Carl Tanzler: A Hopeless Nekromantik

in #halloween4 years ago (edited)


Well I guess I should get into the Halloween swing of things and write up a few creepy tales that really happened. I've always felt that something is even creepier when it actually occured. Here is one tale of undying romance for all you lovers out there. There is a special someone for every person, but you might need to do a little digging to find them.


Carl Tanzler, aka Count Carl von Cosel, at work as a radiologist at the U.S. Marine Hospital in Key West (via: Florida Keys Public Library)

Georg Karl Tanzler was born in Germany in 1877. Married in 1920 and had two girls, one of which died at the age of ten. He emigrated to the United States in 1926, joining his sister in Zephyrhills Florida. In 1927 his wife and children joined him, but he took a job as a radiologist at the U.S. Marine Hospital in Key West and left his family behind.

He kept to himself and worked in the tuberculosis ward, which was a common and incurable disease back then. It was said he only really talked to his patients, who normally died because of the TB. So the only people he really talked with ended up dying, which may not have been good for his mental state. A mind that could be said wasn’t the sturdiest to begin with.

Since childhood he claimed he had visits from a long dead ancestor, Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel. This ancestor showed him visions of his true love, an exotic and dark-haired woman. He even was known by the name of Count Carl von Cosel at the hospital, as that is what he told them his name was. Most likely he never went to school to become a doctor at all.


A photo of young Elena de Hoyos. (Via: Florida Keys Public Library)

In April of 1930 in walked 21 year old Maria ‘Elena’ Milagro de Hoyos, who came to the hospital for an examination. To Tanzler this was literally the woman of his dreams. This exotic woman was his one true love and from that point on he would do anything for her.

The examination revealed that she had tuberculosis. Carl did everything he could think of, making special medicines for her, bringing the medical equipment from the hospital to her house, giving her many gifts such as perfume, jewelry, and clothes. Even saying that he loved her.

Elena died on October 25th, 1931 from the disease. Tanzler paid all the funeral expenses and a very expensive mausoleum for her body. The family was grateful for his monetary help, but there was one thing they didn’t know – he had the only key to mausoleum door.

Elena's sister and and brother in law at Elena's tomb built by Tanzler. Stetson Kennedy Collection.(Via: Florida Keys Public Library)

For two years he visited the mausoleum nearly every night. What he was doing was his best efforts to keep the body from decomposing with a constant formaldehyde treatment. He would talk with her and they had long conversations. She would even sing to him in Spanish sometimes, or so he said.


Elena's preserved corpse

One night in 1933 he said that she asked to be taken away from the mausoleum, and so Tanzler did just that. Using a toy wagon he brought her rotting body back to his home. They were now considered to be married and so shared a bed. But even with all his treatments the body was still slowly falling apart.

He continued to use formaldehyde followed by large volumes of perfume to counteract the smell of both the chemical and her rot. At some point it wasn’t enough, and he needed different methods. Her shriveled eyes were replaced with glass ones. Her bones were held together with piano wire, and coat hangers provided some stiffness to her frame. Her peeling skin was replaced with silk cloth soaked in a wax plaster mixture. Her putrid organs were removed and rags were packed in place to give her body volume. Her hair fell out and was used to create a wig. It was even said that a tube was placed in her vagina so Tanzler could still love his beloved.

For many years he and Elena lived in what he called a happy relationship. They danced together and he played her music on the organ. She still sang, and they talked about everything. It was a time together that lasted 7 more years, until 1940.


The Autopsy
Glass eyes
Rumors started piling up. Tanzler never visited the mausoleum again, which was strange since he was always there before. He was seen buying women’s clothing and perfume. A local boy even said he saw Tanzler through a window dancing with what looked like a giant doll. Eventually, all these rumors got back to Elena’s family and her sister confronted Tanzler.

She got inside and saw what she claimed was a wax dummy of her sister. After notifying the police, they confiscated the ‘doll’ and found it to be Elena’s long decomposed corpse.

Tanzler was arrested and underwent a psychiatric evaluation, to which he was found competent to stand trial. This was even after he claimed he was going to fly the corpse “high into the stratosphere, so that radiation from outer space could penetrate Elena’s tissues and restore life to her somnolent form.”

Elena's Airship (via: Florida Keys Public Libraries)

His official charge was “wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization.” But it was found that the statute of limitations for grave robbing had expired and Tanzler was set free.

Since this entire story was crazy, it was reprinted in papers throughout the country. Surprisingly many people, especially women, sympathized with Tanzler and said he was just a misguided romantic. (Although the articles wouldn't have written about the vaginal tube, that information didn't come out until much later)

Elena’s corpse was available for public viewing at the local funeral home, and an estimated 6,000 people came to view it. Later it was buried in an unmarked grave so Tanzler wouldn’t find it.

As for Tanzler, after his request to get her body back was obviously denied, he created a life sized doll using her death mask. Eventually moving out of Key West in 1944, and writing his autobiography which was printed in an 1947 issue of the magazine called Fantastic Adventures.

Elena version 2.0

He died in 1952, but his body wasn’t discovered for three weeks. Some say he was found with the doll in his arms but his obituary said he was found behind a music organ and "a metal cylinder on a shelf above a table in it wrapped in silken cloth and a robe was a waxen image".

Still a better love story than Twilight.

(Yeah, I brought it back)



I have been nominated for 'Best Undiscovered Author' for the Golden Steem Awards and I need your vote!

If you believe that my articles are quality works, please vote for me on @burnin's post. You may have to scroll up a bit from this link, as it might bring my voting section to just above the very top of your screen. Whether you upvote or not, thank you for reading.


Welcome aboard the Halloween train!

I've always felt that something is even creepier when it actually occured.

Our monsters our weak reflections of our selves ;>

Congrats on the 'Best Undiscovered Author' nomination...good luck!

That they are.

Thanks so much for your vote too!

it was well earned!

That was one wild story. I am now off to Google what a vaginal tube is, but something tells me the term is self explanatory.

Heh, I don't think he bought it ready made down at the local store...

Oh man. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. I love posts that give you a serious chill and this one is right up there. What a creepy man he was!

Honestly, one of my favourite posts from you!

Absolutely brilliant stuff, bro!

He put the romance in necromancer :D

What a great story. It is really eerily romantic. Obsession. Obsessive tendencies mixed with a bizarre belief are the key to strange yet relatable stories.

So true, I can (kinda) see why some people emphasized with him and his story back in the day.

nekromantic? What a great/gross word.
That's pretty disturbing. Yea...

Heh, I didn't think it up but thought it appropriate for this story. Joe, I could use your vote for the Golden Steem Awards, info at the bottom of this article! (only if you want to though, not pushing)

statute of limitations for grave robbing

LOL! like an unpaid bill under 10 grand.

"...a misguided romantic..."

Incredible story!

I'm planning on a few more real life creepy tales, so make sure you follow if you enjoy this sort of stuff! :D

There are some things you cannot unread. This is one of them I wish I could. Yuch! Good story though.

Hah! And I am just starting off with the lighter material!