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By: Alex Postrado
The Weird Origin Of Edward Mordrake, The Two-Faced Man
At the age of 23, everything went silent.
A young, nobleman ended his life after being driven into madness by his demonic twin.
The story of Edward Mordrake is one that is definitely hard to forget once you already know about it.
The unusual case of a man, born with what proved to be a deadly curse:
An “evil” face on the back of his head.
While there is a great deal of “medical marvels” scattered throughout history 一 like The Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, as well as The Bearded Lady, Annie Jones 一 the story of Mordrake easily stands out for its twisted plot.
A narrative that persists to be told years and years later.
In books like Helga Royston’s The Two-faced Outcast, songs like Tom Waits’ Poor Edward, TV series like American Horror Story: Freak Show, and numerous other horror-mystery listicles 一 and even memes 一 found on the internet.
And on the surface, the tale of Edward Mordrake is something we can’t seem to turn our backs on.
But did you know that there is something more to the relentlessly hissing second face that you just might haven’t been told?
Who is Edward Mordrake?
In the 19th century, Edward Mordrake was born as the heir to one of the noblest peerages in England.
Some accounts say that he was actually born with the family name Mordake, though he is more well-known as Edward Mordrake.
Depictions of Mordrake pointed to him having “remarkable grace“, as well as a well-sculpted figure 一 with some even noting his appearance to bear semblance to Antinous, a young Greek hero admired for his sensual appeal and good looks.
But behind the rather attractive appearance of Mordrake, unbeknownst to many 一 at least, back then 一 was the horrid figure the heir had tried so hard to bury into erasure, for so long.
At the back of his head, was a second face 一 said to be that of a woman 一 with a pair of eyes and a slobbering mouth.
Though seemingly complete with the features of an ordinary face, Mordrake’s other face was unable to see, eat, or verbalize its thoughts.
In contrast, however, others reported the revolting figure to be able to whisper, cry or laugh 一 especially doing the latter when Mordrake was feeling exceptionally miserable.
Understandably horrified and burdened by the duplicate face, Mordrake was said to have begged his doctors multiple times to remove all traces of the seemingly evil incarnate figure at the back of his head even if it leads to his very death.
After his requests were shut down due to no doctor wanting to attempt the medical process, Mordrake isolated himself in a room, and at the age of 23 一 apparently unable to carry the tormenting weight of having a “devil” twin 一 Mordrake decided to end his own life.
The Origin of the “Devil Twin” Story
Undeniably compelling, the story of Edward Mordrake’s short-lived and tragic life was first published on December 8, 1895, in an article from the Boston Sunday Post.
The article, titled The Wonders of Modern Science, authored by Charles Lotin Hildreth provided the first recorded description of Edward Mordrake and his “devil” face 一 along with other medical mystery stories like that of The Four-Eyed Man of Cricklade and The Melon Child of Radnor, to name a few.
Hildreth’s paper aimed to detail and bring into the public’s attention the lives of what he referred to as “human freaks“, citing the “Royal Scientific Society” as his source for the cases.
Heavily received due to its disturbing yet curious appeal, the stories reported by Hildreth endured in the minds of the masses for centuries to come.
Confirmed by Science?
Hildreth’s article, despite being the first recorded account of Edward Mordrake’s life, was not what propelled Mordrake’s story into the forefronts of cases referred to as medical anomalies.
Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, the medical case study encyclopedia written and published by Dr. George M. Gould and Dr. Walter Pyle in 1896, was what was actually responsible for the notoriety and credibility garnered by the Mordrake case.
Edward Mordrake’s existence was detailed in the book to be one of the weirdest and most melancholic stories of “human deformity”.
And the encyclopedia attempted to cover his life 一 from his noble heritage, isolation, up to his death.
Gould and Pyle described Mordrake’s second face to be like that of a beautiful girl, “lovely as a dream, hideous as a devil“.
Yet this “devil” face voiced nothing but foulness to Mordrake at night.
The book also delved into Mordrake’s pleas to have his “devil” twin removed by his doctors and their rejection that ultimately lead to his very demise 一 which, according to the paper, was due to ingesting poison.
The deal about Gould and Pyle’s book is that it described only the “basic morphology” of Edward Mordrake’s condition without any medical diagnosis for his deformity.
But experts from today cite two very real 一 but also very rare 一 medical conditions that could 一 to some extent 一 explain what Mordrake possibly had back then.
Craniopagus Parasiticus and Diprosopus.
Though, no matter how similar, Mordrake’s case did not completely match any of these conditions’ defining indicators.
For one, if it was indeed Craniopagus Parasiticus, Mordrake’s second parasitic face would have not been able to speak 一 or even whisper 一 since it would likely remain undeveloped.
Furthermore, if the case was 一 in fact 一 Diprosopus, the “devil” twin would not be able to “sneer while Mordrake was weeping” because 一 scientifically speaking 一 it would only mirror the expression from the dominant face.
Both of these provide us with more questions than answers.
And to add to the skepticism, since Mordrake’s face was said to speak against him, then did it have its own brain?
That, alone, already makes the claim difficult to believe.
The Truth Behind Edward Mordrake
Until today, the story of Edward Mordrake remains one of the best-known medical mysteries in the world.
For years, it held people equally fascinated and creeped out 一 especially when alleged photos of Mordrake, as well as his skull, came into view.
One of those purportedly shows the face on the back of Edward Mordrake. It was particularly smaller and had a sort of warped set of features, which only heightened its popularity among the curious crowd.
However, if truth be told, the tale of the “devil” face actually doesn’t hold water.
Historian and curator Alex Boese from the Museum of Hoaxes explored it all 一 from the first recorded account of the Mordrake story to the 1896 medical proof of Gould and Pyle, and even the pictures that spread like wildfire on the web.
The first questionable thing about it was that there existed no “Royal Scientific Society” 一 unlike what Charles Lotin Hildreth claimed in his original article 一 other than one which was founded only in the 1970s by Jordanian monarchs.
And similarly named 一 this time, centuries-old 一 Royal Society of London also has no records of Mordrake’s case 一 together with the other anomalies in Hildreth’s piece, such as the mermaid-like Fish Woman of Lincoln and the many-legged Norfolk Spider.
Moreover, Hildreth was not the only “sneaky” author in this case. Gould and Pyle apparently did not even bother to add some truth to Hildreth’s tall story.
Instead, they only copied the original article and alleged that their details actually came from an anonymous “lay source“.
But there was no other evidence presented at the time other than Hildreth’s sensationalized narrative.
Keep in mind, Hildreth was a speculative fiction writer who happened to work at the Post during the height of yellow journalism in the United States!
And since there is no known, credible proof of Mordrake 一 and consequently, his rare medical condition’s 一 existence, it is likely that it all just sprang from Hildreth’s wild imagination.
Much like the creations of artists Ewart Schindler and Tom Kuebler, who separately sculpted their own Edward Mordrake’s two-faced skulls – the ones photographed on social media, and the Panoptikum museum’s wax figure of a two-faced man.
All of this, ultimately crafting a story that continues to fool many into thinking that Edward Mordrake was, in fact, real and not a mere work of human’s unbridled creativity.
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