At this point, the proprietor and his wife brought to the table a very fine chicken paprikash with egg noodles and a side of potato dumplings. Angell suddenly realized that Aubrey had never actually ordered any food or even looked at a menu. The old couple silently returned to their kitchen, allowing the two men to resume their conversation.
Angell was silent. In his mind he was cursing Aubrey, cursing the government, cursing George Angell, and cursing especially the weird, anti- social and racist writer who started all this trouble in the first place. But he had to admit that Aubrey had him intrigued. Anyone would be flattered to realize that the government had taken a special interest in them and their family history. Flattered, or scared shitless.
Angell did not yet know which one he was.
Outside, on the sidewalk across the street, the man in the denim jacket and the floppy hat stood and stretched as if getting rid of a muscle cramp. But his eyes were fixed on the second floor window of the Hungarian restaurant.
Aubrey took a bite of the paprikash, closed his eyes in appreciation of the delicate yet faintly spicy flavor that was a hallmark of the restaurant, and then looked directly at Angell, waiting to get his attention.
When Angell looked back at him, he resumed his little speech. The one that had been prepared for him by his boss and mentor, Dwight Monroe.
“Once upon a time,” he began, with a self-conscious wince at the cliche, “there was an esteemed professor named George Gammell Angell. He was murdered on the Providence docks on the night of December 21, 1926, at the age of 92.
“His killer was Carl Tanzler, an occultist and a man who later would be accused of grave robbing and necrophilia in Key West, Florida.”
The entry is an old one, dating from 1926. It contains official data on crime figures for Providence, Rhode Island.
There were no homicides at all in Providence in 1926.
But there was a murder and it took place at the dock where the Newport ferry gets in. It was not reported as a murder, because the man who committed it knew enough about medicine to make it look like a heart attack or a stroke.
The wording in the Codex is brief:
“Carl Tanzler, aka Count Karl Tanzler von Cosel, aka Georg Karl Tanzler. German immigrant. DOB Feb 8 1877. POB Dresden, Germany. Prisoner of war at Trial Bay internment camp, Australia, during WW I. Traveler to India. Occult leanings. Believed he could see spirits. Arrives US April 1926 after five years in Germany 1920-1925 and four days in Havana, Cuba. Settles in Zephyrhills, Florida; moves to Key West, Florida in 1927. Radiologist at US Marine Hospital. October 1940 arrested for robbing the grave of one Maria Elena de Hoyos (DOD Oct 25 1931) and stealing her corpse in 1933. Corpse was discovered in his home in October 1940. He had been involved in trying to re-animate it for nine years. Case was dropped due to lapsed statute of limitations. HPL visits Key West to see Tanzler in June 1931. They discuss Tanzler’s occult ideas, specifically concerning re-animation of dead matter. Tanzler takes HPL to visit Elena de Hoyos who is terminally ill. Tanzler later dies in the arms of a wax effigy of Elena. DOD: July 23, 1952.”
A more recent note, in Dwight Monroe’s tiny, precise hand and appended to the file states:
“Tanzler in Providence RI December 1926. Eyewitness reports seeing Tanzler with hypodermic syringe in small leather case at the ferry pier. Eyewitness told by Tanzler that he is a doctor waiting for a patient. George Angell collapses at the pier thirty minutes later. Tanzler is back in Florida in time for Christmas. Then arranges move to Key West.”
In the same file are some clippings. One set is from two 1939 issues of the
Rosicrucian Digest, and concerns Tanzler’s internment in Australia.
Another is a copy of an autobiography he wrote for the Raymond Palmer magazine, Fantastic Adventures, in 1947—the same year that Palmer published the Maury Island story about a flying saucer in distress raining debris on Puget Sound, the same year as the Roswell crash—with an illustration of Tanzler as a mad scientist attempting to revive his beloved Elena. 1947: the same year as Kenneth Arnold, Maury Island, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the creation of the CIA, and the death of Aleister Crowley.
The full story is as remarkable as the intel summary. Carl Tanzler claimed to have been an intimate of German and Austrian paranormal investigators at the turn of the century, and to have been the descendant of a famous countess, an alchemist, whose ghost he would occasionally see. He traveled to Asia, visiting India and studying with gurus for a period of time before winding up in Australia and getting detained as World War One began.
