The cult section of the literary world

Internet Sideshow Goldmine

by Tracy Vanity

All art is from Elizabeth Anderson, creator of this here sideshow link I’m about to tell you about.

I came across an astounding internet artifact: a comprehensive list of different sideshow performers categorized by the extraordinary features they were born with, complete with pictures and a short biography!

The list of sideshow performers is huge and the categories include “Siamese Twins”, “Extra Parts”, “Bearded Ladies”, “Living Skeletons”, “Hairy Humans”, “Freak Couples” and even “The Unclassifiable.”

I’m sure the entire cast of Freaks is in there.

As if I don’t spend too much time dicking around on the internet as it is, here is hours worth of procrastination entertainment. A writer looking for some ideas could find a lot here to ignite the ole’ wordsmithin’ spark.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a tripod site, hence my considering this a remarkable internet artifact. Who knows how long it’ll be up? It doesn’t seem to have been updated in awhile and the creator’s personal homepage doesn’t exist anymore…so check it out before it gets lost in the “404 Void.”

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by this internet sideshow awesomeness so I’ll get you started…

Grady Franklin Stiles, Jr., was born in Pittsburgh on July 18, 1937, the sixth in a long line of lobster-men (preceded by William Stiles, 1805-1888; Jacob Stiles, 1843-1932; Elisha Stiles, 1880-1935; and finally Grady Stiles, Sr., 1912-1988). Grady could not walk and used a wheelchair in public, but could crawl around on his incredibly powerful arms and could perform nearly any task using his “claws”. He was married twice to Mary Teresa Herzog and once to Barbara Browning and had four children, two of whom, a boy and a girl, also had lobster-hands. When his eldest daughter Donna was engaged to marry a boy of whom Grady disapproved, Grady shot and killed the boy.

However, Grady escaped a prison sentence on the grounds that no prison was equipped to handle his disability. He was given fifteen years probation, and soon after the trial re-married Mary Teresa and continued to physically abuse his family. In 1992 Mary Teresa mentioned to Grady’s son-in-law, a circus employee, that “something” needed to be done about Grady’s abusive behavior. On November 29, 1992, he was shot to death while watching television in the family’s trailer home. The killer was a neighbor, hired by Grady’s son-in-law.

The surviving Stiles family members still call Gibsonton home. Cathy is married to carnival worker Tyrill Berry and is the mother of Misty, born in the early 1990s, who also has the lobster-claw condition (ectrodactyly). Grady III has a daughter, Sara, who does not have ectrodactyly. Cathy, Grady III and Misty still perform occasionally. Cathy has appeared in the films Sisters (1973), Tim Burton’s Big Fish (2003) and Firecracker (2004) as well as in an episode of the series Carnivale.

Ectrodactyly literally means “monstrous fingers” and is generally a highly hereditary condition, as evidenced by the Stiles family, although it can occur spontaneously. The Bell family of Scotland has exhibited the trait for several centuries, supposedly as divine punishment for their ancestor’s involvement in the execution of two innocent women accused of witchcraft. Accounts from Africa tell of an entire tribe, known as the Vadoma, who possess ectrodactyl or “ostrich” feet; however, these stories are very likely exaggerated and the “tribe” in question is but a single family. A contemporary celebrity with ectrodactyly is Bree Walker, a newscaster from California who appeared as the Scorpion Queen in the HBO series Carnivale.

More sideshow fun at

2 responses

  1. David W Barbee

    This post is a metric shit-ton of WIN

    July 6, 2011 at 10:27 am

  2. I really love the artwork!

    July 6, 2011 at 7:12 pm

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