More than once, it will be said: This is a true story, not satire. Some parts of it may cause you to scratch your chin but the details have been verified and proven true. The only rationale for any of the behaviors henceforth is that it was a different time, the 1920s and Prohibition was in effect. No booze makes people go crazy. True story.
Walburga ‘Dolly’ Oesterreich was a housewife. Some have called her charming, few have called her beautiful. There was something appealing about her, a fragility that led rational men to commit such extreme acts that it would be hard to say they were anything but in love. Insanely in love. Emphasis on insane. These men would kill, cover up a murder, and live in an attic for her.
Movin’ On Up to The Attic
Dolly was married to Fred Oesterreich. Fred owned and operated a wildly successful apron company, which might be the wildest sentence in this article. Theirs was not a marriage one would describe as happy. Sometimes Fred would work late into the night, at the apron factory, leaving Dolly home alone.
One of those lonely nights, Dolly’s sewing machine broke down. When Fred got home, he heard about it. He offered to have one of his employees come over and fix it for her. Otto Sanhuber was the young man sent to repair the sewing machine, and make a few stitches in Dolly. Who answered the door in her stockings. The 30-something housewife and the 17-year-old boytoy were quite the sight for nosy neighbors.
They began to see each other as often as they could. With Fred working and drinking most of his days away, Dolly began to enjoy the company of her younger man more. Soon, the neighborhood was whispering, saying something was going on. It threatened to get back to Fred, which was a complication she didn’t want.
Dolly tried to lie about her relationship with Otto. She told friends and neighbors, Otto was her vagabond half-brother. Nobody believed her. They had heard the sounds from the lovers. Sounds that most brothers and sisters don’t make with one another.
Eventually, Dolly asked Otto to move into her attic and spend physical time together. Even more physical time.
Some Like It Murder
With his new living quarters, Otto was stuck in the attic forever. He could not leave or make any kind of noise. He wiled his days away reading what books Dolly could get a hold of for him. During the times when Fred was home, Otto began to write pulp stories. His goal was to make enough money to support himself and Dolly. One source said, “At night, he read mysteries by candlelight and wrote stories of adventure and lust. By day he made love to Dolly Oesterreich, helped her keep house and made bathtub gin.” Bathtub gin was the favorite of prohibition era.
The arrangement seemed to work for everyone. Dolly had what amounted to a sex slave. Otto had Dolly. Fred had no clue what was going, which was for the best. Sick of his life in Milwaukee, Fred suggested they move to Los Angeles. Dolly freaked out. She was about to lose the one thing that was getting her through the days; Otto. She had to figure out how to keep everything in place.
As luck would have it, Dolly found another house with an attic. This space was an even smaller area for her lover. But since he had been sent out to LA early, Otto didn’t mind. It almost made the secret even more fun for him. And they would be physical with one another.
Things were as picture perfect as a law banning alcohol would allow.
They Both Reached For The Gun
After four years of LA living, the old tensions between Dolly and Fred reared their ugly heads. Otto heard it this time and rushed in to rescue his lady love. Their lady love?
Fred recognized the younger man right away. As if someone had started putting a light under the puzzle pieces, everything came together. The two men got into a fight, at some point Otto pulled out his guns. They struggled for control of the gun. Some accounts say there was more than one at play.
What all agree on is Fred Oesterreich was shot and killed. Otto freaked out, especially since his fingerprints were all over the guns. He locked Dolly in a closet with an outside lock on it. Plausible deniability. She could deny knowing anything happened because she had been kidnapped and nobody would suspect she had anything to do with the murder.
For her part, Dolly sold the burglary story with everything she had. The problem was, the police were not buying it. They wanted to call bs on her but stopped short of doing that.
The case would go colder than Dolly’s heart.
The Widow Dolly
Before Fred’s body was buried, Dolly was moving into a new house. One might have expected that her boyfriend would be allowed to act like a human being. Like a prized boyfriend rather than a sex slave who was only trotted out for adult time.
But no. Dolly had no want for that. She liked the arranagement. One has to imagine Otto did too or why would he have moved into three attics for her? Maybe she was his muse. His stories began selling, and soon he bought himself a typewriter. His writing career was taking off in earnest.
Dolly meanwhile began dating Herman S. Shapiro, a lawyer. This is important because he makes a rookie mistake with the black widow. He ignored her in favor of work, which was a cardinal sin to Dolly.
She had needs that the two men she was already involved with, weren’t taking care of her womanly needs. Whatever the case, she took on a third lover, Roy Klumb. Like Otto, Roy was quite smitten with Dolly. So when she asked him to ditch the guns that had killed Fred, he did so willingly. he tossed one into the LaBrea Tar Pitts.
Dolly went to a neighbor and asked him to bury the other gun. He did so happily.
As time went on, Dolly decided she no longer had a need for Roy, and she dumped him. That should have been the end of it but Roy was a man scorned. If he couldn’t have Dolly, no one could. Not even the attic dweller.
Roy went to the police and told them about the guns. He dug the one he buried out and convinced the neighbor to do the same. This was Desperate Housewives before TV existed. Dolly was arrested and tried for Fred’s murder.
The Final Twist
Proving that she felt more affection towards her sex slave than just using his body, she convinced Herman to take groceries to her “brother.” He did as requested but was not ready for the fountain of truth that Otto would become. First up was the confession of what Otto’s relationship with Dolly was.
Keeping Otto hidden in the attic was not a deal breaker for Herman. Maybe he thought it was kinky? Whatever his thoughts, he urged Otto to take off and let him and Dolly enjoy their twilight years together. It appears as though Otto listened, at least for a while.
The relationship between Dolly and Herman broke down over time. Maybe he worried she had another sex slave in the attic ready to replace him. After the breakdown and breakup, Herman went straight to the police and turned in all of the evidence linked to Fred’s murder.
Otto was charged with manslaughter. While he was convicted, his lawyers successfully argued that the statute of limitations had run out. The public dubbed him ‘Bat-man’ since he had been imprisoned and insane way.
Dolly was indicted on a conspiracy charge. Her trial ended in a hung jury and a second trial never happened. She was allowed to live out the rest of her days. Probably telling the story of how once upon a time, she had a sex slave and he was hot.