Daily Inter-Ocean, January 24, 1880. Remember how in the movie The Elephant Man it was established that title character Joseph Merrick’s deformities stemmed from the fact that his mom was frightened by an elephant while Joseph (called John in the film) was in utero? That was an instance of what scientists of the time termed maternal impression. It happened all the time, hence the woods were thick with half-human hybrids back in the day.