ByJancy Richardson, writer at Creators.co
To avoid fainting, keep repeating 'It's only a movie...It's only a movie...'
Jancy Richardson

This is probably the strangest story I've ever read. It's a tale of obsession and twisted desire, of frustrated ideas and insanity that ended with a man in jail and a woman's dead body encased in wax, a doll in her own image.

The obvious comparison is Dr. Frankenstein's making of a monster, but this mad scientist had such a bizarre sexual motive to his crimes that he is so much worse...

The sick story starts with a man named Carl Tanzler.

The deranged Carl Tanzler lived 1877 - 1952
The deranged Carl Tanzler lived 1877 - 1952

Tanzler was eccentric to begin with, giving himself the fictional title of 'Count Carl Von Cosel,' boasting to have 9 degrees, and abandoning his wife and children for a new life in America, where he worked as a radiologic technologist at the U.S. Marine Hospital in Key West, FL.

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In 1927, a Cuban beauty named 'Elena' was admitted to his hospital

Elena - full name Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos - instantly became the object of a full-blown obsession for Tanzler, who he decided was his true love, as revealed to him by visions of his long dead ancestor, Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel.

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Sadly, 21-year-old Elena soon died of Tuberculosis

Elena's tomb, which Tanzler visited every night
Elena's tomb, which Tanzler visited every night

Despite Tanzler trying a range of unusual and illegal treatments for her disease, Elena passed away October 25th, 1931. He paid for an expensive mausoleum for her body - and he was the only person with a key. After two years of creeping into her grave every night he was fired from his job - his deranged behavior was starting to really begin...

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Tanzler decided he wanted to spend more time with Elena's corpse

Tanzler's demented laboratory of horrors.
Tanzler's demented laboratory of horrors.

Stealing her from her tomb, he transported the moldering corpse in a toy wagon and took her to his unsavory laboratory he'd constructed out of a decommissioned airplane. In his lab, he used wax, wires, plaster and glass eyes to reconstruct Elena's carcass into a sick mannequin of the living woman.

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Tanzler shared a bed with Elena's doll-corpse for seven years

Elena's corpse encased in wax and wire
Elena's corpse encased in wax and wire

A rotting human body is a difficult artifact to preserve. Tanzler crammed rags into her abdominal cavity and stuck actual human hair to her decaying skull, all the while spraying her carcass with perfumes and disinfectants to cover the stench of decomposition. Most chillingly of all, Tanzler inserted a tube into the genital region of the cadaver to allow for intercourse.

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Soon, people began to suspect something wasn't right

Tanzler during his highly publicized trial
Tanzler during his highly publicized trial

A young boy spotted Tanzler with a 'giant doll' through his window, and the eccentric bachelor's frequent purchases of feminine items - clothing, perfume and other presents - didn't go unnoticed. Finally, in October 1940, Elena's sister went to talk to Tanzler at his home. Faced with the demented doll of her dead sister, she reported her findings to the police.

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The case gets even weirder (yup, that's possible)

Tanzler was tried for 'wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization.' Prosecutors were amazed by the sheer extent of Tanzler's madness - he actually asked for her body back during his trial!

Oh, and he also told the jury about the airship he built for Elena's body, so he could send her 'high into the stratosphere, so that radiation from outer space could penetrate Elena’s tissues and restore life to her somnolent form.'

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Elena's doll-corpse goes public

Perhaps the craziest thing of all is that Tanzler was cleared for his decade of derangement and desecration: the statute of limitations had expired. Furthermore, the public became so obsessed with the gruesome case - including a bizarre collection of female fans who thought he was a misunderstood romantic. Elena's body was even put on public display, garnering thousands of visitors.

Elena now rests in an unmarked grave in Florida's Key West cemetery, finally free from gawping eyes and perverted suitors.

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TL; DR - man meets dying woman whom hallucinations of dead relative has informed him is love of his life, she dies, he encases her in wax, sleeps with her body for 7 years and builds spaceship to send her into space.

If your brain can wrap itself around this insane story - and seriously, have you ever heard a stranger one? - let me know what you think in the comments below...

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Sources: Atlas Obscura, Florida Keys Public Library

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