Merrick was born in Leicester and began to develop abnormally during the first few years of his life. His mother died when he was 11 and his father soon remarried. Rejected by his father and stepmother, he left home and went to live with his uncle Charles Merrick. In 1879, 17-year-old Merrick entered the Leicester Union Workhouse. In 1884 he contacted a showman named Sam Torr and proposed that Torr should exhibit him. Torr arranged for a group of men to manage Merrick, whom they named the Elephant Man.