11 Extremely Weird Things You Never Knew About Sigmund Freud

As a psychoanalyst, Freud was wrong about almost everything – there is no empirical evidence to substantiate Freudian theory. Yet, that somehow continues to not really matter. The man is embedded in our cultural consciousness. The legacy of Freudian analysis colors our everyday conversations and thought paradigms. Defense mechanisms, daddy issues, catharsis, arrested development, death wishes – all of these terms come straight from Freudian psychology. His understanding of gender was othering, deeply misogynist, and ignorant; his therapy sessions violated ethical codes; he manipulated data to fit his needs; but he brought the notion of the unconscious mind into the public consciousness. That's the thing that stuck. The man himself was an eccentric weirdo whose biography is just as strange as his beliefs.

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  • Freud Was A Scarface-Level Cokehead

    Freud Was A Scarface-Level Cokehead
    Photo: Amazon

    When one thinks of Freud, they often think of his well-kept white beard, not a messy collection of white powder residue beneath his nostrils. However, Freud was a big-time cokehead – a frequent user, recommender, and defender of hitting the slopes. When he was a young med student in Vienna, Freud studied cocaine’s effects on the mind and body, and, in his lifetime, he published several papers on its health benefits. Although he referred to himself as his favorite cocaine test subject, in the 1880s, he recommended cocaine to his friend and fellow physician Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow who had severe nerve pain after acquiring an infection from an autopsy he was performing. His symptoms were temporarily relieved, and Freud boasted his successful prescription. However, Fleischl-Marxow died in October of 1881 of cocaine overuse, and Freud ceased to publicly recommend it. Then, in the 1890s, Freud nearly killed a patient while under the influence and stopped using it himself.

  • Freud May Have Covered Up An Extramarital Abortion With His Wife's Sister

    Freud May Have Covered Up An Extramarital Abortion With His Wife's Sister
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Although Freud initially abandoned his penniless career in science and became a doctor to earn enough to support his beloved Martha and their soon-to-be six children, that did not stop him from maybe (probably) having an affair with Martha's younger sister Minna Bernays. Minna moved into Freud and Martha’s house after her fiancé's death in the early 1890s. At this time, Carl Jung and Freud were frenemies, and Jung later claimed Minna confessed the affair to him. Some scholars even go so far as to say that Freud got Minna pregnant, which resulted in a secret abortion. In 2006, potential proof of the affair was uncovered in the form of an old hotel registry from a Swiss resort in 1898. It seems Freud and Minna had checked into a hotel together registered as a married couple; no doubt, they were there for some skiing and light reading.

  • Freud’s Escape From Germany Was Aided by A Princess And A Nazi

    Freud’s Escape From Germany Was Aided by A Princess And A Nazi
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In March of 1938, Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany, and the growing anti-Semitism there induced a wave of relocation for affluent refugees. Freud underestimated the danger of the growing fascist regime and waited to escape from Vienna until it was almost too late. Soon, the Nazis were in complete control of immigration, and Freud was unable to obtain a permit alone. Luckily for Freud, Marie Bonaparte, the Princess of Greece and Denmark, was a former patient, and she was able to get a permit for Freud and his immediate family. However, even with Bonaparte’s help, Freud may not have made it out in time if the process was not expedited by the sympathetic Nazi officer in charge of his assets, Anton Sauerwald. Sauerwald had studied chemistry at Vienna University under a friend of Freud’s, and this recommendation was strong enough to put anti-Semitism on hold and let Freud escape to London. Unfortunately, four of Freud’s sisters were not able to make it out in time, and they all perished in Nazi concentration camps.

  • Freud Spent A Month Exclusively Looking For Eel Penises

    Freud Spent A Month Exclusively Looking For Eel Penises
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Freud would spent his professional life opening up his patients' psyches, but his initial experience with dissection came from an ill-fated search for the gonads of eels during his time studying zoology at the University of Vienna. The pursuit of male eels had eluded zoologists for centuries, but young Freud believed that with limited sleep and some rigorous experimentation he could locate them. Freud spent four weeks doing nothing but dissecting eels, all of which he declared were “the fairer sex,” as no phallus could be found. Now, scientists know that eels don’t have testicles unless they need them specifically in mating season. Clearly, the spectrum of eel sexuality was a bit out of Freud's grasp. 

  • Freud Smoked So Many Cigars He Needed A Prosthetic Jaw

    Freud Smoked So Many Cigars He Needed A Prosthetic Jaw
    Photo: Max Halberstadt / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    From an early age up until his death at 83, Freud was a cigar man through and through – through to the development of leukoplakia cancer and through to when it ate through his jaw. Although he received multiple diagnoses and operations, Freud couldn't keep the tobacco log out of his mouth (oral fixation anyone?). Freud is said to have smoked up to 20 cigars a day. He believed addictions were just a common masturbatory habit, and he kept his cancer secret from his friends and family. However, when he began wearing a prosthetic device that kept his jaw from collapsing, he could hide it no longer.  

  • Freud Once Turned Down Big Hollywood Bucks

    Freud Once Turned Down Big Hollywood Bucks
    Photo: Bobbeecher / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    In 1925, Freud’s name was known from the cobblestones of Vienna to the hills of Hollywood. That year, Hollywood mogul Samuel Goldwyn made the trek to Vienna to plead for Freud to write or consult on MGM's films, helping them decode – through Freudian analysis – the greatest love stories of history. With cold, hard Tinseltown cash in his pocket, Goldwyn did not think Freud would need a lot of convincing. Freud, however, refused to even see him.