It has been said that true love knows no boundaries, but Dr. Carl Tanzler took that notion and turned it into one sick and twisted nightmare. Some might consider him a hopeless romantic for what he did, while others believed he was completely out of his mind.
Tanzler, also known as Count Carl von Cosel, was a German radiologist who left behind his wife and children to work at the United States Marine Hospital in Key West. In 1927, he was employed in the hospital’s tuberculosis ward. During this time, tuberculosis was a very fatal disease.
Despite the fact that he often maintained a relatively low profile and kept to himself, once he met the gorgeous Elena Milagro de Hoyos in April of 1930, everything changed. Elena, a tuberculosis patient, was only 22-years-old when she waltzed into Tanzler’s office.
He was immediately convinced that Elena was his dream girl, like the one that appeared in romantic “visions” he had. The 50-year-old doctor wasn’t about to let her go, even if the attraction wasn’t mutual.
To prove his affections, Tanzler did everything in his power to try and save her life. After getting the approval from her family, he tried treating Elena using rather unorthodox methods, including X-ray treatment and herbal medications. He also began giving her an abundance of gifts.
However, his efforts were not successful, and in October of 1931, Elena passed away.
After her death, Tanzler got permission from her family to build an above-ground mausoleum for her corpse. And that’s when his obsession with her took an extremely disturbing turn. For two years, he visited her decaying body every single night, as he was the only person with a key.
Claiming that her ghost would appear to him inside the mausoleum, Tanzler said they had countless conversations with each other, which led him to fall more deeply in love. Ultimately, his strange behavior caused him to get fired from the hospital where the two initially met.
Determined to keep her close, he stole her corpse and transported it to a lab he created inside of an old airplane. This is where he would work to try and bring her back to life.
Then, one night in 1933, he took Elena’s body and brought it into his home. At this point, she had been dead for over two years, and Tanzler had to toil in order to prevent her body from decaying any further. To hide the stench of her rotting flesh, he doused it with perfumes and preservatives. To keep her body from collapsing, he held her bones together with wires, covered her corpse in wax and plaster, and replaced her decomposed eyeballs with glass.
These techniques gave Elena’s corpse a horrific, doll-like appearance.
However, that wasn’t even the most unsettling part of this story. The pair shared a bed, and for approximately seven years, they lived in what he would have called marital bliss.
Everything was fine and dandy until Elena’s sister became suspicious of his bizarre behavior. When folks in town began spreading rumors, she paid Tanzler a visit at his house and discovered Elena’s body.
Things get worse: allegedly Tanzler has placed a tube inside her decomposed vagina so that he could continue to have sex with her! For eight years, he had been having relations with her corpse.
Obviously, her sister contacted the authorities, which led to an investigation into Tanzler’s sickening obsession. Although he was imprisoned for a brief time, the statute of limitations on the charge of grave robbery had run out.
Therefore, he ended up walking free for his crimes.
But that didn’t stop him from later creating a life-sized dummy of Elena, which he lived with until his death on July 3, 1952. His corpse was found on the floor of his home three weeks after he died.