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Joseph Merrick — The TRAGIC Yet Brave Tale of the Elephant Man

Joseph Merrick, also known as the Elephant Man, was a person of true bravery
Joseph Merrick, also known as the Elephant Man, was a person of true bravery

Joseph Merrick was born on 5th August 1862, taking his first breaths at 50 Lee Street in Leicester. His parents were Joseph Rockley Merrick and Mary Jane. Mary Jane herself faced physical challenges and worked as a domestic servant in Leicester before marrying Joseph Rockley Merrick, who was employed as a warehouseman at the time, in 1861.

Joseph Merrick showed no signs of any disorder at the time of this birth and appeared to be a healthy newborn. In the early years of his life, there were no apparent anatomical abnormalities or symptoms of any medical condition.

He was named Joseph Carey Merrick, with his middle name, Carey, given by his mother, a Baptist who chose it in honor of the preacher William Carey. Joseph Rockley Merrick and Mary Jane had two other children. Their firstborn, William Arthur, was born in January 1866.

Tragically, William succumbed to scarlet fever on 21st December 1870 at the tender age of four. He was laid to rest on Christmas Day of that same year. William found his final resting place alongside his mother, aunts, and uncles in Welford Road Cemetery in Leicester.

The Merrick family welcomed another child, Marion Eliza, on 28th September 1867. Unfortunately, Marion was born with physical disabilities and faced numerous health challenges throughout her life. She battled with myelitis and experienced seizures until her passing on 19th March 1891.

Joseph Merrick Starts to Get Sick

Around the age of five, Joseph Carey Merrick began to exhibit physical characteristics that were unusual and distinctive. According to a pamphlet titled “The Autobiography of Joseph Carey Merrick,” which was created around 1884 for his exhibition, he developed thick and lumpy skin resembling an elephant in texture and color.

A 1930 article in the Illustrated Leicester Chronicle reported that the first signs appeared when he was 21 months old, starting with swellings on his lips. Over time, he also developed a bony lump on his forehead, and his skin became rough and loose.

As he grew older, there was a noticeable difference in size between his left and right arms, and his feet significantly enlarged.

A painting of Joseph Merrick

A painting of Joseph Merrick

The Merrick family attributed Joseph’s physical abnormalities to an incident during Mary’s pregnancy with him. They believed that Mary was knocked over and frightened by a fairground elephant, which they thought caused the condition.

In the 19th century, the concept of maternal impression was widely accepted in Britain, suggesting that the emotional experiences of pregnant women could have lasting physical effects on their unborn children. Joseph carried this belief about the cause of his disability throughout his life.

In addition to his deformities, Joseph suffered a childhood injury when he fell and injured his left hip. The injury became infected, leaving him permanently disabled. Despite his physical challenges, Joseph managed to attend school and maintained a close bond with his mother.

His father, Joseph Rockley Merrick, worked as an engine driver at a cotton factory and also ran a haberdashery business. Mary Jane Merrick passed away on 29th May 1873 from bronchopneumonia, two and a half years after the death of their youngest son, William.

Joseph Rockley Merrick and his two surviving children moved in with Mrs. Emma Wood Antill, a widow who had children of her own. The two families merged when Joseph Rockley Merrick and Emma Wood Antill married on 3rd December 1874.

At the age of 13, Joseph Carey Merrick concluded his formal education, as was customary during that time. Unfortunately, his home life turned into a constant misery, devoid of affection from his father or stepmother.

Joseph Merrick in a photo from 1889

Joseph Merrick in a photo from 1889

Feeling trapped and unhappy, he made several attempts to run away, but each time his father brought him back. At the age of 13, he found employment in a factory rolling cigars. However, after three years, the deformity in his right hand had progressed to the point where he could no longer perform the necessary tasks with the required agility.

Consequently, he lost his job and found himself unemployed. His days were spent aimlessly wandering the streets, searching for work while enduring the taunts of his stepmother.

