Dr. Carl Von Cosel

Dr. Carl Von Cosel's endless love crossed boundaries; perhaps too many. His obsession with one of his patients, Elena Hoyos, marks one of America's most infamous tales of necrophilia and grave-robbing.

It was the mid-1930's. Carl Von Cosel was working at a Key West hospital, treating tuberculosis patients. At the time, there was no cure and no really effective way of treating it. He met people, he talked to them, he treated them, and became attached. He wanted these people to live. Of course, none of them did. This includes Elena, a beautiful 22 year old brunette. Von Cosel believed they were soul mates, fell in love, and when she passed away he received permission from her family to construct a mausoleum for her.

Where Von Cosel's story turns morbid is that he preserved her body in formaldehyde and visited her every night. Eventually, he stole the body from the mausoleum and brought it to his home, clutching desperately at a life long since passed. He lived with Elena's corpse for seven years, until Elena's sister discovered the truth and took the body. Von Cosel had worked tirelessly to fix the body as it had decayed - her bones were held together with piano wire, her eyes had been removed and replaced with glass ones, her skin treated with silk and wax. He sprayed her with perfume to mask the smell of her slow decay. (In his memoirs, he refers often to how sweet she smelled, an odd fixation given that perfume is unlikely to totally drown out the odor.)

After the body was recovered, authorities arrested Von Cosel on charges of necrophilia. When he was released, he was still unable to let go, creating a life-sized dummy of her from a death mask. He kept this dummy in his home and lived with it as he had the corpse until his death in 1952.

His sensational story sounds like pop fiction and could be dismissed as such were it not for his own accounts of the events he published in a book, entitled The Secret of Elena's Tomb, which details his love and fascination with her and serves as a haunting window into his inner loneliness.

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