“SIGMUND FREUD VERSUS SPR”

It was his interest in sleepwalking that put the father of Psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud in relation with the Society for Psychical Research. One night Sir William Barrett was walking on the sidewalk after leaving a pub in Soho when he crashed into a man who walked with his eyes closed and arms outstretched. The man woke up at that moment, and a few meters behind him Barret heard a voice grumbling and complaining. It was Freud, who was following one of his patients in order to discover where he went every night after leaving home in a state of somnambulism.  At the advice of Freud, the man’s wife did not dare to stop him. And precisely that night Freud had decided to find out where his patient was going every night. (Later it was discovered that his destination was the same tavern that Barret frequented and that sleepwalking was just a stratagem of the man to escape from home at night without his wife preventing him from doing so.) Barret apologized and offered Freud his card with the SPR emblem. Freud was openly skeptical about the topic of research of the Society, and Barret was quick to invite him to attend one of their weekly seances. Freud accepted reluctantly, and that same Friday he appeared at the headquarters of the SPR where he was kindly received by its president Sir Henry Sidgwick. Both great men had a small talk during which Freud made it clear that any paranormal phenomenon should be interpreted either as a symptom of sexual repression or of an exacerbated sexuality. For him that explained everything: the poltergeist, the haunted houses, the flying saucers, the vampirism, the anti-vampirism, the ghosts, the Loch Ness Monster, the Abominable Snowman and even the fairies and the goblins. Sidgwick insinuated that his position was a bit reductionist, which infuriated Freud who gave him a strong kick in the shin. Upon hearing the exclamations of pain from Sidgwick, the rest of the members of the Society -who were preparing the seance for the evening- came quickly to his aid. Sidgwick played down the importance of the incident and introduced Freud to his colleagues. While these awaited the arrival of the medium, Freud occupied himself with stalking them when they went to the restroom and with giving them a fright when they were off-guard. During the seance, the medium had to tell off Freud on several occasions because he launched giggles and mocking comments continuously. When the medium finally achieved silence, she summoned her spirit guide and asked him to make a demonstration. In that instant (as recorded in the archives of the SPR) a guitar that rested on a sofa rose and flew through the air to unload such a blow on the head of Freud that he fell to the ground senseless. Immediately the seance was interrupted and Freud received the appropriate cures. Late at night and with bandaged head, Freud left the headquarters of the SPR railing against their members with which he did not keep any further contact. But he always kept the ungrateful memory of that guitar thump, which he always brought up when asked about his experience with musical art.

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