21 year old Maria Elena Milagro "Helen" de Hoyos was a celebrated Cuban beauty in 1920s Key West. But when she fell ill, her mother took her to see Dr. Carl Tanzler who diagnosed the young lady with terminal tuberculosis.
Tanzler, despite being old enough to have been Helen's grandfather, fell in love with the exotic beauty and refused to accept her death in 1931. In 1933, after two years of mourning beside her mausoleum had proved insufficient, Tanzler stole Helen's body from its grave and took it to his home, where he went to great lengths to reconstruct the rotting remains. He dressed the corpse, gave her new eyes of glass and replaced her decomposed skin with silk cloth soaked in wax and plaster of paris. He had also inserted a paper tube into the corpse's vagina so that he could commit necrophilia.
Tanzler's crime was not discovered until 1940, when Helen's sister Florinda heard unsavory rumors concerning the doctor and confronted him. Helen's carefully tended remains were put on display for a short time at the Dean-Lopez Funeral Home before being interred once more in an unmarked grave at a secret location to prevent further desecration.
Criminal charges against Carl Tanzler were eventually dismissed, and he died in July of 1952. A life-sized waxen effigy of Helen was found in his home, her beautiful face recreated using the deceased's actual death mask.