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Jospeh Carey Merrick: The Elephant Man

 

               merricknormal

How Joseph Merrick may have looked without deformities


It's the 5th of August 1862. At number 50, Lee Street, in Leicester, Mary Jane Merrick is in

labour. Mary Jane has been married to brougham driver Joseph Rockley Merrick for a

year. She used to be a domestic servant, and has a physical disability of some sort. She is 28

years old.

lee street

The Lee Circle car park (built 1961) occupies the location of the Merrick house.

 

The proud parents are delighted with their fine baby boy, born healthy and crying lustily.

Named for his father, Joseph Carey Merrick is given his distinguished middle name by his

mother. A staunch baptist, she chooses to include the name 'Carey', from the name of

preacher William Carey.

 

Animal Instincts

Joseph began to change when he was 21 months old. Swellings developed on his lips. A bony

lump appeared on his forehead, and his skin began to roughen, becoming loose. His feet

became bigger and later, a size difference between his left and right arms became

noticeable. By the time he was five years old, Joseph's skin was noted as being, "… thick,

lumpy skin ...like that of an elephant, and almost the same colour."

 

The Merricks, unsurprisingly distressed, blamed the changes in Joseph on his mother's

having been frightened and knocked over by a fairground elephant during her pregnancy.

This notion, that the experiences of a pregnant woman could affect her unborn child

physically, was termed 'maternal impression.' It was popular in Britain at the time.

 

The Merricks went on to have two further children. William Arthur Merrick was born when

Joseph was four years old. When he reached four years of age, William succumbed to

scarlet fever and died. Marion Eliza Merrick was born when Joseph was aged five. Like her

mother, Marion had physical disabilities. She passed away aged 24.

 

early drawing

Early engraving of Joseph Merrick

 

But Joseph Merrick lived on, firmly believing that his mother's experience with the

fairground elephant was the root of his problems. Mary Merrick became a Sunday School

teacher; she and Joseph were very close. Joseph Merrick, the father, found work driving

the engine at the local cotton factory, and also ran a business selling small items, such as

buttons, sewing cotton and ribbons.

 

Cruel Twists

 

Joseph Carey Merrick undeniably had problems but fate had worse in store.

Although his physical deformities troubled him, he managed to attend school. At one point,

he fell, injuring his left hip. The infection that set in did enough further damage to make

him permanently lame.

 

Joseph was eleven when his beloved mother died, claimed by bronchial pneumonia. His

father soon began cohabiting with a widow – Mrs. Emma Wood – and her children. Joseph

and his sister Mary were moved to the new household and Mrs. Wood became the second

Mrs. Merrick the next year, on the 3rd of December 1874.

elephant

 

Poor bereaved Joseph was mourning his mother. Soon he was missing his former home life.

His father and stepmother alike showed him no affection. As Joseph noted…

 

"I was taunted and sneered at so that I would not go home to my meals, and used to stay in

the streets with an hungry belly rather than return for anything to eat, what few half-meals I

did have, I was taunted with the remark—'That's more than you have earned.'"

 

Now his home life was, "A perfect misery.", Joseph tried to run away on several occasions.

Each time, his father brought him back Joseph left school at the age of 13 – not an unusual

leaving age in the 19th Century. He soon found employment, rolling cigars in a nearby

factory. Over the next three years, Joseph's right hand became still more deformed' so

much so that he could no longer do his job.

 

Unemployed, Joseph trudged the streets in search of work, while keeping out of range of his

stepmother's cruel taunting. He was naturally imposing a financial burden on the family –

something had to be done.

 

Joseph's father acquired a hawker's licence for him, and sent him out, selling stock from the

haberdashery shop. It was a plan doomed to fail from the outset. Housewives were repulsed

by Joseph's distorted face. They could scarcely understand his equally distorted speech.

Doors, which had opened for him, soon remained closed.  Passers-by stared – some followed

him, overtly curious about this strange, misshapen man.

