There’s nothing like spending a Saturday summer night on the couch with snacks and a scandalous Lifetime movie. The network’s latest, Lover In The Attic, debuts on Aug. 18 and the title gives away some basics about the plot. It may seem outlandish to get away with hiding a paramour inside a home, but Lover In The Attic is based on a real life-incident that happened in the ‘20s. It has all the trappings of a disturbing romance novel with a shocking killer twist.
Lover In The Attic dramatizes the case of Walburga “Dolly” and Fred Oesterrich whose marriage, according to Atlas Obscura, ended tragically when Fred was killed by Dolly’s lover Otto. Actor Molly Burnett, a.k.a. the movie version of Dolly, posted an official synopsis on her Instagram page to promote the movie. According to the description, Dolly and her husband Fred (David Fierro) seem to have a perfect marriage, until she meets their repairman Otto (Kevin Fonteyne).
She moves him into the attic for “easy access” and all is well until she has an intense argument with her husband on night. Otto comes down from the attic and kills Fred in a rage, so they have to figure out how to cover up the murder. Unfortunately, Lifetime has not released a preview clip for this movie, but the description alone is enough to pique viewers’ interest.
It remains to be seen how close the Lifetime dramatization is to the actual events, which were detailed in a New York Times piece. In real life, Fred was the wealthy owner of a Milwaukee apron factory and an alleged heavy drinker, while Dolly was reportedly sexually unsatisfied and unhappy.
In 1913, 33-year-old Dolly allegedly seduced a 17-year-old repairman named Otto Sanhuber, and the two began a lengthy affair. Their hookups started out in hotel rooms but quickly moved closer to home when she moved him into the attic she shared with her husband. For years, Fred was apparently convinced that his home was haunted because of noises from upstairs and strange shadows in the middle of the night. So, he decided to relocate to Los Angeles in 1918.
Dolly went along with the move and somehow snuck her boyfriend into yet another attic. But, the strange and secret love affair came to a crashing halt on Aug. 22, 1922 during a violent altercation between the married couple. Otto revealed himself and shot Fred three times in the chest with a rifle. According to the same profile, the couple decided to make it look like a home invasion and staged a robbery scene with Dolly tied up in a closet and Otto safely hiding in the attic.
But, Otto continued to live in the shadows as Dolly started dating her lawyer Herman Shapiro. She reportedly even asked yet another lover, Roy Klumb, to throw away the murder weapon in a nearby tar pit. Dolly’s luck came to an end when she broke up with Klumb, and he told the police about the weapons.
She also told Shapiro to bring food to her “half-brother” in the attic, and Otto confessed to their sexual history. Of course, Shapiro eventually told the police about Otto and the murderous lovers became the subject of media scrutiny following their arrests.
According to The Richest, Otto was convicted of manslaughter but later released because his case was past the statue of limitations. He disappeared into obscurity and was never heard from again. Dolly also caught a break when her trial ended with a hung jury and the charges against her were dropped in 1936. She stayed in LA until her death in 1961.
It’s hard to believe that Lover In The Attic is based on real events, but there’s no need to fabricate drama when the truth is so bizarre.