They say love never dies. Carl Tanzler took that to heart, maybe too literally. When his beloved patient, Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos, died in 1931, he couldn’t bear it. After two years of visiting her in her tomb, he stole her decaying body and brought it home, where he did his best for seven years to preserve it. So as I say, lets take a trip back in time and start at the beginning.
Carl Tanzler immigrated from Germany to the United States in 1926 with his wife and his two children, their youngest child died of Diphtheria in 1934, whom he would abandon, as they didn't fit in with his new life. Carl Tanzler had escaped from an Australian internment camp during WWI by building a makeshift sailboat after secretly studying engineering books.
He decided to make himself over in America claming to have aristocratic blood he changed his name and his career.
The Countess had an interesting story herself, being the mistress of 18th century King Augustus II of Poland. When the King grew tired of the feisty and headstrong Countess, he had her exiled, and she stayed that way for 49 years until her death. Historically, the Cosel family seemed to be haunted by bad luck.
However Carl Tanzler was not a Count, nor was he a Doctor. He claimed to have 9 academic degrees (which he didn't) he took a position as a Radiologic Technologist at the US Marine Hospital in Key West, Florida.
Part of his duties at the hospital was in the tuberculosis ward. Tuberculosis or consumption as victorians called it, was very fatal at the time, they would describe it as an illness that heightened the elegance and refinement of its victim, and that it was tragically beautiful to waste away with pallor and fragility.
Dr Tanzler worked fearlessly day in and day out with all of his patients. Dr Tanzler known to keep to himself as he was described as a quiet man and who preferred to research different treatments for his patients alone until the wee hours of the night.. However one fateful day in April of 1930, a chance meeting would change his world, and it would never be the same.
On that night Dr Tanzler heard a faint knock at his office door which was located in the basement of the hospital. As he opened the door the most beautiful woman he had ever seen stood before him, and her name was Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos. She was 22 years old and suffering from Tuberculosis, she had heard of Dr Tanzler's work and had hoped that he could save her from the fate that most of her family had already met.
From all acounts Elena was a very attractive woman who was known for the red rose she wore in her hair dark hair drawing the attention of many strangers who desired to photograph her and sought to make her theirs. At 16 she was married to a man named Luis Mesa who abandoned her after she miscarried their child. Dr Tanzler could not believe his eyes, this was the woman who had appeared to him in his visions and he couldnt help but let out a gasp, as he could hardly believe she was standing right infront of him.
It was love at first sight for the Dr and at 53 he was obviously far older than her but he knew, in that instant he would do whatever it took to save her, and then make her his own. It was right then in that moment that she would become his obsession in life. (and in death) Although the feeling was not mutual Elena knew that the Dr would make every attempt to heal her. In his efforts he was granted permission by her family to use off the books methods which were not approved by the hospital, some of which included which included homemade remedies, x-ray treatments.
Dr. Tanzer was not only passionate about his treatments for Elena but he was just as passionate about making her fall in love with him.
He would spoil her with expensive gifts and profess hus undying love for her. Just as passionate as Dr. Tanzer was about Elena she was just as passionate about living, buuuuuut thats about as far as her admiration went.
Despite Dr. Tanzer's best efforts Elena passed away on October 25th, 1931.
Before she died, Carl wrote in his journal how he “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.”
Dr Tanzler then aked her family for permission to build and above ground mausoleum, paid for by him of course. So Dr Tanzer decided that the love of his life would not escape him through death, it was then he decided to have electric lighting installed and you guessed it, a two way telephone system installed on the other side inaide of her corpse, on the off chance Elena needed anything from the underworld, according to him its to communicate with Elena every night when he visited her. I mean of course, you have to fill her in on your day!!!
Carl wrote in his memoirs:
“Elena, my darling, we are alone on this shore. He who has given you to me, will not reject our souls, united as they are in His undying love.”
In his final diary entry, Carl had written:
“Human jealousy has robbed me of the body of my Elena, yet divine happiness is flowing through me for she has survived death. Forever and ever, she is with me.”
From 1930 to 1952, he had endlessly obsessed over this woman. For nearly 22 years, she had been the focus of his life, alive or dead.