Clarissa Johal: Frightening Friday - Edward Mordake: The Two-Faced Man

Friday, June 12, 2015

Frightening Friday - Edward Mordake: The Two-Faced Man

Photo courtesy of Mac via Flickr
Edward Mordake was reportedly an English heir, scholar, and a musician. He was considered a bright and charming man, and said to be quite handsome when viewed from the front. However, on the back of his head, there was a second twisted face. The duplicate face could neither eat nor speak out loud but was seen to "smile and sneer while Mordake was weeping." 

As told in Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine in 1896:

"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." 

Mordake reportedly begged doctors to have his "demon face" removed, claiming that it whispered to him at night, but no doctor would attempt it. As an adult, he lived in complete seclusion, refusing visits from members of his own family. Edward committed suicide when he was 23 years old. He reportedly left behind a letter requesting that the "demon face" be destroyed before his burial, "‘lest it continues its dreadful whisperings in my grave."

Such a birth defect might have been a form of craniopagus parasiticus (a parasitic twin head with an undeveloped body), diprosopus (bifurcated craniofacial duplication), or an extreme form of parasitic twin (an unequal conjoined twin). There is some debate as to whether Edward Mordake existed at all, but instead was the literary creation of Charles Lotin Hildreth. History tends to blur the line between fact and fiction. There have been other well-documented cases of conjoined twins, so it is possible that the story is based on a grain of truth.

So, why is this posted on "Frightening Friday?" I don't find the abnormality frightening, it is what it is. What I do find "frightening" is that the poor man suffered (in the way he did) until he committed suicide.


Carol Browne said...

I've seen this condition in recent times with some unfortunate babies born with a second head or part thereof. The other head/face moves at times even though it has no brain. These days this poor man would have had reconstructive surgery. I feel very sorry for him, as I do for that poor soul, John Merrick.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

I know he's been the subject of several horror stories, etc., but yes, I felt kind of bad when I read about him.

Heather R. Holden said...

Never heard of Edward Mordake before, but wow, this is tragic...