As Joseph became increasingly burdensome to his family from a financial standpoint, his father eventually obtained a hawker’s license for him. This license allowed him to sell items from the haberdashery shop door to door to earn money.

Unfortunately, this venture proved to be unsuccessful due to the progressive deterioration of his facial deformities, which affected his speech, making it increasingly difficult for others to understand him. Prospective customers reacted with horror upon seeing his physical appearance, refusing to open their doors to him.

People not only stared at him but also followed him out of curiosity. Joseph failed to generate enough income as a hawker to sustain himself.

In 1877, upon returning home one day, Joseph experienced a severe beating at the hands of his father. This incident marked the breaking point, prompting him to leave home for good, seeking a life away from the oppressive environment he had endured for so long.

Joseph Merrick Leaves His House as a Young Adult

Now homeless and destitute, Joseph Carey Merrick found himself living on the streets of Leicester. However, his uncle, Charles Merrick, who worked as a barber, learned of his nephew’s dire situation and extended an accommodation offer in his own home.

Joseph accepted the kind gesture and moved in with his uncle. Despite having a place to stay, Joseph’s attempts to earn a living as a hawker around Leicester proved to be just as fruitless as before.

In fact, his disfigurement attracted such negative attention from the public that the Commissioners for Hackney Carriages decided not to renew his license, further hindering his ability to support himself. Charles, burdened with the responsibility of providing for his own young children, could no longer afford to sustain Joseph’s needs.

Joseph Merrick photographed in 1888

Joseph Merrick photographed in 1888

In late December 1879, at the age of 17, Joseph made the difficult decision to enter the Leicester Union Workhouse. There, he joined approximately 1,180 other residents. The workhouse implemented a classification system to determine each individual’s accommodations and food rations. Joseph was classified as Class One, intended for able-bodied males and females. However, after only 12 weeks in the workhouse, Joseph signed himself out, determined to find employment.

Unfortunately, his efforts proved futile once again, leaving him with no choice but to return to the workhouse. This time, he remained there for a duration of four years.

Around 1882, Joseph underwent significant surgery on his face. The protrusion from his mouth had grown to 20 to 22 centimeters, severely impeding his speech and eating ability. The operation took place in the Workhouse Infirmary under the care of Dr. Clement Frederick Bryan.

During the procedure, a substantial portion of the mass was surgically removed, aiming to alleviate some of the challenges Joseph faced due to his condition.

Joseph Merrick Starts a New Career

Recognizing that his prospects within the workhouse were limited, Joseph Carey Merrick saw a potential escape through the world of human novelty exhibitions. He knew Sam Torr, a comedian, and proprietor of a music hall in Leicester.

Merrick wrote a letter to Torr, who kindly visited him at the workhouse. After assessing Merrick’s unique appearance, Torr realized the potential for earning money by exhibiting him but understood that he would have to be part of a traveling show to maintain Merrick’s novelty.

In collaboration with other managers, Torr, including J. Ellis, a music hall proprietor, George Hitchcock, a traveling showman, and Sam Roper, an owner of a fair, organized Merrick’s exhibition.

On 3rd August 1884, Merrick left the workhouse behind to embark on his new career. The showmen dubbed him the Elephant Man, advertising him as “Half-a-Man and Half-an-Elephant.” They showcased him in various locations throughout the East Midlands, including Leicester and Nottingham, before taking him to London for the winter season.

During this time, George Hitchcock contacted Tom Norman, an acquaintance of his involvement in the penny gaff shops in London’s East End, where human curiosities were exhibited. Although they did not meet in person, Norman agreed to take over Merrick’s management.

In November, Hitchcock accompanied Merrick to London, marking the transition to Norman’s stewardship of Merrick’s exhibition.

Upon Tom Norman’s initial encounter with Joseph Carey Merrick, he was taken aback by the severity of Merrick’s deformities, harboring concerns that his appearance might be too horrifying to attract an audience.