 

Try as he might, Joseph couldn't make enough money to keep himself. Matters came to a

head when Joseph was fifteen. Following a brutal beating from his father, he ran away from

home for the last time.

 

Perhaps some consolation lay in the fact that Joseph wasn't a street dweller in Leicester for

very long. His Uncle Charles, a barber, went looking for him, and offered him

accommodation. But every silver lining has a cloud. Joseph remained a hawker but for two

years, his appearance and poor speech also remained as obstacles to success. Ultimately,

complaints from the public led to Joseph's hawker's licence being revoked. Good Samaritan

Uncle Charles had young children of his own; he couldn't support his nephew as well. In

December 1879, 17-year-old Joseph became one of the 928 inmates of the Leicester Union

Workhouse.

leics w/hse

 

In this grim, austere institution, the inmates were classified by gender and age. Joseph

joined the other men aged between 16 and 60. A mere three months after arriving, Joseph

signed himself out of the workhouse. But the two days he spent seeking work brought no

opportunity…Joseph had only two choices, return to the workhouse, or starve.

 

He stayed for four years, his deformity worsening over time. The protuberance on his mouth

had grown. At between eight and nine inches in length, it was affecting his speech very badly

indeed, and making it difficult for him to eat. Much of this growth was removed at Leicester

Infirmary.

 

Though in dire straits both physically and financially, Joseph could think rationally. A

frighteningly malformed caller at the door might well attract the morbidly curious. After all,

had inquisitive people not followed him? Joseph came to the conclusion that becoming an

exhibit in his own right was his ticket out of the forbidding confines of the workhouse.

 

On Show

torr  Joseph wasn't daydreaming. He'd heard of Sam Torr, who was a popular comedian    

  in the music halls, who was sufficiently entrepreneurial to operate as a theatrical agent

  too. A nletter that Joseph sent to Torr led to his visiting the workhouse. Wisely

  deciding that Joseph should go on tour so his audiences were continually new, Torr

  arranged introductions to a selection of manager agents, among whom were travelling

  showman George Hitchcock, travelling fair owner Sam Roper and music hall owner J.

  Ellis. And so, Joseph Merrick embarked on what seemed to be a ready-made career.

  His backers came up with the name 'The Elephant Man'. Billed as 'Half a man and half

  an elephant'.

 

Early Playbill of Sam Torr

poster

Elephant Man poster - no trades descriptions act in the 1880s

 

Joseph began touring in 1883. He was well received in the East Midlands, even in his

home town of Leicester..

 

The lights of London beckoned. George Hitchcock approached an acquaintance, Tom

Norman, a fellow showman who also exhibited human oddities in several 'penny gaff shops'

(a penny gaff was a short theatrical sketch) in East London. Norman agreed to take over the

management of Merrick so in November 1883, George Hitchcock took his new charge south

for the winter season.

 

Talk of the Town

tomnorman  When Joseph walked into the office, Tom Norman was appalled by his

  appearance. He'd never before seen such deformities and was worried that

  Joseph might be too frightening to be a successful exhibit. Once Norman had

  got over the initial shock, he decided he would take Joseph on. Joseph first

  went on show in an empty shop on the Whitechapel Road.  Tom Norman

  festooned the shop with posters with a drawing of half man/half elephant

   creature. He came up with a pamphlet entitled 'The Autobiography of   

  Joseph  Carey Merrick', which contained an account of Merrick's life. This

  account was only mildly exaggerated. Who actually wrote it remains unclear

  - it might have been a joint effort by Norman and Merrick.

 

  Tom Norman acted as the show's 'barker', drawing crowds with his showman's

  spiel. When a crowd had gathered, Norman would take his paying public into

   the shop. "The Elephant Man was "not here to frighten you but to enlighten

   you.", he'd declare loudly. Then he went into

  his patter…

 

"Ladies and gentlemen ... I wish to introduce Mr Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man.

Before doing so I ask you please to prepare yourselves—Brace yourselves up to witness

one who is probably the most remarkable human being ever to draw the breath of life.

