The true story of the Elephant Man is a heartbreaking one. Joseph Merrick was born in England in 1862 and suffered an unknown medical condition that caused his skin to swell and grow giant deformities all over his body, including on his face above his nose (hence his nickname). You can see the rare photos of his progression in this video.
Strangely enough, Joseph Merrick was reportedly born a healthy child. He didn't start developing the strange skin abnormalities until he was about two years old, when first his lips swelled, then a bump on his nose. But it wasn't until he was five that the injuries became severe.
The severity of his diseases, which only continued to grow, soon hindered Joseph's ability to do much day to day work. His hands swelled up so that he had to quit his job cigar rolling, and his door-to-door salesmanship faltered because of his off-putting appearance. After being kicked out of his home and trying a stint in the workhouse system, he joined up with traveling showman and began selling himself as "Elephant Man."
Although the Elephant Man briefly found relative peace and success in exploiting his unfortunate plight, his story nonetheless ended just as tragically as it had been throughout. Watch this video to learn more and see the startling, rare photographs of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man.