the monkey boy discovered: smokebox interview

His method was flawed in my view, because just knowing that I was doubly depressed, made me even more depressed. I soon had triple depression, which even accounting for the ‘everyone is depressed’ factor left with me with double depression again so I was right back where I started….”


by bill carney



For years I have pursued the Monkey Boy. It was my luck to have him presented to me on a platter. Dr. S, an embittered ex-pat from the Psychoanalytic Circle told me that the Monkey Boy was not just a rumor and that he still lived. Moreover, S said that he could arrange an introduction. Naturally, I was intimate with the case studies that Freud had published in his life time: Dora, Little Hans, the Wolfman, Gretel, Gustav K., and the Mouser. But I had also heard of a seventh case study, long suppressed but still hinted at in the penumbras of Psychoanalytic Literature. The story of the so-called Monkey Boy had become my Grail. He was said to be a young Aristocrat from the Jutland peninsula who was traumatized as a boy by a visit to the local zoological park where he witnessed monkeys copulating. His own irrational fear that he had contacted gonorrhea while observing the lesser apes led to the onset of a severe case of melancholia, which not even hypnotism could cure. Freud’s talking cure had been his only recourse. All that I had once dreamed of was at last coming true.

Initially, the monkey boy was reluctant to talk to me. He was an old fellow, with little hearing but still a noble and fastidious bearing despite his fallen circumstances. There was little ”monkeyish” about him except for his still curious and occasionally mischievous nature. We had little in common except for my keen interest in his life story. I had little knowledge of his world, which was from another time. Still I explained that it was quite a remarkable coincidence that I had found him after I had spent so much of my time seeking to know more about him. That statement was the key which unlocked the door of the Monkey Boy’s long silence.

Monkey Boy: Do you know what a coincidence is?

Bill Carney: No

Monkey Boy: Why it’s merely two things happening at the same time. Coinciding. You know, you seem remarkably similar to a young man I knew at the Gymnasium. He was the first person I ever told about my gonnorhea.

BC: But in fact you did not have gonorrhea.

Monkey Boy: True, but nothing is except thinking makes it so and that young man is the one who told me I should see a doctor.

BC: What was it that brought you to Freud?

Monkey Boy: The doctors in Jutland were at an impasse. Nothing worked. I was terribly depressed and could not sleep. And terrified at the thought of monkeys, who you used to see on the streets quite often in those days playing music and tic tac toe. Finally a doctor suggested Freud. The waltz craze was still strong in Vienna then and I was a young man crazy for waltzes. I don’t mean crazy in the scientific sense but crazy in the colloquial sense. I can not say, in retrospect that I was particularly happy to be dubbed the Monkey Boy. Why not the Wolfman or the King Snake? I did not mind that Freud decided not to repress the study from his published literature.

BC: And what was Freud’s diagnosis?

Monkey Boy: He told me that I had “double depression”

BC: Double depression?

Monkey Boy: Well, actually he said it was not a cause for great concern as so-called depression, “single depression” in technical terms, was normal. Therefore, double depression was merely single depression if you accounted for the base being normal, signal depression. He was at heart an optimist.

BC: Freud was an optimist?

Monkey Boy: Yes, but his method was flawed in my view, because just knowing that I was doubly depressed, made me even more depressed. I soon had triple depression, which even accounting for the “everyone is depressed” factor left with me with double depression again so I was right back where I started, only more so. Depending on who is keeping score.

BC: So you’re saying that the knowledge of your illness, rather than being the first step towards overcoming it, as Freudians believe, was actually the cause of greater illness for you?

Monkey Boy: Yes, I couldn’t help but feel, that Freud was sort of living in a dream. I did not wish to hurt his feelings because he was very sensitive. He took everything the wrong way, a regular ouch cube.

BC: Why do you feel that your case history was ultimately suppressed?

Monkey Boy: Because Freud and his midgets, that what I called them, could not handle the truth. Not all of the news was happy, obviously. They thought I was the poster boy for psychoanalysis and made all sorts of promises, promised me the moon, told me I was going to be the example of neurosis in the case studies, but of course it didn’t work out that way and I was switched to hysterical, and then narcissistic personality, and finally obsessive-compulsive. It was like being in foster care. And things kept cropping up. At first, Freud said it was nothing to worry about. Not worry? That is what I was seeing him for. He dismissed it was “non-analyzed residue” which had somehow resisted our “talking cure” all those years. Also, Zelda, my nurse and later my wife was not well liked by the others. It is a true that I used to say famously that she was a woman ” with whom no man could get along.” Even with Freud I preferred not to discuss the matter. But it was all about popularity, playing the game.

BC: Whom are you referring to when you say “the others”?

Monkey Boy: Oh, you know, Dora, Little Hans, the Mouser, that ilk.

BC: You’re saying you knew Freud’s other patients?

