The Sad And Tragic Story Of Joseph MerrickHappy Scribe's Favorites
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- 26 Oct 2020
His name was Joseph Merrick, he was talented, intelligent, but he also had a debilitating disease that earned him the cruel nickname Elephant Man. Also, he kind of got the Elephant Man nickname from his mother. Here's Joseph Merrick's sad story.
Born on August 5th, 1862, in Leicester, England, Joseph Carey Merrick was the spitting image of health as a baby. Shortly before he turned to, however, abnormalities began to appear. The formerly flawless baby now had a bony growth forming on his forehead, a tumor protruding from his upper lip and discolored lumpy skin. Unfortunately, it was only the beginning. The limbs on Merrick's right side became disproportionately large, far outgrowing his left arm and leg. He couldn't stand upright because of how curved his spine was.
And to make matters worse, a childhood hip injury rendered him permanently lame over time. He also developed foul smelling WarZ measurements taken when Meric was in his early 20s, showed that one of his fingers had a five inch circumference while his right wrist measured in at a 12 inch circumference. His head measured three feet around and was so heavy that his body couldn't accommodate it. In 1890, Meric died when he decided to lie down to sleep, as opposed to his usual position of leaning forward with his head on his knees.
That's how he sleeps if he does not kill himself.
Sources differ on the exact cause, but the weight of his cranium either suffocated him or dislocated his neck.
According to authors Jeanette Setton and Masu Wastrels Shane Joseph Merrick spent his life believing that an elephant caused his condition. The thought brought him comfort and was inherited from his mother, Mary Jane Merrick.
She subscribed to an idea that the authors referred to as maternal impression, which held that misfortunes during pregnancy could leave their mark on the unborn child when she was six months pregnant with Joseph. She reportedly got knocked down in front of a passing circus elephant, with some accounts saying the elephant itself knocked her down. So when she saw a trunk like growth on young Joseph's live in grayish skin develop, the story goes that she blamed the elephant. With advances in medicine came new, more credible theories about the origins of Merrick's condition in the 1980s, researchers thought they pinpointed the culprit, Dubina, a condition called neurofibromatosis type one as the elephant man's disease, a moniker that continued to stick well into the 2000s.
But it's been pointed out that the ailment also causes skin spots and epileptic seizures, neither of which were symptoms. Maric had. DNA tests conducted on Merrick's bones in the 2000s suggest he actually may have suffered from Proteus syndrome.
But since the bones had been previously cleaned with bleach multiple times during the preservation process, the DNA wasn't able to give a definitive finding. In 1873, when Joseph was 10 years old, he lost the only kind parent he had when his mother passed away from bronchial pneumonia. In an 1884 autobiography, Merrick called his mother's death the greatest misfortune of his life. To Joseph's dismay, his father remarried, taking the landlady as his wife. So hurtful were his stepmother's insults and open contempt that even though Merrick was physically incapable of running, he ran away from home as best he could on multiple occasions.
He also walked away from school around age 12 and started working. At his father's urging, Joseph tried to sell goods door to door, but his deformity frightened potential customers who sometimes refused to even come out and greet him. Making matters worse, the lack of money he brought in caused his father to beat him. Desperate to escape the abuse, Joseph ran away for good.
Not only this might not stop it, I want him back so you can beat him so you can stop him. A dog in the streets would fare better with you.
Merrick attempted to make a living as a salesman, but crowds surrounded him wherever he went. Unable to make a living, he decided to live at the Leicester Union workhouse. Instead, he lived with criminals and alcoholics, and his entire day was tightly controlled.
Meanwhile, a mass on Merrick's jaw grew to eight inches long, hindering his ability to eat.
So he had surgery to have some of the flesh removed. Finding gainful employment was hopeless for America because employers couldn't look past his deformity. Eventually, a kind of Stockholm syndrome set in, and he embraced his disease as a means for survival. Writing so thought I'll get my living by being exhibited around the country. And so he became a sideshow attraction advertised by managers as half a man and half an elephant. The Talaba. Elephant. Not unfortunately for. He couldn't attract people for very long.
