Category Archives: Sexuality

1899: Piano playing a “deadly habit” for young girls

In 1899, German physician Dr F. Waetzold published a short essay claiming that playing the piano was contributing to an increase in mental disorders among teenage girls and young women. According to Waetzold, his research had uncovered some alarming links between piano-playing and neurotic disorders. One condition prominent among young pianists was chlorosis or ‘green sickness’, an anaemic fatigue thought by many Victorian physicians to be a product of unfulfilled sexual excitement.

Girls who studied the piano before the age of 12, wrote Waetzold, were six times more likely to contract chlorosis or neuroses than those who did not. His solution was simple:

“It is necessary to abandon the deadly habit of compelling young girls to hammer on the keyboard before they are 15 or 16… Even at this age, the exercise should be permitted only to those who are really talented and possessed of a robust temperament.”

Choosing another instrument was not necessarily an option, according to Waetzold, because “studying the violin appears to produce even more disastrous results”. It seems that Dr Waetzold was not a music fan – or perhaps he lived within earshot of some decidedly untalented young musicians.

Source: Dr F. Waetzold, “Le piano et névroses” in Journal d’Hygiene, January 5th 1899. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1886: Henri Blot, Paris’ sleepy necrophiliac

By day, Henri Blot was a young waiter in a Paris cafe; by night he was a sleepy necrophiliac with a taste for young dancers. Blot’s 1886 arrest and trial shocked the French capital. Prominent court reporter and Le Figaro columnist Albert Bataille described Blot as “something of a pretty boy, 26 years of age, though he has a livid complexion and a feline quality in his physique”.

According to Bataille’s account, in March 1886 Blot entered a small cemetery in Saint-Ouen shortly before midnight and:

“…went to a mass grave, to a cross marking the coffin of a young woman of 18, Femando Méry, a theatrical dancer buried the day before. He removed the soil and lifted the body of the girl onto an embankment. Setting the bouquets aside and kneeling on white paper, he practised his sordid work on the corpse. He then fell asleep, waking with scarcely enough time to leave the cemetery unseen, though not enough time to replace the body.”

An insane man was wrongly arrested for this crime, which allowed Blot to strike again. On June 12th, he broke into the grave of another young woman, a ballerina (Blot apparently had a thing for dancers). Again, he violated the corpse and again, he fell asleep next to it.

This time, however, the snoozing Blot was discovered by the cemetery caretaker. He was quickly arrested and committed to stand trial for gross indecency and interfering with graves. When interrogated by the judge about his motives, Blot’s reply was simple: “Everyone has their tastes; mine is corpses”. Blot was sentenced to two years’ in prison; his fate after this is unknown.

Source: Albert Bataille, Les Causes Criminelles et Mondaines, 1886. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1940: Florida man’s seven-year affair with a corpse

Maria Elena de Hoyos, as she appeared when found in Karl Tanzler’s home in 1940

Karl Tanzler (1877-1952) was born in Germany and spent years travelling through India, Australia and the Pacific before emigrating to the United States. Tanzler arrived in Key West, Florida in 1927 and took a job as a radiologist at a local military hospital.

In April 1930, he met 19-year-old Maria Elena de Hoyos, a Cuban-American beauty queen receiving treatment for severe tuberculosis. Tanzler became infatuated and spent the next 18 months caring for the ailing de Hoyos, showering her with gifts and attempting to gain her affections. When she died in October 1931, Tanzler funded the construction of an ornate mausoleum, where he reportedly spent several hours every day.

In April 1933, a year and a half after de Hoyos’ death, the still-grieving Tanzler kidnapped her body from the mausoleum, hauled it to his house in a child’s wagon and laid it out in his own room. Tanzler would spend the next seven years working to prevent the corpse from decomposing – a difficult proposition in the heat and humidity of southern Florida. When de Hoyos’ sister discovered the corpse in October 1940, it was encased in plaster and wax and fitted out with a wig and glass eyes. She immediately informed police and Tanzler was arrested:

“Deputies Bernard Waite and Ray Elwood said the body, well preserved with the aid of wax, was in a bedroom of the isolated home of [Tanzler]…

‘One day’, Tanzler told officers, ‘I opened her coffin and found that the body was decaying. I did not want one so beautiful to go to dust. I stole the body about two years after she died and have had it with me ever since.’