Monkey Boy: Well at first we practically lived together. It is true that at first we all got along together famously. Those were heady times. We felt we were part of something important, that we were in on the ground floor. We all felt special but soon the sense of being a team broke down and everyone was suddenly about ME ME ME, not us. But at first there was many nights of card playing, brandy alexanders, sacher torte. WE loved to play games. You know, cowboys against Indians, flatlanders against hill people. It was grand. And everyone loved Heidi, but she was Dr. Freud’s girl.

BC: You’re not implying that Dr. Freud had sex with one of his patients are you?

Monkey Boy: Well, sex would be putting it kindly as he always struck me as sort of a disturbed individual when it came to sexual matters. Not that I am a psychiatrist. But the things she told me did shock and horrify me and let me to believe that sometimes a cigar is not just a cigar.

BC: Do you feel that the Doctor helped you? I mean that now you seem quite light-hearted, somewhat mischievous and laughing. Don’t you think that ultimately you became a well adjusted person? You no longer have your monkey phobia or feel you have gonorrhea.

Monkey Boy: That is because I have assiduously avoided monkeys and haven’t had sex since witnessing them that day in the zoo. That’s why I no longer have gonorrhea.

BC: But you were just a boy then. Are you saying you’ve never had sex outside of vicariously at the zoo that day?

Monkey Boy: Some people feel things more deeply than others. I haven’t ever had sex in that sense it’s true. But it is interesting to talk about truth. In Jutland, there are several words for the truth because, after all, there is truth and there is TRUTH. I think this is what your president was getting at a few years ago. The TRUTH is that both psychoanalysis, the so-called talking cure and language are pseudo sciences. They have no true relationship to the truth of a person’s “mind” or the truth even as it exists as a concept.

BC: But don’t you think truth exists only as a concept?

Monkey Boy: True. Perhaps that was Freud’s point all along. He was a great practical joker, sick sick sick. But if one can believe that, for instance, all of your difficulties in dealing with life are related to one primal incident, or in my case, primate incident, and that by addressing that incident and bringing it to consciousness you can surmount all of your problems in dealing with others, than it is a beneficial lie which might be another word for truth. I think Plato said some of this in his Republic but of course he wasn’t talking about Freud in so many words. Like your American capitalism and democratic republic. Freud thought of psychoanalysis as a ticket one buys which gives one the possibility to travel but one is not obligated to travel. It seemed to inject free will into a pseudoscience based on determinism, but I guess I was of two minds about Freud.

BC: You’re lucky he didn’t charge you for both.

Monkey Boy: He did, but it is true that at that time I was a little obsessive. For instance, I was concerned about the redness in my eyes but when I went to the doctor to have him look at my eyes, he said, “Look me in the eyes.” That was so he could look at my eyes. I saw that his were horrifically red, much more so than mine. Freud prescribed calomel which I found out later was to cure diarrhetic horses.

BC: So the end justifies the means is Freud’s update of Machiavelli.

Monkey Boy: Exactly. Any port in a sturm and drang. Poor Heidi. Freud was a genius even if he got much of it wrong. He had very appealing eyes that looked down into the bottom of your skull. According to Freud, a psychoanalyst must be some sort of God. He encouraged us to give him gifts and insisted on doing many of the sessions naked. I brought him a mummified cat from Egypt. Quite valuable. You know, a man came to Freud whose sickness was talking. He just couldn’t shut up. The talking cure was useless with him. Freud never wrote that one down either. I see that you are jotting down our conversation. I can’t help but wonder what you plan to do with it?

BC: I thought that the world should know the true story. Freud is still a god in some quarters.

Monkey Boy: If I were to tell you my true story, to put it in writing, no one would believe it. Perhaps the best way to continue to suppress this story is to put it in writing. People have a much easier time believing in a rumor or conspiracy, a tale in the apocrypha or margins than in the actual truth.

BC: That is certainly true. I guess that was Freud’s point. Nothing is as it seems.

BC: What will you do now? You seem to have many of the same difficulties that you had as a young man. I see now that you haven’t been able to completely master these phobias and obsessions.

Monkey Boy: Well there’s drugs and I am also thinking off getting a dog thought I am rather old to care for one. Here’s something. All these years I had feared getting a dog. I thought about it but was unable to act because I feared that whatever dog I got I would soon resemble. You know. That is an unofficial psychoanalytic truth. All humans eventually resemble the dog they live with. I was paralyzed by the thought that I would resemble a dog.

BC: But you yourself said you were unhappy being known as the Monkey Boy. Perhaps being just another person who resembles his shihtsu or Jack Russell terrier will help you. There’s one monkey boy but there’s a million dog people.

Monkey Boy: Yes, I think that now that the story of the Monkey Boy will finally be told, I am ready to leave it behind. It has not been pleasant. So what if I look like my dog, just like every other dog owner. This will make me normal at last.


Originally published:
Issue Thirty
March 2004



Bill Carney is a founding member and contributing editor to the late, lamented Lurch Magazine. He is also the leader of not one but two renowned New York City bands: Les Sans Culottes and Bill Carney’s Jug Addicts. In addition to his many literary and musical endeavors, he maintains membership in several secret societies and is a master when it comes to cooking with curry. More from Bill Carney can be found in the Vault of Smoke.

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