Biography of the Elephant Man John Merrick Part 1

About the English Elephan Man John Merrick, an account and biography written by a doctor of his deformed figure.

JOHN MERRICK (1863-1890). The English Elephant Man.

In the Mile End Road, opposite London Hospital, there was a line of small shops, including one that was vacant. Its front, except for the door, was hidden by a sheet of canvas announcing the Elephant Man was to be seen within. A crude painting depicted a nightmarish creature with the figure of a man and the characteristics of an elephant.

When I 1st called the exhibition was closed, but I was granted a private interview for a shilling. The empty shop, gray with dust, was cold and dank. It was November, 1884.

The showman pulled back a curtain, revealing a bent, blanket-covered figure crouching on a stool. "Stand up!" he called harshly. The thing arose slowly and let the blanket fall.

There stood the most disgusting specimen of humanity I have yet seen. He was a little man, naked to the waist, with an enormous misshapen head. From the brow projected a huge bony mass, like a loaf, almost covering one eye, while from the back of the head hung a bag of spongy, fungous-looking skin. The head was the circumference of his waist. Another mass of bone protruded from the mouth. The nose was a lump of flesh. From his back, hanging down to mid-thigh, were sacklike masses of flesh covered with cauliflower skin. His right arm, big and shapeless, was overgrown with the same cauliflower skin; the hand was like a fin. By contrast, his other arm was normal. From the chest hung a bag of the same repulsive flesh. The lower limbs were grossly deformed. A sickening stench arose from the fungous skin growth. From the showman I learnt the Elephant Man's name was John Merrick and he was 21 years old.

At the time I was lecturer on anatomy at the Medical College opposite. Anxious to prepare an account of the Elephant Man's abnormalities, I arranged to have him visit me at the college. To avoid being mobbed on the street he wore an unusual costume. A long black cloak hung from his shoulders to the ground. Baglike slippers hid his deformed feet. On his head he had an enormous black cap; a gray flannel curtain hung in front, with a horizontal slit so he could look out. He crossed the road in a cab, clutching my card, which ensured his immediate admission to the college. This card was to play a critical part in his life.

I made a careful examination of my visitor. He was shy and confused, and his speech was almost unintelligible because of the bony mass protruding from his mouth. I imagined he was an imbecile and luckily could not appreciate his position. The examination concluded, he left. Next day the police closed the show and the impresario took him elsewhere.

Two years passed. One day a policeman asked for me at the hospital. He told me a weird-looking creature dressed in a black cloak had turned up at Liverpool Street Station. He was unable to speak, but he had given the police my card, which had led the officer to me.

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