The True Story Of Roy Lee 'Rocky' Dennis Whose 'Rock-Hard' Head Doubled In Size For 16 Years Before Tragic End

By maks in News On 3rd February 2024

Roy L. Dennis was a boy afflicted with an incredibly rare disease that caused the bones in his face to grow abnormally fast.

Despite predictions that he wouldn't live past his seventh birthday, Rocky defied the odds.

His mother, upon hearing from doctors about the severe disabilities and challenges Rocky would face due to his facial dysplasia - which would cause his head to significantly increase in size and harden - faced an unimaginable reality.

So incredible was Rocky's life that he inspired the 1985 film Mask Credit: Universal Pictures
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Rocky was born as a perfectly healthy baby boy in California on December 4, 1961, joining a family that included an older brother from his mother Florence 'Rusty' Dennis' previous marriage. Initially, life for the Dennis family seemed ordinary.

However, the semblance of normalcy would not last.

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Rocky's extremely rare disease saw the bones in his face grow at an unusually fast rate Credit:

Anomalies in Rocky's skull were first detected by an X-ray technician, leading to a rapid and alarming growth in his head size.

UCLA Medical Center diagnosed him with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, commonly known as lionitis, an extremely rare condition that drastically altered his facial appearance and increased his skull size twofold.

The relentless progression of the disease caused his eyes to be pushed to the edges of his head, and his nose began to develop in an unusual manner, as reported by All That's Interesting.


Rusty was informed that Rocky would gradually lose his hearing and sight, along with facing severe mental impairments, all due to the increasing pressure on his brain caused by the weight of his skull.

Doctors predicted a short life expectancy, not seeing him live past the age of seven based on similar cases.

Rocky suffered from an extremely rare condition called craniodiaphyseal dysplasia Credit: Wikipedia

Defying the grim odds, Rusty was determined to provide Rocky with a semblance of normalcy.

She enrolled him in school at the age of six and raised him as she would any child, leading Rocky to excel academically and forge strong friendships.

Notably, Rocky possessed a remarkable sense of humor and confidently declined offers for plastic surgery to alter his appearance to be more conventional.

Rusty instilled a deep sense of pride in Rocky, asserting, "Everybody liked him because he was real funny."


"Once he came in from the playground crying because 'the kids are calling me ugly'...  I told him when they laugh at you, you laugh at you."

"If you act beautiful, you'll be beautiful and they'll see that and love you... I believe the universe will support anything you want to believe. I taught both my kids that."

Rocky's life story was told in 1985 film Mask, with Cher playing his mum Credit: Universal Pictures

"They tried to say his intelligence was impaired, but it wasn't true. I think they wanted to keep him out of the classroom because [they thought] it would bother the other kids' parents."

Rusty approached Rocky's condition with natural remedies and a philosophy of self-healing through belief, always encouraging him to "make yourself feel better" during painful moments.


As Rocky celebrated more birthdays than doctors ever anticipated, it became clear that his health was in decline, with intensifying headaches and weakening physical strength. A noticeable shift in his usually upbeat demeanor was evident to Rusty, leading up to Rocky's untimely passing at the age of 16 on October 4, 1978.

Rocky's life, extending nine years beyond medical expectations, was nothing short of miraculous, inspiring the 1985 film "Mask." In the movie, Eric Stoltz portrays Rocky, with Cher taking on the role of his resilient mother, Rusty.