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 Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide 
This text is from the E-book Jack the Ripper: A Suspect Guide by Christopher J. Morley (2005). Click here to return to the table of contents. The text is unedited, and any errors or omissions rest with the author. Our thanks go out to Christopher J. Morley for his permission to publish his E-book.

Joseph Carey Merrick

Merrick was mentioned recently on a true crime website as a possible Ripper suspect, with the following reasons given. That due to him residing at the London Hospital he had access to knives. That he had a grudge against women, being unable to have physical relations with them due to his disfigurement. And lastly, that the reason he was never recognized was due to the fact that he wore a hood. These suggestions are, to say the least, not only ludicrous but also cruel. Purely because somebody suffers from a disfigurement or disability does not automatically make them a monster. If those concerned had taken the time to research John Merrick they would have discovered that throughout his unfortunate life he remained one of the kindest, gentle and noblest of men..

Joseph Carey Merrick was born in Leicester in 1862 at 50 Lee Street, he was later to become more famously known as the Elephant Man, due to a disfigurement which from the age of two resulted in tumours appearing on his face and body, these later worsened to resemble cauliflower like growths, the growths became so severe that he quickly became known by the unfortunate name.

It is now believed Merrick suffered from a rare disorder called Protus Syndrome, of which there has been less then 100 cases ever recorded.

Joseph's mother died in 1873, and though no photograph exists, according to eyewitnesses accounts she too was believed to have been crippled. For much of his life he was unemployed, and due to prejudice, unemployable. As a last resort he took a job as a side show freak, though did not suffer the dreadful beatings as portrayed in the movie about his life, in fact Tom Norman the entrepreneur, actually treated Joseph fairly well, after all, he was his livelihood.

Surgeon Frederick Treves, later to become Sir Frederick Treves, came to hear of Merrick's condition and expressed scientific and medical interest in him, and presented him before the Pathological Society on 2 December 1884. A permanent home was found for Joseph at the London Hospital after the intervention of the British Royal Family. Here he became a society celebrity, receiving visits by the great and the good.

Merrick's ability for speech was not as articulate as portrayed by the actor John Hurt in the movie The Elephant Man, and Treves would often have to translate. This is possibly how the confusion regarding his Christian name came about, and why he was often referred to as John Merrick, and not Joseph Merrick.

When he died in 1890 at the age of 28, he was denied the dignity of a burial, instead his skeleton remains on permanent display at the London Hospital, where it is tirelessly examined in the hope that it may one day provide the answers and help to find a cure for Protus Syndrome.

On the 15 May 2004 a plaque was unveiled in his home town by the Lord Mayor of Leicester, 'it reads, Joseph Carey Merrick 1862-1890, a true model of bravery and dignity for all peoples of all generations'.

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