Look Who You Could Have Had:
- Mary Ward, 106, Australian actress (Prisoner, Sons and Daughters, Neighbours).
- John Cornell, 80, Australian film producer, writer (Crocodile Dundee, Crocodile Dundee II) and actor (The Paul Hogan Show), complications from Parkinson’s disease.
- Rodney Alcala, 77, American serial killer.
- Jackie Mason, 93, American comedian and actor (The Simpsons, The Jerk, Caddyshack II).
In Other News
Former Good Morning Britain anchor, Piers Morgan has admitted that he has become one of the latest confirmed cases of coronavirus. It comes following the presenter’s trip to Wembley Stadium with his three sons. The 56-year-old believes he caught the Delta variant after heading to Wembley two weeks ago for the Euro 2020 final, that saw Italy take home the prestigious trophy. Over the past year, Piers has been perhaps one of the government’s most outspoken critics and policies. The journalist frequently attacked the government who refused to be questioned on Good Morning Britain during the height of the pandemic. Now, despite being double vaccinated, Piers has revealed the true extent of his symptoms. In order to attend the match, football fans had to provide proof that they were either double vaccinated or produce a negative test result. However, Piers claims he started to feel unwell just two days after the match, while at his home in Sussex. After taking a lateral flow test that displayed a positive result, he later took a PCR test, confirming that he was in fact positive, four days after the match. Writing in his column, Piers penned: “As I’m sure everyone who gets it feels, it’s a strange, disquieting moment to know I have this killer virus inside me.” Piers’ symptoms included a fever, cold sweats, coughing, sneezing, “strange aches” and “alarming” chest pains. He went on to write: “And my voice now sounds like Barry White, though I couldn’t feel less like a Walrus of Love. “This is definitely the roughest I’ve felt from any illness in my adult life, BUT, as I slowly come out the other side, coughing and spluttering. I’m still here – unlike so many millions around the world who’ve lost their lives to Covid in this pandemic.”
A swan believed to be the UK’s oldest has died at the age of thirty. Pickles the whooper swan, or common swan, was described as a “massive character”. He was born in early June 1991, although his precise hatching date is unknown. Staff at Leeds Castle in Kent, where he was often seen on the moat, designated 3 June as Pickles Day, serving him a special swan-friendly cake last month. There are 19 captive-bred swans in the grounds of the castle, including mute swans, trumpeter swans and black swans. “Fly high, Pickles, fly high,” the castle tweeted. “Pickles was much loved by everyone. We celebrated his birthday with his favourite seed cake recently and he enjoyed the media attention he got! It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Pickles the swan, who passed away yesterday,” said Mark Brattle, the castle’s falconry and wildlife manager. “Pickles the whooper swan was a massive character at the castle and will be missed by staff and visitors alike. The falconry and wildlife team would like to thank everyone for their kind words of support.” Whooper swans, which can grow to 5ft 3in in length, generally live to about ten in the wild, but have previously been known to reach their late twenties in captivity.
