They say true love never dies. The memories continue to live on even after the other half parts ways with the world.
Not in the case of Carl Tanzler, however. He wasn’t content with simply a memory; he kept the corpse of his beloved at close hand for nearly 10 years.
Carl Tanzler, a.k.a. Dr. Carl von Cosel.
An x-ray technician at a U.S. Marine Hospital in Key West, Florida, Tanzler set his eyes on tuberculosis patient Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos and fell instantly in love.
Elena de Hoyos
Never mind that he was in his fifties at that time, or had a wife and two daughters already. Cuban-American Elena de Hoyos fulfilled his personal vision of an exotic and dark-haired true love.
Tanzler began to court Elena with curative potions, jewelry, and clothing. He even went as far as assembling x-ray equipment in her home. Unfortunately, she died of her disease. This all happened in the 1930s when tuberculosis wasn’t as easily treated as today.
Devastated, he paid for her funeral and built a mausoleum for her at the Key West Cemetery, all with her family’s approval.
Carl Tanzler’s obsession laid to rest. Or was she?
Not content, he spent every night visiting her, claiming her spirit sang to him in Spanish and begged him to take her away.
And he did. A year and a half after her death, he secretly dug up her decaying body and brought it home with him.
With his limited medical knowledge, he began the process of preserving her corpse in all manner of unimaginable ways.
He bound her bones with coat hangers and wire to hold them together and held her rotting flesh together with silk cloth dipped in wax and plaster of Paris.
He also stuffed rags in her chest and abdominal cavities to prevent them from caving in.
Tanzler put in glass where her eyes used to be.
He treated the corpse with formaldehyde and sprayed bottles of perfume to mask the decomposing stench. He even bought clothes and jewelry for Elena to wear, and crafted a wig out of the real dead woman’s hair. However,Tanzler wasn’t content with preserving his beloved’s corpse alone. He spent most of his time with the body, dancing with it, and even sleeping with it on his bed at night.
Whether he had intercourse with Elena’s body is even secretly whispered after an improvised paper tube was found in her vaginal cavity.
This grisly routine went on for seven years and everything was going great – until people inevitably started asking questions. Everyone wondered why Carl suddenly stopped visiting the mausoleum. They also noticed him regularly shopping for women’s clothing and lots of perfumes. Suspicions started to spread after a local boy saw Carl through a window, dancing with what appeared to be a giant doll. That’s when the disturbing rumors reached Elena’s family, and her sister, Florinda confronted Tanzler with questions.
To her horror, Tanzler proudly showed her Elena’s preserved and fully outfitted corpse, whereupon she promptly called the police on him for grave robbing.
Tanzler was arrested and stood trial for “wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization.” The trial became a media sensation, and surprisingly the majority of the public, especially women, supported Tanzler, finding him to be an eccentric romantic.
Is necrophilia a sign of mental competence?
However, Tanzler loudly proclaimed he would use an airship to bring the object of his obsession “high into the stratosphere so that radiation from outer space could penetrate Elena’s tissues and restore life to her somnolent form.”
In a bizarre twist of events, the case against him was dropped as the statute of limitations ran out. Despite his sick deeds, Tanzler was set free.
The case garnered wide attention throughout Florida. Elena’s mummified remains ended up on display at the Dean-Lopez Funeral Home.
Elena’s corpse subject to further indignity.
Eventually, her family laid her to rest in an unmarked grave, finally at peace after nearly a decade spent as a mummy.
As for Tanzler, he moved out of town and wrote his autobiography heavily featuring the love of his life. He even created a plaster cast of Elena’s face as part of her life-size sculpture.
Strangely enough, his legal wife continued to support him until his death in 1952 when he was found lying on the floor with his arms around the sculpture of his beloved Elena.