Carl Tanzler: Unrequited Love


Tanzer 031-TmCarl Tanzler or sometimes Count Carl von Cosel (February 8, 1877 – July 23, 1952) was a German-born radiologist at the United States Marine Hospital in Key West, Florida who developed a morbid obsession for a young Cuban-American tuberculosis patient, Elena Milagro “Helen” de Hoyos (July 31, 1909 – October 25, 1931), that carried on well after Hoyos died. In 1933, almost two years after her death, Tanzler removed Hoyos’ body from its tomb, and lived with the corpse at his home for seven years until its discovery by Hoyos’ relatives and authorities in 1940.

The love of his life

6A00D83452496169E200E54F4343B58834-800WiDuring his childhood in Germany, and later, while traveling briefly in Genoa, Italy, Tanzler claimed to have been visited by visions of a dead ancestor, Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel, who revealed the face of his true love, an exotic dark-haired woman, to him. On April 22, 1930, while working at the Marine Hospital in Key West, Tanzler met Maria Elena Milagro “Helen” de Hoyos (1909–1931), a local Cuban-American woman who had been brought to the hospital for an examination by her mother. Tanzler immediately recognized her as the beautiful dark-haired woman that had been revealed to him in his earlier “visions.” By all accounts, Hoyos was viewed as a local beauty in Key West.

On February 18, 1926, Hoyos married Luis Mesa (1908–?), the son of Caridad and Isaac Mesa. Luis left Hoyos shortly after Hoyos miscarried the couples’ child, and moved to Miami. Hoyos was legally married to Mesa at the time of her death. Hoyos was eventually diagnosed with tuberculosis, a typically fatal disease at the time, that eventually claimed the lives of almost her entire immediate family. Tanzler, with his self-professed medical “knowledge,” attempted to treat and cure Hoyos with a variety of medicines, as well as x-ray and electrical equipment, that were brought to the Hoyos’ home. Tanzler showered Hoyos with gifts of jewelry and clothing, and allegedly professed his love to her.

Despite Tanzler’s best efforts, Hoyos died of terminal tuberculosis at her parent’s home in Key West on October 25, 1931. Following Hoyos’ funeral, which Tanzler paid for, and with the permission of her family, Tanzler commissioned the construction of an above ground mausoleum in the Key West Cemetery that he visited almost every night.

The Nasty Details

Tanzler 049In April, 1933, Tanzler removed Hoyos’ body from the mausoleum, carted it through the cemetery after dark on a toy wagon, and transported it to his home. He reportedly said that Elena’s spirit would come to him when he would sit by her grave and sing a Spanish song, he also says she would tell him to take her from the grave. Tanzler attached the corpse’s bones together with wire and coat hangers, and fitted the face with glass eyes. As the skin of the corpse decomposed, Tanzler replaced it with silk cloth soaked in wax and plaster of paris. As the hair fell out of the decomposing scalp, Tanzler fashioned a wig from Hoyos’ hair that had been collected by her mother and given to Tanzler not long after her burial in 1931. Tanzler filled the corpse’s abdominal and chest cavity with rags to keep the original form, dressed Hoyos’ remains in stockings, jewelry, and gloves, and kept the body in his bed. Tanzler also used copious amounts of perfume, disinfectants, and preserving agents, to mask the odor and forestall the effects of the corpse’s decomposition.

Tanzer 031-Tm-1In October, 1940, Elena’s sister Florinda heard rumors of Tanzler sleeping with the disinterred body of her sister, and confronted Tanzler at his home, where Hoyos’ body was eventually discovered. Florinda notified the authorities, and Tanzler was arrested and detained. Tanzler was psychiatrically examined, and found mentally competent to stand trial on the charge of “wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization.” After a preliminary hearing on October 9, 1940 at the Monroe County Courthouse in Key West, Tanzler was held to answer on the charge, but the case was eventually dropped and he was released, as the statute of limitations for the crime had expired.

