Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Man with Two Faces

Tonight's American Horror Story: Freak Show blog isn't about a sideshow performer, but it is about a human oddity that has gained quite the cult following lately on the internet.  I hope you enjoy the interesting (and, rather frightening) tale of the unfortunate Edward Mordake.



Edward Mordake was from a noble English family.  He was an accomplished musician, a scholar...and a recluse.  That's because Edward, who was otherwise a handsome and healthy young man was plagued with a rare disorder known as Diprosopus.

Diprosopus, also known as craniofacial duplication, is an affliction of the SHH protein.  It results in a duplication of parts of the face (or even the whole face) on a person's head.  It is not a result of a conjoined or parasitic twin as many believe.

Animals who are born with this affliction and survived have become quite a pop sensation.  The most popular are probably Ditto the Pig, who lived well into adulthood, and a cat who, at 12 years old, is the oldest living "Janus" Cat in the world.  Diprosopus cats are known as Janus cats, after the two-faced Roman God.

Unfortunately, humans born with craniofacial duplication rarely survive.  Most are stillborn, and a few live births only live for up to several hours. Edward Mordake, however, beat those odds.  Mordake, which was an alias, was first written about in the 1900 text Anomalies And Curiosities of Medicine, by W.B. Saunders.  Saunders wrote that Mordake's extra face was actually the face of a beautiful female.  Yet, Mordake was convinced that "his devil twin" was evil.  When Mordake would weep, his second face would smile and sneer.  It could blink and its eyes could follow you about the room.  The lips constantly were in motion, as if spewing a never-ending barrage of gibberish, but no sound was ever observed...at least not by the physicians who attended to Mordake or the few family members who were allowed short, infrequent visits.

Mordake was harassed each night by the devil twin's whisperings.  It kept him awake with the terrible, nasty, vile things it would say.  Finally, Mordake reached his breaking point.  He secured some poison and committed suicide at the age of 23.  His last wishes were that the devil face be destroyed before his burial and that his reclusive lifestyle be honored in death.  Mordake was buried in an unmarked grave with only a few close family members in attendance.

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