Monday, 19 February 2018

Eccentric Earth Episode Eight Show Notes

Welcome to the latest show notes for Eccentric Earth, where I will include the research for each episode (essentially my script), along with a number of photographs and documents.

Episode Eight - Carl Tanzler

Karl Tänzler was born on February 8, 1877 in Dresden, Germany. There is little information about his parents, though it is confirmed that he had one sibling, a sister. Carl was a bright and curious youngster, though childhood was unremarkable, with one notable exception. Later in life, he would refer to an incident in which he claimed that a long-deceased relative, Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel, visited him. She revealed to him the face of a dark-haired girl whom he interpreted as being his one true love.

As a young man, Carl Tanzler displayed an ability to impress others, able to project a level of confidence which helped him to gain access into situations and opportunities that he should never have had. Much like the contestants on The Apprentice, he had an impressive resume, where he boasted that he had nine advanced degrees. This was a untrue. 

He held a variety of jobs, such as boatbuilding and as an engineer. Some of these jobs allowed him the opportunity and means to travel frequently. He visited countries such as Australia, India, and Italy. While he was in Australia, World War I broke out. 

Trial Bay Prison Camp in Australia circa 1915.
Because he was a German citizen, the government did not allow him to return home, instead, placing him in a prison camp. Tanzler was eventually placed in Trial Bay, a prison on the mid north coast of New South Wales. Whilst at Trial Bay Tanzler hatched a plan to escape in a sailing boat, along with a fellow prisoner, though this plan never came to fruition.

International law at the time forbade prisoners from returning to their native country, so at war’s end, the government shipped the Geman prisoner to a clearing house in the Netherlands. Now in his fourties, Karl met a young woman named Doris Shafer, whom he would go on to marry and father two children with.

Tanzler continued to travel around the world, which put considerable strain on his marriage. In 1926 he left his family and moved to Cuba, from which he then emigrated to the United States, settling in Zephyrhills, Florida; where his sister had moved to previously. Now living under the name Carl Von Cosel, and sometimes, Count Carl von Cosel. His family soon joined him in America.

Less than a year later he would leave his family again, this time moving to Key West in Florida, where he found employment as a radiological technician at a U.S. Marine Hospital. After taking the job at the hospital, Tanzler maintained a relatively low profile and mostly kept to himself. 

U.S. Marine Hospital, Key West, Florida, where Tanzler
was employed.
On 22 April, 1930, Tanzler would meet Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos while working at the Marine Hospital in Key West. Elena was a local Cuban-American woman who had been brought to the hospital by her mother for an examination. Tanzler immediately recognized her as the beautiful dark-haired woman that had been revealed to him in the visions given to him by the ghost of his ancestor, and fell instantly in love with the young woman.

Born on July 31, 1909, in Key West, Florida, Elena was described as a strikingly attractive girl with luxurious dark hair and an appealing shyness. The middle of three daughters to a cigar maker and homemaker, Elena had a beauty that didn’t go unnoticed. She attracted a fair share of admirers. Early marriage was customary among the Cuban-American community, and Elena married Luis Mesa in 1926 at 16 years of age.

Unfortunately, the marriage proved to be ill-fated. Shortly after Elena miscarried with the couple’s child, Luis abandoned his young wife and moved to Miami.

On April 22, 1930, Aurora de Hoyos, concerned about her daughter Elena’s illness, brought her to the Marine hospital for examination. It was determined that the 20-year old was afflicted with tuberculosis, a disease generally considered incurable at the time, that eventually claimed the lives of almost all of her entire immediate family.

Convinced that saving Elena from certain death was his destiny, the love-struck doctor persuaded the hospital allow him to conduct his own experimental treatment on her, using his false medical credentials to convince them. 

Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos.
He proceeded to administer a series of specialty treatments, consisting of homemade elixirs, herbs, and tonics of his own devising. He borrowed expensive hospital equipment without permission, including an X-ray machine, which he installed in the de Hoyos’ home. Tanzler created his own private hospital and laboratory in Elenas home. He even convinced her family to allow him to move into the home to better treat her.

The fake doctor also showered Elena with expensive gifts of jewelry and clothing, and even though she did not reciprocate his feelings, he constantly declared his undying love and devotion for her, using his position as her physician to try to woo her.

Despite relentless efforts, Elena died of tuberculosis at her parents' home in Key West on October 25, 1931. Tanzler insisted on paying for all funeral expenses, even hiring a mortician to embalm Elena. He also persuaded her family to allow him to purchase a costly stone mausoleum for her. After internment of Elena’s body, everyone assumed they could put this highly unusual episode behind them. Unfortunately, the doctor’s behavior only became more bizarre.