Tanzler 68-1Shortly after the corpse’s discovery by authorities, Hoyos’ body was examined by physicians and pathologists, and put on public display at the Dean-Lopez Funeral Home, where it was viewed by as many as 6,800 people. Hoyos’ body was eventually returned to the Key West Cemetery where the remains were buried in an unmarked grave, in a secret location, to prevent further tampering.

Tanzer in Later Life

Carl-Von-Cosel-1-SizedIn 1944, Tanzler moved to Pasco County, Florida close to Zephyrhills, Florida, where he wrote an autobiography that appeared in the pulp publication, Fantastic Adventures, in 1947. His home was near his wife Doris, who apparently helped to support Tanzler in his later years. Tanzler received United States citizenship in 1950 in Tampa.
Separated from his obsession, Tanzler used a death mask to create a life-sized effigy of Hoyos, and lived with it until his death on July 3, 1952. His body was discovered on the floor of his home three weeks after his death. He died under the name “Carl Tanzler”.

It has been recounted that Tanzler was found in the arms of the Hoyos effigy upon discovery of his corpse, but his obituary reported that he died on the floor behind one of his organs. The obituary recounted: “a metal cylinder on a shelf above a table in it wrapped in silken cloth and a robe was a waxen image”.

It has also been written that Tanzler had the bodies switched (or that Hoyos’ remains were secretly returned to him), and that he died with the real body of Elena. There is no evidence that the waxen effigy found in his house at the time of his death contained bones, or any other human material.

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Text is derived from Wikipedia.


93 Responses to “Carl Tanzler: Unrequited Love”

  1. 1 Baohan

    Interesting. It would be a horror for the sister to find out that somebody have been having sex with her sibling’s corpse though.

  2. 2 Moses

    Uhm, love is a many splendored thing…

  3. 3 Khil

    And they say men can’t commit :p

    • 4 SUNNY

      HAHAHAHA! love that!

  4. 5 Kay

    That…is so gross…

    • 6 Lim of St.Francis Institution and MMU

      Like your face.

      • 7 fluffy

        No, a lot more like yours. :]

  5. 8 Ny

    Ew… EW… that is… just… sick. There are no words. I may have to go spoil my dinner.

  6. 9 drak

    Man, that’s just gross. I’ve read somewhere that he put a cardboard tube on the corpse.

    • 10 kam_hada

      yes, true. so that he can make love to her.

  7. 11 shmoopie

    Odd… but at least he didn’t kill anyone like Ed Gein.

    • 12 Lim of St.Francis Institution and MMU

      Yeah at least he is not like you.

  8. 13 Allergy

    This has got to be one of the weirdest things I’ve ever read.

    And WHEW, I thought Jaime had died or something. It was like 5-6 days with no update; I was worried. lol 🙂

  9. 14 Dirtysingingbird

    I’m surprised that they haven’t made a horror movie out of this one. It has all the right elements in it – a beautiful girl, unrequited love, mystery, intrigue – oh, and a rotting corpse.

    Blockbuster stuff right there!

    • 15 Yodas-Wife

      There’s a really OLD movie called Living Doll about the same kind of thing, that’s really gross! At one point she’s just rotting bones with slime on….

  10. 16 ianz09

    Hey JFrater, I hopped on over here from listverse, great site! I love that you dedicated an entire site to the bizarre aspects, those were the best lists from listverse if you ask me. But the site looks good, and I’m officially hooked. Keep it up, I’ll be checking back often!

    • 17 Lim of St.Francis Institution and MMU

      Don’t bother.
      Its gonna get stale very soon.

  11. 18 katiebooski

    reason 1024 to avoid obsessive boyfriends:

    they will dig up your corpse and live with it.

  12. 19 Demi

    oh that is disgusting

  13. 20 Stefanie

    WHY was the “body” put on display in that funeral home?! Surely the family didn’t want that. It’s hard enough to go to a viewing of a dead person when they’ve just died.. but after he did all that shit to her!?!


