10 Medical Conditions Once Found in Sideshows

Black Scorpion is a modern-day sideshow performer with ectrodactyly. © 2012 Codytandme/“Black Scorpion and Li'l BS”/CC BY-SA 3.0

Grady Stiles Jr. is largely forgotten now but was quite infamous in his prime as a sideshow character who proved to be a generally dismal person offstage. He appeared in shows as the "Lobster Boy" because of the rare limb malformation that caused his hands and feet to have a claw-like appearance. But he also made the papers for drunkenly abusing his family and killing his daughter's fiance — he got off because his defense argued the prison system couldn't accommodate his disability. He was eventually shot by a hit man his own wife hired [source: Pednaud].

Of course, it was Stiles' condition that first garnered him attention. Born with ectrodactyly — like many of his ancestors — Stiles' hands and feet had a middle cleft and toes or fingers on each side of the cleft. Stiles had a fairly severe case, as many people born with the rare congenital condition only see it in either hands or feet. Only 1 in 90,000 live births are estimated to have both sets of limbs affected [source: Jindal et al].