The Curse of the Elephant Man

Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, was the most shockingly disfigured person in history. This compelling detective story uses forensic and genetic science to provide insights never before revealed about his tragic condition, and modern imaging techniques to reconstruct the face of the man beneath the deformities.

Produced by NHNZ

Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, was the most shockingly disfigured person in history. His massive, bulbous head was so heavy that he had to sleep sitting up. Some parts of his body were grossly enlarged, while others were weak and under-developed. Huge folds of warty skin dangled from his chest and back. Growths inside his mouth made speech an ordeal.

For more than a century Merrick’s terrible condition has baffled medical science. But by unravelling the secrets of his genetic code, perhaps the mystery of the Elephant Man may finally be laid to rest.

The Curse of the Elephant Man pushes the boundaries of science programming, bringing together a distinguished cast of leading experts on three continents to try to solve the mystery of Joseph Merrick’s disease. It’s a compelling story that draws upon the disciplines of forensic archaeology, genetics, genealogy, radiology, surgery and imaging science to answer several intriguing questions: who was the man beneath the disease, what was the horrific condition that afflicted him — and could it happen again?

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