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Corpse Bride: The tale of Count Captain Dr. Carl Tanzler

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

Written By: Naomi

Trigger Warning: Necrophilia

Warning: There will be no crime scene photos in this blog post HOWEVER I have linked images to appropriate text if you are interested in viewing these things. Please view at your own discretion and be aware they contain gore and bodily remains.


On February 8th, 1877 in Dresden,Germany A man (supposedly) named Georg Karl Tänzler was born. He grew up in Germany and claimed to be a doctor, a submarine captain, and a count as well as having nine university degrees. He was married around 1920 to Doris Anna Shafer and Together they had two children: Ayesha Tanzler (who died in 1998) and Clarista Tanzler, who died at 10 years old in 1934 of diphtheria which is an infection spread through the air that kills off flesh and causes a very inflamed neck and throat area nicknamed bull throat.

Georg traveled to Australia during World War one and staying there for 10 years studying engineering and electrical work, he returned to Germany after the war and wrote about it in his autobiography titled "The Trial Bay Organ: A Product of Wit and Ingenuity". He mentions that while he had been growing up in Germany, starting at 12 years old and while he was traveling through Italy briefly, he had a vision of one of his ancestors coming to him, Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel, who was a noble woman and mistress to the king of Poland who revealed the face of his soul mate who was, “an exotic dark-haired woman”.

He immigrated to the United States in 1926 coming into the country by boat through Havana, Cuba then moving near Pasco county Florida to join his sister who had already immigrated there by the request of his mother following World War one; his wife and daughters joining him later. However Georg left his family a year later and took a job as a radiology technician at the US Marine Hospital in Key West Florida going by Carl Von Cosel.

In 1930 53 year old Carl met 20 year old Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos at the hospital when her mother brought her in for an examination after she had contracted Tuberculosis. She was Cuban-American and was considered beautiful by everyone in Key West and Carl recognized her as the woman from his vision that was his soulmate.

Elena was born to a cigar maker and his wife named Francisco "Pancho" Hoyos and Aurora Milagro. She had two sisters named Florinda “Nana” Milagro Hoyos and Cecelia Milagro Hoyos. The family was followed by bad luck and Nana also had tuberculosis, her husband, Medina, was killed when he was electrocuted after trying to save a coworker who had hit a power cord with his crane on a construction site. Bad luck did not come to Elena in just the way of tuberculosis though, Elena married a man named Luis Mesa who left her after she had a miscarriage but they never divorced; then came Carl.

When Elena found out she had tuberculosis she had already lost most of her immediate family to tuberculosis. Carl swore to cure her with his “Self proclaimed medical knowledge” and treated her with various medicines, x-rayed her, and used electrical equipment to try and cure her. He did all of this at her home after smuggling the medical equipment out of the hospital and would bring her many gifts including clothing and jewelry. He announced his love for her on many occasions but there is never any mention of Elena feeling anything for him in return. Elena died of tuberculosis at the age of 21 in her family home one year later after Carl's attempts failed to heal her, he paid for her funeral in full and even had a mausoleum built for her above ground where he could visit her every night and mourn. Two years later however he stole her body from the mausoleum and took it out of the cemetery on a little red wagon to his home, a small building he was living in after he lost his job at the hospital that he referred to has his “Laboratory”. He later said he did this because when he visited her grave and serenaded her with her favorite song her spirit would visit him and tell him to take her body.

For the years he had been visiting her he had been injecting formaldehyde and other preservatives into her body. He made an armature for her bones with piano wire and coat hangers to hold her together and put glass eyes into her eye sockets before covering her decomposing skin with silk coated in wax and plaster of paris. He would do this in patches as she decomposed and as her hair fell out of her decomposing scalp he covered her head in a wig made of her hair that her mother had given him after the burial he had made himself. He stuffed her body with rags to make her keep her form then fully clothed her in stockings, a dress, and jewelry. He used a lot of perfume and disinfectant to mask the smell of rotting flesh and tried to stop the decomposition. The building he lived in also had a small aircraft named Elena’s airship that Carl was constructing with the plans to take her body up into the stratosphere and that the radiation of space would bring her back to life.

Seven years later in 1940 Elena’s sister Nana heard rumors that Carl may of had her sister’s body and called the police after confronting him at his home, people had noticed his absence at the cemetery coupled with him buying women's clothing and a young boy saw him dancing with the body through a window. The authorities found Elena’s corpse in Carl's bed. He was arrested and taken into custody under the charges of, "wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization". After a psychiatric evaluation he was found to be mentally competent to stand trial. However after his initial trial the charges were dropped and he was released since the statute of limitations for the crime had expired.

Elena's body was put on public display at the Dean-Lopez Funeral Home where over 6,800 people visited the body, it was later returned to the cemetery and buried in an unmarked grave at an undisclosed location to prevent further tampering. This case got a lot of media attention but the public felt sympathetic for Carl and considered him an “eccentric romantic”.

Carl moved back near his family in 1944 and wrote a book, later getting his US citizenship in 1950. His wife would help him out around his house especially as he got older but Carl never overcame his obsession with Elena. With her death mask, a mold made of the parsons face from plaster or wax, he had been allowed to keep he created a life sized model of her that he lived with until he died in 1952. He was discovered on the floor of his home 3 weeks after his death.

It was written by a few authors that Carl had actually swapped the bodies AGAIN and had Elena’s real body again or that secretly the body had been returned to him.

What was not disclosed at the time of all of this was that investigators found evidence of necrophilia. Two physicians finally disclosed in 1972, 32 years after the body had been found, that a paper tube had been inserted into the vaginal canal of the corpse to allow for intercourse. However because the allegations came so many years later and were not mentioned in the initial reports some people find this claim questionable. There is no evidence from the original autopsy that related to the tube but it is a fact that is brought up in popular media that covered this case.

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