The Man in the Attic – Results of Intuitive Experiment #24

So, who were the two people in the 24th Intuitive Experiment?

int exp 24 2


There is a rather outlandish and entertaining story behind the identities of these two people!

They are Walburga “Dolly” Oesterreich and Otto Sanhuber, a pair of lovers whose extremely unusual extramarital relationship sparked a scandal that electrified 1930’s society. This is definitely a “life-is-stranger-than-fiction” kind of a story, and its very oddity has secured their legacy to this day.

Early Life and Relationship

Born in 1880, Dolly was the daughter of a German immigrant, and grew up on a poor rural farm in Wisconsin, US. In her early 20’s she married Fred Oesterreich, a successful and wealthy apron manufacturer, but theirs was hardly a life of wedded bliss. Her husband was a heavy drinker, and Dolly had a far more active libido than Fred was able or inclined to satisfy.

Soon enough her eyes began to wander, and in 1913, when Dolly was 33, they alighted on 17-year-old Otto Sanhuber, a sewing machine repairman who worked at her husband’s factory. Dolly’s sewing machine was soon in need of repair, and when Otto was sent to her house to do the job, she greeted him at the door wearing only a silk robe and a smile.

It wasn’t long before they were whiling away many happy hours together – at first in local hotels, and then in Dolly’s own marital bed. But despite her explanation of Otto as a long-lost relative, it was only a matter of time before the neighbours became suspicious of his frequent visits to the house, and a more efficient solution was required.

It was at this point that Dolly had a brilliant idea – Otto would quit his job and move into the attic of her home full-time. Her husband Fred never went up there, and this way the lovers could both get what they wanted. Dolly would have Otto living under the same roof as her, and Otto would be able to live his dream of writing pulp fiction. The new arrangement was quickly settled, and despite a few close calls, Otto’s residence went unnoticed for the first five years.

Crime and Coverup

In 1918, Dolly’s husband Fred wanted to expand his business by moving to Los Angeles. Dolly agreed to the change, on the sole condition that their new house included an attic. She sent Otto to L.A. in advance, and once they were settled into their new quarters, the bizarre situation carried on as before.

Everything went well until 1922 (in the ninth year of Otto’s occupancy), when Dolly’s dissatisfaction with her marriage to Fred reached a crisis point. They fought frequently and with increasing violence, and on August 22, during a particularly contentious argument, Otto became concerned for Dolly’s safety. He came bursting out of the attic, a revolver in each hand, and shot Fred three times in the chest – killing him on the spot.

In an attempt to make the crime look like a break-in, Otto hid Fred’s diamond watch in the attic, and locked Dolly into a closet. When police arrived, they couldn’t explain how she could have murdered her husband from that position, so she was able to avoid arrest. Dolly inherited her husband’s estate, and used the proceeds to buy herself another house, with yet another attic to accommodate Otto.

After Fred’s death this arrangement hardly seemed necessary, but it continued anyway, because their relationship had by this point become one of dominance and submission, and Otto later reported that he regarded himself as Dolly’s “sex slave.” He had also come to love her “as a boy loves his mother.”

The Truth Comes to Light

Dolly began dating her attorney, Herman Shapiro, and began making damning errors in covering up Fred’s murder. She gave Shapiro the diamond watch that had supposedly been stolen during the event, and asked another lover, Roy Klumb, to dispose of one of the revolvers in the La Brea Tar Pits. She coaxed a neighbor to get rid of the other gun, and he buried it under his rose bushes.

After a volatile breakup Klumb told authorities about the weapon, and Dolly was finally arrested. But it was still difficult to explain how she had been locked inside the closet during the murder, so the charges were eventually dropped. During the hearings, though, Dolly asked Herman Shapiro to bring food to her “vagabond half-brother” up in the attic, and the penny finally dropped for Herman. He threw Otto out of the house that very day. Dolly and Herman Shapiro separated in 1930.


Meanwhile, Otto left L.A., moved to Canada, and got married.


Herman Shapiro eventually told the police what he knew about the man in the attic, and both Otto and Dolly were arrested. However, the seven-year statute of limitations on manslaughter had recently expired. Because Dolly was a sympathetic figure, her trial ended with a hung jury, and the police decided not to try her again.

During the trial the media dubbed Otto Sanhuber “The Bat Man of Los Angeles” due to his bat-like living arrangement in the attic. This was prior to the creation of the comic book hero, and did not have the same heroic connotations. He was viewed as a sexual deviant and a “perjurer of his own soul,” and later served as inspiration for Neil Patrick Harris’ character in the 1995 movie The Man in the Attic.

Dolly found herself yet another lover, remaining with him for the next thirty years, and eventually marrying him. She died a free woman in 1961, but her unique and eccentric legacy has followed her into history. As the L.A. Times pointed out in 1930, “It must be admitted that fiction has been outdone again.”

Intuitive Hits

Many of you made references to a Bonnie and Clyde type of relationship between Otto and Dolly, and to the idea that they might have spent time in prison. It is certainly true that they shared a scandalous romantic relationship that resulted in a crime and in arrests for both of them, and readers may have been picking up on that dynamic.

Both were certainly outsiders in their behaviors and beliefs, and Otto did spend most of his time in a very confined situation, even if it was mostly voluntary on his part. He was indeed a writer, or at least aspired to be, as one person correctly noted.

As some readers also pointed out, the couple was overly obsessed with each other, and their connection was an uneasy balance of lover, mother, son, and “vagabond half brother.” Dolly served as both sex partner and dominant parental figure to Otto, and together they lived a life full of secrets and deception that proved to be fatal to her husband.

