Weird History

Heartbreaking Facts About Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man

Joseph Merrick was born on August 5, 1862 in Leicester, England. When he was about five years old, he began developing signs of an abnormal disorder where large growths appeared on his bones and skin. By the time he reached adulthood, the circumference of Merrick's head was roughly 3 feet, with growths disfiguring his face and jaw, rendering him nearly unable to communicate. 

At the age of 21, Merrick fled the workhouse he had been forced to live in due to his disability, and he took up with a traveling human oddity exhibit, joining the ranks of other famous "freakshow" performers and becoming known as "The Elephant Man." When the public interest in freak shows waned in England, he was forced to spend the remainder of his days living in a London hospital. Merrick died in April of 1890 due to complications from his condition. He was just 27 years old.

Thought to have suffered from an extremely rare congenital disorder called Proteus syndrome (also known as Wiedemann syndrome), Merrick is one of the most famous medical oddities in recent history. Though he lived much of his short life on display like a soulless object, Merrick was very human, and outside of his disfigurement, his life was also filled with tragedy. This list explores the most heartbreaking facts about Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man.

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