Edward Mordrake: The man with an extra face
Edward Mordrake was reportedly the 19th century heir to an English peerage. He had an extra face on the back of his head, which could neither eat nor speak, although it could laugh or cry. Edward begged doctors to have his “demon head” removed, because, supposedly, it whispered horrible things to him at night, but no doctor would attempt it. He committed suicide at the age of 23.
Edward was to believed to live in the 19th century. He was a profound scholar, a great musician, a man with fine attainments. But there was one thing that held him back from a bright future, Edward had another face on the back of his head. The face could not eat or speak, but it could laugh and cry. The face would be seen to smile or sneer when Edward was weeping. The eyes would follow the movements of spectators, & the lips would gibber without ceasing.
Edward claimed that the face talked about "things from hell" while he slept. Edward would beg to the doctors to remove the face, but they were afraid that Edward would die during surgery. Edward committed suicide at the age of 23. He left a note asking that the face be removed before burial. Due to the lack of reliable medical records, we can’t confirm his date of birth and death record. The 1896 text "Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine" mentions a version of Edward.
Hoax or Fact:
This mysterious story talks about Edward Mordrake, who supposedly was a profound scholar, the 19th century heir to an English peerage. The story claims to show his picture -- with a strange extra face on the back of his head that can neither eat nor speak, although it could laugh or cry. It is also said that Edward begged doctors to remove his “demon head” that supposedly whispered horrible "things from hell" to him at night. And since the doctors feared his death and did not attempt surgery, Edward Mordrake is said to have committed suicide at the age of 23. As a proof, the story cites the mention of Edward's story in the 1896 medical journal "Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine". Let us analyze the claims in detail.
The story of Edward Mordrake, as a man with a mysterious extra face, has been circulating for more than a century now, it is also featured in many texts, plays, and songs. In fact a Hollywood thriller movie based on the story "Edward Mordrake" is scheduled for 24 October 2014.
About the Photo
According to the history of Camera, the first camera, the Kodak was first offered for sale in 1888. So there is no possibility that a consumer had a camera to take a picture of the said man Edward Mordrake. The photo that certainly came later is perhaps a Wax figure representation of Edward Mordrake, like another one shown in Image Gallery.
The stories of Edward Mordrake have been circulating in various versions, most of which with strange claims, like for example, the extra face on back couldn’t talk, but could laugh or weep. Some versions even described the extra face to be that of a beautiful woman, which was “lovely as a dream, hideous as a devil”. Then there are the supernatural claims as mentioned above.
Case of Diprosopus?
Few people suggested Edward Mordrake could be a rare case of Diprosopus. Diprosopus, also known as craniofacial duplication, is an extremely rare congenital disorder whereby parts or all of the face are duplicated on the head. However, most human infants with Diprosopus are stillborn, and the known instances of humans with Diprosopus surviving for longer than minutes to hours post birth are very rare. The chances of survival are very slim, because the brain is underdeveloped and malformed. Moreover, such twins are mostly identical and do not belong to opposite gender, like said in some versions of the story. As for the proof of Edward Mordrake's two head story, there are no historical records as such, apart from the mention in medical journal.
In Medical Journal
The 1896 text of 'Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine' by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle did mention the story of Edward Mordrake and his death procuring poison.
"One of the weirdest as well as most melancholy stories of human deformity is that of Edward Mordake, said to have been heir to one of the noblest peerages in England. He never claimed the title, however, and committed suicide in his twenty-third year. He lived in complete seclusion, refusing the visits even of the members of his own family. He was a young man of fine attainments, a profound scholar, and a musician of rare ability. His figure was remarkable for its grace, and his face — that is to say, his natural face — was that of an Antinous. But upon the back of his head was another face, that of a beautiful girl, 'lovely as a dream, hideous as a devil'. The female face was a mere mask, 'occupying only a small portion of the posterior part of the skull, yet exhibiting every sign of intelligence, of a malignant sort, however'. It would be been seen to smile and sneer while Mordake was weeping. The eyes would follow the movements of the spectator, and the lips 'would gibber without ceasing'. No voice was audible, but Mordake avers that he was kept from his rest at night by the hateful whispers of his 'devil twin', as he called it, 'which never sleeps, but talks to me forever of such things as they only speak of in Hell. No imagination can conceive the dreadful temptations it sets before me. For some unforgiven wickedness of my forefathers I am knit to this fiend — for a fiend it surely is. I beg and beseech you to crush it out of human semblance, even if I die for it.' Such were the words of the hapless Mordake to Manvers and Treadwell, his physicians. In spite of careful watching, he managed to procure poison, whereof he died, leaving a letter requesting that the 'demon face' might be destroyed before his burial, 'lest it continues its dreadful whisperings in my grave.' At his own request he was interred in a waste place, without stone or legend to mark his grave."
However, the pre-text in the journal read:
"The following well-known story of Edward Mordake, though taken from lay sources, is of sufficient notoriety and interest to be mentioned here:--"
The story, as an example from 'lay source,' was mentioned in the context of explaining Bicephalic Monsters, i.e. multi-headed creatures formed by the same process as conjoined twins. To make the story more 'interesting' (unbelievable), after his death, it is said that Edward Mordake wished to be interred in a waste place, without any stone or legend to mark his grave.
There is no actual photo of Edward Mordake which supposedly shows a mysterious extra face at the back of his head. The text of the story in the medical journal is mentioned as from a 'lay source'. So considering the supernatural claims, and the lack of reliable medical records to validate any such claim, the story of Edward Mordake is possibly hoax. It appears like a tale that has been handed down.