The legend of Edward Mordrake tells the wretched tale of a man with two faces. One was just like any other person's, while the other was on the back of his head, spitting out horrific curses at passers-by and whispering terrible things to Mordrake as he slept.
Was there really a man born with an evil face on the back of his head in the 19th century? It's entirely possible aristocratic inbreeding caused mutations like Edward Mordrake's second face, but whether it spoke to him may be a different story.
Obsession with medical oddities dates back generations. For instance, Joseph Merrick, otherwise known as the Elephant Man, made a living off of just letting people look at him, and the man with three legs lived a full life. Edward Mordrake's story is a twisting narrative that tasks the reader with parsing fact from fiction. Could a man like Mordrake have survived the 19th century with a damned, hissing face on the back of his head?
Mordrake Thought His Second Face Was Alive And Wanted Him To Be Miserable
According to various myths, Mordrake claimed he often heard a voice coming from the face, taunting him and whispering horrible things to him at night. Despite his pleas for a doctor to remove the face, no one would attempt the procedure. At the time, doctors weren't even sure why Mordrake had a second face, let alone how to sever it from his head without killing him.
Even if the face wasn't alive, it doesn't mean Mordrake didn't hear things. If he grew up with people always talking about his evil second face, he could have become paranoid or depressed. Other mental ailments, like schizophrenia or PTSD, can lead to auditory hallucinations as well.
Rumors About His Evil Face Were Rampant
In all the tales about Edward Mordrake, it is not just the afflicted nobleman who believed his second face was evil. Others echoed the sentiment, saying the face told him to act out. The "demon face," as Mordrake reportedly called it, had its own idea of how he should live and wanted to inflict pain on others as well.
While most stories say Mordrake had male facial features on the back of his head, others claimed the second face was that of a beautiful woman. One described the face as "lovely as a dream, hideous as a devil," and its eyes would track those who passed it. The face allegedly smiled whenever Mordrake was upset and furled its brow on the rare occasion Mordrake was happy.
Whether the face was male or female, legends say its intentions were malevolent.
If He Existed, He Had An Incredibly Rare Genetic Defect
In the 19th century, people probably thought Mordrake was a monster, or his family had done something awful to deserve a son with a scary second face. In reality, if he existed, Mordrake had a real medical condition called diprosopus.
This malady is a congenital defect that gives otherwise healthy children (and sometimes animals) duplicated facial features. It's an incredibly rare genetic abnormality (researchers reported only 35 human cases up until 2013) and even more unlikely it would cause a full vestigial face on the back of the head. Still, it's not impossible.
He Pushed Everyone Away
After realizing he couldn't have his second face removed without risking death, Mordrake began to isolate himself. In Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, the text describes Mordrake as "a profound scholar, and a musician of rare ability," and perhaps he buried himself in these pastimes in an attempt to drown out the nagging, wicked appendage.
Some versions of the Edward Mordrake myth say he completely cut himself off from everyone, including his family.