A text-only version of this article appeared on the now-defunct Red Room in 2004 and on Wattpad in 2010. I’ve updated the date information and provided some new links. Enjoy!
Sometimes I think my head is so big, because it is full of ideas. — Joseph Merrick, in Bernard Pomerance’s The Elephant Man
Those who have read In The Eye of The Beholder: A Novel of the Phantom of the Opera know this already, but I don’t mind sharing it here: Joseph Merrick is featured in the story. No spoilers, I promise.
Joseph Carey Merrick, aka “The Elephant Man,” lived during the Victorian era. He suffered from what we now understand as Proteus syndrome, where parts of the body grow at different rates.
Merrick lived part of his life as a sideshow freak until he was taken in by Dr. Sir Frederick Treves. Treves arranged a home for Merrick at the hospital where he worked and took care of him until his death at the age of 27. Merrick was literate, and a devout Christian. He often told visitors that his favorite book was the Bible.
I won’t go into Merrick’s entire biography here; additional information is available here.
However, there is a reason I write these words today. April 11, 2017, is the 127th anniversary of Merrick’s death. On behalf of the Friends of Joseph Carey Merrick, I ask that you take a moment on this day to remember Joseph and pray for those with disabilities both visible and invisible.
(Public domain image of Joseph Carey Merrick’s carte de visite photograph via Wikimedia Commons.)