Edward Mordake (sometimes spelled Edward Mordrake) was an heir to an English peerage who reportedly had an extra face on the back of his head. The duplicate face could neither eat nor speak out loud but was seen to “smile and sneer while Mordake was weeping.” Mordake reportedly begged doctors to have his “Demon face” removed, claiming that it whispered to him at night, but no doctor would attempt it. He committed suicide when he was 23 years old.
The 1896 medical encyclopedia Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, co-authored by Dr. George M. Gould and Dr. Walter L. Pyle, gives an account of Mordake with no mention as to when he lived. Though the encyclopedia describes the basic morphology of Mordake’s condition, it provides no medical diagnosis for the rare deformity. With no photographs of Mordake known to exist—he likely lived many generations before practical photography became ubiquitous—such a birth defect might have been a form of craniopagus parasiticus (a parasitic twin head with an undeveloped body), a form ofdiprosopus (bifurcated craniofacial duplication), or an extreme form of parasitic twin (an unequal conjoined twin).
Mordake has been the subject of various texts, plays, and songs. The description of Mordake’s condition is somewhat similar to those of Chang Tzu Ping and Pasqual Pinon. Both Mordake and Pinon are featured as the “2 Very Special Cases” on a list of “10 People With Extra Limbs or Digits” in 1976 edition of The Book of Lists.
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.”
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