Joseph Merrick, better known (sadly) as the “Elephant Man” in the late 19th century, deserves to be given a Christian burial in Leicester, his home town, according to a group of supporters, reports The Guardian.
Today, his remains are stored in a glass case in a private room at Queen Mary University of London. Medical students and professionals can go and take a look at Merrick’s remains after scheduling an appointment to do so.
Merrick appeared in traveling “freak shows” before he died, at the early age of 27, in 1890. When he was five, he began to suffer from Proteus syndrome, an exceptionally rare medical problem that causes bones, skin and other tissue to grow excessively.
Valerie Howkins, the granddaughter of Tom Norman (one of Merrick’s former managers), told the BBC that “there was just no question when he died that he would go back to Leicester to be buried. He was Christian and would have expected a Christian burial. It’s not right that his bones should be stuck in a box in a storeroom.”
Jeanette Sitton, the founder of the “Friends of Joseph Carey Merrick,” explained that “as Joseph Merrick was a devout Christian we know for a fact he would have wanted to be laid to rest.”
As a counterpart to the campaigners’ claims, a spokesperson for Queen Mary University said: “It is understood that Joseph Merrick expected to be preserved after his death, with his remains available for medical education and research. As custodians of his remains, the university regularly consults with his descendants over their care.”
According The Guardian, “Merrick was cared for in the final years of his life by the surgeon Frederick Treves at the Royal London hospital in east London.” In 2012, a new replica of his skeleton went on display at the hospital’s museum.