Isn't It Necromantic?

Just before valentine’s day in 1887 a man named Karl Tanzer was born in Germany.

He grew up to be an avid organist and tinkerer, coming up with many strange and unique inventions. He eventually moved to florida, married a woman named Doris and they had two daughters together.

In 1927 the Tanzer family vacationed in Germany. While there, Karl claimed to have visions and dreams of a long dead ancestor, Countess Anna Von Cosel, who revealed to Tanzer his soul mate – a raven haired, exotic beauty.

When the family returned to Florida, Karl abandoned his wife and children and reinvented himself in Key West. He renamed himself count Karl Von Cosel and claimed to have nine university degrees. He was somehow able to land a job as an x-ray techinician, mainly assisting doctors with tuberculosis patients.

Two years later, twenty one year old Elena Hoyos comes in for treatment – she is dying from tuberculosis. Von Cosel immediately recognizes her as the woman from his visions and his one true love.

Von Cosel passes himself off as a physician to Elena and her family, promising he can cure her. Desperate for help, they consent to a battery of treatments prescribed and administered by Von Cosel – shock therapy, radiation and potions he has invented contianing flecks of gold...all the while he is lavishing her with gifts of clothing and jewelry and persistent proposals of marriage, which in turn, are refused by Elena.

Alas, despite all Von Cosel’s hopes and efforts, Elena dies just a few days before Halloween in 1931.

Elena is buried traditionally, in a simple plot - but the thought of his beloved rotting in her grave is a torture to Von Cosel. He pleads to her family, who then allow him to fund the construction of an elaborate masoleum. Elena’s body is exhumed, placed in a metal coffin equipped with a formaldehyde spraying device he has concocted to halt the decay of the corpse.
It is also outfitted with a telephone which Von Cosel uses to speak to Elena on his nightly visits to her.

In his diary Von Cosel writes:
“I am so happy I am back with you, my darling. Very soon the hour approaches when I will take you home with me."

This night comes in 1933, when Von Cosel arrives at the masoleum with a wingless airplane he has invented – basically, a tube mounted on top of a toy wagon – to take Elena home where he can be reunited with is love, forever. However, to his horror, his home made formaldehyde device had failed and elena’s body was quite decayed. He took her home anyway.

There, he reconnects her bones using piano wire and after placing some old rags into her chest cavity, he begins a full reconstruction - using pieces of silk and morticians wax. He fashions a wig for her made from the remains of her hair that he collected and dresses her in a wedding gown.

His original plan was an attempt at resurrection, by sending Elena, in the wingless airplane which he has now christened “The Countess Elaine,” into space, where a powerful dose of radiation from the sun - he thinks - will surely bring her back to life.

That doesn’t happen.

For the next seven years Von Cosel vexes his neighbors with nightly organ jams, offends the nostrils of anyone who comes near him and spends a great deal of time and money procuring oils and perfumes to mask the stench of rotting corpse.

Word finally makes its way back to Elena’s sister, Nana, who decides to investigate the rumors herself. Poor Nana, discovers what remains of her beautiful, young sister lying in a wedding gown in Von Cosel’s bed.

The police are notified. Elena’s body is seized and moved to a funeral home and put on display where, for the next 3 days, approximately six thousand people came to view her.

Von Cosel is arrested for “illegally exhuming a body.” He is examined by a team of doctors who somehow deem him sane enough to stand trial – however, the statute of limitations has passed and the charge is dropped. Von Cosel suffers no penalties whatsoever. Well, no legal ones anyway.

Meanwhile, Elena’s family has taken possession of her corpse. Some reports say her remains were cut into small pieces and placed in an 18 inch box. She is buried in a secret location that only two of her relatives know of.

In 1952 police are called to a home. There, they discover Von Cosel lying on the ground with a life size effigy of Elena, wearing her death mask that he had created before she was initially buried, in his embrace. Von Cosel is dead.

His diary is also found there – the last lines reading “….forever and ever, she is with me.”


  1. What a story! Life is stranger than fiction.

  2. Ha! A little light-hearted reading matter with my morning coffee. In many ways, the most perplexing part of the story is that the poor woman's corpse was put on display for gawkers.

  3. Hi Lady M and Emma!

    An incredible story, indeed. Emma, I agree that I, too and perplexed at why her corpse was on display AND that there were thousands of visitors. Back in the conservative 1950's I would think yes, people would be interested, but refrain from actually going.