Joseph Merrick photographed in 1889, the year before his death

Joseph Merrick photographed in 1889, the year before his death

But despite his apprehension, Norman decided to exhibit Merrick in the back of an empty shop located on Whitechapel Road. Inside the shop, Merrick had an iron bed surrounded by a curtain that offered him a modicum of privacy.

Norman once observed Merrick asleep and discovered that he always slept in a seated position, with his legs drawn up and his head resting on his knees. The weight of his enlarged head made it impossible for him to sleep lying down, as it posed a risk of “waking with a broken neck,” as Merrick himself expressed.

Norman adorned the shop with posters that had been created by George Hitchcock, featuring grotesque depictions of a being that was part man and part elephant. A pamphlet titled “The Autobiography of Joseph Carey Merrick” was produced, providing an account of Merrick’s life up until that point.

While it remains unclear whether Merrick himself wrote the pamphlet, it offered a generally accurate portrayal of his life. However, it did contain an incorrect date of birth. Throughout his life, Merrick was vague about his actual birth date, leading to discrepancies in recorded information.

Tom Norman used his showman skills to attract a crowd outside the shop by giving lively and captivating speeches. Through his engaging banter, he enticed onlookers to gather, piquing their curiosity. He then guided the intrigued crowd into the shop, assuring them that the Elephant Man was not there to frighten but to enlighten them.

Norman would pull back the curtain with a flourish, exposing Merrick to the astonished and often visibly horrified spectators. As they observed Merrick up close, Norman would recount the circumstances that led to his current condition, including the alleged accident involving his mother and an elephant.

The exhibition of the Elephant Man proved to be moderately successful, primarily generating income from the sales of the autobiographical pamphlet. Mindful of his financial situation, Merrick diligently saved his share of the profits with the hope of one day purchasing his own home. The shop’s strategic location on Whitechapel Road, directly across from the renowned London Hospital, proved advantageous.

Medical students and doctors frequented the area, and many of them visited the shop out of curiosity to witness Merrick’s unique appearance. Among the visitors was a young house surgeon named Reginald Tuckett, who, like his colleagues, found himself fascinated by the deformities of the Elephant Man. Tuckett subsequently shared his discovery with his senior colleague, Frederick Treves.

In November, Frederick Treves initially encountered Merrick during a private viewing arranged before the shop opened for the day. Reflecting on the experience in his 1923 Reminiscences, Treves described Merrick as “the most disgusting specimen of humanity that I had ever seen.”

He found Merrick to be an extreme and distorted version of a human being, unlike anything he had encountered before. The viewing lasted a brief 15 minutes, after which Treves returned to his work. Later that day, he sent Reginald Tuckett back to the shop to inquire whether Merrick would be willing to attend the hospital for an examination.

Norman and Merrick agreed to the proposition, and arrangements were made for Merrick’s discreet transportation to the hospital.

Merrick donned a costume for the journey to the hospital to avoid attracting undue attention. He wore an oversized black cloak and a brown cap and covered his face with a hessian sack. Accompanied by Treves in a hired cab, they made the short trip to the hospital.

Joseph Merrick's cap and hood he wore during travels

At the hospital, Treves conducted a thorough examination of Merrick. He observed that Merrick appeared shy, confused, and visibly frightened, displaying a sense of submission. Initially, Treves assumed that the Elephant Man was mentally impaired.

During the examination, Treves measured Merrick’s head circumference, which was an unusually large size of 36 inches (91 cm). He also measured the circumference of Merrick’s right wrist, which measured 12 inches (30 cm), and one of his fingers, which had a circumference of 5 inches (13 cm).

Merrick’s skin was covered in papillomata, or warty growths, with the largest emitting an unpleasant odor. The subcutaneous tissue beneath the skin appeared weak, leading to its loosening and sagging in certain areas.

Merrick exhibited bone deformities in his right arm, both legs, and, most prominently, in his enlarged skull. Despite a previous surgery to correct his mouth in 1882, Merrick’s speech remained barely intelligible. However, Treves noted that Merrick’s left arm and hand were not enlarged or deformed.