Tanzler owned the only key to the mausoleum, and he used it to make regular visits to Elena’s corpse. For two years his visits continued, and when locals took notice, rumors began to spread. This caused the hospital to terminate his employment.

Elena's tomb, to which Carl Tanzler had the only key.
One evening in April 1933, Tanzler crept through the cemetery where Elena was buried and removed her body from the mausoleum, carting it through the cemetery after dark on a toy wagon, and transporting it to his home. He reportedly said that Elenas spirit would come to him when he would sit by her grave and serenade her corpse with a favorite Spanish song. He also said that she would often tell him to take her from the gravesite.

Together again, Tanzler undertook extraordinary measures to better preserve Elena’s body, he attached the corpse's bones together with wire and coat hangers, and fitted the face with glass eyes. As the skin of the corpse decomposed, Tanzler replaced it with silk cloth soaked in wax and plaster of paris. As the hair fell out of the decomposing scalp, Tanzler fashioned a wig from Elena’s hair that had been collected by her mother and given to Tanzler not long after her burial in 1931. Tanzler filled the corpse's abdominal and chest cavity with rags to keep the original form, dressed Elena’s remains in stockings, jewelry, and gloves, and kept the body in his bed. Tanzler also used copious amounts of perfume, disinfectants, and preserving agents, to mask the odor and forestall the effects of the corpse's decomposition.

This continued for seven years.

Elena's body after Tanzler's modifications.
Disturbing rumors continued throughout the community. People had observed the doctor dancing with a giant doll made from the young girls corpse. Local residents also suspected that he was sleeping with Elena’s corpse. In October, 1940, Elena’s sister Florinda heard rumors of Tanzler sleeping with the disinterred body of her sister, and confronted Tanzler at his home, where Elena's body was eventually discovered. Florinda notified the authorities, and Tanzler was arrested and detained.

Tanzler was psychiatrically examined, and found mentally competent to stand trial on the charge of "wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization." The court heard that not only had Tanzler stolen the young womans corpse, and performed homemade repairs to the body, but that examinations of the body confirmed that Tanzler frequently had sex with it, having installed a paper tube in the vaginal area of the corpse that allowed for intercourse. Even more bizarrely, Tanzler had built his own airplane in which he planned to fly himself and Elena’s body into the stratosphere ‘so that radiation from outer space could penetrate Elena’s tissues and restore life to her somnolent form’.

The plane that Tanzler built behind his home to save Elena.
The trial of Carl Tanzler attracted overflow crowds and became a media sensation. Taking the stand, the doctor was unapologetic, again declaring his ‘undying love and devotion’ for Elena, as well as confirming the airplane rumor. Unfortunately for the prosecution, the statute of limitations had expired for all of the crimes that he had committed due to the amount of time he had had the body, and the courts dropped all charges. Carl Tanzler left court a free man, though not before asking for Elena’s body back.

After the trial Elena's body was put on public display at the Dean-Lopez Funeral Home, where it was viewed by as many as 6,800 people for the cost of $1 each. Hoyos's body was eventually returned to the Key West Cemetery where the remains were buried in an unmarked grave, in a secret location, to prevent further tampering.

The facts underlying the case and the preliminary hearing drew much interest from the media at the time (most notably, from the Key West Citizen and Miami Herald), and created a sensation among the public, both regionally and nationwide. The public mood was generally sympathetic to Tanzler, who man, thanks to the media coverage, viewed as an eccentric 'romantic'.

In 1944, Tanzler moved to Pasco County, Florida close to Zephyrhills, Florida, where he wrote an autobiography that appeared in the Pulp publication, Fantastic Adventures, in 1947. His home was near his wife Doris, who apparently helped to support Tanzler in his later years. Tanzler received United States citizenship in 1950 in Tampa.

Tanzler holding the death mask he had made
after his release.

Separated from his obsession, Tanzler used a death mask to create a life-sized effigy of Hoyos, and lived with it until his death on July 3, 1952. His body was discovered on the floor of his home three weeks after his death.

It has been recounted that Tanzler was found in the arms of the Elena effigy upon discovery of his corpse, but his obituary reported that he died on the floor behind one of his organs. 

It has been theorised that Tanzler had the bodies switched or that Elena's remains were secretly returned to him, and that he died with the real body of Elena.


You can find Eccentric Earth on a number of podcast providers, including:
iTunes: Eccentric Earth
PodBean: Eccentric Earth

You can also follow Eccentric Earth on a number of social media sites:

Twitter: @Eccentric_Earth
Facebook: @EccentricEarth
Instagram: Eccentric Earth

You can watch out episodes over on Youtube too! Eccentric Earth Youtube Channel

No comments:

Post a Comment