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Love After Death

Love After Death


 Carl Tanzler was a German-born bacteriologist who developed a bizarre obsession for one of his patients.



 Tanzler was in his fifties when he first came to the USA, and in 1930, a 22 year old Cuban woman named Elena “Helen” Milagro de Hoyos came to the hospital in which he worked to be treated. During the woman’s treatment for tuberculosis, Tanzler fell desperately in love with her. 




 Tuberculosis was a typically fatal disease at the time, however, with his self-professed medical knowledge, Tanzler attempted to treat and cure Elena diligently. Using numerous medicines, as well as x-ray and electrical equipment – which he brought to the Hoyoses’ home – he tried to save her. He also showered her with gifts and professed his love to her, but no evidence has ever shown she returned the feeling.

 Tuberculosis was a typically fatal disease at the time, however, with his self-professed medical knowledge, Tanzler attempted to treat and cure Elena diligently. Using numerous medicines, as well as x-ray and electrical equipment – which he brought to the Hoyoses’ home – he tried to save her. He also showered her with gifts and professed his love to her, but no evidence has ever shown she returned the feeling.




Though he loved her and tried dutifully to save her, Elena died of terminal tuberculosis at her parents’ home in Key West on October 25, 1931.

 Tanzler paid for her funeral, and – with her family’s permission – commissioned the construction of an above ground mausoleum. The grave site laid in the Key West Cemetery, which he visited almost every night. Tanzler reportedly said that Elena’s spirit would come to him as he sat by her grave to serenade her corpse with Spanish songs, and that she asked that he take her with him from the grave.


 Convinced that Elena was his one true love, Tanzler crept into the cemetery one night in April of 1933 and removed her from body from the mausoleum, carting her decaying corpse through the cemetery on a toy wagon to his home.


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 Tanzler secured her corpse’s bones together with wire and coat hangers, fitted the face with glass eyes, and replaced her decayed skin with silk cloth soaked in wax and plaster of paris. The hair falling out of her decomposing scalp was covered by a wig made from her own hair, which had been collected by her mother and given to Tanzler not long after Elena’s burial. He filled her corpse’s abdominal and chest cavity with rags to keep her shape, and dressed the body in stockings, jewelry, and gloves to show his adoration.

 As disturbing as this may seem, there’s an even creepier fact ahead: Tanzler kept Elena’s corpse in his bed, with the smell of her decomposition masked by copious amounts of perfume, disinfectants, and preserving agents.


 In October, 1940, seven years after Tanzler collected the corpse of Elena Milagro de Hoyos, her sister, Florinda, heard rumors of Tanzler sleeping with the body of her sister. She confronted Tanzler, discovering Elena’s body in his home. Afterwards, she notified the authorities, and Tanzler was arrested, detained, and psychiatrically examined.

 Tanzler was found mentally competent to stand trial. He was charged with “wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization”. A preliminary hearing was held on October 9, 1940, however, the case was dropped, and he was released, as the statute of limitations for the crime had already expired.

 Elena’s body was eventually returned to the Key West Cemetery, where the remains were buried in an unmarked grave. This was done to prevent further tampering by anyone who had become intrigued by the tale, as the case and the preliminary hearing drew a magnitude of interest from local and national media at the time. Shockingly, the public was generally sympathetic to Tanzler and his disgusting crime, as many simply viewed him as an eccentric “romantic”.




 In 1944, Tanzler moved to Pasco County, Florida, and – separated from his obsession – used a death mask to create a life-sized effigy of Elena. He lived with it until his death on July 3, 1952, when his body was discovered on the floor of his home. It has been rumored that Tanzler was found in the arms of the effigy of Elena, but his obituary reported that he died on the floor behind one of his organs.

 Though Tanzler’s actions were grotesque, chilling, and disgusting, it really goes to show you the power of love and romanticism, even after death. It also makes you wonder what could become of your own corpse after death, as I hope no one would ever stuff me and keep my rotting corpse in their bed.


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