    • 21 Esotericstyle

      The body was put on display as an example of extraordinary preservation post-mortum. It was intended to serve as an example for possible future preservation techniques.

      • I don’t know that there was anything extraordinary about the process Tanzler used. Reading the article, he articulated her bones, using that as a foundation to create a dummy out of silk and plaster of Paris. If the chest and abdominal cavity were stuffed with rags, that means the only parts of her body remaining after a certain time were the bones and hair. I suspect the funeral home was actually catering to the general populace’s appetite for the ghoulish and the scandalous.

  14. 23 FreckledSmile99

    @Stefanie: I am in total agreement with you! WHY oh why would the display that?!?

  15. 24 Lauren

    Tanzler sounds like a sad, lonely schizophrenic. 😦 what a sad story.

    • 25 Lim of St.Francis Institution and MMU

      Just like you…

      • 26 DC

        seriously dude what’s your problem? stop making stupid comments and go back to your bong

        • 27 Lim of St.Francis Institution and MMU

          Don’t know….Maybe to agitate JFRater enough so that he will come back and delete and my comment and place a new post??

          • 28 Fuck you Lim

            Go fuck yourself

  16. 29 amanda

    The profile photo looks like Bert the muppet.

    @drak: I heard the same thing. Eeeesh!

    • 30 Cuntageous

      … or Robert Smith of The Cure.

  17. 31 johnny

    do an article about ghosts. i would like to see your opinion on that subject. and “franks box”, the telephone to the undead. i know you will have an unbiased and interesting view on the subject.

  18. 32 emily

    wow, the quintessence of how love transcends death.
    i agree with 20. johnny

    thanks for the great articles!

  19. 33 MehDude

    I’ve also heard about another case involving preservation of the deceased wive’s remain and live with it for years. As for myself I would rather say that it’s kinda obsessive-compulsive disorder, or maybe an inability to just simply let go what we lost, rather than unrequited love. I am reminscing about something in Listverse, that is way more bizzare, involving a woman with wall.

    It’s just wow. Next time maybe I’d like to marry my own hands.

  20. 34 assbadman

    hey she was some HOT CHICK.
    u can rlly see y he was off on her.

    it wold be good to have a blow up version of this hottie, anyone no where a blow up doll of this babe is four sale?

    • 35 Lim of St.Francis Institution and MMU

      I think you are drunk.

  21. 36 Just me

    I think I can collectively speak for everyone here…..WE MISS YOU!!!!! I know you have to work on your studies but your presence here is greatly missed. Good luck in doing what you do…I’ll keep checking in but I miss you, man!

  22. 37 Mary

    JAMIE!!!! Give us something, please! It’s been 12 days!! We are going through withdrawls!!!

  23. 38 katiebooski

    come back. im startin to give up on this site even though i really like it :[

  24. 39 SomeBigBlackRapperTypeGuy


  25. 40 Dr.Evil

    I mean really now…throw me a frickin’ bone here!! I’m the boss…need the info. And don’t call me Mr.Evil, I didn’t spend 8 years in Evil Medical School to be called “Mr.” you know…

    If you want something to read I could always talk about myself…but the details of my life are quite inconsequential… very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we’d make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds- pretty standard really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum… it’s breathtaking- I highly suggest you try it..

    • 41 anniegirl

      Ha! That made me laugh. Thanks, Dr.Evil, for sharing your life story. Hey, at least I found something interesting to read after checking this site nearly every day for the last two weeks!

  26. 42 runescape

    dead site… lets all move on and play runescape again

  27. 43 Hyaloiuy

    Another drunkard. You should check back later. By the way the other day I went to the Himalayan Mountains and saw JFRater with a group of monks. Turns out he is becoming a Buddhist monk. The person maintaining the listverse site was his dopleganger.

    • 44 runescape

      aw monks are forever forbidden to perform sexual practices, it blows big time!

  28. 45 caykrista

    Chill yo! It’s okay… He will soon be back with another amazing post.

