On New Years Day, the urn containing Sigmund Freud’s ashes was found to be, like the future of psychoanalysis, in shambles. The Guardian reports that the shards of the urn, which dates back to 300 B.C. and was part of Freud’s collection of antiques, were found on the floor of London’s Golders Green crematorium. The urn contained both the ashes of Freud, who died in 1939, as well as his wife, Martha Bernay, who died in 1951.
And our great father of psychoanalysis? The article doesn’t mention the fate of the ashes, reporting only that “Staff at the crematorium said the urn was severely damaged, and had now been moved to a secure location. Security at the site is being reviewed.”
The AP reports that the police are hunting for burglars, leading us to suspect that the remains of Herr Doktor himself may have been, like a letter, or the solution of a dream, purloined. According to the Guardian, Constable Daniel Candler called the incident “a despicable act by a callous thief.” Can a person who has merely broken an object be referred to as a thief? The good detective Candler elaborated: “Even leaving aside the financial value of the irreplaceable urn and the historical significance of to whom it related, the fact that someone set out to take an object knowing it contained the last remains of a person defies belief.”
Set out to or succeeded, Herr Constable? Or you would be searching for a Breaker, not a Thief, nicht wahr? Some lucky (if clumsy) individual might just be in possession of Sigmund Freud’s ashes. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Batya Ungar-Sargon is a freelance writer who lives in New York. Her Twitter feed is @bungarsargon.