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The Obsession Of Carl Tanzler: A True Story That Will Haunt You

The face of altered corpse of Elena Milagro De HoyosSometimes the scariest stories aren’t about ghosts or vampires. Often, the scariest stories are the ones that come directly from real life.

Like the story of Carl Tanzler.

At the age of twelve he had a dream that his ancestor, Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel, revealed to him the face of the woman he was “destined” to be with.

And when he grew older he decided he would do anything to make that vision come alive…


Elena De Hoyos was having the worst time of her life. She had been pregnant, but then suffered a miscarriage. Shortly after the miscarriage, her husband left her and moved away to another city.

Elena De Hoyos aliveThen she came down with tuberculosis, a disease of the lungs that was killing people all around her.

In desperation, her mother brought her to a local hospital in Key West, Florida in the hopes that some new treatment might save her life.

It was there that she met a man named Carl Tanzler.

He was strange, no doubt about it. From the moment he laid eyes on Elena he was eerily obsessed, claiming that he had seen her exact face in a dream when he was only twelve years old, before she’d even been born.

He had been looking for her ever since. Thinking about every little detail of her face, dreaming about it.

This strange man showered Elena with jewelry and clothes, each time claiming that he was madly in love with her. It didn’t matter that he was fifty-six years old and she was only twenty-one. It didn’t matter that they were both already married to other people.

Face of Carl Tanzler obsessed with Elena

Nothing mattered to him, only his obsession that she was his destiny.

But Elena had bigger things to worry about: trying to survive tuberculosis. She definitely did not feel that Carl Tanzler was her destiny. Yes, the gifts were flattering, but what kept her talking to him were the promises he made about her health.

Carl Vo Cosel working at the hospitalHe said that that he was an experienced submarine captain. He claimed that he had nine university degrees. He said that he knew the medical procedures that would to cure her tuberculosis, and that he could build the machines needed to do them.

He gave her numerous medicines, took x-rays, and showed up with all kinds of so-called medical equipment.

Turns out that he didn’t have the knowledge to cure her of tuberculosis after all. Despite all the “treatments”, she died at her parent’s home about a year after meeting him.

But for Carl Tanzler, this was not the end of the story.


Elena’s parents were moved by Carl Tanzler’s efforts to save their daughter. Yes, he was creepy, but at the same time he had done more than even Elena’s own husband ever did to try and save her.

So when he offered to pay for her funeral and to have an above ground tomb be built for her, her parents agreed.

Tomb of Elena De Hoyos in Florida

And when he asked for some of her hair, they again agreed.

After the tomb was finished Carl Tanzler was seen visiting it every night. Everyone thought it was sweet how he clung to her, but no one knew that he was the only one who had the key. No one knew he had a phone installed inside the tomb.

No one knew that he was secretly …preserving… her.

And no one knew that one quiet night, Carl Tanzler gathered up the corpse of Elena De Hoyos and put her in a red toy wagon. He then dragged the wagon all the way back to the hospital, where he had set up a special place for “Elena”.


Well, it wasn’t exactly IN the hospital. You see, behind the hospital there sat the wingless body of an old airplane. It was here that Carl Tanzler set up his laboratory.

Plane used by Carl Tanzler to reconstruct Elena De Hoyos

He spent many days reconstructing “Elena” using wires, coat hangers, and plaster. Glass eyes now stared up at the ceiling of the plane.

Then he dressed the new “Elena” in a wedding ress and put her back in the red wagon, this time taking her to his house.

And there she stayed for almost a decade.

At night he would lay her in his bed and sleep next to her. During the day he would set her up in a chair and play love songs for her on a small organ he had made. Or, sometimes, he would just talk endlessly to “her”.

But the hot and humid Florida summers began to take their toll on the corpse. Carl Tanzler had created his own little world inside his house, but reality kept intruding.

He desperately poured disinfectant and perfume all over the place.

House of Carl Tanzler in Florida

And as her skin decomposed, he used silk cloth drenched in wax and plaster to replace it. When her hair fell out, he made a wig from the hair he had asked her family for, and glued it onto her skull.

