A bizarre love: The true story of Dr. Carl Tanzler

When the name Dr. Carl Tanzler comes up not the much people know his name but they are better familiarize with this bizarre legacy.


Dr. Carl Tanzler (1877-1952) was a resident of Key West, Florida and working as a radiology technician at Marine-Hospital Service in West Florida. He seemed to have normal life until a faithful day on April 22, 1930 where he met Elena “Helen” Milagros de Hoyos (1909-1931) at the hospital. Elena was know in Key West for her beautiful features and incredibly dark hair and Dr. Tanzler was immediately smitten by her when he was introduced to her.


However there was the huge issue of Dr. Tanzler being a married man and also a father. But those factors did not seem to sway Dr. Tanzler and fell in love with Elena. The de Hoyos family had a health issue of tuberculosis running in the family. Which during that time was basically a death warrant because it was not a treatable disease. Dr. Tanzler being SO in love with Elena offer his medical services to the family and claimed to them not only could he help treat Elena but also cure her tuberculosis!


He would bring countless x-ray machines, and various in hopes of curing Elena. She became bed ridden due to her illness so much of this “treatment” was done at her house. Not only did Dr. Tanzler bring these concoctions in hopes of curing her but also would lavish her with opulent gifts. However Elena never showed any interest in the doctor whatsoever.

Elena unfortunately succumbed to tuberculosis on October 25, 1931. Dr. Tanzler paid for all of the funeral expenses including an above ground mausoleum which unknown to Elena’s family Dr. Tanzler had a key to it.


For the next couple of years after Elena’s death Dr. Tanzler would go in the cover of darkness to visit her mausoleum. He would constantly go inside the mausoleum and into the casket to inject formaldehyde into her which something Elena’s grieving family had no idea what he was doing.  He was becoming really creepy and obsessed in visiting the mausoleum that it caused him to get fired from the hospital . And he nightly visits to the mausoleum quickly ceased after that.

However spending only nights with Elena was just not an option for the Doctor he decided that the better route was to take her decomposing corpse out of the mausoleum and into his home instead.

He then took her corpse and dunked her into wax and plaster of paris  and when her body starting decomposing more he would used wire to recostruct her body, refashion her hair was the falling out into a wig, use glass eyes when her eyes decompose and then place her in his bed so he can sleep with her. When the smell of her body was too much he would soak her in perfume and dress her in furs and jewelry.


The Hoyos family did not know what was going on until the town starting talking about rumors of Dr. Tanzler sleeping with the deceased Elena.  And in 1940 ( almost a full decade after Elena’s death) Elena’s sister confronted Dr. Tanzler about the rumors running all over town. Dr. Tanzler not only admitted to these rumors but he also invite the sister to visit Elena at his home!

Dr. Tanzler was arrested and was in court for “wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization.” (source: wikipedia). However the charges were dropped and Dr. Tanzler was set free because the limitations of that crime had expired.


After Elena’s body was taken from Dr. Tanzler the family had a public viewing for her in which thousands of people attended because at that point the story had become nationwide news but after that. Elena’s body was reburied in a unmarked and unknown (other than her family) grave site so she can finally rest in peace!!!


The crazy thing about this whole weird by true story is the Dr. Tanzler wife stood by her man the whole entire time this happen until her death!






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