John Merrick was described as a delightful man with a unique style of humor. However, he suffered from a disfiguring physical disability called neurofibromatosis. This disorder is rare (about 1 in 3,000 people) and is characterized by tumors under the skin, around the nerves, and in the bones. Merrick spent most of his life in the neighborhoods of South London. Because of his physical appearance, Merrick performed for several years in carnival freak shows where he was eventually "rescued" by a compassionate surgeon, Dr. Frederick Treves. Merrick lived at London Hospital beginning April, 1890 before dying four years later at the age of 27. Dr. Treves wrote of Merrick's death: "He was lying on his back as if asleep and had evidently died without a struggle, since not even the coverlet of the bed was disturbed."