Edward Mordake

From Kook Science

Edward Mordake was, according to the story, a handsome gentleman of English descent and heir to an unidentified peerage, who was host to a parasitic twin, craniopagus parasiticus, on the posterior of his skull, a twin described as having the face of a beautiful girl but possessed of a malignant intelligence, perpetually tormenting her twin through some shared mental communication (as her words were inaudible to any but Mordake), to the point that Mordake committed suicide by consuming poison. The story of Mordake, attributed to Charles Lotin Hildreth, was first known to have been circulated in American newspapers during December 1895.

Charles Lotin Hildreth's Account of Edward Mordake (1895)

  • Hildreth, Charles Lotin (8 Dec. 1895), "THE WONDERS OF MODERN SCIENCE. Some Half Human Monsters Once Thought to Be of the Devil's Brood. Marvels Almost Beyond Belief — Their Existence Was Attested by Evidence Satisfactory to the Committees of the Royal Scientific Society.", Boston Post (Boston, MA): 20, 

    "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 knot to this fiend — for a fiend it surely [is]. I beg and beech 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."

This description was reprinted in G. M. Gould and W. L. Pyle's Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine (Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1897), with the prefatory text: "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 was later recounted in brief by Frank Edwards, misspelling the name as Edward Mordrake and adding the detail that Mordake could see through both sets of eyes, in his book Strange People (New York: L. Stuart, 1961). Mordake's story was continually retold in similar books, including Daniel P. Mannix's Freaks: We Who Are Not As Others (Re/Search Publications, 1976) and in Wallechinksy, Wallace, and Wallace's The Book of Lists (Morrow, 1977).