Several of you picked up on the inappropriate relationship the two shared, and on their double and deceitful life together. One reader mentioned the names Fred and Herman, which most likely refer to Dolly’s husband Fred and her lover Herman Shapiro. A reference to Batman may be a hit on Sanhuber’s derogatory moniker “The Bat Man of Los Angeles.”

Dolly was indeed a free spirit, somewhat detached from reality, and yet her likeability and appeal helped her to avoid justice on more than one occasion, and to find romantic relationships throughout her life, despite her outlandish behavior.

All in all, there were quite a few accurate and specific hits here.

Well done specifically to Kim, Monica Ann, Krysti, Anju, Jo, Kelly, Mon and Yogesh, who were dead on or not far off with the majority of their insights.

Well done also to Laurie, Etelka, Terri, CC, Pat, SJD, Rhonda, Mere, Brett and Dianna who I felt were picking up good info but perhaps hadn’t interpreted one or two bits or pieces correctly.

If you did not do well on this one, I hope you’ll have another go next time. Practice really is the most important component for improving on these exercises.

A couple of questions for those who took part:

  • How did you do with this experiment?
  • What, if anything, did you learn about your intuitive process as a result?

Please leave a comment below!

Would you like to learn how to receive direct guidance from your Higher self and Spirit Guides, and find out more about your soul’s purpose?

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  1. Tamzin

    I felt uncomfortable looking at these two. I couldn’t decide whether the man was a killer or a writer. I couldn’t decide if he was cold and dark or just seeing the cold and dark. I didn’t like her personality. I don’t get much detailed insight but a general hit- enough for survival instincts- I hope!

  2. Pat

    Yes, I felt that the woman was the dominant person here but I wasn’t sure of the relationship between the two.

  3. Mon

    OMG Anna I just googled the meaning of their names…..

    Walburga means “ruler of the fortress, leader, and power”.

    Otto means “wealth, fortune, and prosperity”.

    Kudos to everyone that picked up Dolly’s dominant character and the locked-away, jail/fortress aspect. Plus Otto’s name means money, and Dolly kept her Otto (read – ‘money’) in house arrest (read – ‘in the bank vault’). So I think those people that got clues about banks, money or bank robbers, were pretty spot on!

    I’m impressed! Well done!

    BTW Mon (short for Monica) means ‘advisor’!!! Can you tell??? ha ha 🙂

  4. Brett

    Thanks Anna for another enjoyable experiment , from the moment I commit I constantly check the site for the results , youre the only person I know of that offers these type of experiments and it’s greatly appreciated , I struggled with the deception of these two people , I was really blocked and that made me even more interested, well done and thanks again

  5. Anju

    I enjoyed this exercise, thank you Anna and all others too. It has encouraged my to continue. I pick up information at times and I often wonder if it is my imagination or if it is true. Sometimes I wondered if I am intuitive at all. I picked up a lot of correct information and that has helped me build my confidence.

  6. Angela

    Hi all

    The things I learned about my intuitive guidance from doing this experiment is that I get information in symbols and metaphors and I should consider this when interpreting. I thought of my (controlling) mother, when reading “Dolly” and I mistakenly took that to signify that she was his mother, or was a mother. Neither of those is true, but she was a ‘mother figure’ to him in a strange sort of twisted way.

    I did that last time… interpreted literally when it was more symbolic.

    Thank you Anna for offering these experiments

  7. Laura

    So I just saw this in my email and all that showed up was the man’s photo… I didn’t want to click open the link and expose myself to the answer so I just tried to read his face alone and this are the notes I took, before I read the full article that exposes who he (and she) really were:
    dual life
    dual personality
    hides a part of himself
    violent side, anger, rage, guns, violence, dominance, abuse
    very intelligent, learns quickly, bright
    medical or something to do with bodies, unconscious or dead bodies
    quirky, fun loving
    likes to laugh, tickling games
    shame and self loathing but compulsive
    propensity for evil
    dark side
    pluto in gemini

  8. Ina

    You might like to check out the movie from 1968 with Shirley MacLaine
    “The Bliss of Mrs.Blossom.”
    It’s a movie loosely based on these two.

  9. Stacey

    Interesting… my guess was that she was his mother. Seems I wasn’t right but no so far off base either.

  10. Lisa carey

    Hi Anna

    I am always too embarassed to send you my answers for fear of being wrong. I lanes that I am really improving on these. The first things I read were Harold and maude, mother figure and then went into building, author and batman (when that came out I nearly fell off my chair) to name a few.

    I have learned that I need to trust myself more but also clarify my answers further to gain greater insights.

    Love these exercises, thanks

  11. kelly

    That was fun! The last one I did was far from the mark yet this one was the opposite. It’s great as I’ll be more confident next time 🙂 Thank you for preparing these exercises for us.

  12. A.J. Kposowa

    Looking at the photos that man would be a scary person to meet…just something very unpleasant about him. He’s hyper intense, may keep his emotions to himself if you meet him but one could still feel the extremely fiery vibes the guy emits. The woman is also intense, but is outgoing and expressive. I think that she might be a scary person to hang out with too.

  13. Mon

    I finally worked out why my first (and repeated) impressions were that Otto was a stroke victim and seemed half paralysed. Like Angela said above, clues aren’t always literal, but can be symbolic and metaphorical. I kept intuiting Otto was paralysed because while living in Dolly’s attic, his movements were limited to the confines of her attic and house. So instead of a literal translation of physical paralysis, Otto’s entire life and experiences for 9 years were basically ‘paralysed’ and half lived due to his restrictive attic lifestyle!
    Oh my cryptic clues!!!

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