Rediscovered: The Romantic Count von Cosel

Well, maybe The Maltese Falcon isn’t the sickest love story ever. . . .

Late last year Brian Leno got to poking around in the Unusual and popped some stuff my way, which I realized might not be quite appropriate for the upcoming Christmas Season — but what the hell, maybe not too far offtrail for dropping into the Feast of St. Valentine.

Got that romance angle to it.

Brian sends along images from a pulp appearance of the story, plus a local reprint — the usual guy taking a woman home, from her tomb.

He wondered if I’d ever heard of the episode, since I like Key West. But to the best of my memory, I didn’t see any plaques for it when I relentlessly hoofed around that southernmost isle.

The pulp was edited by Raymond A. Palmer (“god knows he went with some pretty flaky theories, saucers, the Shaver Mystery, etc,” Brian says), and Brian tosses in an example of Palmer’s John Hancock from his vast collection of Hancocks. It’s a reject note from Palmer to a Les Cole in Berkeley — like Palmer, a fairly famous sf fan.

Here’s Leno:

Watched some special on Karl Tanzler von Cosel yesterday. He’s the nut case that dug up (actually stole her from her vault) some woman’s grave he loved, slept with her and prettied her up a bit as she started to stink. Kind of like “A Rose for Emily.”

You mentioned you were in Key West and that’s where Karl did his nefarious deed, so perhaps you heard of him.

In the show they kept referencing his article “The Secret of Elena’s Tomb” and I looked up where it was published and found it was in a Fantastic Adventures pulp from September 1947. Cover story.

I bought a bucketful of those years ago for next to nothing, which is still what they’re worth. So I went digging in the basement and sure enough, there was that baby, just itching to be read. Sometimes it pays to be a hoarder.

Now if I could find his signature. . . he’s certainly goofy enough to warrant inclusion in my autograph hall of curiosities.

The Fantastic Adventures cover is by Robert Gibson Jones, and the cover of the book — a paperback that reprints the Count’s story — is the illustration from the title page inside the pulp. 

Palmer on his editorial page says that Karl stopped by the office and talked about his article — he was bitter about going to prison for what he had done.

Karl was trying an experiment, Palmer yaps, trying to bring Elena back to life. He doesn’t seem too put out that the man was sleeping with a corpse.

From other opinions I’ve looked up some have tried to make it into a love story, which is so fucking wrong it’s incredible.

One bio is entitled Undying Love.

For God’s sake when her eyeballs rotted away he stuck in fake ones, it’s definitely not a story for the squeamish.

The guy had a major hitch in his giddyup. 

One of the blurbs on the back of the book calls the story “endearing,” which I find really odd. The guy had a corpse in his house and was using it for, I’m sure, sexual gratification. I’m pretty positive the girl’s parents didn’t find it “endearing” when the body was discovered and the shit hit the fan.

Just started to dig into the book, who knows what else may be unearthed?

After I ordered The Lost Diary of Count von Cosel through Amazon they sent me a recommendation, which they sometimes do.

They suggest a book titled The Necrophiliac.

Guess now I’m typecast.

Just another day around the household of Brian Leno, a.k.a. The Cryptkeeper.

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