 

…before opening the curtain that concealed Joseph from his audience.

 

Showman enough to know all about shock value, Tom Norman let the audience stand close to

the curtain. When he whisked it back, some shuddered, some cried out and most were

evidently horror-struck. Norman would go on to describe how it was Merrick had come to be

so seriously malformed.

poster 2

 

It'd be rewarding to report that the Elephant Man immediately became a sell-out attraction.

In reality, sales of the life-story pamphlet were what kept the show afloat initially. But it was

a living of sorts and Joseph began to set aside money from his share of the profits. His

dream was to someday have a home of his own.

exhib hse

The Whitechapel Road shop where Joseph was first exhibited.

 

 

Merrick meets his eventual saviour

 

Though it's easy to recount the slightly sordid glitz of the show, the man behind it warrants

closer attention. Yes, Joseph was a freak but he was also a human being too. He was also of

interest to the medical profession. Perhaps a kindlier quirk of fate meant that the exhibition

shop stood directly opposite the London Hospital. Among the young medics who went to see

Joseph was a house surgeon, Reginald Tuckett. Captivated by Joseph's bizarre appearance

and what might have caused it, Tuckett mentioned in to a senior colleague. This is how

Frederick Treves, who was to figure prominently in Joseph's life, came to know he existed.

 

treves

Dr. Frederick Treves

 

Like many Londoners engaged in a trade, Joseph slept 'over the shop' in an iron bed with a

curtain for privacy. Seeing Joseph in bed one morning, Tom Norman noted that he slept in a

sitting position, with his knees drawn up and his head resting on them. The gross burden

imposed by his distended head meant that Joseph had to sleep like this. In attempting to

sleep in a prone position, Joseph would, as he himself said, "…risk waking up with a broken

neck."

 

Joseph's appearance naturally invited comment when he was out and about. Such comment

was inevitably cruel so in attempt to draw as little attention as possible. Joseph habitually

wore an outfit that concealed him from passers-by. This consisted of a large black cloak and

a brown cap with a hanging curtain that hid Joseph's face.

Cap

 

Medical Investigation Begins

 

Frederick Treves, having mulled over what his colleague had said, arranged to meet Joseph.

A private presentation was arranged for a time before the shop was opened in the morning.

The viewing lasted only 15 minutes and Treves's reminiscences, written in 1923, revealed

what he thought of Joseph on this first encounter…

 

[Merrick was] "the most disgusting specimen of humanity that I had ever seen ... at no time

had I met with such a degraded or perverted version of a human being as this lone figure

displayed."

profile 2

 

Treves returned to the hospital but before long, he sent Reginald Tuckett back to the shop,

to ask if Joseph would be willing to go to the hospital to be examined. Both Merrick and

Norman expressed agreement.

 

On the appointed day, Joseph put on his secretive outdoor clothing and took the cab Treves

had thoughtfully sent for him. Treves began to examine Joseph, noting that he was," Shy,

confused, not a little frightened and evidently much cowed." At this stage, Treves was

working in the belief that Merrick was an imbecile.

nude

Image of Joseph naked, showing the extent of

his deformities

 

Treves noted that Joseph's skin surface was strewn with warty growths (papillomata). The

tissue beneath the skin was fragile enough to allow the skin to be loose. In some areas, it

hung from the body. Both Joseph's legs and his right arm displayed skeletal abnormality.

Such abnormality was most obvious in the skull.

back head

Picture of the back of Joseph's head.

 

The surgery on Joseph's lip hadn't been entirely successful, his speech could barely be

understood. Conversely, Joseph's left arm and hand were not deformed and his genitals

were normal. Deformities and damaged hip apart, Joseph was deemed to be in good health.

Treves went on to take some measurements. Joseph's right wrist measured 12 inches

(30cm) in circumference, one of the fingers on his right hand had a circumference of 5 inches

(13 cm). Joseph's head measured an astonishing maximum of 36 inches (91cm) around.