You see, Carl Tanzler liked to imagine that he was a scientific genius that was destined for greatness. Even though he had failed to save Elena from tuberculosis, he now convinced himself that he could reclaim her from death itself.

Even when faced with a rapidly rotting corpse lying in his bed, he clung to his fantasy world. The plane, he told himself, was the answer.

He would rebuild the plane and take the corpse up into “the stratosphere so radiation could penetrate her tissues and restore her to life.” Someday.

But that day never came, people were starting to get suspicious.


Carl Tanzler in front of his machines.Over the years rumors had circulated.

At first the family of Elena De Hoyos had brushed them off. Yes, Carl Tanzler was a little creepy, but in the end he turned out to be a sweet old man who had fallen in love with their Elena and tried to save her life. …right?

But then one day a boy who was walking by Carl Tanzler’s house happened to glance in the window at just the right time. He saw Carl Tanzler dancing with what appeared to be a life-sized doll which had an eerie resemblance to Elena De Hoyos.

News got back to the family. Come to think of it, they said to each other, no one had seen Carl Tanzler at Elena’s tomb in many years.

Elena’s sister gathered up her courage and confronted him about the rumors. She made him go to Elena’s tomb and demanded that he open the door.

In the end, he refused to open it. Instead he told her,

“Come to my house, there’s something you need to see.”

When Elena’s sister went to Carl Tanzler’s house she was overwhelmed by the smells. As she approached the bedroom, she saw, to her horror, a figure through the curtains on his bed.

Reconstructed corpse of Elena De Hoyos in bed

She took slow steps forward. The closer she got, the more she could see that the figure looked like her dead sister.

She rushed out and brought the police back to the house. When they opened the door they saw Elena sitting there.

Carl Tanzler had dressed her in a Kimono and propped her up in a chair. In her hand was a single rose.

He was immediately arrested.

Carl Tanzler being questioned after arrest

The situation soon became famous in the area. There was much media attention, and a trial. Carl Tanzler was examined by a psychiatrist and deemed mentally competent to stand trial. He was charged with destroying a grave site and graverobbing.

But the courts discovered that too much time had passed since he had stolen Elena’s corpse and the charges had to be dropped.

The public’s reaction to this? People were generally happy that Carl Tanzler had been set free. Instead of a creepy graverobber, most people saw him as a romantic old man who was so madly in love he was willing to sleep in the same bed as a corpse.

Carl Tanzler talking to onlookers

After the trial was cut short, Elena’s body was put on display at a local funeral home for everyone to come by and gawk at. They then re-buried her in a steel box at a secret location.

As for Carl Tanzler, he gave tours of his “laboratory” in exchange for money. And when the money stopped coming in he decided it was time for a change of scenery. He then went to Elena’s tomb, blew it up, and proceeded to move to a new town.

And that was the end of it…right? Not for him.


When Carl Tanzler died many years later, his body was found on the floor next to a life-sized replica of Elena’s body. Now this was freaky enough on it’s own, but when investigators looked more closely, they saw that the face on the body was eerily lifelike.

Turns out he had made a death mask from the face of Elena’s corpse, and had used this mask as a starting point to build a new “Elena”. He had lived and obsessed over this new “Elena” and her face until his death.

Carl Tanzler and death mask of Elena

So in his own twisted way, Carl Tanzler had made the dream he’d had as a twelve year old come true. The face his ancestor had revealed to him, through his extreme obsession, had become his destiny after all.

**What do YOU think? Was Carl Tanzler a sweet old man in love, or a creepy grave robber?**

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The True Urban Legend Of Charlie No-Face (AKA The Green Man)

Real Picture Of Charlie No-Face With TeenagersUrban legends have a certain way about them.

The person telling you the story usually heard it from their best friend… who had a babysitter whose boyfriend “saw” it happen.

Or from their nextdoor neighbor’s second cousin, who once lived in the town where it all started. Know what I mean?

