FlORIDA MAN MAKES MUMMY
The story of German-born Carl Tanzler, also known as Count Carl von Cosel, brings new meaning to the phrase ‘undying love.’ As it would turn out, Carl had more than a few skeletons in his closet – one of whom he liked to dress up and spin around the dance floor.
Upon abandoning his wife and children, the radiologist made his way to Key West in 1926. According to historydaily.org, “Once in Florida, he presented himself as a count and claimed to be a former submarine captain who moonlighted as an inventor.” Von Cosel also claimed to have nine university degrees, according to Atlas Obscura.
The ‘count’ met 21-year-old patient Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos while working as a radiologist at the United States Marine Hospital. Elena became a point of obsession for Tanzler as he had what he believed to be prophetic dreams of a raven-haired beauty joining him in life in love. He went to great lengths to save Elena from succumbing to her tuberculosis diagnosis, including “tonics, elixirs, and pilfered x-ray equipment that he brought to her home.” The good doc made his love clear to the ill Elena though she did not share his romantic feelings.
Complications from tuberculosis claimed Elena’s life on October 25, 1931. Creepy Carl paid for her funeral and internment in a stone mausoleum – “a building to which only he had a key.”
Suspiciously, two years after her death, Tanzler stopped visiting the grave of his dark-haired dream girl, something he had done every night. He may not have been visiting her mausoleum, but the two were getting plenty of quality time together. The stuff of horror films, Tanzler transported her corpse with a toy wagon to an airplane he had converted into a makeshift lab. In this airplane of atrocities, Tanzler mummified her body using wires, mortician’s wax, and glass eyes.
He lived with Elena’s corpse for several years, buying her gifts and dancing with the dead woman. To combat the increasing decay, Carl-the-corpse-lover “used everything from wire hangers to prop her up to rags to stuff the empty cavities of her body.” The doting grave robber saw to her eternal beauty by using what hair she had left to make a wig, applying wax to her face, and using disinfectants to combat the smell.
Murmurings of Count von Cosel buying women’s clothing began to circulate, and he was spotted through a window dancing with what looked to be a life-sized doll. Upon confronting Tanzler at his apartment in 1940, Elena’s sister called the authorities to the horrifying discovery. More disturbing details regarding the treatment of Elena’s corpse emerged during the investigation.
He was arrested and tried for “wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization.” During the proceedings, he admitted his plans to use an airship to take his lost love, “high into the stratosphere, so that radiation from outer space could penetrate Elena’s tissues and restore life to her somnolent form.” Whatever that means.
Due to the statute of limitations, the ‘count’ was cleared of his crimes. In a final ghoulish act, Tanzler requested Elena’s body back at the end of the trial. The request was denied. Disturbingly, the state of Florida displayed Elena’s mummified body at a local funeral home for viewing until she was eventually laid to rest in an unmarked grave.
I'M SORRY, ROBERT
Apology letters routinely arrive at the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West – all of them addressed to one Robert the Doll. The 111-year old doll is well-worn, donning a sailor suit and cap, holding a stuffed puppy of his own, looking at patrons through the museum glass with eyes as dark as the deepest recesses of Hell. That’s right, Robert the Doll is – you guessed it – HaUnTeD! This little demonic cutie can be traced back to toy maker, the Steiff Company, credited with being the first to manufacture the Teddy Bear.
Before his residency at the museum, Robert belonged to a little boy of the same name, Robert Eugene Otto. As legend would have it, Otto began to blame strange and terrifying happenings on the doll. Otto kept him into adulthood, even placing him in an upstairs window at his home. According to Atlas Obscura, “Schoolchildren swore that he would appear and reappear, and they avoided the house.”
Even upon changing hands to Myrtle Reuter after Otto’s death, the oddities continued from changing expressions on the doll’s face, sounds of giggling and footsteps, lights flickering, and Robert moving around on his own. Robert the Doll was donated to the museum in 1994.
Robert’s reign of terror continues. Museum patrons are encouraged to introduce themselves to Robert and ask his permission before snapping a photo. And don’t dare leave without saying goodbye. Those who find themselves on Robert’s bad side report temporary camera malfunction and repercussions after leaving the museum from a string of bad luck to divorce and even injury.
If you’re thinking about visiting Robert – be sure to mind your manners, or you may pay dearly and find yourself begging his forgiveness.
PUBLIC SCHOOL NUMBER 4
A condemned building in more ways than one, the former Annie Lytle Elementary School, also known as Public School Number Four in Jacksonville, looms on the side of I-95. Time has transformed its white pillars from a grand entryway, welcoming children to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, into the fangs of some dark entity waiting to consume any who dare get too close.
The school’s history is marred with alleged blood-shed and specters so terrifying it’s earned the moniker the “Devil’s School.” According to author Charlie Carlson, in his book “Weird Florida,” one such story takes place in the 1960s, “when a furnace exploded killing half the students, a few faculty members, and the janitor.” Restless spirits from that accident were said to haunt the school to the point that teachers refused to work, and a priest was called in to exorcise any evil within its walls.
Pupils who needed reprimanding were sent to the principal’s office, never to be seen again.
Ghosts from a janitor-led massacre are said to roam the halls of the abandoned building. Because of its gory history and abandonment, Public School Number 4 became a prime spot for devil worship.
I’ve got to be honest that none of those stories can be confirmed – but they also can’t NOT be confirmed… so...
Weird Florida, Charlie Carlson, pg. 227