 

Tom Norman noted that Joseph went for examinations up to three times. Treves provided

Joseph with copies of the photographs he'd had taken – these were reproduced in the

autobiographical pamphlet. In early December, Treves lectured the Pathological Society of

London at Bloomsbury, with Joseph appearing.

 

Unsurprisingly, Joseph became weary of being examined by doctors, and of displayed as a

specimen. Tom Norman pointed out that Joseph had complained, saying, "[I was] stripped

naked, and felt like an animal in a cattle market.". The medical examinations and

presentations stopped.

 

Reversal of Fortune

 

At this time, the tide of Victorian public opinion was changing about shows like The

Elephant Man. They were increasingly seen as indecent and the crowds they attracted

caused a public nuisance. Soon, the police closed down Tom Norman's Whitechapel Road

shop.  Joseph's backers in Leicester took him away from Norman.

 

In 1885, not long after his final medical examination, Joseph went touring again, this time

with Sam Roper's travelling fair. He became friendly with two fellow performers, 'Roper's

Midgets'. This double act consisted of Harry Bramley and Bertram Dooley. Though small in

stature, this pair sometimes defended Joseph when members of the public began to bother

him.

harry wallaby

Harry Bramley, boxing with a wallaby.

 

Before long, Sam Roper was becoming uneasy about putting Joseph on show. The

magistrates and the police acting for them were being far less tolerant of freak shows, and

one featuring The Elephant Man naturally attracted attention. Merrick's managers decided

to send Joseph on a tour of Europe, on the basis that both the foreign audiences and

authorities would be less enthusiastic about taking the show off the road.

 

Joseph's run of luck was soon to end. Financially, the show fared no better abroad and public

opinion was equally unsympathetic. Joseph's European manager took him to Brussels and

then struck. Joseph had saved £50 (now worth approximately £4,600). The unnamed

manager stole it and left Joseph abandoned in a city unknown to him. Joseph went to Ostend

by train but was refused passage in the Dover ferry. He was more fortunate in Antwerp,

where he booked passage aboard a ship bound for Harwich, on England's east coast.

Still alone, Joseph arrived at London's Liverpool Street station on the 24th of June 1886.

Ineligible to be given accommodation in a London workhouse for more than one night,

Joseph was nearly 100 miles from the workhouse in Leicester.

 

He tried asking strangers for help but his appearance and unintelligible speech worked

against him. A crowd gathered, taunting and confusing him with their remarks. A policemen

appeared and took Joseph to an unoccupied waiting room. Cold, scared, exhausted and

unable to communicate, Joseph was in trouble. Fortunately, Frederick Treves had given

Joseph his card. Taking this, the only identification he had, Joseph showed it to the police,

who called Treves.

 

At the station, Treves recognised Joseph and quickly put him in a hansom cab, instructing

the driver to go to The London Hospital. There, Joseph was diagnosed as suffering from

bronchitis. He was admitted to the hospital, bathed, fed and bedded down a small attic

isolation room.

Royal London Sep

 

Hospital Care

 

Joseph Merrick was safe at last, and his hospitalisation ensured he remained safe and well

cared for. Over the following five months, his health improved. Treves had noted that the

Joseph's skin growths (papillomata) gave off a distasteful odour. The hospital's nurses,

some of whom had to steel themselves to even look at Joseph, bathed him regularly, which

largely solved the problem.

 

rt profile

 

Frederick Treves could now spend more time on Joseph, and even began to better

understand his garbled speech. Treves could also conduct more searching examinations; the

results were not encouraging.

 

In fact, Joseph was by that time a cripple, his condition having worsened over the previous

two years. Treves had reason to believe that Joseph had also developed a heart problem,

and seemed unlikely to live longer than a few years at most.

 

A further problem had also arisen. This was a practical problem that needed a swift solution.

It had become clear that Joseph was incurable and The London Hospital had neither the

resources nor the staff to care for cases like his. The hospital committee chairman, Francis

Carr Gomm had agreed that Joseph should be allowed into the hospital but permanent

residency wasn't among the hospital's medium to long term procedure.

