Andrew R. Crow

(From the Journal of Dr. Frederick Treves)

It was a face unlike most other faces. A body, a persona unlike any other. And, God help me, a smell unlike any other.

The man, if you could call him that, stood before us, illuminated in front of a white sheet lit from behind. He was made to pose, turn and stretch his hideous body on command by the poor man's Master.

I sat, chilled and yet perspiring, in the fourth row of the audience. I, a freshly graduated doctor from the London Hospital, observing the most hideous of deformities that God could manifest on a living soul. It was nearly impossible to see beyond the multiple growths covering his entire body and realize he was indeed a human being. A human being obviously subjected to the most vile treatment. And as a follower of that great man Hippocrates, I was sickened in my heart. Do no harm‚ should also include the addendum Do good‚.

As I stared at that tortured visage, I saw, behind the pain and haunted look, a sparkle of intelligence and humanity sadly lacking in the audience. Alas, my presence here grouped me together with these people; I was ashamed. As a gentleman, I vowed to remove this poor creature from the world of filth and despair he inhabited. I would help the soul that I would soon come to know as Joseph Merrick shed his ill-acquired moniker The Elephant Man‚ and become, simply, a man.

First published: August 2001