Throughout the eighteenth century blame for the production of ‘human monstrosities’ was regularly placed on the shoulders of women. It had been argued for centuries that women’s active and powerful imaginations made their babies susceptible to alteration inside the womb if they experienced a fright or witnessed something unusual. Any dismissal of maternal impression as superstitious belief belied the fact that the subject was still seriously debated in leading medical journals until the 1880s.


In his autobiography, ‘Half a Man & Half an Elephant’, Joseph Merrick reasoned that his deformity was due to his mother being trampled by a circus elephant prior to his birth, while promotional material for Stefan Bibrowski (Lionel the Lion-Faced Man) ascribed his hirsute features to his pregnant mother seeing his father being mauled by a lion.

(2010) defaced vintage photographs: framed 130 x 18 mm & 155 x 205 mm