The Doctor & His Corpse Bride

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I love this creepy story. You may already be familiar, but it’s Halloween so let’s play it again, Sam.

Dr Karl Von Cosel (or Karl Tanzler, as many of us recognize him) lived in the Florida Keys. When he was just a boy, the doctor had a dream in which an ancestor came to him and showed him the face of his one true love. Karl grew up, got married, and had 2 children, but he was always waiting for his true soul mate, literally the girl of his dreams to come along.

In 1930, Karl was working at a hospital when the beautiful 22 year old Marie Elana Milagro de Hoyos became his patient. He recognized her face as his soul mate and immediately became obsessed. There was one problem with all of this: Elana had tuberculosis. Karl did everything in his power to save the young lady, all the while professing his undying love; sadly it just wasn’t enough. Three months after their initial meeting, the beautiful Elana passed away.

Karl paid for her funeral, had a death mask constructed, and built a mausoleum in the Keys for her corpse to be placed inside; it was concrete so that water could not erode the lady’s remains. Inside this crypt Elena was to spend eternity – or at least a couple of months. Karl spent plenty of time inside the mausoleum with the corpse, every single day he was there, but eventually that just wasn’t enough. The doctor would later claim that he’d heard Elena’s voice in his head, that she’d asked him to come and free her so in 1933, he did what any love stricken doctor would do: Karl stole the corpse of the woman he loved. He snuck into the mausoleum, placed Elena’s body in a little red wagon, and he wheeled her home to be with him for good.

Once in the privacy of his own home, Karl could get to work. With piano wire the doctor made sure Elana’s body was well held together. He gave her glass eyes, stuffed the already rotting parts with cloth, and replaced her skin with oiled silk and wax as it decayed. Finally he made a wig of Elana’s own hair and placed it upon her head and voila, his beloved Elana was back! Karl placed his love on his bed and there he kept her for 7 years; Karl spent every waking moment at home, he only left only to purchase necessities such as perfume, air fresheners, and preservatives.

So rumors had been flying around for quite some time; Karl had initially been at the mausoleum constantly and suddenly he’d simply stopped showing up all together. This did seem suspicious to onlookers, and people began to speculate that the doctor had stolen the corpse. Finally Elana’s sister visited Karl at home and she demanded that he take her to see Elana’s body. Imagine her shock when, instead of heading towards the mausoleum, the doctor took the woman upstairs!

The sister said that Elana looked like a big, creepy wax doll donning a beautiful wedding dress! Sister tripped out, as anyone would, and she called police. The body was taken, and a second autopsy was conducted; here it was discovered that Karl had painstakingly fitted Elana with a tube which would allow for sexual intercourse.
The Doctor was brought up on charges for the desecration of a grave but, luckily for him, it had been 7 years since he’d committed his crime. The statue of limitations were up, and Karl could not be prosecuted.

I’d love to tell you that Elana was properly reburied and that was the end of her story, but sadly this is not the case. Elana was made into a freak show; they kept her corpse on display at a funeral home where thousands of people came from far and wide to catch a glimpse. When it finally came time to bury the corpse, Elana was placed in an unknown location; everyone feared that if her whereabouts were known, the doctor would steal her again – and they were probably right to be concerned.

As far as Karl, being arrested and receiving all that public humiliation didn’t stop his obsession. The doctor still didn’t know how to live without his love, so he did the only thing left to do: he used Elana’s death mask to make a life size dummy. This Elana doll stayed with him, in the bed where the real Elana had once lain, until the time of his death in July of 1952. By some accounts, Karl was found deceased in his bed, in the arms of the Elana doll.

*If you can spare 7 minutes for a creepy documentary on the case, watch the video below. It’s from HBO’s series AUTOPSY.

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8 Replies to “The Doctor & His Corpse Bride”

  1. I just listened to a podcast on this case this week. The most amazing part of this to me was that he served no time and was declared sane. I am glad that they didn’t give her body back to him but I feel terrible for her sister.

    1. It’s true! The statute of limitations was up, they couldn’t do anything to him. I feel sorry for the sister, but in a way also the doctor. There are so many cases of people who are totally mentally incapacitated yet the court deems them sane. It’s just a sad story all around

  2. Absolutely mindblowing!! I’ve never heard this morbidly fascinating story before… thank you!

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