  29. 46 elise

    come on jamie! need new stuff im dying here i love all the posts on this website but it needs to be updated more regularly. maybe once a week?

  30. 47 Moses

    Well I am going to remove this site from my bookmarks today.

  31. 48 katiebooski

    adios and vaya con los dios.

  32. 49 runescape

    unsubscribed, subscribing back fred,

  33. 50 Some Guy

    Well, looks like it’s the end of our Jamie. I predict that within 5 minutes of this comment, Lim of St.Francis Institution and MMU will dig up his body and go all Tanzler on it.

    • 51 Lim of St.Francis Institution and MMU

      I told you not to tell anyone!!

    • 52 carl tanzler


  34. 53 DelTheFunkyHomosapien

    It’s important to practice good hygiene 
    At least if you wanna run with my team 
    I’m bout to get into some shit that I’ve seen 
    This fool’s breath, I mean so bad it’ll melt your ice cream 
    They say don’t say nothing if you can’t say nice things 
    Sittin too close to him made both my eyes sting 
    I try to be subtle, hand him a stick of gum 
    I was a victim of bad breath on hum 
    Running his yap about what sets he from 
    Gotta get some gum gotta get him some 
    He turned it down, his teeth was brown 
    Excruciating horrid and it was a new sensation 
    I had to ask the dope to pass the soap 
    Cuz his tone had the sniff of crustaceans 
    Or bathrooms in a bus station 
    He had a can of Olde E and some raisins 
    Amazing… head to toe B.O. 
    He didn’t know, used to the fragrance 
    Just as the days went without bathing 
    He felt manly and not like a maiden 
    He had one dread, and fungus 
    Said he worked on peoples’ toilets with plungers 
    Girls not the guy you would want to toungue ya 
    So guys take your cue from this number 
    You gotta wash your ass, if you must 
    You gotta wash your hair, if you must 
    You gotta brush your teeth, if you must 
    Or else you’ll be funkyyyyyyyy 

    Now at class you need total concentration 
    But there’s kids in the back holdin conversations 
    Crackin on each other, and neither were poster boys 
    Both of em smell like the type that soap avoids
    Coast enjoyed a leave of absence 
    One’s fool’s feet smelled like it struck some matchsticks 
    Brimstone, girls would never bring him home 
    I was laughin, then his friend raised his tone 
    And said, “Bud you rolled all over yourself” “yeaaa” 
    I’ll go so deep on your ass should be submerged 
    Like you need to be in with water cuz you smell like a turd 
    Wanna cap get some courage, your feet smell lurid 
    Well look it up 
    And while you’re at it, get a cup 
    And squeeze the sweat out your sweatshirt and drink it or gargle 
    You get our vote for most stinkiest 
    That nigga started thinkin of shit, said I was frail 
    I said he was stale 
    Underarms is ripe 
    Undergarments tight, about to leap out your holy sweats 
    And we holdin bets, and after this I’m gonna collect 
    Nigga check, yourself 
    Respect yourself 
    And wash your mothafuckin body ‘for your sweatshirt melts 
    Like radioactive, no lady find you attractive 
    The funk got you captive 
    You don’t need a map bitch 
    You gotta wash your ass, if you must 
    You gotta wash your hair, if you must 
    You gotta brush your teeth, if you must 
    Or else you’ll be funkyyyyyyyy 

  35. 54 Matcka

    J??? why no more new updates???

  36. 55 carl tanzler


  37. 56 Anon

    It’s almost Halloween! It’s the perfect time of year for this site! Please…just one update?

  38. 57 Lim of St.Francis Institution and MMU

    He died.

  39. 58 mulder

    Tanzler was a genius. this is a story of married sex but the wife is truly dead not just frigid (most marriages are) but with the great advantage that the bitch never answered back and would take it whatever way she was told.

    Tanzler could have his cake and eat it – he should be roll model for all married man.

    • 59 Matt

      Obvious troll is obvious.