The body, wrapped in a silken robe, lay on one of the two twin beds in the room. On the wrists were gold bracelets and in the hair was an artificial rose.”

The corpse of Maria Elena de Hoyos

Two doctors present at the examination of de Hoyos’ remains later claimed to have seen evidence of sexual interference, including the insertion of a paper cylinder to serve as a makeshift vagina. This information was not officially recorded or publicly released, however.

Tanzler was psychologically examined and found fit to stand trial for disturbing a corpse but the charges against him were eventually dropped. Tanzler escaped the spotlight by moving to mainland Florida. He was given a death mask taken from de Hoyos’ face, which he lived with until his own death in 1952.

Source: The Palm Beach Post, October 6th 1940. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1894: Kansas asylum de-sexes chronic masturbators

In 1894, the activities of Dr F. Hoyt Pilcher, superintendent of the Kansas Asylum for Idiots and Imbecile Youth in Winfield, came to light in the press. According to outraged reports, Pilcher had personally castrated any inmate found to be a “confirmed masturbator”. A total of eleven teenaged boys had so far been deprived of their testicles. Dr Pilcher was accused of “diabolism” and treating his patients no better than “the farmer treats his hogs”.

The Kansas Medical Journal, however, laughed off the press and hailed Pilcher as a hero:

“This abuse weakened the already imbecile mind and destroyed the body. The practice is loathsome, disgusting, humiliating and destructive of all self-respect and decency, and had a bad moral effect on the whole school… Dr Pilcher, like a brave and capable man, sought something better… He could give back a restored mind and robust health, a bestial function destroyed, and he did it.”

Newspaper investigations into Pilcher and his activities continued undaunted. One paper reported that Pilcher was unqualified for the position he held and that he was addicted to drink. There were also claims, apparently corroborated, that Pilcher had raped several young females in his care:

“Mrs Murray, who had been employed by Dr Pilcher in some capacity about the institution, testified that two of the girls, Alice and Nora, came to her crying and testified that Dr Pilcher had taken them into his private office and locked the door and taken liberties with their persons. These stories were further substantiated by Miss Johnson, who was a teacher in the school.”

Pilcher denied any allegation of sexual impropriety, though he reportedly admitted to stripping the girls in his office for an ‘inspection’. Despite these claims, Pilcher kept his job and the Asylum continued to neuter its patients, eventually performing as many as 150 male and female sterilization.

Pilcher retired in 1899 but the Asylum remained very popular among eugenics-driven doctors and parents alike, tripling in size by the outbreak of World War I.

Source: Kansas Medical Journal, vol. 6, September 1894; The Iola Register, Kansas, August 31st 1894. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1872: Son-in-law testicle inspection a must, says Bertillon

After qualifying as a doctor, Jacques Bertillon (1851-1922) chose not to practice medicine, going instead into statistical analysis and demographic research. He was also an active writer, contributing articles to medical and sociological journals.

In 1872, a French medical guide published an essay on marriage written by Bertillon. Despite his inexperience (Bertillon was still shy of his 21st birthday), he preached instructions and advice for newlyweds and their families.

The fathers of young ladies, urged Bertillon, should carefully but discretely evaluate the manhood of any prospective son-in-law. If a suitor showed any “doubtful traits of virility” – such as “a voice that is pitched high or often breaks”, “a thin, patchy or wispy beard” or any feminine traits – then the future father-in-law, as a condition of marriage, should drag him off to a doctor:

“…Have the physician inspect the testicular sac, to affirm the presence of testicles, whether there be two or one… and whether one or both be shrunken and flaccid… The so-called man who seeks a wife may be capable of erection or carnal lust, but may not possess true virility or fertile embraces. He is a being who, if he possesses any sense or tact… should remain a stranger to the matrimonial state.”

Source: Jacques Bertillon, “Mariage” in Dictionnaire Encyclopedique des Sciences Medicales, v.5 n.67, 1872. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.