Aside from his physical deformities and the lameness resulting from his hip injury, Treves concluded that Merrick seemed to be in good overall health.

After their initial meeting, Norman recalled that Merrick visited the hospital for examination on multiple occasions, though the exact number is uncertain. During one of these visits, Treves gave Merrick his calling card.

On one occasion, Treves arranged for photographs to be taken of Merrick, and he provided Merrick with a set of copies, which were later included in his autobiographical pamphlet. Then, on 2 December, Treves presented Merrick at a meeting of the Pathological Society of London in Bloomsbury, where his condition garnered significant attention.

However, as time passed, Merrick expressed to Norman his unwillingness to continue being examined at the hospital. According to Norman, Merrick felt stripped and dehumanized during the examinations, likening the experience to being treated like an animal in a cattle market.

During the Victorian era, attitudes towards freak show exhibitions like the one Norman operated were changing. Concerns arose regarding decency and the disruption caused by crowds gathering outside such exhibits.

Shortly after Merrick’s final examination by Treves, the police shut down Norman’s shop on Whitechapel Road. As a result, Merrick’s managers from Leicester decided to remove him from Norman’s care.

In 1885, Merrick joined Sam Roper’s traveling fair and began touring with them. He formed a friendship with two fellow performers known as “Roper’s Midgets” named Bertram Dooley and Harry Bramley, who occasionally defended Merrick against public harassment.

Joseph Merrick Travels to Europe

As public interest in freak shows and human curiosities waned, authorities became more determined to shut down such exhibitions. The Elephant Man continued to captivate audiences with his horrifying appearance, but his manager, Roper, grew concerned about the increasing scrutiny from local authorities.

In an attempt to find more lenient treatment, Merrick’s management decided to take him on a tour of continental Europe. Assumedly under the care of an unknown man, possibly named Ferrari, they embarked on their journey.

However, the Elephant Man’s fortunes did not improve in Europe. Authorities in different jurisdictions took similar measures to remove him from their midst. In Brussels, Merrick was abandoned by his new manager, who left him alone and stole his considerable savings of £50 (equivalent to £5,800 in 2021).

The shop on Whitechapel Road where Merrick was exhibited. Today it sells saris.

The shop on Whitechapel Road where Merrick was exhibited. Today it sells saris.

Left destitute, Merrick embarked on a journey by train to Ostend, hoping to board a ferry to Dover. Unfortunately, he was denied passage. Undeterred, he made his way to Antwerp, where he eventually secured a place on a ship bound for Harwich in Essex. His journey continued by train, bringing him back to London, where he arrived at Liverpool Street Station.

On 24 June 1886, Merrick found himself back in London, his home country, but without any place to go. His disfigurement and unintelligible speech made it difficult for him to seek help from strangers, and his appearance drew a curious crowd.

Thankfully, a compassionate policeman intervened and escorted Merrick to an empty waiting room, where he sought refuge in a corner, exhausted and alone. Unable to communicate effectively, Frederick Treves’s card was the only means of identification he possessed.

The police reached out to Treves, who promptly arrived at the train station. Recognizing Merrick, Treves arranged for a hansom cab to transport him to the London Hospital. Merrick was admitted to the hospital, where he received care for his bronchitis. He was given a warm bath, provided with nourishment, and finally placed in a small isolation room located in the hospital’s attic.

Joseph Merrick Gets New Accommodations

Once Merrick was admitted to the hospital, Frederick Treves conducted a more comprehensive examination, revealing the further deterioration of Merrick’s physical condition over the past two years. His deformities had significantly impaired him, and Treves suspected that Merrick now had a heart condition with a limited life expectancy of just a few years.

However, under the care of the hospital staff, Merrick’s overall health showed improvement during the next five months. While some nurses initially struggled with his appearance, they eventually overcame their unease and provided him with the necessary care.

Efforts were made to address the issue of Merrick’s unpleasant odor through regular bathing, and Treves gradually became more adept at understanding his speech. New photographs were taken to document his condition.

