Thursday, March 6, 2008

Obsession, Sex and a Secret Lover in the Attic...the story of Walburga "Dolly" Oesterreich

(Pictured are Fred and Dolly Oestrreich.)
The following story has more ethnic Wisconsin names than you can shake a can of frosty cold can of Blatz beer at. Read on....if you dare.
Milwaukee, 1920. Dolly Oesterreich always had men in her life. Fred Oesterreich, her husband, was a hard-drinking and wealthy factory owner. What he didn't know was that there was a man, his wife's secret lover,Otto Sanhuber, living in their attic. Their relationship began in 1913, when Dolly was a housewife in her early thirties. At that time she "forcefully" seduced Sanhuber, a 17 year old employee at her husband's sewing machine factory. She began the affair by calling her husband at work to tell him that her sewing machine was broken. When Sanhuber arrived at her home to fix the machine, she was wearing only stockings and a silk robe.
(Actor Neil Patrick Harris as Otto Sanhuber in "The Man in the Attic")
Sanhuber, a Casper Milquetoast body double, described himself as Dolly’s “sex slave.” The couple were a busy pair. Otto claimed that the two once made love no less than eight times in one single day. He soon became so fixated on Dolly that he secretly moved, with her help, into the Oesterreich's attic. Over the next few years, the Oesterreichs moved to various residences in Milwaukee,and so did Sanhuber. By day, Sanhuber did housework and kitchen chores and fulfilled his duties as a lover. He lived on left overs he was fed in the kitchen. At night, in the attic, he read murder mysteries by candlelight and wrote imaginative tales of lust and romance that he sold to pulp magazines. In 1921, Dolly convinced Fred to move to Los Angeles and Sanhuber followed.

Los Angeles, August 22, 1922
. The Oesterreichs frequently quarreled, but a particularly loud argument and ensuing physical struggle, finally brought Sanhuber out of the attic. Fearing for his lover’s safety, Sanhuber grabbed two small pistols and confronted Fred Oesterreich. Oesterreich grappled with Sanhuber and in the struggle was shot three times, once in the back of the head.

The lovers decided to feign an attack by burglars, whom Dolly Oesterreich would claim had killed Oesterreich when he resisted their demands. Sanhuber locked Dolly Oesterreich in a bedroom closet, threw the key into the hallway then retreated to his attic hideout. Dolly Oesterreich screamed for her husband—“Fred! Oh Fred!” and was found slumped on the closet floor when police arrived.

For almost a year the story held. Dolly Oesterreich moved into another house in the neighborhood, installing Sanhuber again secretly in the attic. She also began an affair with the attorney settling her husband’s estate, Herman S. Shapiro.
Then Oesterreich added a third lover, a businessman named Roy H. Klumb. From Klumb, she wanted a favor. Would he dispose of an old gun similar enough to the one used to kill her husband that it might be embarrassing if the police found it? Klumb threw it into what turned out to be a shallow spot in the La Brea Tar Pits. She asked a neighbor to do her a similar favor, and he buried the other gun under a rose bush in his backyard.
Klumb, after breaking up with Oesterreich, told police of disposing of one of her guns. They retrieved the first gun from the tar pits. With the case back in the newspapers, the neighbor brought in the gun from under the rose bush. Dolly Oesterreich was arrested for murder.
In jail, Oesterreich begged Shapiro to take food to the still-hidden Sanhuber. When he did, and the two men began talking, Shapiro learned of Sanhuber’s long obsession. Shapiro threw him out of the house.
The hearings dragged on over months, then Oesterreich became so ill that she was reported to be dying. Eventually she was released on bail. The detectives had all the physical evidence they needed, but without Sanhuber, they couldn't connect the dots. Soon, all charges were dropped for lack of evidence.
Shapiro, her remaining lover, moved into Oesterreich’s house, and they lived together in a tumultuous relationship for the next seven years. Finally, in 1930, Shapiro moved out and told the authorities about Sanhuber, the “ghost in the garret.” Oesterreich and Sanhuber were both arrested this time — Oesterreich being charged with conspiracy while Sanhuber was charged with murder. The jury found Sanhuber guilty of manslaughter, but since it was now a year beyond the statute of limitations for him on a manslaughter conviction, Sanhuber was freed. In a separate trial, Oesterreich was saved by a hung jury. Lacking more convincing evidence, new District Attorney Buron Fitts ended the long melodrama by declining to try her again.
Sanhuber disappeared and was never heard from again. Oesterreich lived quietly with one man until her death in 1961.
(The ever watchful Tosa Steve has done it again. Thanks!)

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