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Rotten Love

For some the idea of true love is finding your forever-soulmate through random events, whilst others believe that the love of your life was always a pre-planned destiny. Carl Tanzler believed in the latter. He was born in 1877 in Dresden, Germany and spent his early years living in the German empire. He moved to Australia, Cuba, and even India until finally settling in Key West, Florida to work in a U.S marine hospital.

Throughout his life he claimed that he had dreams about marrying a beautiful woman, and unexpectedly, he ended up finding her. One of his patients was a 19 year old woman named Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos, a Cuban-American that apparently looked identical to the woman that Tazler kept dreaming about. Unfortunately for Tanzler, she was dying of Tuberculosis. Not wanting to lose his opportunity to gain Elena’s heart, Tazler showered her with gifts and asked her to marry him multiple times. Elena refused since she had been married before, and although she was divorced, she still felt like she was married to her ex-husband.

On October 25th, 1931, Elena passed away. A heartbroken Tanzler built a mausoleum to honor her, and visited every night for the next two years. Eventually in 1933, Tanzler had a vision in which Elena asked him to “Free her from her stone prison” and marry her. Motivated by this message, Tanzler stole Elena’s corpse from the mausoleum and took it back to his home in a toy wagon. When he returned home with his new corpse bride, he “fixed'' her by wiring her bones back together with clothing hangers, adding her skin with wax, and even making a wig out of her own hair he collected, and soaking the body in disinfectants and perfume. According to Tanzler, he was instructed by Elena’s ghost to do all of this so they could be together.

So for seven whole years, Tanzler slept with a decomposing corpse in the hot and humid Florida weather. Eventually he was discovered by none other than Elena’s sister when she spotted him dancing with someone through his curtains. The cops were called and the body was removed. The statute of limitations expired so Tanzler couldn’t be charged with graverobbing. Since the body was taken away, Tanzler built a crude replica which he lived with for the rest of his life. He ended up moving back with his estranged wife which he left for Elena. In modern times we view this as a disgusting and horrifying tale, but at the time many people actually sympathized with Tanzler, believing him to be the lonely soul looking for lost love. Of course, love always comes with a prize. Tanzler paid the price for love, which in this case, was his sanity and basic code of morality.

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