In October of 1931, a 21-year-old woman by the name of Elena Milagro de Hoyos lost her battle with tuberculosis, but that didn’t stop her doctor, Carl Tanzler, with his dreams of being together with her. In the process of trying to save Elena he had fallen deeply, and disturbingly in love with her.
For a whole 2 years the doctor would visit her tomb, which he paid for, at the mausoleum at the Key West cemetery in Florida. Elena’s family thought it was nothing more than a doctor who was overcome with grief in not being able to save a young patient. They had no idea.
In 1933, 2 years after Elena’s death, the doctor had removed Elena’s corpse from the mausoleum and transported it via a toy wagon to a makeshift laboratory he had built inside of an old airplane. There, he “resurrected” his lost love with the help of paper-mache, mortician’s wax and rags. He placed glass eyes in her empty sockets and inserted wires into her limbs so that he could easily manipulate her posture. He masked her stench with perfumes and clothing he would buy for her. Upon closer inspection, investigators found a carefully placed cardboard tube in Elena’s genital region, the use of which is best left to the imagination.
He kept her decaying corpse for 7 years at his home- dancing with her by the fire, saving her a seat at the dinner table even sleeping next to her.
He would be discovered when Elena’s sister came over to check on him and make sure he was alright, as he had stopped coming to visit her tomb. Instead, to her horror and shock, she found her sisters corpse, virtually a wax mannequin by this point, laying in Tanzler’s bed. She immediately notified authorities.
He would see the courtroom in 1940, for “wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization,” but the charges were eventually dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired. When questioned during the hearing, Tanzler revealed plans to finish the airship that would transport Elena’s body “high into the stratosphere, so that radiation from outer space could penetrate Elena’s tissues and restore life to her somnolent form.”
Though the case turned into a media circus, the general public was surprisingly sympathetic toward the demented doctor. Instead of a depraved necrophiliac, they saw him as a lonely and sad romantic.