The Most Weird and Strange Person in History

The Most Weird and Strange Person in History

When Maria Elena de Hoyo entered a Miami hospital in 1930, no one could know that her doctor would continue to care for her, years after she had died.

A native of Dresden Germany, Carl Tanzler was born in 1877. At the age of 12, Carl Tanzler received a vision by his deceased grandmother, Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel, who revealed to him the face of his one true love. Even after getting married and fathering two children, Tanzler ( also known as Carl von Cosel) continued to search for his soulmate, believing it was just a matter of time until their paths crossed.

Tanzler claimed to have earned nine university degrees, was a former submarine captain, and an accomplished inventor.  Reportedly, he studied weather patterns and dabbled in electrical engineering in Austria in the early 1910s.

When war erupted in 1914, Tanzler was placed in a concentration camp with many officers who served in India and China at the time. That was an order from the British military authorities who kept them as prisoners of war or, as stated then, for safe keeping.

After the war, he went back to Germany where he lived with his mother for three years, before marrying Doris Anna Shafer (1889–1977) in 1920 and having two daughters. The younger died of diphtheria at the age of ten. Tanzler sailed to Havana, Cuba from where he was able to enter the States.

Carl Tanzler - Wikipedia

In reality, Tanzler was an eccentric and lonely man who in his early 50s, sailed to Havana Cuba, emigrating from Germany to the United States. Tanzler joined his sister in Zephyrhills Florida, where his wife and daughter eventually joined him. Within a year, Tanzler would abandon his family, going on to find employment as a radiologist ( in addition to being a licensed microbiologist and bacteriologist) for the Marine Hospital in Key West Florida.  A few years later, in 1930, Tanzler's childhood vision became a reality.

Born on July 31, 1909, in Key West, Florida, Maria Elena was a strikingly attractive girl with luxurious dark hair and an appealing shyness. The middle of three daughters to a cigar maker, Francisco "Pancho" Hoyos (1883–1934) and Aurora Milagro (1881–1940), a homemaker, Elena had a beauty that didn’t go unnoticed.  She attracted a fair share of admirers. Early marriage was customary among the Cuban-American community, and Elena married Luis Mesa in 1926 at 16 years of age.  Within a year, Maria Elena became pregnant, but suffered a miscarriage. Shortly after the miscarriage, her husband left her and moved away to another city.

In 1930, Maria Elena went to the hospital to be treated for what was initially thought to be pneumonia but was Tuberculosis.  Upon entering the exam room, Tanzler observed her dark brown hair, and beautiful demeanor- her features matched those of the woman in his childhood visions. And so began Tanzler's decade long obsession with Maria Elena.

The Macabre True Story of Carl Tanzler and His Corpse Bride

Carl confessed his love to Maria Elena, who unfortunately failed to return his love and admiration. Desperate to save her from a slow and agonizing death from tuberculosus (a Bacillus Calmette–GuĂ©rin (BCG) vaccine is primarily used against tuberculosis (TB). It has been in use since 1921, but wasn’t used for routine immunization in the US, mostly as a result of backlash among US public health experts), Tanzler attempted to treat and cure Maria Elena with a variety of medicines and illegally brought x-ray and electrical equipment to the Hoyos’ house for home treatments. All the while he continued to shower her with gifts, declaring his undying love.

Despite Tanzler’s best efforts, Maria Elena succumbed to the disease and died at her parents’ home in October, 1931. Devastated, Tanzler paid for her funeral and mausoleum, visiting her monument regularly. Little did anyone know, Tanzler was the only person with a key to the mausoleum.

Image Credit: Florida Keys Public Library

Pyschiatrists were unable to discover the triggers that caused Tanzler to commit his macabre crime. But in 1932, he began hearing Maria Elena’s voice calling out from the grave, asking him to free her from her mausoleum. So, one balmy April evening in 1933, he removed Marua Elena's corpse from the mausoleum, loaded it into a child’s red wagon, and carted it back to his home

The Obsession Of Carl Tanzler: A True Story That Will Haunt You

Tanzler attached the corpse’s bones together with coat hanger wire and fitted her face with glass eyes. As the skin decomposed, he replaced it with silk cloth soaked in wax and plaster. Collecting her hair as it fell out of the scalp, Tanzler fashioned a wig from Hoyos’s hair. Stuffing the cavities with rags, Tanzler resorted to copious amounts of perfume and preserving agents, to mask the odor and the effects of the corpse’s decomposition. Dressing Helena’s remains with clothing and accessories appropriate for proper young woman in the mid 1930s, Tanzler and Helena shared a bed.

Seven years later, the combination of Tanzler's habit of routinely buying women’s clothing, his absence from the mausoleum, and a local boy’s sighting of him through a window dancing with what appeared to be a giant doll, aroused some serious suspicion. The rumors began to swirl that Tanzler was sleeping with a corpse. After a heated confrontation with Maria Elena's sister, in October 1940, he was arrested and charged with desecration of the grave site. The trial became a media sensation, and surprisingly the majority of the public, especially women, supported Tanzler, finding him to be an eccentric romantic.

While on the stand, Carl claimed he planned to use an airship to take Helena “high into the stratosphere, so that radiation from outer space could penetrate Elena’s tissues and restore life to her somnolent form,” which made about as much sense as anything else during the hearing.

Tanzler was eventually cleared, since the statute of limitations on his crimes had expired. At the conclusion of the trial, Tanzler did ask the court to have Helena's remains released into his custody. Obviously, his request was denied.

Two physicians (Dr. DePoo and Dr. Foraker) who attended the 1940 autopsy of Hoyos' remains recalled in 1972 that a paper tube had been inserted in the vaginal area of the corpse that allowed for intercourse. Tanzler never admitted to committing any necrophiliac acts.