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Pankejeff, Sergei (1887-1979)


Dr. Serguei Pankejeff, alias the "Wolf Man," is the subject of Freud's longest case history (1918).

According to our current Gregorian calendar, this remarkable patient was born on January 6, 1887, but according to the Julian calendar used at the time in Russia (and crucial to understanding his famous dream) he was born into a fabulously wealthy family on Christmas Eve, 1886. Marked psychopathology existed in the family on his father's side. His father himself was born in 1859; suffering from prolonged manic-depressive illness, he took a fatal overdose of veronal, in 1908; his mother was born in 1864 and died naturally in 1953. Serge's only sibling, Anna, who was two and a half years older than he, lethally poisoned herself in 1906.

Anna's suicide increased her brother's depression, and in 1908 he consulted some of the most eminent psychiatrists in Europe: Bechterev in Petersburg, Ziehen in Berlin, and Kraepelin in Munich. Serge spent a long time in German sanatoria, but it was in Kraepelin's that he met his future wife, Teresa Keller (she committed suicide in 1938). The Wolf Man's first analysis with Freud lasted from February, 1910, to July 14, 1914; subsequent to his dramatic impoverishment caused by the First World War, the Wolf Man went back into analysis with Freud from the fall of 1919 to Easter, 1920. For the next six years, Freud collected money for the sustenance and an occasional holiday for the Wolf Man and his wife. He eventually found employment in an insurance company and dealt with legal aspects of social security matters.

News of Freud's cancer contributed to the Wolf Man's subsequent psychotic decline. As a result, he went back into analysis with Ruth Mack Brunswick for a four-month period spanning 1926-1927. Starting in 1929, he resumed an irregular analysis with Brunswick for several years. Every summer from the mid 1950s to 1979, Kurt Eissler engaged the Wolf Man in "analytically directed conversations" and prescribed medication. He was also having irregular analytic treatment in Vienna during that time.

The Wolf Man's misery dramatically mounted over the last two decades of his life. Lonely and approaching senility, he was embroiled in a maddening relationship with a harmless psychopathic woman named Louise. Muriel Gardiner and Kurt Eissler monetarily supported them. He died in Vienna in 1979 at age 92. In sum, a fundamental feature of the Wolf Man's identity was his patienthoodhe became a ward of psychoanalysis.

Patrick Mahony

See also: Anxiety dream; "From the History of an Infantile neurosis" (Wolf Man); Infantile neurosis; Urbantschitsch (Urban), Rudolf von.


Freud, Sigmund. (1918b [1914]). From the history of an infantile neurosis. SE, 17: 1-122.

Gardiner, Muriel M. (Dir. [1971]). The Wolf-Man by the Wolf-Man. New York, Basic Books.

Mahony, Patrick J. (1984). Cries of the Wolf Man. New York : International Universities Press.

Obholzer, Karin. (1982). The Wolf-Man: conversations with Freud's patientsixty years later. (Michael Shaw, Trans.) New York: Continuum.

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