Edward Mordrake's Mummified Head Photo Isn't Real, Two-Faced Skull Created by Artist

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This “gaff,” or joke art piece, was made to look like the mummified head of urban legend Edward Mordrake. A mixture of a somewhat-plausible medical condition and some tragic drama make the story of Mordrake irresistible. Courtesy of Ewart Schindler

The story of Edward Mordrake is one of the most captivating urban legends of the internet, featuring a wealthy man from the 1800's who supposedly had a second face on the back of his head. According to the story, his extra face could laugh and cry but never spoke to anyone except Mordrake, when it would whisper devilish things to him at night.

A photo of a wax sculpture often accompanies this story, sometimes claiming to be photographic proof of Mordrake himself. On Monday, the Facebook page "Pictures in History" added a new layer of intrigue to the legend: It claimed to show a photo of Mordrake's severed, mummified head.

Edward Mordrake's head
This “gaff,” or joke art piece, is made to look like the mummified head of urban legend Edward Mordrake. Courtesy of Ewart Schindler

In reality, the picture represents a "gaff," or joke art piece, like the sideshow attractions of stitched-together animals made to fool the viewer. Ewart Schindler, the creator, explained he made the piece a few years ago, but it hadn't gained popularity until now.

Creating a gaff from such a popular legend seemed sensible to Schindler. "I was surprised to see that no one had done a Mordrake, so I thought I'd have a go at that," he told Newsweek. "It's papier-mâché, a traditional sort of material. I really wanted to make the piece as realistic as I could."

"Gaffs have always been fascinating, and I've tried my hand at a few, usually macabre sculptures, and fantasy creatures of one form or another," he said. Schindler graduated from Plymouth College of Art and now does art and sculpture as a hobby, although he'd like to turn it into a career.

"Pictures in History" has more than three million followers, and the photo of Schindler's piece has more than 78,000 shares at the time of publication. The page shares some legitimate historical photos, some obvious jokes and some potentially believable hoaxes. But we know that they will never find or share an image of Mordrake's real head—because Mordrake never existed.

The story gained popularity as fact after being documented in1896 in the mostly legitimate medical book Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine. However, in 2015, a historian at the website The Museum of Hoaxes searched an archive of old newspapers and found that the story in the medical book was identical to one published the year before in The Boston Sunday Post. The article was part of a collection of impossible human anomalies, such as a fish woman, a man-size spider and a half-human, half-crab. There was no evidence that any of them were based in reality.

The tragic tale of Edward Mordrake was simply a figment of a poet's imagination.

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The Mordrake story originated in 1895 in “The Boston Sunday Post,” where his story appeared alongside a fish-woman and a half-crab person. The Boston Sunday Post, 1895

However, it's easy to see why this mythological figure, whose deformity isn't that different than one we see in real animals, persists in the mind of the public as fact.

"I think it's just plausible enough that you could feel it's possible," Schindler said. "But it has this edge, that maybe he had this twin that was conscious and had malicious thoughts. It's just edgy enough. And the fact that it's on the back of his head, the mirror-image symbolism is striking."

Edward Mordrake's Mummified Head Photo Isn't Real, Two-Faced Skull Created by Artist | Tech & Science