Do you believe in undying love? How far would you go for your true love?
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At the East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida there is a picture of a man called Carl Tanzler and right next to him are some items that belong to him. He came to Key west in 1927 leaving behind his first wife because he knew she was not the right girl. Let’s backtrack further to how he figured this out. When Carl was about 10 years old, he has a dream where his dead Aunt brings a girl and tells him “This girl will one day be your bride to be”. You find her and she will live with you happily forever.
|Carl Tanzler aka Count Von Cosel|
So now, Carl dumps the first bride and moves to Key West in 1927 and changes his name to Count von Cosel. At this point he is very rich and claims he has 9 university degrees. He gets a job as an X-ray technician at the Marine Hospital. Three years later a beautiful Cuban girl walks into the hospital by the name of Elena Hoyos.
|Elena Hoyos - Her official full name was Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos|
Carl immediately recognizes her as the same girl in the dream and falls in love. He volunteers to diagnose her for free. She is diagnosed with Tuberculosis. Now, at that time Tuberculosis was a terrible disease, most people who got it simply died. Of course he wants her to live.
|Elena Hoyos - The exotic beauty Carl Tanzler fell in love with|
He volunteers to take care of her in all his free time and tries desperately to find a cure for her. He is even proposing marriage to her every single day. He is 55 and she is 19, so she is turning him down every day.
|Carl Tanzler tried desperately to save Elena Hoyos|
Three years go by, and Elena dies of tuberculosis. She is then taken to the Dean Lopez funeral home, for her very first funeral. What do mean by that? The story gets stranger. This funeral is attended by less than a dozen people. Elena’s family and Count Von Cosel. Now, he doesn’t want her in an unmarked wooden box which is all her family could afford. He builds a huge mausoleum with electricity inside it.
|The mausoleum of Elena Hoyos - built by Carl Tanzler|
Her grave had a telephone inside connected to a telephone outside the mausoleum. Every night, he goes to this mausoleum, stands outside, picks up the phone and talks to her for an hour. It turns out he is still proposing marriage to her every day.
|The mausoleum was furnished with a phone connection so Carl could talk to Elena everyday|
After a year and a half, he calls his friend and tells him “Persistence paid off, Elena agreed to marry me”. His friend thinks it is a joke, but the following night, Count Von Cosel quietly broke into the mausoleum and took Elena’s body home.
|Severely decayed body of Elena Hoyos|
Now imagine a body that’s been slowly decomposing for 18 months. So, he cuts her open, stuffs her with rags, attaches her bones together with wire and coat hangers.
|Carl Tanzler placed glass eyes in the body's sockets to recreate Elena's beautiful eyes|
He puts glass eyes in sockets, uses mortician’s wax to take care of decay and now dresses her in a beautiful white dress. He then celebrates a private wedding ceremony. For the next seven years, they lived together as a happy married couple in every single way. Yes, Von Cosel also recreated other parts of Elena to consummate the marriage.
|Restored corpse of Elena Hoyos|
7 years is a long time in a small island, so the word gets around. Kids who lived in Flagler ave would peek through the window after he goes to work, and find an exotic lady lying motionless in the bedroom. He was also seen outside with her taking a nice romantic boat ride around the island after dark. When one of the kids’ fathers confronts him, he says “You know kids have a wild imagination, but I don’t want you to talk about this anymore” and buys him a brand new Ford Model 48. This was a great car at that time. By 1940, half a dozen people are driving these Ford Model 48s in the island.
|Another photo of Elena's decomposed body|
Everything is working out well, until Florinda comes along. Florinda is Elena’s sister and she shows up at the Count’s doorstep with her husband. Now, Von Cosel calmly invites them into the living room and says “Elena, your sister is here”. Florinda is shocked to see her sister’s body propped up in a chair. The next thing you know, Cops are swarming all over the place. Elena’s body is taken back to Dean Lopez funeral home for another funeral.
|The second funeral of Elena Hoyos which became a national sensation|
Now, this time, about 6800 people show up for the funeral and the population of Key West was only about 2500 back then. Dean Lopezes are charging 10 cents a head. Schools closed early to help kids catch a glimpse of the body.
|Photo of Elena Hoyos at the second funeral in Key West, Florida|
Now, they decided to chop up her body and bury her in three secret locations, because people knew that Count Von Cosel is gonna try to find her when he gets out of Prison. This poor woman needed to finally rest in peace. Meanwhile he goes in front of the grand jury and within a few months he walks out a free man, thanks to the Statute of limitations. Even while walking out of the court, he asks them “May I keep Elena?”. They tell him it is impossible because she is buried in 3 different locations and there is no way for him to find out where they are. He goes back to a small town in Central Florida called Zephyrhills, yes that’s where they make the water bottles. For the next 8 years he stays there, painting portraits of Elena and telling people about his true love. One morning, he is found dead, naked on top of a replica of Elena. Guess he made another one and married her. In his will, he mentioned he wanted the replica to be buried with him, which was done by the undertaker.
|Carl Tanzler was found dead on top of |
Thousands of people attended the funeral, mostly to see Count Von Cosel and the replica of Elena being buried together. One odd visitor drove up in a Ford Model 48, he came all the way from Key West to Zephryhills. He was none other than the person who was supposed to chop up the body and bury the pieces of Elena. Years later, he admitted he never did chop up the body; Von Cosel paid him off and got back the body. It was not a replica of Elena that’s buried with him, it is Elena herself.
P.S: Want a more creepy story from Key West, Florida? Click here for Robert the Doll!