This Crazy Man Slept With A Dead Body For 7 Years

This Crazy Man Slept With A Dead Body For 7 Years!

In the early 1930s, Key West, Florida, became the backdrop for a story so bizarre and ghastly. Georg Carl Tänzler, a German-born radiology technologist, developed an all-consuming obsession with a young Cuban-American tuberculosis patient. Her name is Elena “Helen” Milagro de Hoyos. This passion or rather obsession continued even after her death. 

Carl took the buried body of Elena and transformed it into something that he could keep beside him. He changed her rotten body with silk, glass, wires, etc. It didn’t stop there. He even slept with the corpse for 7 years! Let’s delve into the details of how her corpse was kept all those years. 

How Tanzler and Elena’s Paths Crossed

The strange story began on April 22, 1930, at the Marine Hospital in Key West, where Tanzler worked as a radiologist. There he had his first encounter with Elena Milagro de Hoyos. 

Tanzler was immediately smitten. He believed Elena to be the dark-haired beauty previously revealed to him in visions by a deceased ancestor. Elena, born to a local cigar maker, gained popularity for her beauty. Elena married Luis Mesa but Mesa left shortly after she suffered a miscarriage. Elena spent her life with her two sons Caridad and Isaac and never remarried. 

Image source: Atlas Obscura

Attempts to Save The Love Of His Life

Despite her beauty, she battled with Tuberculosis. Tuberculosis was a common and often fatal disease at the time. The disease even claimed the lives of Elena’s immediate family. Despite the grim prognosis, Tanzler took a mission to save her. 

Tanzler tried his best to heal Elena with a variety of treatments, and remedies. He even bought X-rays and other medical equipment for her home to save her. 

Obsession Beyond Death

Tanzler’s obsession only intensified after Elena’s death on October 25, 1931. He took charge of her funeral arrangements and constructed an elaborate mausoleum. He visited the mausoleum each and every night. 

Tanzler claimed Elena’s spirit communicated with him during these visits, urging him to keep her close. In April 1933, nearly two years after her death, Tanzler removed Elena’s body from the mausoleum. He transported it home after dark on a toy wagon and did quite the unthinkable. This act marked the beginning of a seven-year period during which Tanzler lived with Elena’s corpse, treating it as if she were still alive.

Image source: KQED

Tanzler’s Creepy Approach to Transform a Corpse

In his home, Tanzler’s efforts to preserve Elena were dreadful but careful. He used piano wire to hold her bones together and replaced her eyes with glass replicas. As decomposition set in, he substituted her skin with silk cloth soaked in wax and plaster of Paris. He even loaded the body’s abdominal and chest cavity with rags. 

Tanzler also crafted a wig from Elena’s own hair, which he had collected from her mother. To make the corpse look like it was still alive, he dressed the corpse in fine clothing and jewelry. He also used overflowing amounts of perfumes and preservatives to mask the decay and the smell. 

Image source: All that’s interesting / Reddit

Discovery Of The Corpse 

The bizarre story came to light in October 1940. Elena’s sister, Florinda, discovered Tanzler’s grim secret. This discovery led to Tanzler’s arrest and a subsequent psychiatric evaluation, which deemed him competent to stand trial. However, the charges were eventually dropped due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. 

The public was morbidly fascinated by the case. Some perceived Tanzler as a tragic romantic rather than a disturbed individual. Elena’s body was briefly put on public display, attracting thousands. The body was then reburied in an unmarked grave in the Key West Cemetery to stop further disturbances.

Two physicians (Dr. DePoo and Dr. Foraker) conducted an autopsy in 1940. The results recalled in 1972 showed an insertion of a vaginal tube in the corpse’s vaginal area. It is believed to have allowed for intercourse. However, some research reports from the most notable authors like Harrison and Swicegood have shown evidence of Tanzler’s necrophilia with Elena’s corpse. But some reports debated on it. 

Did Tanzler Kill Elena?

Decades later, a note purportedly written by Tanzler surfaced, suggesting he might have poisoned Elena to end her suffering. The claim is still unproven. Yet it adds a sinister layer to his already dark obsession.

“She died because I gave this to her mercifully. I mixed the root of wolfsbane (monkshood) with aconite diluted. It was palatable and my loved one departed this miserable world on October 25, 1931. Suffer no more sweet Elena. I have sent you to the angels with my golden elixir.”

The note read. 

Tanzler’s Early Life and Later Life

Tanzler, born on February 8, 1877, in Dresden, Germany, had an adventurous early life. He lived a decade in Australia before moving to the United States in 1926. 

Following the scandal of Elena, he wrote his autobiography and lived reclusively until his death in 1952. Interestingly, Tanzler spent his final years with a life-sized effigy of Elena, maintaining his obsession until his last breath.


Carl Tanzler’s actions blur the lines between love, obsession, and madness. His story invites us to explore the darker aspects of human behavior and the public’s captivation by such extreme acts. Some may find it as a romantic tragedy in Tanzler’s devotion. However, it undoubtedly raises many ethical and moral questions. How far can one go in the name of love before it turns into madness? This tale remains a poignant reminder of the fine line between profound affection and profound derangement.

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