      • 60 Lim of St.Francis Institution and MMU

        Skeptical Matt is skeptical.

    • 61 Interregnum

      Except that this is all untrue because they were never married. Which pretty much makes your entire post incorrect and irrelevant. Good job.

  40. 62 Some Guy

    So men should dig up their dead wives and practice necrophilia on them?

    • 63 carl tanzler

      that’s fucking nasty, decaying flesh and puss around your dick is a big no no.

  41. 64 mulder

    Dont believe in the attraction of necrophilia?

    Just google the Real Doll site and look at the things men pay mony for.

    The attraction exists.

  42. 65 ianz09

    Man… This is getting ridiculous.

  43. 66 carl tanzler

    this site sucks

  44. 67 anniegirl

    Jamie, Do you think you could post a date of when you may be able to add to this site? Or let us know if you plan to? Are you done with cogitz? 😦 I understand you are busy with school (I am as well, working on a Master’s degree), but it would be nice to know what your plans are for this site. I really appreciate all you do on listverse. Maybe you could have others contribute articles like on listverse. Thanks!

    • 68 Just me

      I agree…can you let us know when we might get our next fix? I love listverse and then you brought us this site….just added to the enjoyment. While I,and many others, respect you and your studies…do you think you could just send us a memo and let us know when to expect more here? WE MISS YOU!!!!!!!

    • 69 Lim of St.Francis Institution and MMU

      What masters? May i know?

      • 70 anniegirl

        I am working on a Master’s degree in special education, actually. I work with children with special needs at the moment.

        • 71 Lim of St.Francis Institution and MMU

          What are you researching now?

          • 72 anniegirl

            sorry, my reply’s below.

  45. 73 Davy

    come on Jamie, it’s been almost a month

  46. 74 anniegirl

    I’m not working on a thesis at the moment, or anything like that. It’s a lot of hands-on and working with students. We are learning the best techniques to use, creating lesson plans, and assessing students, etc. It is a LOT of work, but not necessarily mentally strenuous. I wish I were doing research, however. My undergrad minor was in history.

  47. 75 katiebooski

    this is stupid. i can’t believe you haven’t even told us what’s going on when it’s been a month.

    i feel like weve been pretty patient and optimistic, but i’m done.

  48. 76 ianz09

    Huh. Yesterday was the one-month anniversary of the last time the site was updated. Totally missed that because for some reason, I didn’t have enough hope to check it.

  49. 77 Davy

    The mobile version of this site is amazing. What a shame.

  50. 78 anniegirl

    How about you just post on listverse when you decide you want to update the site, Jamie? I’ve been checking every day; and now, looking back, it has been a waste of time. I feel a bit foolish. It would be nice to hear a response, but for now–I’m done checking.

  51. i pray that it isn’t because something has happened to you.

  52. 80 Looser

    JAMIE!!!!!!!! Why has thou forsaken me??

  53. 81 EARS

    How often is the website updated? It’s been over a month this time. Work, Son!

  54. 82 scifer

    You guys do know he has another website right?

  55. 83 God (Rod)

    That’s gross, JFrater!

  56. 84 HB

    Reminds me of Faulkner’s short story, A Rose for Emily. Except true!

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  58. 86 Nikkiiiiii

    He has now people!

  59. 87 fu

    Sick bastards!

  60. This is such a sad story. I feel sorry for Tanzler. He feels he has found the love of his life and does everything he can to keep her alive and then she sadly passes away. He obviously couldn’t let her go, it seems to be an obsession of his that got out of hand. I really enjoyed this post and I’m becoming a major fan of this blog!

  61. 89 Megan

    Wow, thats fucking awesome.
    As an aspiring Mortician, I’d love to see what he really did with the corpse.
    I don’t think that the skin and hair would’ve taken that long to fall out though, but I’d love to believe this story is real.

    I need to hear more stories like this. 😀

  62. Man,those wierdbeard Freudian/bolshevik types never cease to amaze.

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