Having a charming and positive bedside manner is important for any doctor. If they are lacking one, it”s obvious. It”s one thing to treat a patient, but it”s another thing entirely to make them feel safe and effectively cared for during the process. Carl Tanzler was a radio technologist who had a special relationship with his patient Helen de Hoyos, but when she died, his fondness became an obsession. When he let it take control of him he created a shocking new meaning to the term “bedside manner”.
Tanzler was born in Dresden, Germany, in 1877. After being forced into a internment camp and witnessing the crippling aftermath of WWI, he moved to America and took a job as a radiologic technologist at the U.S Marine Hospital in Key West, Florida. Tanzler was always a hopeless romantic. As a boy in Germany, he claimed he once had a dream where one of his ancestors, the Countess of Cosel, told him his true love shall be an exotic dark haired woman.
“Helen” de Hoyos.
Maria Elena Milagro “Helen” de Hoyos was born in 1909 (Tanzler was already 32 at the time of her birth) to Cuban-American parents in Key West. She was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1930, and was treated by Tanzler. The doctor took particular care with his patient, setting up an x-ray machine in her home. He grew strong feelings toward Hoyos, and began showering her with gifts and eventually professing his love to her. The feeling was not mutual.
Death And Obsession.
Hoyos eventually did die of tuberculosis. After two years of visiting her grave every night, he crept into the mausoleum he had personally paid for and removed her body, bringing it back to his home. He strung wire between her bones and attached waxed silk to the face and appendages to replace the decaying skin. A wig for her out of her own hair given to him by her mother. Her chest cavity was filled with rags to maintain it”s shape. The corpse was dressed in Hoyos clothes and sprayed heavily with perfume to keep the smell of decomposing flesh masked. Tanzler kept the body in his bed.
For seven years, Tanzler slept with Hoyos”s corpse in his bed. It wasn”t until 1940 when, Helen”s sister Florinda, heard rumors about the doctor and her dead sister. She confronted Tanzler at his home. He was later arrested and tried for desecrating a grave and removing a body. Unfortunately, the statue of limitations on the crime had expired so he could not be charged. Tanzler moved to a different part of Florida, keeping a death mask of Hoyos he would later use to make a life sized effigy of her. It is said that he died within the arms of this sculpture.
Those who studied the case have created some dark and disturbing theories. A particularly troubling one is the belief that Tanzler may have constructed a way of performing necrophilia on Hoyos”s corpse by using a tube in her vaginal area. There are also some who believe Tanzler later secretly switched the effigy of Helen with her body (which means he actually died within the arms of the woman he loved). Neither theory has been proven, but they give us chills.