Another of the star cases of Freud was the one known as the “case of the Screw-Woman”. The conversation of this woman was a pure incongruity. Everything she said didn’t make any sense whatsoever, although at first Freud tried to find out whether there was any truth in what she said. Thus, when the Screw-Woman attempted to make him believe that she was a mermaid, she revealed herself unable to keep the head under water for more than five seconds. The goblins who appeared at night to lead her to the Fairy Kingdom turned out to be mice that did not even possess the ability of speech (contemplating the possibility that they were deaf-mute, Freud tried to communicate with them through sign language and not even then). After several failed checks of this type, Freud stopped trying to find out what was true in the statements of the Screw-Woman and cataloged her as a psychotic that had also made him waste a lot of time with useless checks. Curiously, when Freud stopped believing in her, she also expressed her skepticism about the nonsense she said. However, she affirmed that she could not avoid saying them because “she lacked a screw”. Freud thought that this spontaneous recognition was a great advance, until he realized that her reference to the missing screw was not metaphorical. Indeed, she was convinced that, while walking in the Vienna Prater one day that same year, a screw fell from her head (by saying this she pointed to a certain point on her skull) and although she was looking for it, being a tiny screw she couldn’t find it. Of course, Freud did not give the slightest credit to this delirious claim, but even so he spent several sleepless nights going down the Prater armed with a magnifying glass and an oil lantern. Until, on the fifth night, his tenacity was rewarded with the success of finding a tiny screw on one of the park’s trails. When he showed it to her patient, she was very happy and said that it was undoubtedly the screw that was missing, and insisted that he put it back on. Just to humour her, Freud agreed to try to insert the tiny screw in the exact place where the woman said it was missing. To his surprise, the screw fit perfectly into a tiny hole that the woman actually turned out to have in that area of the head. Freud screwed it with great care and, from that moment, the conversation of the Screw-Woman not only became coherent but she also showed higher order reasoning skills. When Freud exposed the case to the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society, Adler, Stekel and some others blurted out skeptical giggles, which angered Freud, who threatened to unscrew their brains.

From this case onwards, Freud always kept in his office a set of screwdrivers and numerous boxes of screws of various sizes. Just in case.

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