Joseph Merrick

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Joseph Merrick
Joseph Merrick
Merrick, c. 1889
Joseph Carey Merrick

(1862-08-05)5 August 1862
Died(1890-04-11)11 April 1890 (aged 27)
Cause of deathAsphyxia
Resting placeSkeleton on display in Royal London Hospital
Other namesThe Elephant Man
John Merrick
OccupationCircus artist
Years active1884-1885
Known forPhysical deformities due to suspected Proteus syndrome
Height5 ft 2 in (157 cm)
  • Joseph Rockley Merrick (father)
  • Mary Jane Merrick (née Potterton) (mother)
FamilyWilliam Arthur (brother)
Marion Eliza (Sister)
Charles Merrick (uncle)
Barnabas Merrick (Grandfather)
Sarah Rockley (Grandmother)

Joseph Carey Merrick (5 August 1862 – 11 April 1890) was an Englishman. His face and body were deformed because of an illness. To earn food, he was shown at freak shows. He was called the Elephant Man. He then became famous after he went to live at the London Hospital. Some people who wrote about him wrongly thought he was called John Merrick.

Early life[change | change source]

Merrick was born in Leicester, England in 5 August 1862. He started to become deformed when he was 3. He was also disabled after he hurt his hip. When he was 10, his mother died and his father and stepmother did not want him at home so he left home. When he was 17, he went to live in a workhouse.

Career[change | change source]

In 1884 Merrick wrote to a showman called Sam Torr. Merrick asked Torr to show him as a "freak" exhibition. Torr showed Merrick around the East Midlands, and then Merrick went to London. He stayed in a shop on Whitechapel Road. People would pay to look at him. A surgeon doctor, Frederick Treves, came to see Merrick and took photographs of him. Soon afterwards, Torr's freak shop was closed by the police and Merrick went to Belgium.

In Belgium, Merrick was robbed by his manager and left Brussels alone. He found his way back to London. Frederick Treves took him to the London Hospital where Treves worked. Merrick was allowed to live there for the rest of his life. Rich and famous people of Victorian London came to visit him there.

Death[change | change source]

Merrick died on 11 April 1890, aged 27. He died of either asphyxia (not being able to breathe properly) or a broken neck. He had tried to lie down to go to sleep, but his head was too heavy for him to do that. Today, nobody knows for sure what was wrong with Merrick. Scientists think that he either had an illness called neurofibromatosis type I, one called Proteus syndrome, or both of these illnesses. In 1980, movie director David Lynch made a movie about Merrick. It is called The Elephant Man.

References[change | change source]

  • Howell, Michael; Ford, Peter (1992), The True History of the Elephant Man (3rd ed.), London: Penguin Books, ISBN 0140165150, OCLC 29668435
  • Osborne, Peter; Harrison, B. (September 2004). "Merrick, Joseph Carey [Elephant Man] (1862–1890)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37759. Retrieved 11 July 2010. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)