Carl Tanzer, Feb 8th 1877 to July 3rd 1952, was a German-born radiologic technologist in Key-West, Florida, USA who developed a particularly morbid obsession for Elena Milagro de Hoyos, a tuberculosis patient. During his childhood and later in Genoa, Italy, he claimed he had been visited by a dead ancestor who revealed the face of his true love, her face was one of an exotic dark-haired woman.

22nd April 1930, de Hoyos came to the hospital for an examination, she was brought in by her mother. He recognised her as the woman from the visitations of his ancestor. De Hoyos was diagnosed with TB, a fatal disease at the time and eventually despite Tanzler’s best efforts she succumbed to the disease.

Tanzer paid for her funeral, with the permission of the family he then commissioned the construction of an above ground mausoleum. It was constructed in the Key West Cemetery and he visited there pretty much most nights. To be honest this already seems to rate high on the WTF list, but it gets more bizarre.

April, 1933 Tanzer crept into the mausoleum and stole her body, taking her home and here he said her spirit would visit. He claimed she often asked him to take her from the grave, and so it seems he did. What he did to preserve her sounds like a work of horror fiction. Her bones were attached together by wire and coat hangers, her face was fitted with glass eyes and as the corpses skin decomposed he would replace it with silk cloth, soaked in wax and plaster of Paris.

Her hair was replaced by using Hoyo’s wig hair, who gave him the hair? Well her mother had collected her hair for a wig and gave it to him after her death. I am still wondering why but at this point the story continues…

Tanzer filled her chest and abdominal cavity with rags to keep her in her original form, then dressed her, put on stockings and jewellery and kept her body in his bed. He then used a lot of fragrances, detergent and preserving agents to mask the msells. Yes I am still going, I did say it was morbid.

October 1940 (Seven years later) her sister visited Tanzley, she had heard odd rumours, Florida authorities were notified when she saw the truth for herself. He was found to be mentallyl competent, he was charged with destruction of the grave and theft of the body. Bizarrely he never had to defend himself because the case was dropped, the statute of limitations for the crime had expired. Even more upsetting for her family the body was put on display at the Dean-Lopez Funeral Home and around 6,800 ish people came to see it.

Eventually she was reburied at the cemetery but to prevent tampering it was an unmarked grave. Strangely it seems the public mood was that sympathy for a hopeless romantic should be given to Tanzler. I can’t help but think that’s not quite the reaction I’d have had… later there was a claim that he had inserted a tube into her vagina too but this evidence has been met with scepticism, mostly because other than the rumour there appears to be no evidence…

Separated from the woman’s body he then used a death mask to create a life-sized effigy of Hoyos, the effigy lived with him until he died 3rd July. 1952. He was found on the floor three weeks after his death and died under the name Carl Tanzer.

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum in Key West, Florida has an exibit that recreats the caring he did to her body. And Svbway to Sally have a video themed around it.

Carl Tanzler (1940)

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