Carl Tanzler tried everything to keep Elena alive and even after she died he stole Elena Milagro’s body from the tomb and slept with her corpse for seven years.

Carl Tanler was a German-born radiology technologist at the Marine Hospital Service in Key West, Florida. Carl went by many names, and was listed as Carl Tanzler von Cosel on his the United States Citizenship papers, but listed as Carl Tanzler on his Florida death certificate and his hospital records were signed as Count Carl Tanzler von Cosel.

Carl Tanzler

Carl was born to a Jewish family as Karl Tanzler on Feb 8, 1877. He grew up in Imperial Germany but at some point in time, he left for Australia, where during WWI he ended up in an internment camp.


He traveled from India to Australia with the intention of processing to the South Seas Island but stopped in Australia to collect equipment and suitable boats. Soon he became interested in engineering and electrical work there and also bought a property, boats, an organ, an island in the Pacific.

At the end of the war, no prisoners were permitted to return to his former residence, but all were shipped to the prisoner’s exchange in Holland. When Carl was released from prison, he went to search for his mother, whom he had not heard since the beginning of the war. Luckily he found her and stayed with her for three years. Carl finally moved to the United States.

Around 1920, Tanzler married Doris Schafer (1889-1977), together the couple had two children: Ayesha Tanzler and Clarista Tanzler, who died of diphtheria. Carl abandoned his family in Zephyrhills and took a job as radiology technical at the U.S. Marine Hospital in Key West, Florida.

Vision of Dark-Haired Exotic Woman

Tanzler’s obsession with Elena Hoyos began long before he laid eyes on her, he claimed that during his childhood in Germany, one of his ancestors contact him from beyond the grave.

Carl Tanzler

His ancestor, Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel revealed the image of a beautiful dark-haired girl to Tanzler and told him that she was his one true love, an exotic dark haired-woman.

Carl Tanzler never forgot the image of that exotic dark-haired woman, even after he married and had two children, he even abandoned his family.


Maria Elena Milagro De Hoyos

Carl Tanzler first laid eyes on Elena Hoyos on April 11, 1930, when Elena’s mother brought her to the hospital for an examination. Tanzler immediately recognized her as the beautiful dark-haired woman that had revealed to him in his earlier “visions.” Elena, by all accounts, was viewed as a local beauty in Key West.

Maria Elena Milagro De Hoyos

Elena was the daughter of local cigar maker Francisco “Pancho” Hoyos and Aurora Milagro. Elena married Luis Mesa on Feb 18, 1926, but left him shortly after she suffered a miscarriage of the couple’s child. However, Elena was legally married to Luis at the time of her death.

Elena was eventually diagnosed with Tuberculosis, a fatal disease that almost claimed the lives of almost all of her immediate family.

Carl Tanzler Stole Hospital Equipments And Conducted

Carl Tanzler tried his best to save Hoyo’s life, he did everything in his power to save Elena. The hospital even allowed him to try experiments on her, as tuberculosis was something seen as something of a final sentence. He went to great lengths to cure Elena, he even took hospital equipment to Elena’s home, including X-ray and electrical equipment without any authorization.

Carl Tanzler

According to his journal, he refused to let Elena go:

“I had hopes that, despite the extensive damage, the lesions would heal again. I had hopes that, when Elena was out of danger, we would get married. As long as she lived I never abandoned hope.”

However there in no evidence that any of his affection was reciprocated by Elena.


Carl Tanzler’s obsession with Elena Hoyo

Despite trying everything, Elena died of tuberculosis at her parent’s home in Key West on October 25, 1931. Since Tanzler was diagnosing her, Hoyo’s family trusted Tanzler and allowed him to take charge for her funeral. Tanzler paid for her funeral and with the permission of her family he commissioned the construction of an above ground – expensive mausoleum for Hoyos.

Tanzler visited the above-ground mausoleum almost every night, surprisingly the stone structure could be accessed by a key – only Tanzler had that key, which Hoyo’s family had no idea about.

Removing the corpse of Elena Hoyo

Tanzler’s attempt continued even after Hoyo passed away, he visited her corpse in its tomb and began to dose it with chemicals in an effort to preserve it.

Elena Hoyo

Two years after Hoyo was buried, Tanzler crept through the cemetery where she was buried and he removed her body from the mausoleum and took the corpse to his house using a toy wagon.

He claimed that Hoyo’s spirit would come to him when he would sit by her grave and serenade her corpse wit ha favorite Spanish song and pleaded him via the song to take her from the grave.


Carl Tanzler Slept With Hoyo’s Corpse For 7 Years

After he brought Hoyo’s corpse home, he attached the corpse’s bone together with piano wire and fitted the face with glass eyes. The skin of the corpse was also decomposed so Tanzler replaced it with silk cloth soaked in wax and plaster of Paris.

Carl Tanzler and the corpse of Elena Hoyo

Hair of the corpse fell out during decomposition so he made a wig from that, he filled the corpse’s abdominal and chest cavity with rags to keep the original form of the corpse. He even dressed Hoyo’s remains in stockings, jewelry and gloves and kept the body on his bed.

Tanzler also used perfume, disinfectants, and preserving agents to remove the odor and forestall the effects of the corpse’s decomposition.

Discovery of Hoyo’s corpse

Carl odd behavior raised suspicion, a man who lives alone suddenly started purchasing woman’s clothing, Tanzler stopped visiting the grave suddenly after 2 years, and even when he visited despite having no real relationship with her.

A young boy claimed that he peeked into Tanzler’s window and saw him dancing with a large doll. Elena Hoyo’s sister Florinda heard rumors of Tanzler sleeping with her sister’s disinterred body. When she went to Tanzelr’s home to confront him — she was shocked when she discovered — what appeared to be a wax figure of her sister. She then went to the authorities who seized the figure then confirmed it that it was Hoyo’s corpse.


Carl Tanzler Was Arrested And Released

Tanzler was arrested and psychiatrically examined and found mentally competent to stand trial. and charged with “wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave without authorization,” after a preliminary hearing 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.

Carl Tanzler

After Elena Hoyo’s corpse was discovered, her body was examined by physicians and pathologists and put on the public display at a funeral home, where it was viewed by as many as 6,8000 people. Her body was eventually returned to Key West Cemetery where the remains were buried in an unmarked grave to prevent further tampering with the corpse.

The case drew much attention from the media at the time and created sensation among the public. The public was generally sympathetic to Carl Tanzler as they viewed the act as “romantic.”

Tanzler Died Holding Hoyo’s Sculpture

After he was released, he decided to visit Hoyo’s former resting place one last time, he knew that her corpse was not there. He used dynamite to destroy Hoyo’s mausoleum just before leaving town.

Carl Tanzler with Hoyo's sculpture

Even though Elena Hoyo’s corpse was buried, Tanzler couldn’t let go of his obsession with her. He made plaster masks of Hoyo’s face to forever memorialize her beauty. He also crafted a life-sized statue of her. Tanzler was found deceased on the floor of his bedroom. According to 1994 HBO documentary Autopsy: Confession of a Medical Examiner, Tanzler was wrapped in the arms of Hoyo’s sculpture