The Insane NSFW Grave Robbery Romance That Proves Love Is Dead

Boy meets girl. Girl is gravely ill. Boy tends to her night and day. Girl dies. Boy, stricken with grief commissions a mausoleum for the girl, more splendid than anything she could have imagined for herself when she was alive.

But the boy can’t forget the girl. He sits by her grave all night, singing the girl Spanish love songs and keeping her memory alive in his heart.

A couple of years pass. Boy creeps into graveyard. Boy takes corpse of girl from the mausoleum and loads her into a child’s toy wagon.

Presumably operating on the principle that if you pay for the mausoleum, you get first dibs on whatever’s inside.

The boy installs the girl’s body in his house and lives with her as his wife.

For the next seven years.

Urban legend? Not even close. In fact, if you believe press coverage from the time, it’s a poignant real-life love story of a man too romantic to let death get in the way of a great meet-cute.

But as you can probably imagine, the story wasn’t much better when everyone in it was still alive.

Classy Karl The X-Ray Tech, Picking Up Teens On The TB Ward

Tragic Helen de Hoyos in life



Elena “Helen” Milagro de Hoyos, was a beautiful young Cuban-American woman, who died of tuberculosis at the heart-breakingly young age of just 22.

Karl Tanzler was a German immigrant to America, who had been employed as a radiology technician at the hospital in which Helen de Hoyos was receiving treatment for her TB. On arriving in America he’d changed his name to Carl von Cosel, tacked on a ‘Count’ for good measure and claimed to hold nineteen university degrees, although true number appears to have been ‘zero’.

When they met in 1930, Tanzler was already in his fifties and had abandoned a wife and kids back in Germany. Helen was barely out of her teens, but her short life had already been blighted with tragedy.

After an early marriage, Helen’s husband abandoned his teenage bride when she suffered a miscarriage. Helen returned to her family and contracted TB some time before her twentieth birthday. In the era before antibiotics TB was often fatal. It killed slowly, but it spread quickly; particularly in crowded, low-income housing where the healthy were forced into close contact with the infected.

Two of Helen’s sisters died from the same illness, as did other members of the extended de Hoyos family.

But Helen was the youngest and most vibrant member of the de Hoyos family to succumb to the disease, and the only one whose afterlife would prove to be even more grim than her early death.

My Ghost Aunt Told Me To Tell You She Thinks We’d Make A Cute Couple

Distant ancestor of Karl Tanzler Countess Anna Constantia von Brockdorff appeared in visions



From their first meeting the middle-aged radiology tech became obsessed with the dark-haired beauty.

Later in life Tanzler would claim that his long-dead ancestor, the Countess Anna Constantia von Brockdorff, had come to him in spirit and had shown him the face of his one true love in a series of visions.

Tanzler believed that de Hoyos was the mysterious young beauty his ghostly visitor had promised to him.

How de Hoyos felt about all of this is unknown.

Despite his complete lack of medical training, outside of knowing how to administer x-rays, Tanzler convinced Helen de Hoyos’ family to let him treat her for her TB.

Without any reliable options for treating Helen’s illness effectively in the early 1930s, Tanzler was able to work his way into the de Hoyos household by giving Helen a series of quack medical treatments, mostly of his own devising.

He would visit Helen in the family home, bringing along dubious electronic devises and administering x-ray after x-ray, which he believed to have therapeutic powers.

Of course, none of this helped Helen who died in 1931, just one year after first meeting the love-death obsessed German x-ray tech.



But their romance was just getting started.

When You Can’t Say It With Interflora, Say It In The Way You Pay To Inter Her

The mausoleum Karl Tanzler bought for Helen de Hoyos

Tanzler was devastated by Helen’s death, since he had been convinced that his cures were working. He sought permission from Helen’s family to commission an above-ground mausoleum for their daughter and covered all of Helen’s funeral costs.

The poverty-stricken family were in no position to refuse and so Helen’s body was laid to rest in a grand tomb, at Tanzler’s expense.