After his release he makes his way back to Europe, and emigrates from there to the United States via Havana, Cuba in 1926. He meets a young Cuban woman, Maria Elena de Hoyos, and falls in love with her. She is a patient at the Key West hospital where he works. She has tuberculosis and will die in less than a year, and Tanzler begins various alternative remedies to try to combat her illness, but to no avail. She succumbs, and Tanzler builds an elaborate mausoleum to house her remains. What he does not tell anyone is that he has designed a special coffin to keep her body in as close a state to life as possible. In fact, he believes she is not entirely dead and that over time, with his careful ministrations and pumping her body full of nutrients and other material, she is gradually coming back to life. Her eyes open. She makes tiny gestures. He even hears her speak.
When Elena’s family get wind of these strange affairs, the mausoleum is closed down, but not before Tanzler can steal the body and bring it to his house to continue his program of resuscitation, albeit much reduced in capacity. That is when he is finally discovered—and Elena’s body, after having been dead for nine years, is taken away from him and reburied. He finds himself arrested and in prison.
Upon his release, he fashions a life-size wax effigy of Elena and, according to one version of events, this is how he was found in death in 1952, with the effigy in his arms.
The case made world headlines, and the Tanzler house is a tourist site to this day. What is not so well known is the fact that Lovecraft (the “HPL” of the Codex) visited Key West in the months before Elena’s death. Lovecraft had been contacted by Tanzler after the latter read his famous story, “The Re-Animator.”
This, anyway, is the story that Aubrey is relating to Gregory Angell in that Hungarian restaurant in Brooklyn Heights. What Gregory has so far not been told is the relationship between Tanzler and his ancestor, George Gammell Angell. The details of this relationship appear in no police file, no official record. They were uncovered during the course of Dwight Monroe’s investigations, and these details made it imperative that Monroe somehow convince Angell to get onboard with his admittedly bizarre program. The only place the whole story appears is in the pages of the Codex, and there is only one copy of that file and it remains with Monroe. Aubrey must tell all of it from memory.
“A lie can be shouted, and if it’s loud enough the people will believe it. Hitler knew this. So do talk radio hosts. But Kabbalists know that the truth must be told in a whisper, and then only to a few. Gregory Angell must be led slowly to the truth, otherwise he will assume it is a lie.” This is what Dwight Monroe told Aubrey that morning, and it is the strategy he is using in the restaurant, a site chosen specifically to create the kind of atmosphere he needs to gently, but firmly, bring the professor around.
Tanzler claimed to have been an intimate of some of the most famous paranormal experts of the time, men like Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner, Carl Kiesewetter, and Carl Freiherr du Prel. His autobiography—published in a pulp magazine that specialized in fantasy stories—specifically names these men and several others. Their names would mean nothing to you now, but at the time they were at the forefront of psychic research,
mediumship and the whole panoply of the occult milieu in Leipzig and Dresden. The problem with Tanzler’s timeline is all of these men died in the late nineteenth century. Zöllner in 1882, when Tanzler was only five years old. Kiesewetter and du Prel in the 1890s. It is doubtful that Tanzler ever met these men. Tanzler was inventing himself, creating what we in the trade call a “legend” and taking advantage of the distances of time and place to keep his secret safe. He claimed to have been mistaken for dead in a morgue in India, only waking up at the last moment to save himself from a premature cremation. He claimed to have experienced severe poltergeist activity at his ancestral castle in Saxony. None of this can be verified, of course. All we know for sure is that he did spend time in an Australian POW camp during the First World War, a claim that was verified by a famous Buddhist monk who was also imprisoned there, and that he did eventually make his way to America where he became a radiologist in Key West. The story of his obsession with the young Cuban woman is well- known and well-documented.”
Aubrey paused to take another sip of the Egri Bikaver as Angell made an impatient gesture.
“What does any of this have to do with me? Or with my family for that matter?”
The agent set down the glass carefully, and smoothed the crisp white tablecloth before continuing.
“As I mentioned, Carl Tanzler murdered George Angell on that Providence dock.”
Angell looked shook his head, and then a smile began to broaden his features.