The person assures you this urban legend is “definitely true”. Then they go into a story about some character with the head of a man and the body of a moth who steals children after midnight.

Yeah, right.

But the funny thing is, some urban legends actually are true. And they’re usually the ones you least expect. Take this urban legend from back in the 50’s for example about a man with no face…


True Story Charlie No-Face ChildhoodIn western Pennsylvania the story is told of Charlie No-Face. It is said that as a boy Charlie climbed a high electric pole to try and see into a bird’s nest.

Instead of getting a view of the nest, he got tangled up in the lines and was electrocuted. And when he fell back to the ground things were never the same for him.

When his friends ran up to him they immediately started screaming. Lying in front of them was their friend …but his face was melted beyond recognition. He had lost his eyes, nose, mouth, an ear, and even one of his arms.

Not only was his face mangled, but his skin had turned an eerie green color.

Charlie had a tenacious spirit, and was able to survive his massive injuries. He was lucky to be alive, he knew that, but as the years went on this new life became more and more difficult to bear. You see, every time he even tried to step out in public people would scream bloody murder and some would even faint.

So he took to hiding out in abandoned houses. He got what food he could from the land and walked along a quiet stretch of highway each night. He just wanted to be normal, he just wanted to feel what it was like to be able to walk openly, without the screaming.

Urban Legend Highway Charlie No-Face

Which particular stretch of highway he was said to walk depended on the version of the story being told. Teenagers from all over would hear these stories and cruise the highways after dark, in hopes of meeting up with Charlie No-Face.

Some claimed they had talked to Charlie or even had pictures of him. But no one could be sure who was telling the truth and who was just trying to look cool. Still, the rumors and urban legends went on year after year.

It wasn’t until after his death that “Charlie” would become known as a real person to the general public.


Yes, he was real. And his story is incredible.

In the summer of 1919 a boy named Ray Robinson was walking home with his friends. It had been a great afternoon of swimming, and they were all smiles as they strolled along and joked with each other.

Wallace Run Bridge Charlie No-Face Accident

To get home they had to cross The Wallace Run Bridge, a giant structure where trolleys would cross the river. To power the trolleys, the bridge had transmission lines carrying 22,000 volts of electricity running all along it.

While walking on the bridge Ray and his friends saw a bird’s nest up high. They dared each other to see who would be brave enough to climb up there and count how many birds were inside.

Ray was the only boy to follow through on the dare. His friends peered up into the bright sky as he confidently climbed the bridge structure.

But moments later his body connected with one of the lines running across the bridge. His little body absorbed an insane amount of electricity and he fell to the ground.

When his friends got to him he did not look like the Ray Robinson they knew… in fact he did not look like any human being they’d ever seen before.


“Morado Lad, 8, Shocked By Live Wire, Will Die”
-Newspaper Headline about Ray Robinson

Newspaper Article Charlie No-Face Ray RobinsonRay Robinson was not expected to live. In fact, it seemed to be a miracle that the boy hadn’t died on the spot.

His face had been …melted… by the high voltage. His eyes were completely gone and so was his nose. His mouth and his ears were barely there at all. And his left arm had been completely melted off below his elbow.

The doctors said that there was no way he would live. Yet he did. They said there was no way he could survive outside of the hospital, but he was able to leave within a couple weeks.

But living out the rest of his life was going to be the big problem. It was the fifties and there wasn’t any help for children with his level of injuries, so Ray retreated into the protection of his family.

He usually stayed on his family property, doing crafts or talking with his family Real Picture Charlie No-Face aka Green Manmembers. He would sit and listen to the radio for hours, getting some sense of connection to the outside world.

Sometimes he would even hike in the secluded woods behind his family home, using a stick to guide himself.

But as he grew older these few things were no longer enough for him.


People driving through from out of town would pull up in front of local gas stations or shops. They parked parked haphazardly and ran into the building yelling for help. They screamed that they had seen a monster walking along the highway.

The locals knew it was no monster. They knew it was simply Ray Robinson out for a walk again.