Chris Packham has revealed that he wants his ashes to be mixed with his two dogs Itchy and Scratchy, so they can be spread among the trees where they loved to play. Growing up with an animal can influence your choice of pet in the future, and for Chris Packham, 60, it was dogs – all of which were poodles. The nature presenter has had seven four legged friends over the years, to which he formed unique bonds with. And in a new interview, the Springwatch host admitted when he dies, he wants his ashes mixed with that of two of his poodles, Itchy and Scratchy, who saved him while he was in an extremely dark point in his life. Speaking of his love for the animals, he revealed his first dog Max died in 1995 and he didn’t get another until 2001, due to work commitments and general life changes. “My partner at the time was so bored with listening to stories about Max that she got me another dog, Fish, for my 40th birthday,” he said. But tragedy struck after the pooch was sadly hit by a car when he was a year old and died in his arms. “The suddenness and the shock was really damaging, and because of that six-year gap, I’d fallen in love with Fish more quickly,” Chris admitted. “I fell into a deep and intense depression, into a dark place where everything seemed to fall apart.” Seven years later, Itchy and Scratchy joined the family, but Chris admitted they weren’t an “instant fix”, instead they were something for him to “connect to”. “Itchy and Scratchy were there in my darkest moments — if they hadn’t been, I wouldn’t be here to write this,” he confessed the harrowing truth. And because of Fish’s awful fate, Chris’ growing concern for Itchy and Scratchy’s safety became his priority. “It got to a point where everyone could see we were three organisms umbilically linked,” he explained. When they got ill, the presenter decided to avoid any intolerable suffering and euthanise them. “It seemed obvious to me,” he shrugged. “When I die, I’ll be cremated and my ashes will be mixed with Itchy and Scratchy, and scattered by a particular tree. He now has two new poodles called Sid and Nancy, which he got in 2020. Both Sid & Nancy are crossing their paws in hope that Peckham lives a few more years as they don’t fancy being cremated alive with the wildlife presenter.
On This Day
- 1797 – Horatio Nelson loses more than 300 men and his right arm during the failed conquest attempt of Tenerife.
- 1965 – Bob Dylan goes electric at the Newport Folk Festival, signalling a major change in folk and rock music and people lo9se their fucking minds!
- 1978 – Birth of Louise Joy Brown, the first human to have been born after conception by in vitro fertilisation, or IVF.
- 1984 – Salyut 7 cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya becomes the first woman to perform a spacewalk.
- 2000 – Concorde Air France Flight 4590 crashes at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, killing 113 people.
- 1834 – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, English philosopher, poet, and critic (b. 1772).
- 1843 – Charles Macintosh, Scottish chemist and engineer (b. 1766).
- 2009 – Harry Patch, English soldier (b. 1898).
Edward Mordake is the apocryphal subject of an urban legend who was, according to the legend, born in the 19th century as the heir to an English peerage. Mordrake (originally spelled Mordake) was a young, intelligent, and good-looking English nobleman, as well as a “musician of rare ability.” But with all of his great blessings came a terrible curse. In addition to his handsome, normal face, Mordrake had a terrifying second face on the back of his head. According to legend, the face could whisper, grab objects, laugh or cry. The second face was said to be as “lovely as a dream, hideous as a devil.” This strange visage also possessed an intelligence “of a malignant sort.” Whenever Mordrake cried, the second face would “smile and sneer.”
Mordrake was constantly plagued by his “devil twin,” which kept him up all night whispering “such things as they only speak of in hell.” The young nobleman was eventually driven mad and took his own life at the age of 23, leaving behind a note ordering that the evil face should be destroyed after his death, “lest it continues its dreadful whispering in my grave.”
This story of the man with two faces spread like wildfire across America. On December 8, 1895, the Boston Sunday Post published an article titled “The Wonders of Modern Science.” This article presented reports from the so-called “Royal Scientific Society,” which documented the existence of “human freaks.” The public clamoured for more details about Mordrake, and even medical professionals approached the story without a hint of scepticism.
In 1896, American doctors George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle included the Mordrake story in their book Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine — a collection of peculiar medical cases. Although Gould and Pyle were legitimate ophthalmologists with successful medical practices, they were also quite gullible in at least this one case. Because as it turned out, the story of Edward Mordrake was fake.
As Alex Boese’s blog Museum of Hoaxes diligently deduced, the author of the original Post article, Charles Lotin Hildreth, was a poet and science-fiction writer. His stories tended toward the fantastical and other-worldly, as opposed to articles based in reality.
Of course, just because someone usually writes fiction doesn’t mean that every single thing they write is fictional. Still, there are many clues that suggest that the Mordrake story is completely made up.
For one, Hildreth’s article cites the “Royal Scientific Society” as its source for its numerous bizarre medical cases, but an organisation by that name didn’t exist in the 19th century.
