The story of Grady Stiles is both fascinating and horrifying. Grady Stiles was a famous freak show performer, but his life took several dark turns and ended in cold blood.
The “Lobster Boy”
Stiles was born in 1937 with a deformity called ectrodactyly. Ectrodactyly is a genetic condition in which a person’s fingers and/or toes are fused together. This gives the appearance of a claw-like hand or foot. Ectrodactyly was in Stiles’s family for several generations, going back about 130 years before he was born. His father also had the condition and performed in a carnival sideshow attraction. He brought Grady into his act when he was just seven years old.
Grady’s condition affected both his hands and feet, meaning that he could not walk properly. He got around using a wheelchair or by crawling, dragging himself with formidable upper body strength. Grady continued as a featured sideshow performer, going by the stage name “Lobster Boy.”
A Tragic Personal Life
Grady married another carnival employee named Mary Herzog. Together, they had two children, one born with ectrodactyly. Grady included his children in his act, touring under the name “The Lobster Family.” When it was off-season, they lived in Gibsonton, Florida, also known as “Showtown USA.” Many carnival and circus performers gathered there while not on tour.
Sadly, Grady’s life was plagued by alcoholism and anger issues. He was extremely abusive towards his family, especially when drunk. Eventually, he threw his wife and children out. Mary remarried “The World’s Smallest Man,” Harry Glenn Newman, and had one child together.
Grady also remarried, this time to a woman named Barbara Browning. They had a child who was born with his genetic condition.
By the time Grady remarried, his daughter Donna was engaged and planning their wedding. Apparently, Grady did not like Donna’s fiancé. On the night before the wedding, he asked her fiancé to come over to the house just to talk. Grady instead took a shotgun and murdered him on the spot. As Donna held her bleeding fiancé while he died, her father said, “I told you I would kill him.” He smiled.
Grady went to trial in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he pleaded guilty to 3rd-degree murder. He never once showed any remorse. However, since there was no prison or institution in the state that was equipped to handle an inmate with his condition — he had cirrhosis of the liver which worsened his physical debility — he was only sentenced to 15 years probation.
It’s said that after the incident, Donna never spoke to her father again. Yet somehow, Grady’s first wife, Mary, was drawn back to him. She left Harry and remarried Grady on the premise that he was a “new man” who would stop drinking and change his ways.
Predictably, he did not change. Grady soon fell back into his typical pattern of drinking and abuse, often threatening to kill his wife and his family. Mary reportedly endured being choked by him. She would wake up to find him holding a knife to her throat. He also sexually abused her and once tried to smother her with a pillow after she suggested getting a divorce.
By that point in 1992, Mary was terrified for her and her family’s life. She decided that something needed to be done. She and her son, Harry Glenn Newman Jr. (known as Glenn), approached a 17-year-old named Chris Wyant who supposedly had gang ties. They paid him $1,500 to murder Grady.
While Grady was sitting in the living room of his trailer home in his underwear, Wyant entered and shot him in the back of the head. He was 55-years-old when he was murdered.
Glenn was given a lie detector test during the police investigation, but he failed. He broke down and admitted everything that happened. He was sentenced to life in prison. His mother, Mary, was given 12 years in prison on the charge of conspiring to commit murder. Wyant was convicted of 2nd-degree murder and sentenced to 27 years in prison.
The End of “The Lobster Boy”
Grady Stiles’s funeral was barely attended by anyone, and no one volunteered to be his pallbearers. Understandably, he was hated by the community. His entire life was marked by tragedy, hate, anger, abuse, and most of all, bloody violence.