The story of Edward Mordrake is a true tale about a man with two faces. His unusual and tragic case was recorded in the annals of medical history and is referenced in the 1896 book “Anomolies and Curiosities of Medicine”. The Tom Waits song “Poor Edward” is based on this story.
In the 19th Century, there was a young man named Edward Mordrake who is said be have been heir to one of the noblest families in England. He was considered a bright, charming and refined man and those who knew him said he was a scholar, a musician and a young man in possession of profound grace.
He was said to be quite handsome when viewed from the front – but he was afflicted by a severe deformity. On the back of his head, there was a second face and those who saw it said it was hideous, twisted and evil.
Poor Edward was suffering from a rare condition called “Craniophagus Parasiticus” which occurs when the skulls of conjoined twins share the same body. He lived in complete seclusion, refusing the visits even of the members of his own family.
They say the second face never ate or spoke, but it could smile or frown and its eyes would often follow you around the room. The lips would move and gibber silently without ceasing and it was often seen to smile and sneer while Edward wept about his condition.
While no voice was ever audible, Edward Mordrake swore that often he would be kept awake by the hateful whispers of his “evil twin”. Edward begged his doctors to surgically remove his “demon face”. He said it kept him awake at night, whispering hateful and diabolical things to him.
He even wrote a letter to his doctors complaining about his “devil twin”, saying it “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.”
Sadly, no doctor would attempt the operation, fearing it would kill him.
Despite the fact that Edward’s doctors watched over him carefully, he managed to get his hands on some poison and committed suicide at the age of 23. After his death, a letter was found requesting that the ‘demon face’ be destroyed before his burial, “lest it continues its dreadful whisperings in my grave.”
At his own request Edward Mordrake was buried on waste ground, without any headstone to mark his grave. Nobody knows if his doctors carried out his final wishes…