However, by November, it became evident that long-term care plans were necessary. The London Hospital was not equipped or staffed to provide ongoing care for individuals with incurable conditions, which Merrick clearly required.

Merrick's close friend and doctor Frederick Treves in 1884

Merrick’s close friend and doctor Frederick Treves in 1884

Francis Carr Gomm, the chairman of the hospital committee, had initially supported Treves in admitting Merrick, but alternative arrangements need to be made.

Despite efforts to find a suitable institution or hospital to provide long-term care for Merrick, none were willing to accept him. In a desperate attempt to seek assistance, Francis Carr Gomm wrote a letter to The Times on December 4, sharing Merrick’s plight and requesting suggestions from readers.

The response from the public was overwhelming, with numerous letters and donations pouring in. The British Medical Journal also covered Merrick’s situation. With the donors’ generous financial support, Gomm presented a compelling case to the committee, advocating for Merrick to remain in the hospital.

Ultimately, it was decided that Merrick would be allowed to stay at the London Hospital for the remainder of his life. He was relocated from the attic to the basement, where two rooms were arranged for him adjacent to a small courtyard.

These rooms, including a custom-made bed, were specially adapted and furnished to accommodate Merrick’s needs. As per Treves’s instruction, there were no mirrors in his living space to spare him from the distress of seeing his own reflection.

Merrick gradually settled into his new life at the London Hospital, finding solace in the regular visits from Treves. They developed a close bond, and Merrick, now able to communicate more easily, enjoyed engaging in long conversations with the doctor. While their friendship grew, Merrick remained guarded and never fully disclosed his innermost thoughts and experiences.

He did reveal that he was an only child and carried a picture of his mother, leading Treves to suspect that she had abandoned him as an infant. Merrick was reluctant to discuss his time as an exhibit, but he expressed gratitude towards his former managers.

As Treves spent more time with Merrick, he realized that his initial assumption of intellectual impairment was mistaken. Merrick displayed sensitivity and a wide range of emotions. He often experienced moments of boredom, loneliness, and depression, having spent his adult life segregated from women and facing rejection due to his appearance.

His encounters with women were marked by disgust or fear, shaping his perception of them. Recognizing Merrick’s need for companionship and a sense of normalcy, Treves arranged for his friend, Mrs. Leila Maturin, to visit Merrick.

Despite being forewarned about his appearance, Mrs. Maturin, described as a young and attractive widow, agreed to meet Merrick. The encounter was brief, as Merrick became overwhelmed with emotion. However, it was a transformative experience for him.

Merrick later confided in Treves that Mrs. Maturin was the first woman to smile at him and shake his hand. They maintained contact, and Merrick even wrote a letter expressing his gratitude for the gifts she had given him. This letter remains the only surviving written correspondence from Merrick.

The only surviving letter written by Joseph Merrick

The only surviving letter written by Joseph Merrick

This encounter with Mrs. Maturin opened a door of possibility for Merrick, instilling in him a glimmer of hope for a more fulfilling connection in his life.

The meeting with Mrs. Maturin sparked a newfound self-confidence in Merrick. He began interacting with other women during his time at the hospital, showing a genuine interest in each of them. Treves believed that Merrick’s ultimate hope was to reside in an institution for the blind, where he might find a woman who could not judge him based on his physical deformities.

Merrick’s curiosity about the outside world made him question Treves about various aspects of life. In response to Merrick’s desire to see what he considered a “real” house, Treves took him to visit his own townhouse on Wimpole Street, where Merrick had the opportunity to meet Treves’ wife.

Back at the hospital, Merrick spent his days engaged in reading and constructing intricate models of buildings using cards. He eagerly anticipated visits from Treves and the house surgeons, cherishing the opportunity for conversation and connection.

Thanks to Carr Gomm’s letters to The Times, Merrick’s story captured the attention of London’s upper class. Actress Madge Kendal became particularly involved, championing Merrick’s cause by raising funds and generating public sympathy on his behalf.

