A man who slept for seven years with a dead body

Clarista Tanzler and Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos art

If you are someone who watches true crime documentaries, you might be interested in knowing about the disturbing case of Carl Tanzler. 

Who was Clarista (Carl) Tanzler?

Carl TanzlerClarista Carl Tanzler

Clarista (Carl)Tanzler was born on February 8, 1877, to a Jewish family in Germany. In his early years, he was a smart kid. Carl claimed that during his childhood, a deceased relative visited him in his dream and told him that the love of his life would be a woman with dark hair that is something he held on to until he died.

Carl attended medical school and became a radiology technologist. In 1921, he married a woman named Doris, with whom he had two daughters, named Ayesha and Clarista Tanzler. Carl moved to the United States of America in 1926 and took up a job as a radiology technician in U.S Marina Hospital located in Key West, Florida.

Carl was known as an arrogant man who claimed many things but never presented evidence to support his claims. He believed that he had a cure for tuberculosis. At that time, the disease did not have a treatment that would help the patients survive. It had become common, but doctors were unable to treat it.

Carl’s relationship with Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos

Maria Elena Milagro de HoyosMaria Elena Milagro de Hoyos

Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos, mostly known as Elena, was a 21-year-old woman brought to the hospital for an examination, where Carl worked. Elena was married to Luis Mesa at that time. However, the couple lived separately after Luis left Elena post a miscarriage.

When Carl saw Elena, he immediately recognized her as the dark-haired woman, described to him by a dead relative who had told him would be the love of his life. Elena was diagnosed with tuberculosis that was considered incurable at that time. She was discharged as there was not much that the doctors could do.

Carl was determined to save Elena as he believed that she was his ultimate soul mate. So despite not being a medically recognized doctor, he began to find a cure for Elena. During this time, Carl bought many gifts for Elena, such as clothes and jewelry. He confessed his love for her on multiple occasions. However, sources say that Elena did not reciprocate his feelings but kept quiet fearing his reaction if she rejected him.

Elena’s death and events that unfolded

On 25th October 1931, despite Carl's efforts, Elena passed away in her family home, where Carl had been treating her by sneaking expensive supplies from the hospital. Upon her death, Carl did not want her to get buried so that her body would not decompose and that there would not be insects inside her coffin.

Carl sought permission from Elena's family if he could build her a mausoleum, which is kind of a tomb where a person's body is kept instead of burying it. Elena's family allowed him to do so, and he built that mausoleum for her. Carl would visit her every night using the key he had to the mausoleum. Elena's family was not aware that he had the keys.

Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos mausoleumMaria Elena Milagro de Hoyos mausoleum / Key West, Florida

Carl would bring preservation chemicals to ensure that Elena's body would not decompose. He kept visiting her almost every night for two years. Carl then claimed that one night while he was sitting there with Elena, he heard her telling him to take her away from the mausoleum. Carl obeyed her orders and made several efforts to take her to his house. He put wax on her decomposing skin, held her bones together using piano wires, and gave her glass eyes to make her look real. He also, somehow, got his hands on the clothes that Elena was wearing when she passed away.

The corpse of Maria Elena de HoyosThe corpse of Maria Elena de Hoyos

Carl’s life with a dead body

Carl spent 7 years with Elena's dead body, doing everyday things with her. He would even have sexual intercourse with her. Carl prepared a spaceship for Elena so he could send her to space. He believed that if this happened, Elena would come back to life, and he would be able to see her living self again.

Carl Tanzler AirshipCarl Tanzler Launchpad. He had planned to put Elena's body inside it and send her to space because he believed, that she would be resurrected this way

He created a launchpad and had planned to put Elena's body inside it and send her to space. All of this was done during the seven years Elena's dead body was with him, and everyone believed that she was inside the mausoleum.

Carl’s arrest, trial, and aftermath 

There had been a rumor going around that Carl had the remains of Elena's body, and to confirm that, Elena's sister went to Carl's house and peeked through the window. She saw Carl dancing with Elena's dead body that, for obvious reasons traumatized her.

She contacted the authorities, and the police came and arrested Carl. Elena's family had no idea about what was happening and what Carl had been doing to Elena's body. They had trusted him because, during her life, he was sympathetic towards her and tried to treat her. Even after Elena passed, he had paid for her funeral.

Carl was put through a psychiatric evaluation that concluded that he was sane and could be put through a trial. He was charged with maliciously destroying a grave, removing a dead body without authorization. The trial could not move forward due to the statute of limitation that had expired that did not let a court try a person for crimes after a certain period.

There was outrage as many people wanted Carl behind bars for what he did to Elena. However, some people considered Carl’s actions as an expression of love and that whatever he did was out of love for Elena. 

Elena's body was put on display for people to see, as when the news broke of this case, many people came to see Elena's body. After a certain period, Elena's body was buried in a secret location that the family told no one about to ensure no one else would try to do what Carl had done.

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