par Sean Ruck
, Contributing Editor | August 05, 2010
Merrick would write poetry and create models of buildings using card stock and basing them on architectural drawings. But not everything had turned around. Treves was putting Merrick on display to medical students, where the man would stand naked before lecture halls filled with students and undergo various examinations.
Somehow Merrick still maintained a charming personality and began to move through upper-class society. It became a mark of social highbrow open-mindedness for the well-off to visit and converse with this physically repulsive, yet intellectually and socially attractive man. They would also bring him expensive gifts to further display their "open-mindedness."
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Beneath the disturbing disfiguration, Merrick still had the inner-workings of a man. That included a mind that was well-aware of what people thought of his appearance and a heart that still yearned to truly find a place among his fellow persons. Tragically, that yearning is thought to have contributed to his death. Merrick died in his sleep on April 11, 1890 at the age of 27. After Treves examined the body, it was determined he died due to asphyxiation. Merrick had tried to sleep lying down to be like "normal" people (something he had been unable to do for years) and the weight of the tumors and other deformities on his head and neck ultimately had crushed his trachea.
To this day, Merrick remains a medical science mystery. The diagnosis of his condition has been updated and discredited over the years. He was thought to have had neurofibromatosis; he was also thought to have had elephantiasis (a belief likely fueled by his moniker). In recent years, some forwarded the supposition that he had Proteus syndrome. However, in 2003 DNA testing was performed on hair and bone samples. The tests proved inconclusive. Back to HCB News