By Clyde Lewis

Death is nature's ultimate balance. It only takes six feet of dirt to make men equal. But there are some who think that death is the ultimate imbalance. Especially when love tips the scales.

Sleep is death's brother. Your eyes are closed and the mind takes you on a journey to places that seem proverbial and oft times oblique. The only difference we see is that sleep refreshes and recharges, while death the other "sleep" disfigures and decomposes. To some the difference is obvious, but to some there is no difference.

It is hoped that death is not the end. After all we spend more time dead than alive. If it is the end then think of all that wasted time. Think of the forever's that slip through your fingers and the moments that you take for granted, because death, the cold sword that hangs above us by a hair, can drop at any time and we leave everyone behind, and of course we are just another mess that needs to be cleaned up and disposed of in a fiery pyre old a cold thankless hole.

Throughout literature there have been tales of madmen who for selfish reasons have tried to cheat death. But is it so mad to be the cheater of that unfair player in the game of Life? Death never plays fair so why should man? It is the moral dilemma. People will constantly fight about the issue. Even to the, dare we say it? Death.

The irony is, that you can have no enemies and still be murdered by a total stranger. You can avoid auto accidents and still die in a plane crash. You can avoid eating meat and still get e-coli poisoning in your water, you can refuse to open questionable packages and still be in a building targeted by a terrorist. You can even live in a place that doesn't have tornadoes and the first one in one hundred years can touch down in your city, right outside your window.

It just isn't fair. Just being human makes you vulnerable. The only solace you can have is that death doesn't hurt. Suffering only happens to the living. Not to the dead.

Sometimes the suffering is too much to bear. Suffering can make people do strange things. People spend outrageous sums of money for flowers, coffins, and virtual plastic surgery on a corpse to somehow keep the memory from being distorted. Bodies that lay in caskets to be viewed by loved ones are virtual wax dummy's to be put on display to either make a memory that never was, or to remove the shocking memory of the emergency room, or the day the body of was found all bloated and decayed at the bottom of the stairs. It's a sickening emphasis on keeping up appearances rather than the value of the person lying in state. We invest in temporary insanity when those around us die. Some of us do. Others remain insane.

One such man lived in Key West Florida in the 1930's. His name was Carl Van Cosel. Van Cosel was a respected bacteriologist who worked with patients who were suffering with tuberculosis. The disease at the time was incurable. Dr. Van Cosel worked with patients everyday that were beyond help. One of the patients was a beautiful Cuban girl named Elena Milagro de Hoyos.

Dr. Van Cosel fell in love with the young woman and tried everything in his power to save her, but three months later she died at the age of 22. Before her death Van Cosel tried everything to persuade the young woman to marry him.

He was so obsessed with her beauty that he ordered that a death mask be made of her face so that after she was buried he could look upon the face of his true love.

While at the cemetery he had heard that if the body of his true love was buried in the ground, it would be subject to deterioration from water seepage. Dr. Van Cosel was not about to allow such a travesty take place and so he paid to have a mausoleum built at her gravesite. Inside he placed Elena in a metal airtight coffin. The coffin had an incubator tank filled with formaldehyde in order to preserve the body. He also had a telephone placed in the mausoleum so that he could call Elena and talk to her. The sophisticated gravesite slowed her decomposition. The 56 year old Van Cosel became obsessed with taking care of the body of Elena and eventually quit is radiology job at the Hospital in order to make personal visits to the little stone crypt that he erected for his lost love.

He would pay nightly visits to his bride and soon the talk was going around about the mad Count Van Cosel and how he would visit his bride when the sun would set.

He kept a diary of his experiences and wrote of his happiness. He spoke of Elena as being alive and filling his life with joy. He also spoke of the time when Elena would live with him again.

The idea of Elena joining him again was not the poetic spiritual metaphor that is spoken of when loved ones hope they will see their departed on the other side. Van Cosel wanted to take his Elena home.

People were noticing that Van Cosel's visits to the cemetery had ceased. No one had seen Van Cosel for many years.