 

carrgomm

Francis Carr Gom, hospital committe chairman

 

Carr Gomm tried to find a placement for Joseph at an alternative institution, one with

facilities to accommodate a chronic case. This tactic failed. Carr Gomm then wrote to The

Times, describing Joseph's history and situation. He also asked readers for their

suggestions. The letter was printed in the newspaper and brought swift, and encouraging,

responses. Some wrote in with suggestions. These correspondents, and others, also sent

donations. Even the comparatively lofty British Medical Journal covered the story and its

outcome.

gomlet

Carr Gomm's letter, printed in The Times

This put Carr Gomm in a strong position. There were numerous donors, and their financial

support meant that Carr Gomm could suggest that Joseph Merrick should be allowed to

remain in the hospital. The committee, appreciating Carr Gomm's argument, decided that

Joseph could stay for the remainder of his natural life.

 

Joseph moved into two basement rooms, which had been altered to suit his needs. A

specially-made bed was provided and Treves was thoughtful enough to specify that neither

room had a mirror.

 

A Pleasant Outcome

 

Joseph now had a comfortable place to live, a friend who understood his speech, and

continuous care. Unsurprisingly, he blossomed, and Treves came to realise Joseph was no

imbecile. In fact, he proved to be an intelligent, sensitive, articulate man.

 

Treves went to a lot of trouble to help Joseph, perhaps even in trying to introduce some life

experiences that had passed Joseph by. Treves arranged for a meeting between Joseph and

Mrs. Leila Maturin, a "young, pretty widow" who was a family friend. Forewarned about

Joseph's looks, Mrs. Maturin smiled at him and shook his hand. Joseph was soon in tears –

women had always recoiled and moved away from him in the past. Nevertheless, the

innocent friendship continued, in meetings and correspondence. A letter, thanking Mrs.

Maturin for a book and two grouse she'd given him, survives today.

letter

Joseph's letter to Mrs. Maturin

 

 

 

trevehouseTreves took Joseph to look at his town house on Wimpole Street, where he met Mrs. Treves  

and saw the inside of what he referred to as, "a real house". Joseph's experiences were

building up rapidly. He met members of London society, whose interest in him had been

awakened by Carr Gomm's letter. An actress, Madge Kendal, worked hard to boost

donations for Joseph and he became adept at making card models and woven baskets for his

benefactors, by way of thanks.

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Treves' Wimpole St. house

 

cathedral model

Card model of Mainz Catherdal, hand made by Joseph

 

He also had a burning desire to visit the theatre. Treves and Madge Kendal took him to the

Theatre Royal in Drury lane, to see the Christmas pantomime. Wisely concluded in the

private box of a generous aristocrat, Joseph was "awed and enthralled" by the performance,

as Treves later reported.

 

On a memorable occasion, Joseph Merrick met the prince and Princess of Wales, who

arrived to officially open a new building at the hospital. In Joseph's room, the Princess shook

his hand, and sat talking with him. She gave him a signed photograph, and wrote to him

regularly. Joseph was "overjoyed". He also enjoyed three holidays, being taken to the

station in a cab and having a railway carriage all to himself on each journey. He spent the

time walking in the woods of Fawsley Hall, Northamptonshire, collecting flowers and

meeting some of the locals.

 

Decline and demise

 

Joseph Merrick spent four years in the care of the London Hospital. During this time, his

condition progressed and his health declined steadily. The deformities on his face worsened

and his head grew larger still.

 

During this time, Joseph needed a great deal of care on a daily – and nightly – basis. Though

he would go walking, after dark, in the courtyard adjacent to his rooms, he spent more and

more time indoors, often in bed. He was seen to be progressively more lacking in energy as

time went by.

 

At three p.m. on the 11th of April 1890, Treves's house surgeon found Joseph lying

unmoving across the bed. He was dead.

