To ask, ‘Who was Grady Stiles?’ opens the door to an intensely fascinating but disturbing story.
On his merits, Grady Stiles was a freak show performer, famous for his talents and work on stage. Still, after the limelight on him dissipated, his life would begin taking several hellish turns, ending ultimately in a vicious death. This article will discuss Grady Stiles and the figures in his life who suffered in his presence.
The “Lobster Boy” Grady Stiles Jr.
Grady Stiles had Ectrodactyly, a genetic condition where a person’s fingers or toes are fused. This effect gives their hands or feet a claw-like appearance.
The condition, having riddled his family for several generations, would be passed onto him at birth in 1937 and mark the beginning of his lifelong turmoil – though, as we will discuss, he did capitalize on this burden by finding work as a performer.
His father, whose footsteps he followed, also suffered from Ectrodactyly since birth and performed as a carnival sideshow attraction. Grady Stiles would be recruited by his father into his routine at the age of 7, growing the already extensive interest of the public and introducing Stiles to the world of freak show performance.
Naturally, Grady Stiles had trouble walking due to the asymmetry of his digits and lack of strength/flexibility in his legs. As a result, his mode of transport was often either a wheelchair or crawling.
Grady Stilesa Jr. learned to drag himself across the floor since he was a small boy, and this movement bolstered his authenticity as a unique human. Grady would continue his ever-expanding career as a featured sideshow performer, going by the stage name, ‘Lobster Boy’ – a memorable calling card the public initially coined.
A Tragic Personal Life
Mary Herzog was a fellow performer, and when Grady Stiles met her, he was instantly captivated. After several years together, Mary and Stiles would have two children.
Predictably, one of their two children was born with ectrodactyly. Grady hastily profited from this unfortunate child and soon included both of his children in his performances, touring under the fitting name ‘The Lobster Family.’
Off-season and during the quieter periods of their work, The Lobster Family resided in Gibsonton, Florida, an area popularly known as ‘Showtown USA’ for its fantastic array of attractions, freak show performances, and circus shows. This was the hub of activity for performers when they were not performing, acting as a community of sorts for all bizarre entertainment workers.
Alcoholism and the subsequent anger issues plagued Grady Stiles’ life. He took these issues out on his family aggressively. He was overtly abusive towards his family, especially when intoxicated.
Eventually, his abuse forced Mary Herzog and the two children to leave. Mary would later remarry a fellow performer, ‘The World’s Smallest Man,’ Harry Glenn Newman. He and Mary would later have one child together of their own.
Grady himself also remarried, and his new wife was named Barbara Browning. They had a child together, born with Ectrodactyly also. Now settled into their own new lives, one may assume things would get better. But another dark turn was around the corner.
By the time Grady remarried, his daughter Donna, whom he conceived with his first wife, Mary Herzog, was as of legal age to get married. She later became engaged and began planning her wedding.
It was quite apparent from the outset that Grady Stiles did not like Donna’s fiancé. On the night before the wedding, he asked Donna’s fiancé to visit his house for a short conversation. To Donna’s fiancé’s surprise, Grady revealed a shotgun and murdered Donna’s fiancé without hesitation.
In a chilling scene recalled by biographers of Grady Stiles, when his daughter was holding her dying fiancé in her arms, her father said, ‘I told you I would kill him.’ This statement was made with an ear-to-ear grin, cementing Stiles as an incredibly troubled and villainous character.
Grady Stiles Jr would later stand trial in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he pleaded guilty to 3rd-degree murder. According to biographers, Stiles acted totally without remorse and never said he regretted his actions.
Ultimately, no prison or institution in the state was equipped to handle Stiles in his condition at the time. In addition, he suffered was suffering from severe cirrhosis of the liver, which worsened his physical state. Fortunately for him, this meant he was only sentenced to 15 years of probation, despite pleading guilty to murder.
Donna never spoke to her father again (understandably). As if the tale of Grady Stiles Jr wasn’t already bizarre on its merits, Grady’s first wife, Mary, felt a powerful pull back to him.
She would soon separate from Harry Glenn Newman and remarry Grady on the premise that he was a ‘new man’ who would clean up his act, take a stand on his alcoholism and begin life as a changed person.
He did not change an iota, and this wasn’t difficult to predict. He soon returned to his roots of excessive drinking and abuse of his close family: he would often threaten to kill Mary and the children.
Mary endured being choked by him, and she would sometimes even wake up to find him holding a knife to her throat in bed. Mary was subject to numerous episodes of sexual abuse and was even nearly smothered to death for suggesting a divorce.
The Death of Grady’ The Lobster Boy’ Stiles
By 1992, Mary Teresa Stiles and her son, Harry Glenn Newman Jr. (known as Glenn), approached a 17-year-old named Chris Wyant who claimed he had ties with the mob, who could help Mary and her family deal with Grady Styles Jr. They paid him $1,500 to murder Grady.
While sitting in the living room of his trailer home in his underwear, Grady was shot in the back of the head by Wyant. He was 55-years-old when he was murdered.
Stiles’ son, Grady Stiles III, refutes the claim that his mother Mary, had Stiles Jr. murdered. According to him, his stepmother and father were arguing, and Teresa had said, “something needs to be done.”
He overheard this and went to a neighbor and repeated those words. Shortly after this happened, with Stiles enjoying a cigarette on the sofa watching television, the neighbor entered his home with a semi-automatic pistol and shot him in the head twice.
Crucially, Stiles was hated so much by the community that only ten people came to his funeral, and nobody would volunteer as a pallbearer to carry the coffin.
Harry Glenn Newman Jr, at the hands of a lie detector test during the police investigation, not only failed the test but broke down and admitted everything that happened. He was sentenced to life in prison.
His mother, Mary, was given twelve years in prison to conspire to commit murder. Wyant the assassin was convicted of 2nd-degree murder and sentenced to twenty-seven years in prison.
It has been speculated as to why Grady was such a horrible individual. At face value, he was likely frustrated due to his disability. Perhaps Grady was unhappy with how his life turned out, having spent most of it working for a “freak” show. But, we should also come to terms with the fact that he was likely just a horrible person and his life circumstances just made him an even more villainous, violent, and deplorable character.
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