Carl used the cover of the night to transport Elena's corpse to his home. His neighbors would tell stories of how Van Cosel would play a church organ late into the night at his home on Flagler Avenue. He would walk down the street during the day carrying huge boxes of rags and perfume. Neighbors began talking again, and rumors were spreading that Van Cosel was losing his mind.

After seven years of being a virtual hermit Van Cosel was confronted by the sister of Elena. She demanded that Carl take her to the mausoleum so that she could put the rumors to rest about her sister. No longer could Dr. Van Cosel keep his secret. He took Elena's sister into his room. Lying in his bed dressed in a wedding gown was something that looked like a life-sized doll. It glistened like wax and had cold glass eyes which stared up to the ceiling.

Dr. Van Cosel told Elena's sister that it was Elena. Elena's sister was not convinced. She was so horrified to see that something that looked like a wax dummy could be her sister. The police were called and a full autopsy was performed on the corpse turned mannequin.

The pathologists performed the Autopsy at the Lopez funeral home and what they found was gruesome. It was the rotting badly decayed corpse of Elena. Pieces of skin barely clinging to exposed bone. Her Bones were held together with Piano wire. Van Cosel had replaced her eyes with Glass ones and the wig on her head was made from the hair that had fallen out of her skull as she decayed.

Van Cosel had attempted to rebuild Elena using a combination of beeswax, silk, and make up. He stuffed the remainder of the body with rags. He used perfumes to remove the odors from the body as the skin fell from Elena's bones.

The most horrific thing of all was yet to come. Pathologists found a tube inserted in the body in the area where Elena's vaginal cavity once existed. It was there so that Dr. Van Cosel could consummate the union between him and his lovely bride. If he could not have her in life, he decided he would have her in death. Nothing would stop him. It was believed that Van Cosel had sexual intercourse with Elena's corpse for seven years.

Before you pass judgment on Dr. Van Cosel it is important to point out that after a thorough examination of him psychiatrists declared him sane. He was later arrested for wanton and willful destruction of a tomb.

Was it destruction, or did he care for the body of Elena to a fault? Later city officials put Elena's body on public display. Thousands of people would go to the Lopez funeral home and see the body that was used in the now infamous example of necrophilia.

Van Cosel was never prosecuted. All charges were dropped because the statute of limitations had passed. Elena was buried in a secret location so that Van Coselwould never find her again.

In 1951 it was reported that Dr. Carl Van Cosel had died. He was 83. He was found in an abandoned house lying next to a life-sized doll. It was wearing the death mask of Elena.

It may sound odd, but it seems that only 17 per cent of people who commit acts of Necrophilia are psychotic. Most of the time the act is committed as one final gesture of love to the departed. It happens more times than we would care to realize, and not in funeral parlors by perverted morticians. Most necrophiles feel that it is their last ditch effort to rejoin their dead loved one. It rarely goes reported. There are many people who do not feel at all ill at ease at the thought of kissing a corpse at a funeral. It happens all the time before the lid seals shut and the body is interred.

If you still find that hard to believe consider this. Many people do not realize that as children we have heard fairy tales about the acts of Necrophilia. It was Sleeping Beauty and Snow White that were killed by the acts of someone else. It took the act of a loving kiss to bring back the dead.

Carl Van Cosel took his love of Elena further. In seven years time he committed a horrific act, however there are many people who feel that what happened back in the 30's and 40's was truly an act of love. Sometimes people do strange things after someone near them dies. But I think the dead would really hope that we would continue living without them. As Thornton Wilder wrote in Our town "The living just don't understand." Wilder believed that life was meaningful only when lived with full awareness of the value of the present moment. As we are about to take a dark journey into the cloudy future we are forced, not only to look ahead to the possibility of our own deaths, but how we will react when those around us die and not make the journey with us into the new millennium. Maybe there is wisdom in having a positive outlook about life. After all, you never think about where you were before you were born, so I guess it is silly to worry about where you will be when you die.


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Copyright 1998-2007 Ground Zero Media, Clyde Lewis, and John Hart. All Rights Reserved.