But she didn’t use it for long. Karl Tanzler’s obsession with Helen de Hoyos only intensified after her death.

If anything it was easier to keep the fantasy of an undying, ghost-Countess-fated love affair alive, without the inconvenience of an actual living human woman to give her own opinion on Tanzler’s romantic overtures.

Just Because You’re Six Feet Under, Doesn’t Mean You’re Left On The Shelf

Before long Tanzler had come to believe that Helen de Hoyos was speaking to him telepathically from the beyond the grave.

And being the modern, empowered sort of telepathic lady corpse, it just so happened that the two-years deceased Helen de Hoyos was asking Tanzler if he would marry her.

After that, it was a surprisingly short step to all-out grave robbery.

Of course, in the two years between de Hoyos’ death and Tanzler’s decision to install her as lady of the house, Helen had undergone some changes.

Undeterred by decomposition and possibly having already had Helen’s coffin filled with formaldehyde at an earlier stage, Tanzler set about restoring his corpse-bride to a more life-like state.

The World’s Worst Etsy Shop

Showing the same make-do-and-mend inventiveness that he had applied to his homemade medical devices, Tanzler used coat-hangers and wire to hinge Helen’s bones together as the connective tissues started to break apart.



When her hair fell out, Tanzler carefully gathered it up and lovingly wove it into a wig, supplementing it with hair that Helen’s mother had collected just after her death, like he was the proprietor of the world’s worst Etsy shop.

Where her skin began to fall off, Tanzler patched up the rotting corpse with wax and plaster of Paris. He stuffed her abdominal cavity with scented rags and perfumed the body, in an attempt to hide the stench of decomposition.

To complete this charming DIY embalming, Tanzler fitted prosthetic glass eyes in Helen de Hoyos vacant eye sockets.

Although it’s never been confirmed, according to at least one of the forensic pathologists who saw the corpse after Tanzler was done with it, he also fitted a paper tube into the dead girl’s vaginal area, in order to consummate their posthumous marriage.

Interfering Sister-In-Law And The Seven Year Itch

Helen de Hoyos patched up with plaster of Paris and strips of silk. Her hair is a wig made from her own hair.

Tanzler lived reclusively with the dead woman for the next seven years.

Although in Tanzler’s defense, we imagine that it’s rather difficult to host an active social life with a dead body in the master bedroom.

This macabre affair may never have come to light at all, had rumors of the grave robbery not reached Helen’s sister Florinda in October 1940.

Nine years after her sister’s death, and seven years Tanzler first disinterred the dead woman’s mortal remains, Florinda confronted her supposed bother-in-law who eventually confessed. He even showed the horrified Florinda the perfumed, mummified remains of her late sister.

She was less impressed by Tanzler’s arts and crafts project than he might have hoped and immediately reported him to the police.



A psychiatric evaluation found Karl Tanzler competent to stand trial, but the case never made it past a preliminary hearing as the judge ruled that the statute of limitations for Tanzler’s crimes had already passed before his grisly actions were brought to light.

Unbelievably this meant that Karl Tanzler never faced any legal sanctions for his bizarre crime.

Love Never Dies But It Really, Really Should

Karl Tanzler wearing shorts

De Hoyos was re-interred in a secret location to prevent further desecration of her body at the hands of Tanzler or other nutters of necrophiliac inclination, whose attention may have been drawn by the case.

Tanzler never got over his obsession with de Hoyos. When he died about a decade later in 1952, his home reportedly contained a life-size model of the young woman, created using the death mask he had taken of her.

There have been persistent rumors that somehow Tanzler’s final effigy was in fact not a model but the true remains of de Hoyos, which he had somehow recovered or had been returned to him by sympathizers.

However, this is pretty unlikely and in a case this creepy the facts are weird enough without any need for additional embellishments.

So if we’ve learnt anything from the stomach churning case of love-after-death, it’s that if someone tells you they’ll love you forever, maybe just insist on a ‘best before’ date.



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