The Royal Society of London was a centuries-old scientific institution, but there was no organisation that was both “Royal” and “Scientific” by name in the Western world. However, this name might’ve sounded believable to people who didn’t live in England — which may explain why so many Americans fell for the story of the man with two faces. Or perhaps Americans are just stupid.
Secondly, Hildreth’s article appears to be the first time any of the medical cases he describes have ever appeared in any literature, scientific or otherwise. The Royal Society of London’s entire database is searchable online, and Boese wasn’t able to find any of Hildreth’s anomalies in its archives — from the Norfolk Spider (a human head with six hairy legs) to the Fish Woman of Lincoln (a mermaid-type creature).
“When we realise this,” Boese wrote, “that’s when it becomes apparent that Hildreth’s article was fiction. All of it sprang from his imagination, including Edward Mordake.”
As one might imagine, many newspapers in the late 19th century weren’t held to the same editorial standards as they are today. While they were still vital sources of information and entertainment, they were also filled with fictional tales that were presented as if they were nonfiction.
Ultimately, Hildreth’s story about a man with two faces wasn’t necessarily irresponsible journalism. It was simply a tale written convincingly enough to trick a couple of doctors — and to endure in the public imagination for more than a century. Hildreth died mere months after his article was published, so he never got to see just how quickly Americans were fooled by his wild creativity.
Edward Mordrake’s story experienced a recent resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to the TV series American Horror Story.
The show rehashes the basics of the urban legend, although the television incarnation of Mordrake is driven to murder as well as suicide. The writers must have taken a great deal of inspiration from the original Boston Sunday Post article, since the lobster boy also makes an appearance in the show.
Lest modern readers think they are so much wiser than their Victorian fore-bearers that they would never be taken in by such an absurd tale, a photo supposedly depicting the remains of Mordrake’s head went viral in 2018.
This is not the first time a photo of the cursed nobleman has seized the public’s attention. But like all of the others, it is far from authentic.
The gruesome Janus-like skull is, in fact, just a papier-mâché artist’s imagining of what Edward Mordrake might have looked like if he existed. The artist has even gone on record stating it was created entirely for entertainment purposes. Another famous photo that is often mistakenly labelled as authentic is the work of a different artist who used wax.
Of course, even the most fantastical stories do contain at least a small grain of truth. The medical condition known as “craniofacial duplication” — the result of an abnormal protein expression — can cause the facial features of an embryo to be duplicated.
The condition is extremely rare and usually lethal, although there are a few recent documented cases of infants who managed to survive a short time with this mutation. For instance, Lali Singh was born with the condition in India in 2008.
Though Singh sadly didn’t live long, she was not believed to be cursed like Edward Mordrake. In fact, residents of her village thought that she was an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga, who is traditionally portrayed with multiple limbs.
After the poor baby Lali died when she was only a few months old, the villagers constructed a temple in her honour.
As for Edward Mordrake, his story continues to shock – and fool – people today. Even though the man himself never existed, the tale remains an enduring urban legend that will likely raise eyebrows for years to come.
Last Week’s Birthdays
Matt LeBlanc (54), D.B. Woodside (52), Iman (66), Rose Byrne (42), Elisabeth Moss (39), Anna Paquin (39), Summer Glau (40), Jennifer Lopez (52), Lynda Carter (70), Danny Dyer (44), Daniel Radcliffe (32), Kathryn Hahn (48), Woody Harrelson (60), Charisma Carpenter (51), Ronny Cox (83), Willem Dafoe (66), Selena Gomez (29), Terence Stamp (83), Rhys Ifans (54), Danny Glover (75), Louise Fletcher (87), Colin Ferguson (49), Josh Hartnett (43), Lance Guest (61), Paloma Faith (40), John Woodvine (92), Sandra Oh (50), John Francis Daley (36), Dean Winters (57), Julian Rhind-Tutt (53), Gisele Bündchen (41), Benedict Cumberbatch (45), and Jared Padalecki (39).