 

Joseph Merrick had often expressed a wish. He wanted to sleep "like other people". At the

inquest, four days later, the official present was none other than Wynne Edwin Baxter, who

had conducted the inquests for Jack the Ripper's Whitechapel murders of 1888.

 

Frederick Treves said…

"He often said to me that he wished he could lie down to sleep like other people ... he must,

with some determination, have made the experiment ... Thus it came about that his death

was due to the desire that had dominated his life—the pathetic but hopeless desire to be

'like other people."

 

Post Mortem

 

The cause of Merrick's death was asphyxiation caused by the weight of the head as he lay

down, and the death was ruled accidental. Treves's post-mortem examination found that

Joseph, in attempting to sleep in a recumbent position, had suffered dislocation of the neck.

He died at the age of 27.

                              deathmask                                    limb casts

                                   The post-mortem cast Treves produced                                                                   Casts of the hands and left leg

 

Joseph may have given Frederick Treves permission to use his remains for medical science,

but no one knows for certain whether this bequest was made. In any event, Treves made a

death mask, or rather a complete cast of Joseph's head, as well as casts of his arms and

legs. Treves went on to dissect the remains. He took numerous tissue samples, skin samples

among them, which were placed in jars with formaldehyde as a preservative. These samples

were later a casualty of the Blitz during World War 2.

 

Joseph's organs were taken from his body. After a memorial service arranged by the

hospital, these were buried, at an unrecorded location. The skeleton, however, was

re-assembled and mounted, and remained as part of the hospital's pathology collection. A

exhibit consisting of some of Joseph's possessions was produced but the skeleton was never

displayed to the public.

multskel

 

Disparate diagnoses

 

The Elephant Man's curious life begs a question: what afflicted him? This defies simple

explanation to this day.

At his second presentation of Joseph's case, in 1885, Treves had to rely on his photographic

record. Henry Radcliffe Crocker, an expert on skin diseases was present. Having seen and

heard the evidence, he suggested that Joseph my have suffered a triple whammy, as it were.

He diagnosed dermatolysis (disease causing the skin to loosen or atrophy of the skin),

pachydermatocele (neuroma attaining large size, producing a condition similar to

elephantiasis) and an unidentified bone deformity. Crocker said the cause of these was,

"Changes in the nervous system."

 

skull1     skull2                 frontskull

                                              These remarkable images show the extent of the concretions on Joseph's skull

 

Twenty-four years later, Frederick Parkes Weber, a skin specialist, wrote about von

Recklinghausen's disease in the British Journal of Dermatology. This condition was first

described in 1882 by German pathologist Friedrich Daniel von Recklinghausen. Weber

suggested Joseph Merrick suffered from this genetic disorder. However, one symptom was

the presence of 'café au lait spots' – patches of light-brown discolouration on the skin.

Joseph didn't have any such pigmentation.

 

Shortly afterwards, medical terminology changed. Von Recklinghausen's became

Neurofibromatosis Type 1, as it is still called. It was generally accepted as the diagnosis for

Joseph's condition. But not every doctor agreed. Maffucci syndrome (a tendency to develop

other benign or malignant tumors) was put forward as an alternative, as was Albright's

disease (patchy skin pigmentation, and endocrine dysfunction).

 

It was not until 1986 that a congenital disorder called Proteus syndrome was put forward as

a diagnosis for Joseph. In the British Medical Journal, Michael Cohen and J.A.R. Tibbles

wrote that there having been no café au lait spots and lack of evidence of Neurofibromatosis

in Jospeh's microanatomy (histology) suggested that Proteus syndrome had indeed been the

problem.

h&s

 

Neurofibromatosis Type 1 affects the human nervous system, while Proteus syndrome , a

intermittent condition, affects different tissue types. In Joseph Merrick's case, Cohen and

Tibbles identified…

* Thickened skin and subcutaneous tissues, especially in the hands and feet.

* Plantar hyperplasia (increased thickness of the soles of the feet).

