19th Century Britain saw perhaps the most bizarre and disturbing physical deformity ever recorded. A man named Edward Mordrake was two faced. But in a very literal way. He had two faces. The second was on the back of his head. Mordrake referred to it as his ‘Demon Face’ and even claimed that it would whisper to him and laugh at him when ‘they’ were alone.
Doctors at the time couldn’t narrow it down further than to say that it was probably due to a form of craniopagus parasiticus (a parasitic twin head with an under/undeveloped body), a form of diprosopus (a ‘bifurcated craniofacial duplication’), or an a particularly developed form of parasitic twin (an unequal conjoined twin).
All people knew for certain was that Mordrake was ‘a freak’. At the time, differences like this were frowned upon. Anyone familiar with the tragic story of The Elephant Man will know that.
He begged doctors to remove it, but none dared. At his wit’s end, eventually, aged just 23 years old, he took his own life.
This is the story as told in Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine:
“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 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.”
Here’s even more on this creepy case for you to take in…