Officials in the U.K. have placed a plaque at the newly discovered gravesite of Joseph Merrick, who is known as the "Elephant Man," more than a century after he died.
Merrick had severe physical deformities and spent part of his life as an attraction in a freak show. Born in the city of Leicester, he died in London in 1890 of asphyxia caused by the weight of his head when he lay down, according to the National Human Genome Institute, at the age of 27. His tragic story forms the basis of the acclaimed movie "The Elephant Man."
During his life, Merrick received treatment at the then-London Hospital, now known as the Royal London Hospital. His skeleton remains at the hospital, although his soft tissue was buried in a common grave at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, the BBC reports.
Merrick’s remains were buried on April 24, 1890. Their precise whereabouts were unknown until Joanne Vigor-Mungovin, author of “Joseph: The Life, Times & Places of the Elephant Man,” recently traced them to the London Cemetery.
Vigor-Mungovin’s research correlated with information held in the City of London Corporation’s public burial records.
A plaque has now been placed at Merrick’s previously unmarked grave. “This discovery reminds us of London’s rich cultural history and the lives of people from times past,” said Jeremy Simons, chair of the City of London Corporation’s Environmental Services Committee, in a statement. “We are continuing to work with Joanne Vigor-Mungovin and I’m pleased that this plaque will allow our many visitors to see the recently discovered grave.”
Mary Ann Nichols and Catherine Eddowes, the first and fourth victims of Jack the Ripper, are also buried in the City of London Cemetery. Because Merrick died in Whitechapel, the same area of London as the Ripper victims, Vigor-Mungovin deduced that they were likely buried in the same cemetery, according to the BBC.
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