Ray was now a full grown man and had spent most of his life in a routine that had become suffocating. Throughout the years he had kept up a good attitude about everything. After all, he was lucky to be alive. But, this “life”…was it even like any other human’s life on earth?

Charlie No-Face Walking Path Route 351

One day he decided to do something different. Something new. He decided to walk the roads after dark. Specifically the roads on Route 351. He got his walking stick and left, and didn’t come home until the sun began to rise.

And the next night and the night after that.

His family hated these outings, but they couldn’t stop him. He wanted freedom.

This is how the urban legend of Charlie No-Face and The Green Man began. It was during this time that local teenagers (who were out doing their own kind of freedom seeking) would be cruising Route 351 and see Ray Robinson walking along.

Then teenagers started to go cruising in the area specifically to try to catch a glimpse of Ray. Some began to bring cigarettes and beer as offerings to him, a way to get him to want to talk to them for a while.

True Picture Of Charlie No-Face Teenagers

The stories began to spread like wildfire and soon teenagers from far and wide began to make the pilgrimage to the area, to try and see ‘Charlie No-Face’.

Each version of the story gave a slightly different location where you would be likely to spot him. There were also different instructions as to what his favorite brands of cigarettes and beer were. Many versions of the story for some reason said that he had green skin, which gave him another nickname, The Green Man.

Ray wouldn’t always choose to stop and talk to the people who called out to him from their cars, and sometimes he’d even walk into the treeline to hide. But it seems that most nights he wanted the company and would stop to share some beers and chat.

As the years went on and one generation turned into another, Ray and the urban legend of Charlie No-Face became part of the culture. Parents would tell their children stories about him and then when those children became teenagers they would seek him out.

A newspaper article even talked about how soldiers fighting in Vietnam would write back and ask how Ray was doing. The soldiers said they were praying for his safety from across the world.

And all the while Ray kept doing his nightly walks. It seems like he found a little bit of freedom in them.


Ray kept up these nightly walks right up until he was in his seventies and had to move into a nursing home.

For me it’s incredible to think about all those miles he walked in blindness.

All the days and years, sometimes completely alone in the night air. Sometimes with only the company of jeering, immature comments shouted out of passing cars. And sometimes in the company of teenagers, who in a strange way were seeking the same kinds of things he was. They all were looking for a sense of freedom, an experience of life, and to test their limits.

True Life Story Of Ray T Robinson

I hope that he was able to find some kind of peace on his nightly walks. It may have been an imperfect sort of peace but at least it was something.

And as far as the urban legend of Charlie No-Face, well that still lives on. To this very day teenagers go cruising around roads in the area. They follow the instructions of the particular urban legend they’ve heard from a friend of a friend whose uncle “saw” it all first hand.

They drive around on the off chance that they might get to see “Charlie No-Face”, and experience a true urban legend.

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The Fairy Picture Hoax: How Two Girls Fooled The Author Of Sherlock Holmes

Cottingley Fairy Picture first one released by Elsie and Frances.This picture may look innocent but it caused a major controversy back in the early 1900’s, fooling many people around the world …including the author of Sherlock Holmes.


It all began when two girls named Elsie and Frances became obsessed with playing by a certain stream near their house in Cottingley, England one summer. Problem was, the stream was really muddy.

Cottingley Fairy Picture showing Elsie next to a flying fairy.Finally Frances’ mother had enough of dealing with muddy clothes and yelled that they were banned from playing near the stream again. The girls stood there stunned for a while, until Elsie spoke up and said that they absolutely had to keep going back to the stream. Why? Because they were doing something very important there: they were visiting with fairies.

Yes, fairies, the tiny creatures with wings and magical powers to bewitch humans.

Now if a parent heard that story these days they’d probably get mad at the girls for lying, or at least think they were imagining things. But back then in England many people believed that fairies were real and lived in forests, dancing around and doing fairy magic. Fairies were thought to avoid humans but would sometimes show themselves to the right people.

