degenerative condition which plagues a rare amount of individuals across the world. This disorder involves the deficiency or absence of one or more central digits of the hand or foot.
Also referred to as, split hand or split foot malformation, the person thereby has hands which appear to be “claw-like” by nature. Sometimes, these hands might have only a single finger or thumb exposed giving the hands a lobster claw appearance. Most of the time, it is their little finger or their ring finger which is seen as abnormal. Often the person will have abnormalities in their feet as well.
Known as lobster boy, a young man by the name of Grady Stiles—became a freak-show performer at age 7. He learned how to write his name and even to fire a gun. Since the year 1805, Grady’s ancestor William Stiles was born with the exact same affliction. As time passed, the family unfortunately suffered from the same condition.
While there was a possibly for this degenerative condition to skip a generation, Grady’s fate would be sealed with his clawed hands and flipper feet. He became a carnival performer which he enjoyed at first. (His father also began working in traveling carnival sideshow acts earlier on in his life as well)
But before this, he was a part of some rather sinister criminal activity. Grady’s life was filled with great tragedy. He was abused, ridiculed and later became an alcoholic. Meanwhile, he performed very much like a monkey doing tricks. He was being featured in various carnivals and festivals alongside his family of freaks.
Grady did find some happiness in his life, by marrying a carnival worker by the name of Mary Herzog. They lived together for 9 years before they finally married. Mary was a victim of incest and was previously married to another carnival worker, who was abusive to her earlier in her life. Mary didn’t suffer from any physical deformations like Grady did.
Mary later would start performing herself as the Electrified Girl. Two of Grady’s children would also suffer from his same affliction. Their daughter Donna was normal but Cathy suffered from her fathers same condition. The family would be overshadowed by mayhem which later became center stage for them. Grady decided to include his family into the act and they traveled around together as The Lobster Family.
It was difficult for Grady to get around, as he couldn’t walk and used a wheelchair to get around or he would sometimes simply crawl. Grady was known for his bad temper and his drinking got worse. He started to beat up his wife and children especially focusing on Donna. After many beatings, he threw Mary and the children out. Mary then turned to another circus performer—Harry Glenn Newman known as the World’s Smallest Man.
Mary then married Harry and they had a son together with the same name. He was not mentally impaired like his father Harry. Grady divorced Mary, yet was able to win custody of their children from Mary not attending a court hearing. Later, Grady would marry Barbara Browning. Together they had another child and unfortunately this child would suffer like his father with the same conditions (lobster syndrome) becoming Grady III.
For whatever reason, Grady didn’t approve of his daughter Donna’s fiancé. On the night before the wedding, he took a shotgun killing him in cold blood. It was 1978 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and he was then taken to trial, where he openly admitted his guilt and was convicted of 3rd degree murder. During the trial, Grady had several character witnesses by his side—who were his friends from the carnival show. They included a carnival dwarf, a fat man and the bearded lady.
As the trial played out, there were no State institutions equipped to deal with his physical impairment. At this point, he suffered not only from his lobster syndrome but from emphysema and cirrhosis of the liver. He was thereby charged only with 15 years probation for his crime.
Grady showed no remorse for what he did during the trial. After this, Grady’s daughter Donna wanted to get married because she was pregnant. This turned out to be untrue. Grady asked her fiancé to come over for a talk before killing him. Donna said her father smiled as she held her dead fiancé in her arms. Grady then said, “I told you I would kill him.”
Donna never spoke to her father again. Incredibly, Grady would later re-marry Mary who left her husband. It wasn’t long before he was back to his wicked ways as he began drinking again and bragging about how he got away with murder. Grady still continued to abuse his family.
This time, it was his daughter Cathy who was the focus of his inner rage. One time, he hit her so hard in the jaw it swelled for days. As he laid in bed at night, he mentioned how he was going to kill his family. Often he would chock Mary sometimes. Some mornings, she would awaken with a knife to her throat.
Fed up with this, she had enough during 1992, when she approached a former classmate (Chris Wyant) who apparently had gangster connections to kill Grady offering him $1,500 dollars. Grady met his fate when he was then shot in the back of the head at age 55. He died with his underwear on inside his trailer.
Mary’s son Glenn only had an I.Q. of 79. When he later was questioned by police, then failed a lie detector test and later told what the plan was to kill Grady. Chris Wyant would later be sentenced to a 27 year prison sentence after being convicted of 2nd degree murder.
Ironically, Glenn was named the mastermind. Mary was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and thereby sentenced to spend 12 years in prison. Grady Stiles III their son mentioned to the authorities that something needed to be done about this.
Her son Glenn (Harry Glenn Newman) overheard what was said in the conversation to kill his father Grady.
Mary said the following:
“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”.