An account described Mordake’s figure as one with remarkable grace and with a face that is similar to that of an Greek God. The second face, on the other hand, had a pair of eyes and a mouth that drooled and more effeminate in feature.
The duplicate face could not see, eat or speak out loud but was said to “sneer while Mordake was happy” and “smile while Mordake was weeping”.Mordake repeatedly begged doctors to have his “demon face” removed, claiming that it whispered things that “one would only speak about in hell” at night, but no doctor would attempt it. According to the legend, Mordake committed suicide at the age of 23.
The first known description of Mordake is found in an 1895 Boston Post article authored by writer Charles Lotin Hildreth.
The article describes a number of cases of what Hildreth refers to as “human freaks”, including a woman who had the tail of a fish, a man with the body of a spider, a man who was half-crab, and Edward Mordake. Hildreth claimed to have found these cases described in old reports of the “Royal Scientific Society”.
In Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine
The 1896 medical encyclopedia Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, co-authored by Dr. George M. Gould and Dr. David L. Pyle, included an account of Mordake.
The encyclopedia describes the basic morphology of Mordake’s condition, but it provides no medical diagnosis for the rare deformity. Such a birth defect might have been a form of craniopagus parasiticus (a parasitic twin head with an undeveloped body), a form of diprosopus (bifurcated craniofacial duplication), or an extreme form of parasitic twin (an unequal conjoined twin).
As told in Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine:
One of the weirdest as well as the 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 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.