Although they likely never met in person, Kendal sent Merrick photographs of herself and arranged for a basket weaver to visit him and teach him the craft. Other members of high society also visited Merrick, bringing him gifts of photographs and books. In return, Merrick expressed his gratitude through letters, handcrafted models, and baskets.

These interactions with esteemed individuals boosted Merrick’s confidence, enabling him to engage in conversations with people passing by his windows. Charles Taylor, the son of the engineer responsible for adapting Merrick’s living quarters, formed a bond with him and would occasionally play the violin during their time together.

Merrick’s growing boldness even led him to venture beyond his small quarters to explore the hospital. However, the nurses would swiftly guide him back, concerned that his appearance might frighten the other patients.

Despite these limitations, Merrick’s life at the hospital became more enriched through his interactions with influential figures and the occasional ventures into the wider hospital environment. He found solace in his creative pursuits, the connections he formed, and the small glimpses he had of the outside world.

On a significant day, May 21, 1887, the London Hospital celebrated the completion of two new buildings, which the Prince and Princess of Wales officially inaugurated. Intrigued by Merrick’s story, Princess Alexandra expressed her desire to meet the Elephant Man.

Following a tour of the hospital, the royal entourage made their way to Merrick’s rooms for an introduction. Princess Alexandra warmly greeted Merrick, shaking his hand and spending time conversing with him.

This extraordinary encounter filled Merrick with immense joy and left a lasting impression on him. The princess gifted him a signed photograph of herself, which he cherished dearly, and she continued to send him Christmas cards each year, maintaining a connection with Merrick.

Merrick also had the opportunity to fulfill one of his long-standing desires—to attend the theatre. With the assistance of Madge Kendal, Treves arranged for Merrick to attend the Christmas pantomime at the renowned Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

Concealed in Lady Burdett-Coutts’ private box and accompanied by some nurses, Merrick experienced a sense of awe and enchantment as he watched the performance. The spectacle captivated him to such an extent that he was rendered speechless, immersing himself in the story unfolding before his eyes.

The impact of this theatrical experience stayed with Merrick for weeks afterward as he recounted and relived the narrative as if it had been a tangible reality.

Final Years and Death of Joseph Merrick

During his time at the London Hospital, Merrick took three holidays in the countryside. These trips were meticulously arranged to ensure his comfort and privacy. Merrick would board a train unnoticed and have an entire carriage to himself.

His destination was Fawsley Hall, the estate of Lady Knightley, located in Northamptonshire. He stayed at the gamekeeper’s cottage and enjoyed leisurely walks in the woods, where he delighted in collecting wildflowers.

During his stay, Merrick struck up a friendship with a young farm laborer who later spoke highly of Merrick’s intellect and engaging personality. Treves regarded these trips as the most memorable holidays of Merrick’s life, even though there were three separate occasions when he ventured into the countryside.

Merrick’s health steadily declined as the years passed at the London Hospital. He became increasingly dependent on the care provided by the nursing staff, spending a significant amount of time in bed or within his quarters as his energy diminished. His facial deformities continued to progress, resulting in further enlargement of his head.

Tragically, Merrick passed away on April 11, 1890, at the young age of 27. Around 3:00 p.m., a house surgeon discovered Merrick lifeless on his bed. His uncle, Charles Merrick, formally identified his body. An inquest into his death was conducted on April 27 by Wynne Edwin Baxter, who had gained notoriety for presiding over the inquests related to the Whitechapel murders of 1888.

Following Merrick’s untimely death, an inquest determined that his passing was accidental, caused by asphyxia due to the weight of his head while lying down. After conducting an autopsy, Dr. Treves concluded that Merrick had suffered a dislocated neck, which likely resulted in severing his vertebral arteries.

Dr. Treves speculated that Merrick, in an attempt to experience sleeping in a typical position, had made the fateful decision to lie down, contrary to his usual practice of sleeping upright due to his physical condition.