* Lipomas (encapsulated tumors of adipose tissue, usually composed of mature fat cells).

* Unidentified subcutaneous masses.

* Hypertrophy of long bones (enlargement of overgrowth of the arm and leg bones).

* Macrocephaly (unusual enlargement of the head).

* Hyperostosis (unusual enlargement) of the skull.

 

Although the diagnosis seemed most appropriate, it was not beyond question. In 2001, Chartered

Biologist Paul Spiring suggested that Joseph may have had a combination of Proteus

syndrome and Neurofibromatosis Type 1.

face/skull

 

During the following year, the BBC aired a broadcast seeking Joseph's ancestors on his

mother's side. Pat Selby, from Leicester, was found to be Joseph's uncle's granddaughter.

But familial line notwithstanding, samples of Pat's DNA offered no diagnostic information

concerning Joseph.

 

 

In 2003, DNA samples were taken from both Joseph's hair and skeleton. Once again, the

tests proved inconclusive. Once more, nobody knew for certain what exactly had afflicted

Joseph. After about ten years, still more DNA testing has offered more support for the

Proteus syndrome theory.

scan1

 

Stranger than fiction

 

Over the years, the story of Joseph Carey Merrick attracted a great deal of attention,

from both the scientific community and the lay public. The story even appeared in The Fourth Pan

of Horror Stories (new impression August 1969).

 

From 1979 (when Cohen first identified Proteus syndrome) to 1982, a number of works,

including books and plays, emerged. The 1980 David Lynch film The Elephant Man, with

John Hurt in the title role, was arguably the most notable production.

 

jacko   In 1987, it was reported that Michael Jackson detected similarities between his own life and

   that of Merrick. Apparently, Jackson saw The Elephant Man no fewer than 35 times; tears
 

  flowed at every viewing. It as reputed that Michael Jackson offered the hospital a million

  dollars for the Merrick skeleton. Out of respect, the hospital declined the offer. Six years

  later, Michael Jackson told Oprah Winfrey that he hadn't made any offer to buy the nskeleton.

   He said, "Where would I put some bones? And why would I want them?"

 

 

deppAnother celebrity has been inspired by John Merrick. Johnny Depp made an appointment to

see the skeleton and Jospeh's effects . He was moved by a poem Joseph had penned…

Dragging this vile body round the years
I am not what first appears
A senseless freak
Devoid of hope or tears

And now, Johnny Depp has a life-size replica of the skeleton at his home.

 

 

 

21st Century Elephant

 

The story doesn't quite end here. It's conceivable that The Royal London Hospital may have

had a reason other than respect for not wishing to sell the skeleton. In 1987, it was 97 years

old, and in quite a fragile state. It is now 124 years old.

skel

 

Recently, tradition and technology have worked together. Merrick's skeleton has been the

subject of many 3D scans, which have enabled the making of a full-size replica. This can be

viewed, along with Merrick's personal effects and other items accrued in his lifetime.

So ends the remarkable story of Joseph Carey Merrick, the Elephant Man. At a later stage

in his life, he adapted Isaac Watts' poem, 'False Greatness'. Joseph would use it under his

signature at the end of the letters he wrote.

 

While there is no signature here, it seems appropriate to let Joseph's words close this

article…


'Tis true my form is something odd,
But blaming me is blaming God;
Could I create myself anew,
I would not fail in pleasing you.

If I could reach from pole to pole,
Or grasp the ocean with a span,
I would be measured by the soul;
The mind's the standard of the man.

                                                

 

                                                                               plaque

 

 

The Royal London Hospital Museum
St. Philip's Church
Newark Street
London E1 2AA
Tel. 0207 377 7608
rlharchives@bartshealth.nhs.uk

Opening Hours
Tuesday-Friday 10:00-16:30
Closed public holidays and adjacent days, Christmas-New Year.

No admission charge, but donations welcomed.
Small shop selling postcards, greetings cards and publications.

Wheelchair access.

                                                                                Copyright Gatekeeper 2014