sideshow circus

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.” ― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

3

Grady Franklin Stiles Jr. was born on June 26th 1937, with a physical deformity called Ectrodactyly. Also referred to as, Lobster Claw Syndrome, Ectrodactyly is the absence or deformity of one or more of the middle digits on the hand or foot, giving a “claw-like” appearance. Due to his deformity, Grady was unable to walk, so he utilized his hands and arms for locomotion, resulting in impressive upper body strength. Grady’s father was a sideshow performer who was also born with Ectrodactyly and he incorporated Grady into his show with a traveling circus. As an adult, Grady was married twice and had four children, two of which had Ectrodactyly. Grady, still doing work with a traveling circus, marketed him and his two children as, “The Lobster Family”. Unfortunately, Grady developed and alcohol problem, which would lead to violence and abuse toward his family members. In 1978, Grady’s 17 year old daughter, Donna, informed him that she was pregnant and that she planned to run away with her boyfriend and get married. Donna was not actually pregnant, but she fabricated this in order to gain support for her marriage. The night before the wedding, Grady requested to have a conversation with his daughter’s fiancé, where he shot the man twice with a shot gun, resulting in his untimely death. Donna later explained that she returned to the horrific scene, her father was sitting on the porch smiling, when he told her, “I told you I would kill him.” Grady was convicted of third degree murder, but he did not serve any prison time. There were no state institutions that were capable of caring for him, so instead, he received 15 years probation. In 1989 he remarried his first wife, Mary, and began a new life, free from alcohol and violence. Grady abstained from alcohol for two weeks, but then relapsed into his old ways, becoming more abusive than ever. Mary and her son from a previous marriage, Harry, decided to pay sideshow performer, Chris Wyant, to kill Grady for $1500. On November 29th 1992, Grady was shot and killed.