The skull of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man

The skull of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man

Rather than receiving a traditional burial, almost every part of Merrick’s body was preserved for further study, including his skeleton and soft tissues. Dr. Treves dissected the body, took plaster casts of Merrick’s head and limbs, and preserved skin samples. Unfortunately, the skin samples were lost during World War II.

However, the skeleton is now part of the pathology collection at the Royal London Hospital, which merged with the Medical College of St Bartholomew’s Hospital to form the School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University in London. The mounted skeleton is not publicly displayed.

A small museum dedicated to Joseph Merrick’s life can be found at the university. It houses some of his personal belongings and features a replica of his skeleton, which was first exhibited in 2012. Merrick’s remains are kept in a private room, enclosed in a glass case, and can be viewed by medical students and professionals by appointment.

The purpose of allowing access is to aid in the understanding of the physical deformities resulting from Merrick’s condition. While the university intends to retain his skeleton at the medical school, there is debate over whether Merrick, being a devout Christian, should receive a Christian burial in his hometown of Leicester.

Jo Vigor-Mungovin, author of the book “Joseph: The Life, Times & Places of the Elephant Man,” claimed to have discovered the purported burial location of Joseph Merrick’s soft tissues. According to her findings, Merrick’s remains were interred in an unmarked grave within the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium.

Vigor-Mungovin explained that the information regarding Merrick’s soft tissue burial had not been substantiated previously, partly due to the numerous graveyards in existence during that era.

However, her curiosity led her to delve into the records of the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, narrowing down the time period of her search.

During her investigation, Vigor-Mungovin initially made an offhand comment, speculating that Merrick’s remains might have been laid to rest in the same vicinity as the victims of Jack the Ripper, as they had both passed away within the same locality.

This remark prompted her to explore the cemetery’s records further and ultimately uncover what she believes to be the final resting place of Merrick’s soft tissues.

While there has been no scientific testing conducted on the remains buried in the identified location, Jo Vigor-Mungovin, the author who extensively researched Joseph Merrick’s life for her book, expressed a high level of confidence, stating she is “99% certain” that the grave she discovered is that of the Elephant Man.

Vigor-Mungovin’s certainty stems from several factors. The cemetery records indicated that the deceased’s residence was the London Hospital, where Merrick resided during his final years. Additionally, the deceased’s age matched Merrick’s age at the time of his death, providing further support for the belief that the burial site belonged to Joseph Merrick.

AI reveals how Joseph Merrick Would Have Looked Like Without the Disease

AI reveals how Joseph Merrick Would Have Looked Like Without the Disease

The cemetery records provided further compelling evidence linking the discovered burial site to Joseph Merrick. Notably, the records indicated that the coroner for the burial was Wynne Baxter, the same individual who conducted the inquest into Merrick’s death. Moreover, the burial date aligns with a timeframe of 13 days after Merrick’s passing.

Jo Vigor-Mungovin emphasized the convergence of these details, suggesting that the accumulation of evidence is too substantial to be dismissed as mere coincidence. Authorities have expressed the possibility of installing a small plaque to mark the grave, and Vigor-Mungovin hopes that a memorial can be established in Merrick’s hometown of Leicester.

Regardless of the outcome, it is unlikely that the world will ever forget the extraordinary and tragic story of Joseph Merrick’s life. His legacy continues to captivate and inspire, leaving an indelible mark in history.

RIP Joseph Merrick.

Next, read about the True Story of The People Eater of Venezuela, and then, about the Mysterious Disappearance of Brian Shaffer!


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Written By

Abin Tom Sebastian, also known as Mr. Morbid in the community, is an avid fan of the paranormal and the dark history of the world. He believes that sharing these stories and histories are essential for the future generations. For god forbid, we have seen that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.



  1. Rachel De Sousa

    June 7, 2023 at 3:51 pm

    Well researched and I appreciate how much time and effort you put into the article. Well done!

    • Mr Morbid

      June 7, 2023 at 6:09 pm

      Thanks a lot for your amazing review and your time!

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