Carl Tanzler's Obsession With Elena de Hoyos Went Way Too Far Beyond Death

 Carl Tanzler was a mystery

True love---or at least, true passion---conquers all. In this case, it even conquered death. In 1933, Carl Tanzler was so over head for 21-year-old Elena de Hoyos that after she passed away, he stole her body and took it home, where he lived with the young woman's mummified corpse for the next several years. Tanzler may have continued his ill-fated trick until the end of his life, but he is caught in a dramatic fashion by Hoyos' sister, leading to one of the strangest cases of grave-robbing and necrophilia of the 20th century.

The German-born radiologist came to Key West, Florida, in 1926 after leaving his wife and children. Once in Florida, he presented himself as a count and claimed to be a former submarine captain who moonlighted as an inventor. The next year, he took a job as a radiologist at the United States Marine Hospital.

Tanzler remained on his own, but came out of his shell when he met a patient named Elena de Hoyos. Tanzler is believed to have been dreaming of a woman with dark hair, and Hoyos fits the bill. He immediately became obsessed with the young woman, and as she became more and more ill, he continued to pay attention to her.

Tanzler tries to save Hoyos' life

After visiting Tanzler for medical advice, Hoyos was diagnosed with tuberculosis. It was essentially a death sentence at the time, but Tanzler wasn't going to let the woman of his dreams get away from him. He defies all hospital protocol and attempts to save Hoyos with tonics, elixir, and stolen X-ray equipment that he brought to his home. At the same time, Tanzler tells the object of his desire how he feels, expressing his undying love for the young, sick woman. (It's important to note that, although it's unclear how Hoyos felt about Tanzler, we know for sure that he didn't reciprocate his romantic feelings.)

Unfortunately, Tanzler could not save Hoyos. He died on October 25, 1931 from complications of tuberculosis. Tanzlar paid for his funeral out of pocket as well as interned in a stone mausoleum--a building in which only he had a key.

Hoyos was secretly taken to Tanzler's apartment in 1933

Two years after Hoyos' death, Tanzler broke up. He lost his job and suddenly stopped appearing at Hoyos' resting place, where he had visited every night since his detention. His family found it strange that he began to ignore the woman to whom he had shown such devotion, but they did not discover why he suddenly made himself a rarity.

But Tanzler didn't stop visiting Hoyos because he had fallen in love with her---it was because he decided that she needed to spend more time with him than his nightly visits would allow. Tanzler loaded her decomposed corpse into a toy wagon and carried it to a makeshift laboratory in the shape of an airplane, where she mummified her body with plaster of Paris, stars, Mortician's wax, and glass eyes . That's when he felt that he was ready to be with her.

Domestic bliss?

For the next several years, Tanzler lived with Hoyos' corpse in what he felt was about a husband-wife relationship. It got tougher and Hoyos' body got worse as the years went by, but Tanzler used everything from wire hangers to rags to fill the empty cavities of his body. He constantly waxed her face and applied disinfectant to her body to keep the smell of her corpse from dominating his apartment. Tanzler also bought Hoyos body perfumes and gifts as if they were in a normal relationship. He even made a wig out of her hair to keep it beautiful.

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