Carl Tanzler's Obsession With Elena de Hoyos Went Way Too Far Beyond Death
By | October 22, 2019
Carl Tanzler was a mystery
True love---or at least, true obsession---conquers all. In this case, it even conquered death. In 1933, Carl Tanzler was so head over heels for 21-year-old Elena de Hoyos that after she passed away, he stole her body and took it home, where he lived with the young woman's mummified corpse for the next several years. Tanzler would have continued his sick ruse until the end of his life, but he was caught in dramatic fashion by Hoyos's sister, leading to one of the strangest cases of grave-robbing and necrophilia of the 20th century.
The German-born radiologist came to Key West, Florida after leaving his wife and children in 1926. Once in Florida, he presented himself as a count and claimed to be a former submarine captain who moonlighted as an inventor. The next year, he took a job as a radiologist at the United States Marine Hospital.
Tanzler kept to himself, but when he met a patient named Elena de Hoyos, he came out of his shell. Supposedly, Tanzler had been dreaming of a woman with dark hair, and Hoyos fit the bill. He was immediately enamored with the young woman, and he continued to lavish attention on her as she grew more and more ill.
Tanzler tried to save Hoyos's life
After visiting Tanzler for medical advice, Hoyos was diagnosed with tuberculosis. It was essentially a death sentence at the time, but Tanzler wasn't about to let his dream woman get away from him. He disregarded all hospital protocol and attempted to save Hoyos through tonics, elixirs, and pilfered x-ray equipment that he brought to her home. At the same time, Tanzler told the object of his desire how he felt, expressing his undying love for the young, sick woman. (It's important to note that, while it's unclear exactly how Hoyos felt about Tanzler, we know for certain that she didn't reciprocate his romantic feelings.)
Unfortunately, Tanzler couldn't save Hoyos. She passed away from complications of tuberculosis on October 25, 1931. Tanzler paid for her funeral out of pocket as well as her internment in a stone mausoleum---a building to which only he had a key.