The Oddity business had been dying out in the U.K. for decades. By 1885, police had closed his exhibit. Merrick took his side show on the road touring Europe. But Calamity befell him again when his road manager stole Merrick's life savings and abandoned him in Belgium. All the while, his health continued to deteriorate. Merick somehow scraped by and returned to London in 1886. Fans of David Lynch's 1980 classic movie, The Elephant Man no doubt remember the heart wrenching scene in which Josef Merrick's character gets surrounded and hounded by onlookers at Liverpool Street Station.
Trapped in a sea of inhumanity, he unleashes a pained howl before yelling, Oh, no, no, no.
Hey, hey. According to The Guardian, that scene was true to the memoirs of Frederick Treves, a surgeon who befriended Merrick in 1884 when the newly dubbed Elephant Man brought his sideshow act to a white chapel shop across from the London hospital. He attracted ample attention from medical professionals, among them Treves, who placed Merrick on display at the Pathological Society of London. But after just one meeting, Merrick refused to ever go back, despite being stared at for a living.
He felt like an animal in a cattle market in front of all those physicians.
Years later, Merrick had just returned from being robbed and abandoned in Belgium. He couldn't speak, but he had Shreve's his business card because the doctor examined him. Back in 1884, Treves decided the best course of action was to have Merick stay at the London hospital. But the facility originally refused to open its doors to him because it lacked the means to treat what they called incurables. Thankfully, Hospital Committee Chairman William Carr stepped in, publishing a letter in the Times newspaper explaining their situation.
And finally, human kindness. One out Carr's letter elicited an outpouring of support and, more importantly, donations. Merrick lived out the remainder of his life at the hospital. OK, I owe prominent figures, including the Princess of Wales saw to it that he got to live out his dreams of seeing a theatre show and vacationing in the country, considering his physical condition and the cruel manner in which contemporary society responded to it. Joseph Merrick probably didn't have many Mary Christmases, but around the holidays, during his stay at the London hospital, he did still get to experience the feelings of goodwill and well wishes that so often eluded him throughout his life.
As recounted in Michael Howell and Peter Ford's biography, The True History of the Elephant Man. Merrick was known to receive Christmas cards during the holidays from far flung correspondents, most notably from Princess Alexandra of Wales, who met Merrick in person in 1887 after learning about his plight. He also received various unsolicited presents from strangers. But perhaps the most significant and symbolic gift he ever received was one he made the effort to specifically ask for himself. According to the biography, the hospital had gotten donations specifically earmarked for Meric.
So Dr Frederick Treves asked what he wanted. Joseph reportedly replied with some quickness and certainty that he'd like a gentlemen's dressing kit. Superficially, none of the contents served a practical purpose for someone with Merrick's physical limitations. But as with any gift, it's the thought that counts. Merrick's biographers attest that the present was symbolic, allowing Merrick to briefly feel as though he was really experiencing a life that he could so often only enjoy in his imagination. A life as a man about town, respected and ordinary, with a bustling social life without stigma or shame.
Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.
Relegated to life as a sideshow attraction, Meric spent far more time having people gawk at his head than being appreciated for what was inside it. In fact, Dr Treves initially diagnosed America as an imbecile because his condition kept him from speaking like a normal person. During his days at the London hospital, people saw what Merrick was capable of and walked back his initially dismissive assessment of Merrick's mind.
Merrick reportedly delighted in such complex hobbies as building replicas of famous places like the Mayans Cathedral.
He was also a writer who composed prose and poems. He had a particular fondness for the Isaac Watts poem False Greatness, which contained certain lines that he could surely relate to his true. My form is something odd, but blaming me is blaming God. Could I create myself anew? I would not fail in pleasing you. It's also easy to imagine that he especially related to the poems ending line the mines, the standard of the man. Today, Joseph Merrick's bones reside in a private room at the Queen Mary University Medical School there.
Merrick's remains serve as an object of analysis and contemplation for doctors and students who can view his remains at a curator's discretion in 2016. Critics of the bones preservation as medical curiosities called for Merrick's remains to be given a proper burial. Valerie Hawkins, whose grandfather Tom Norman worked as a manager for Merrick, lamented the fate of Merrick's physical form, saying It's just so sad that he had his flesh stripped from his bones and has been mounted in a glass cabinet for 120 years against his will.