“You’re insane. You’re all insane. That’s a preposterous allegation.” “Bear with me for a moment, Professor. We know that Tanzler arrived in
the United States from Cuba in the spring of 1926. Your ancestor was
murdered that December. Tanzler moved to Key West the following year. Between April of 1926 when he is in Zephyrhills, Florida and when he heads for Key West in 1927, his movements are somewhat of a mystery. As is the reason behind his emigration from Germany in the first place. He came from a well-known, even prosperous, family. He had a noble bloodline, famous ancestors, even a haunted castle if anything he wrote was to be believed.
“At the end of World War One, he was repatriated to Germany, arriving
—again, according to his autobiography—some two years after Armistice. In other words, around the end of 1920 and the beginning of 1921. He spent some five years with his family before leaving for America. We don’t have much information as to what he was doing there all that time. Germany was in chaos then, its economy in shatters. This was especially true in Saxony, where the Tanzlers lived. Factories had closed all over the region. Tanzler’s father had died while Karl was still in the prison camp. His sister had married and gone to America, but his mother and another sister remained behind in Germany. The Germans had lost the war, and were expected to pay enormous reparations to the Allies as well as give up some critical territories. Hitler had attempted the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, representing the anger and frustration that many Germans felt over the way they had been betrayed by their leaders.
“Tanzler marched in that putsch. Tanzler was forty-six years old.
Tanzler was a Nazi.”
Aubrey said this last as if it should have considerable importance for Angell, but the latter was simply mystified.
“I still don’t see …”
“You’re an anthropologist, Professor Angell.” “Yes, but …”
“Tanzler had pretensions to that field of study. He believed he had experienced psychic phenomena—visions, ghosts, poltergeists, hauntings of all kinds—as a young man, first in his native Germany and then later in India and elsewhere in his travels. He studied with gurus, experimented with a wide range of herbal concoctions designed to alter states of consciousness, talked to the dead. When he returned to Germany after World War One, with the memory still fresh in his mind of how he had been treated by the Australians, his disgust with the ancien regime propelled him to the streets to march with Hitler. After all, the symbol of the Nazi Party was the swastika, something he recognized from his time in India at the feet of mystic masters. He could relate to that, and to the whole völkisch ideology of racial memories and pagan gods. And he was something of a crackpot anyway, as history shows us.
“Tanzler first tried to get a position as a physicist or a chemist. He considered himself an inventor. But science was a hotly-contested field,
becoming increasingly politicized, and the available positions were few. For instance Werner Heisenberg would take over the physics chair at Leipzig the year that Tanzler left for the States. But Tanzler had another love, and that was the study of the human race and most especially its psychic dimensions. At that time, in the 1920s, anthropology was a young discipline and it was populated by a lot of dreamers: men and women who speculated a great deal about ancient origins, dead civilizations, and the differences in races and cultures. Tanzler thought he had a place there, and after the failed putsch he contacted a professor he knew at the University of Leipzig with the idea of becoming an anthropologist. But Tanzler had no credentials in the field. In addition, the thrust of German and Austrian anthropological research at the time was towards the study of folk art, folk religion and folk culture with a view towards creating a kind of basic or primitive “genuine” German society that was based on its pagan roots. Tanzler’s expertise was Asian.
“The university system was in danger of becoming an intellectual wasteland as more and more academics—many of them Jews—found reasons to escape Germany for Great Britain, France, and the United States. The others, those that remained, fought long and hard to protect their positions in a time of tremendous economic and political uncertainty. But someone noticed Tanzler, understood his passion and his somewhat less-than-mainstream ideas about science, race, and occultism, as well as his long period of travel in the East.
“And so Heinrich Himmler gave him a job.”
In 1925, two years after the failed putsch and when Hitler had just been released from Landsberg prison, the Nazi Party was being reorganized. Himmler had his eyes on a greater role than being a mere functionary in the SA, the infamous Brownshirts, and was agitating to head Hitler’s special bodyguard, the SS or Schutzstaffel. Tanzler had not been arrested with the other putschists but had managed to stay at large and return to his family’s home in Saxony. It was when Hitler, Himmler, and the fanatic propagandist Gregor Strasser came to Saxony to campaign in the upcoming election that Tanzler was tapped by Himmler for an important— yet very secret—mission.