Murder Monday: Carl Tanzler

Every Monday, the Weird Shit Blog features an unsolved or just generally weird murder, death, or disappearance. This phenomenon is known by people who actually read this shit as Murder Monday. Disclaimer: This one is pretty insane, so be warned if you have delicate sensibilities. And shit.

In our culture, we’re crazy for fucked-up doctors. Take Hannibal Lecter. He’s not even real, but he’s damn scary. Or he was, anyway, until they tried to explain how he got that way. Then it just got stupid. Nazi concentration camp doctors, they were some weird sons of bitches. That one from the Human Centipede, god damn. Medical experimentation and horror and doctors go together like peas in a pod.

Peas of crazy. In a pod of holy shit.

Let me give you a really great example: Where I come from, we have a local legend about a doctor. The story goes that he had this wife he wanted to divorce, but couldn’t because they were Catholic, and back in those days, that was a big no-no. So, instead, he did what any reasonable dude would do: Chained her up in his barn and performed weird experiments on her, slowly cutting off her limbs and parts of her face, then told people she had vanished. Finally, one night, he had some guests staying the night. They heard moaning outside and thought it might be a wounded animal. They found her in the barn, blind, her tongue cut out, and essentially feral. She tried to bite at them when they touched her chains. They called the police and, when she was released, she crawled right back over on her stumps and reattached the chains. She had gotten used to it after having been bound and tortured for so long. The story doesn’t cover the doctor’s fate, but the legend goes that if you visit this farmhouse at night, you can hear moans, the sounds of tools and a power saw, and occasionally see the ghost of a doctor in a blood-spattered white coat.

When I first heard that story, it sent chills up my spine. I mean, fuck, imagine what a deranged doctor could really do to someone?

Now imagine he’s on an island just chock-full of guinea pigs.

But there’s deranged, mutilating doctor crazy, and Carl Tanzler-brand crazy. 

Tanzler was born in 1877 in Dresden, Germany under the name Georg Karl Tanzler. He kicked around Germany for a while growing up, then got out into the world for a bit, even ending up as far away as Australia for a brief time. (It’s speculated that he may have been in prison there.) At various points during his youth, he claimed to have seen a vision of his dead ancestor, Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel. According to his account, she guided him, giving him advice, and once showed him the face of his true love; a dark-skinned and dark-haired woman.

He married in 1920, and in 1926, he emigrated to America, possibly under instruction from the Countess. (He registered his name with immigration authorities as Carl Tanzler von Cosel, and frequently referred to himself as a Count during his time in the U.S.) His wife and two children joined him a year later in Zephyrhills, FL. Shortly thereafter, though, he left them to pursue a career as a radiologist in Key West.

Dick of the Year Award, 1927: Carl Tanzler.

In 1930, Tanzler met the woman of his dreams. Literally. According to him, she was the woman shown to him by his ancestor, and her name was Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos, or “Helen” for short. Her mother had brought her in for a routine examination. Tanzler was enamored with her immediately, and tried to find out all he could about her. He found out that she was married, but had become estranged from her husband after she had a miscarriage. She had been considered a local beauty, and the fact that she hadn’t been snapped back up immediately was seen as a curious thing by Tanzler. If she could have any man she wanted, why wouldn’t she have remarried unless she was waiting for someone like him? (Because that’s totally a logical conclusion.)

Unfortunately, Helen’s examination revealed that she had tuberculosis. Not as big of a deal nowadays, but if you’ve seen any tragic love story films set anywhere from 1700-1945, you know that TB was a fucking death sentence.

“Those? Those are just grains of rice. Just kidding! You’re gonna die.”

Tanzler went to Helen’s family and claimed that he had the means to cure her. He was allowed home visits for months, where he performed various half-assed medical procedures. You know, the kind you do when you’re not really sure what you’re doing but you say you do and her family doesn’t seek real medical treatment because they think you’re giving it to her. That kind. But Tanzler figured he’d seen and heard enough from his fellow medical professionals to know what he was doing.

Kinda like if Hugh Laurie broke into an ER and started telling people what to do, but not as cool.

Tanzler even reportedly confessed his love to her, but it’s never been established that she reciprocated it. Tragically, Helen succumbed to her disease in October of 1931, and Tanzler was devastated. He was so heartbroken that he agreed to pay for her funeral and even bought her a mausoleum, which he visited nightly. Are you sensing the crazy yet? If not, then get ready.

In 1933, two years after Helen’s death, Tanzler broke into the crypt and stole Helen’s corpse.

“I paid for this shit, that makes it pretty much mine, right? Right.”

Why would he do such a thing? Because her ghost told him to, duh! Tanzler claimed that when he visited Helen’s grave every night, her spirit would sing songs with him and occasionally insist that he remove her from his grave and take her to his home. So, when he finally did it, he slapped her in a red toy wagon (seriously) and took her home. When he got her there, he naturally found that the corpse had kinda, you know, decayed. But that didn’t stop Carl Tanzler, no sir. He tied her bones back together with wire and coat hangers, replaced her eyes with glass ones, replaced her skin with wax and plaster of paris, made her a wig out of her own hair, which Tanzler had gotten from her mother after Helen’s death (How the fuck did he even go about asking for that?), and stuffed her chest cavity with rags. He then proceeded to dress her up in fancy clothes and jewelry. Oh, and he kept her in his bed and slept with her.

“Hello, gorgeous. You are looking fantastic tonight.”

In 1940, after 7 fucking years of this, Helen’s sister heard rumors that Tanzler had been sleeping with Helen’s corpse. (What in the fuck? Did he brag about this to other people? Shouldn’t that be something you should, I don’t know, keep to yourself?) She confronted Carl Tanzler and discovered that it was true. She called the police, who immediately came and arrested Tanzler. His story created a sensation, with most newspaper reports casting Tanzler as an eccentric romantic. He was put on trial and charged with “wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization”, which is quite possibly the most insane thing you can stand trial for. (While it was claimed in a 1972 investigation that Tanzler had inserted a cardboard tube into Helen’s vagina to commit necrophilia with her body, it was never mentioned in the medical reports done at e time of his arrest, and it was not implicitly included in the charges.) Carl, however, never stood trial, as it was determined that the statute of limitations had passed for his crime, and he was free to go.

This picture is only to distract you from the gorilla-shit crazy you just read.
…Hey, does that hot dog have a butthole?

Not only did Carl Tanzler never stand trial, he was even awarded U.S. citizenship three years later and wrote an autobiography. In his later years, his estranged wife supported him (what. Just what. No question mark.) Helen was re-buried in an unmarked tomb in secret, so as to prevent Tanzler or others from returning to do more fucked up crap to her. Tanzler was disappointed by this and, using a death mask (Where the hell does he keep getting this shit?) created a wax effigy of Helen that he lived with until his death.

Observe, the labor of total madness.

Wikipedia (Robbed the grave of human knowledge long ago)
The Examiner