Tags: elephant man | joseph merrick | proper | burial | campaigners | plead

Campaigners Plead: Give 'Elephant Man' a Proper Burial

Campaigners Plead: Give 'Elephant Man' a Proper Burial
Joseph Carey Merrick "Elephant Man" (Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 10 June 2016 01:34 PM

A campaign has been launched to give the "Elephant Man" — whose freakish appearance made him a celebrity in the 1800s and led to an award-winning Broadway show and Oscar-nominated movie — a proper Christian burial.

Joseph Merrick had a rare condition that caused his body to grow thick, lumpy deformities which resembled elephant skin and was exhibited as a sideshow oddity throughout Europe before his death from asphyxia in 1890.

For more than a century, his remains have been kept in a glass case at a private room Queen Mary, University of London, where only medical students and researchers can view them.

But Valerie Howkins, the granddaughter of Merrick's former manager, told the BBC:

"There was just no question when he died that he would go back to [his hometown of] Leicester to be buried.

"It's just so sad that he had his flesh stripped from his bones and has been mounted in a glass cabinet for 120 years against his will. He was Christian and would have expected a Christian burial."

She said she has made the idea a priority after Richard III, the last English king to die in battle, was laid to rest last year — 530 years after he was killed — three years after his remains were found buried under a parking lot.

Another proponent of a Merrick burial, Jeanette Sitton, founder of the Friends of Joseph Carey Merrick, told the Guardian newspaper: "As Joseph Merrick was a devout Christian we know for a fact he would have wanted to be laid to rest."

But the university said it has no intention of giving up Merrick's remains, saying the Elephant Man himself wanted his body donated to science.

"It is understood that Joseph Merrick expected to be preserved after his death, with his remains available for medical education and research," a university spokesperson said.

"As custodians of his remains, the university regularly consults with his descendants over their care."

Merrick's tragic life — he died at the age of 27 — became a Tony-winning play in late 1970s after being debuted in London, with such performers as David Bowie, Mark Hamill, Bruce Davison, and Bradley Cooper appearing in the lead role.

Director David Lynch turned it in a movie in 1980, starring John Hurt as Merrick, and Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft and John Gielgud.

The most famous line in the film comes as Merrick is chased on the street by a mob and his mask is pulled off to reveal his hideous appearance.

"I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I ... am ... a ... man!" he cries.

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A campaign has been launched to give the "Elephant Man" — whose freakish appearance made him a celebrity in the 1800s and led to an award-winning Broadway show and Oscar-nominated movie — a proper Christian burial.
elephant man, joseph merrick, proper, burial, campaigners, plead
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2016-34-10
Friday, 10 June 2016 01:34 PM
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