We all strive to have the love and relationship that others aspire to emulate. For me, it’s Gomez and Morticia, for others it’s Cinderella and Prince Charming. But what happens if the person you love most in the world passes away, what do you do then? For most of us, we will grieve and eventually move on with our lives, maybe finding another partner to be with. For others, like Carl Tanzler, you exhume the body of your obsessive love and live with it for seven years.
Carl Tanzler, also known as Count Carl von Cosel, was born in Germany in 1877. He had traveled across the world during World War I, and in 1920, after returning to Germany, he married Doris Schafer, and together they had two children. In 1926, he emigrated to the United States and his wife and daughters joined him at a later date. Leaving his family in Zephyrhills Florida, Carl took a job as a radiology technician at the hospital in Key West, FL.
Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos, was born in 1909 and was viewed as a local beauty in Key West. She was the daughter of a prominent cigar maker, and was married to Luis Mesa. After suffering a miscarriage, Luis left Elena and moved to Miami. She was legally married to Luis at the time of her death.
In 1930 Elena was brought to the hospital in Key West for an examination. Carl recognized her as the dark haired beauty that he had had visions of since his youth. Supposedly his ancestors revealed the face of his true love, and now he had met her. Eventually Elena was diagnosed with tuberculosis, a typically fatal disease at the time.
Carl, attempted to treat and cure Elena with a variety of medicines, as well as X-ray and electrical equipment that were brought to her home. Carl often gifted Elena with jewelry and clothing and professed his love to her. There is no evidence that Elena reciprocated his affections. Sadly, Elena would pass away in 1931.
Carl paid for her funeral, and with permission from her family, he commissioned an above ground mausoleum in the Key West Cemetery, which he visited almost every night.
In April of 1933, undercover of darkness, Carl removed Elena from her mausoleum, and carted it back to his home. Carl attached the bones together with piano wire, fitted the face with glass eyes, and as her skin was decomposed, he replaced it with silk cloth, soaked in wax, and plaster of Paris. As her hair fell out of Elena’s decomposing scalp, Carl fashioned a wig from her hair that he had previously obtained from her mother. He filled her body with rags, to keep the original shape, dressed her in clothing, and kept her body in his bed. Carl was forced to use copious amounts of perfumes and other preserving agents to mask the odor and stall decomposition.
It was almost seven years later that Elena’s family heard rumors that Carl Tanzler was sleeping with the disinterred body of their daughter. Elena’s sister confronted Carl, and Elena’s body was discovered. The authorities were notified, and Carl Tanzler was arrested, however charges of ‘wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization’ were dropped, as the statute of limitations for the crime had expired.
Elena’s body was returned to the Key West Cemetery, where she was reburied in an unmarked grave, in a secret location.
The public was mostly sympathetic to Carl, labeling him as an eccentric romantic. However, doctors who attended the 1940 autopsy of Elena’s remains, recalled years later that vaginal lube had been inserted into the vaginal area of the corpse that would allow for intercourse. This hasn’t been fully proven, or refuted, so it’s unsure if Carl was involved in necrophilia.
Carl Tanzler lived the remaining years of his life in Pasco County Florida, near Zephyrhills, where his wife Doris lived. She apparently helped support him in his later years. Carl passed away at age 75 in 1952. His body was discovered three weeks after his death, and it was reported that he was found in the arms of Elena’s effigy.
What do you think? Were the actions by Carl justified as romantic, or downright creepy? Do you believe he had intercourse with Elena’s corpse? After being caught and moving away from Key West, it’s rumored that he had again acquired her corpse and lived with it until he died. What are your thoughts on this freaky Friday case?
Be strong, be beautiful, be you