5 Facts About the Elephant Man “Joseph Merrick”

Joseph Merrick, known as Elephant man, was a Leicester-born man who suffered from a medical oddity & was half elephant and half-human. Know some facts about him.

6 years ago
5 Facts About the Elephant Man “Joseph Merrick”

‘The Elephant Man: A Story in Human Dignity’ was a movie based on a real elephant man named Joseph Merrick. His heart-wrenching story was portrayed on screen and is an example of human oddity.

Here are some facts about the elephant man.

1. He Was Completely Healthy When He Was Born

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Born on 5 August 1862 in Leicester, Merrick was born all healthy and did not have any medical deformities. However, his physical shape began changing drastically when he turned 5. Abnormal growth of bones and skin deformations started appearing on his body. With dramatic changes in cranial structure, huge swaths of skin dangled from his skulls’ back and front of the face.

The right arm distorted into a flipper-like appendage. And just like his arms, his legs also contorted and caused impairments while walking that required him to use a walking stick. As he grew older, he became more and more physically impaired and attended school until 11. 

Horrified by the appalling reality, Merrick’s parents were forced to believe that this condition of his may have been due to the trauma his mother faced during pregnancy. The incident in which an elephant kicked her while they had been on a trip to the fairground.

2. Merrick Most Probably Suffered from a Rare Disorder “Proteus Syndrome”

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Back in the time when Merrick was born, the world of medicine had not advanced as much as it is today. So a case like that of Merrick came out as nothing but a shocker. Several doctors diagnosed him with an extreme case of neurofibromatosis (a genetic disorder causing the development of tumors on an individual’s nervous system). However, later on, it was found out that he didn’t have neurofibromatosis and his disease wasn’t on the nervous system level.

The later studies suggested that he suffered from a very rare disorder called Proteus syndrome. Proteus syndrome causes asymmetrical growth (affecting one side of the body more than the other) and causes extreme development of skin, bones, and other body parts.

3. His Medical Oddity Made Him a Popular Part of Norman’s Freak Show

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In the times when Merrick lived, sideshows and human oddity shows were really popular. Tom Norman discovered him and eventually made him a part of the famous freak show performers. For his aging bullous skin, he was dubbed as “half a man and half an elephant.”

He earned a lot of money, respect, and position and Norman also gained more profit having Merrick. But after the show was shut closed because of public decency and disruption concerns and then he moved to Belgium to earn a living.

4. Merrick’s Own Head Became the Reason for His Death

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Other than the abnormal skin and bone growth, his head became so heavy that he had to sleep on the chair. And one day, when he tried sleeping by lying down on his bed, he passed away.

5. Merrick’s Skeleton Was Put on a Display in London

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Post his autopsy, the skeleton was handed over to the Queen Mary University of London. For several years, people came to see the actual skeleton. Now, his bones are preserved in a private room that requires special access.


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