Did You Hear The News About Edward?
Edward was said to be a sensitive intellectual, given to the lofty ponderings that only a man of favourable birth has the time to ponder. He was also a man of unusual musical talent, with a beauty that could make angels weep.
Despite Edward’s status, he lived in a self imposed isolation, refusing all company and declining the visits of his loving family, but Edward was not alone. In fact, Edward was never alone, as wherever he went, he was in the company of his twin.
Edward’s twin was the cause of his seclusion. She was cruel, delighting in his anguish and the misery she inflicted upon him, even smiling as he wept, which was often. She didn’t speak, except to Edward, although others were said to witness the movement of her lips.
She refused him any peace or solitude, even at night, when she whispered to him “of such things as they only speak of in Hell”.
It’s no surprise that Edward longed to be rid of his “devil twin”, as he called her, but it could not be done.
Why, you ask?
Well, simply put, it was impossible to separate them. Quite literally.
Chained Together For Life
It was a distant relative of Edward who introduced me to his story. She was an acquaintance of mine, and we’d spend many a night swapping the incredulous tales we’d collected during our exploits beyond the fringes of polite society.
“Edward has two faces,” she said to me.
“Don’t we all?” I replied.
“No, Lucius. I mean literally. Two faces – One at the front and another at the back.”
Needless to say, I was intrigued and set about uncovering all that I possibly could about this mysterious man, and scoured the archives for any mention of his name.
The first literary reference to Edward was a 1895 article in The Boston Post, which also included the cases of “a woman who had the tail of a fish, a man with the body of a spider, and a man who was half-crab”. Edward’s portion of the article was likely the “lay source” later credited in the medical encyclopaedia, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle.
These two doctors did not offer a diagnosis for Edward, but there are a handful of conditions we can look to for potential explanations.
The most likely of which is a type of parasitic twinning – a particularly rare classification of conjoined twins, in which one severely underdeveloped twin depends on the other for survival.
Edward’s could be a case of Craniopagus Parasiticus – where the underdeveloped twin is joined via the skull – however, within the few documented cases of this form of twinning, none have been seen with the same orientation or position as Edward’s.
There is also the possibility of Diprosopus – another extremely rare condition which causes the duplication of the facial features. However, full duplication is practically unheard of in humans, and the location of Edward’s double makes this an unlikely diagnosis.
Sadly, the survival rate in both of these cases are often very low.
Taking Edward at “Face Value”
Unfortunately, medical literature of the late 1800s wasn’t renowned for fact-checking. If it had been, perhaps Gould and Pyle would have noticed that the Boston Post article was a work of fiction, presented as fact – a common practice at the time, developed to encourage the sale of newspapers, which can still be seen today in certain publications.
Why then, is it Edward’s story that grasped the imagination of the doctors and even perseveres into the modern day?
Examples of multi-headed deities can be seen from Roman mythology to Hindu beliefs, so maybe it’s no great surprise his story stood out among the “half-animal people” in the Boston Post article as being both believable and familiar.
Maybe Edward’s duplicity represents something in all of us? The masks we wear to present ourselves to the world and the parts of ourselves we hide away. Or the voice in our heads that whisper “you’re not good enough”, whenever we try something new. In some ways, we all have our “devil twin”, our own personal self-saboteur we can’t remove, but can only silence.
Today, Edward’s tale has become the stuff of folk legend. He has appeared in many works from, a character in American Horror Story to the subject of the beautiful song, Poor Edward, by the equally magical Tom Waits.
He and his twin are at home in the realms of fiction, regarded firmly as myth and more or less forgotten by society, which was exactly what he wanted.
Having spent many a night with him, listening to the hellish secrets she revealed, I wished Edward could be free of her. Now that he is long dead, I would like to think he finally is.
Each time I visit his grave, I place my ear to the ground and each time, her muffled whispers come back a little quieter.
I hope wherever he is, Edward can’t hear them anymore.
Dr LJ Hawthorn