In 1930, a man named Carl Tanzler was living in Key West, Florida when he met Elena Hoyos.
Elena had checked into the United States Marine Hospital where Tanzler was working as an X-ray technician. It was determined she had tuberculosis, a diagnosis that was, at that time, often a death sentence.
As a child, Tanzler had had a dream where a dead relative showed him a woman he’d meet one day. When he met Elena, he was certain she was the dream girl.
Elena was a 21-year-old Cuban woman whose husband had left her, though they were still legally married until her death. Tanzler was 55, German, and had left his family in another part of Florida to live alone in Key West. He greatly exaggerated his accomplishments and called himself Count von Cosel (he wasn't a count).
Tanzler was obsessed with Elena, and tried desperately to cure her disease. He ignored the hospital's protocol and the boundaries of his own job description, playing doctor with at-home treatments and homemade medicines.
Meanwhile, he smothered her with love offerings and marriage proposals, though it’s doubtful she reciprocated his feelings. You know, because he was a huge creep and she was just trying to survive the disease ravaging her body.
Not surprisingly, Tanzler's inappropriate advances and unauthorized cures didn't work, and Elena died in 1931. Tanzler personally bought a mausoleum to house her remains. Unbeknownst to her family, he was the only one with the key and would visit her at night. He also apparently had a telephone installed in the mausoleum so they could talk.
Two years after Elena's death, Tanzler secretly removed her body and towed it to his home in a child’s wagon. He later claimed that through one of their conversations, Elena had instructed him to do so.
Tanzler filled Elena's rotting corpse with rags, secured her bones with wire, and mended her skin with wax and plaster.