The Case of Carl Von Cosel Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The Case of Carl Von Cosel

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Dr Carl Tänzler aka Carl Von Cosel was born in Dresden, Germany in 1877 and emigrated to the United States in 1926, settling in Florida and finding work as a radiologist.

During his employment, Tänzler met Elena Milagro Hoyos, a tuberculosis patient in her early twenties. It is said that Tänzler became obsessed with the young woman and when she died in October 1931, his obsession continued. With the permission of her family, Tänzler paid for an above-ground mausoleum to be built in order to house Elena's body. Nobody knew of his intentions.

For two years, Tänzler visited the body, preserving it with formaldehyde and other chemicals.

In 1933, Tänzler took the corpse from the mausoleum and into his home. The body was beginning to deteriorate, and so Tänzler took other measures to preserve it. He replaced Elena's rotting eyes with glass ones and strung her bones together with piano wire. He replaced her decomposing skin with silk cloth soaked in wax and made her a wig from the hair falling from her rotting scalp. He filled her abdomen and chest cavity with rags so that she might keep her original form and he dressed her in stockings and gloves. It is said that Tänzler even kept a whole wardrobe in order to dress her.

Tänzler kept the body in his own bed and slept by her side.

In 1940, Elena's sister Florinda discovered the body in Tänzler's home and notified the authorities. Tänzler was arrested and was to await trial for 'maliciously disturbing' the grave of Elena Hoyos.

Public interest in the case was huge and the Dean-Lopez Funeral Home put the body on display before it was returned to the Key West cemetery. Later Elena's body was moved to an unmarked grave so as to prevent further tampering.

Tänzler was released on bond from jail on 12 October, 1940 after friends paid the necessary $1,000. He was set for trial in the county criminal court in November 1940. Although Tänzler had been arrested, he could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had run out for grave robbing (the statutory limitation was two years).

There are stories of the public sympathising with Tänzler and his undying love though there is no written evidence of this.

Tänzler died at his home in 1952.

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