Picture of Elsie who took the Cottingley Fairy Pictures.The mother was intrigued but not totally convinced, so Elsie volunteered to take pictures of the fairies to prove their story.

Elsie had worked in her father’s photography lab before and knew how to use the clunky camera equipment, so it would be easy for the two girls to go “take pictures of fairies” on their own. The girls insisted that they definitely had to go alone, because if anyone else was there the fairies wouldn’t show themselves. Hmm.


And so Elsie and Frances went out to the stream the next day and came back with a single picture. It showed Frances near the stream and leaning on a little hill which had fairies dancing on top of it.

Frances’ mother was thrilled that the girls might actually have proof that fairies exist. And not only that but that the fairies were in her own backyard!

Elsie’s father had pretty much the opposite reaction though and thought it was a fake right away.

Cottingley Fairy Picture showing Frances with fairies dancing in front.

He knew that his daughter was not only good with a camera but also loved to draw. He figured the “fairies” in the picture were just drawings done on cardboard and that the girls were perpetuating a lie.

And when Elsie and Frances borrowed his camera a couple months later and came back with another fairy picture –this time showing Elsie in the woods holding out her hand to a tiny gnome with wings and a pointy hat– he banned them from ever borrowing his camera again.

It was too late by that point though. More and more people started to believe in the fairy pictures and the story spread beyond the little village of Cottingley to the rest of the country.Cottingley Fairy Picture girl with gnome fairy in front.


People were abuzz with the news of the fairy pictures and a photography expert was called in to examine them.

Amazingly, the expert said that without a doubt the pictures were 100% real and after passing this test they were then sent to the famous Sir Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes series.

Sir Conan Doyle was desperate to prove the existence of life after death and other spiritual things, including the existence of fairies. He was in the midst of a deep depression since many of his close family members had recently died, and he found comfort in the idea that their spirits lived on. So when he saw Elsie and Frances’ fairy pictures his heart soared.

His enthusiasm was so contagious that even Elsie’s father started to believe that the pictures could be real. It wasn’t long before Elsie and Frances gave Sir Conan Doyle more pictures of fairies and he happily published them, sparking a worldwide debate about the existence of fairies –a debate that was very emotional and sometimes got ugly.

Cottingley Fairy Picture of Elsie with fairy standing on a branch.On one side were the fairy believers, who insisted that the youthful innocence of Elsie and Frances is what convinced the fairies to let their picture be taken. On the other side were those who said that the fairy pictures were a hoax, that the girls were just mischievous kids playing a trick on gullible adults.

The truth? Well that didn’t come out until many decades had passed. Later on in life Elsie and Frances started to admit that the photos were not quite what they said…


The first major crack in the story came when Elsie said in an interview that the pictures were “photographs of figments of our imagination”. Then later she outright admitted that all the pictures were fake.

Picture of a newspaper article about Cottingley Fairy Picture hoax revealed.But Frances was more stubborn. She said that most of the photos were faked but that one of them was definitely real. The last photo, she said, was taken of real fairies (like, for real-real this time lol).

She insisted that the girls just happened to come across the fairies one morning when they had the camera with them. Yeah, right.

From reading through all their confessions the true story behind the fairy pictures seems to be this:

Elsie used her drawing abilities to copy pictures of fairies from a book called Princess Mary’s Gift Book onto cardboard. Her and Frances then cut out the cardboard fairies and used long pins to prop them up for the pictures. A simple but effective hoax.
Picture of Princess Mary's Gift Book pictures similarity to Cottingley Fairy Pictures.

It’s hard to imagine that the creator of a logical and skeptical character such as Sherlock Holmes was so easily fooled by two kids with cardboard cutouts of fairies. But he was just so desperate to have proof that fairies really existed that he was willing to ignore the evidence that was right in front of him.

In the end there were no fairies needed to bewitch humans, only the cleverness of two mischievous girls. It’s a good thing that they didn’t have Photoshop back then or else who knows what Elsie and Frances might have gotten people to believe!