Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Otto Sanhuber: The Man in the Attic Case

Kept Man

Many cultures, principally Muslim, have a custom called purdah of keeping women in seclusion. By forbidding females to move freely within the world of men, they hope to make certain that there is no chance a child could be fathered by anyone other than a husband and thus keep bloodlines pure.

Otto Sanhuber was a man who, for different reasons, chose to live in his own, unique sort of purdah.

Neil Harris plays Otto living in the attic
Neil Harris plays Otto living in the
Dolly told Otto about the nosy neighbor and suggested that having him always coming and going would cause the two of them problems. She proposed that he move into the attic so he could be there all the time. Otto liked this plan. It meant he got free room and board. It also meant he would be close to the woman he loved at all times. He would have to quit his work as a repairman but he didnt care. The young man had long nursed a dream of being a writer and this arrangement would give him the time he needed to work on that skill.

The attic was cleaned up and furnished with an oil lamp, a comfortable mattress and a chamber pot. Otto brought reading material as well as a pencil and paper into his new home. During the day, Otto did household chores, sweeping floors, dusting, washing dishes, peeling vegetables and performing various domestic duties.

On nights when the Oesterreichs went out as a couple, or Fred Oesterreich was out by himself, Otto could leave his purdah for a bit of evening exercise.

Dolly put a padlock on the door to the attic and carried the key herself so Fred would not be able to slip up there. Her husband asked about the padlock and she easily replied, I want to keep my furs in a safe place.

Of course, Dolly Oesterreich had duties at the factory and was not home most days. However, she pretended to be ill often enough that Otto and she could enjoy their relationship.

There was a distinct disadvantage to this arrangement. Otto was now living directly above his lover and her husband. He needed to be extra careful when he moved around lest he accidentally alert Fred to his presence.

The position of the attic meant that Otto could hear the sounds of the woman he adored making love with her husband. While having sex, Dolly urged Fred not to be so noisy. He asked why and she replied, Oh, you never know who might hear us and it would be embarrassing.

Who the hell can hear us? an understandably puzzled Fred asked.

Oh, nobody I guess, Dolly relented.

According to Alan Hynd, after one such night of marital passion, a jealous Otto confronted Dolly. She reminded him that she could not leave her husband since she had no saleable skills and no funds of her own. She had to stay married and that meant she had to have sex with Fred.

Otto eventually agreed that he would not harass her about her marital lovemaking.

About a year passed when Fred Oesterreich became troubled by odd noises. He and his wife were in bed when he thought he heard something like a man clearing his throat.

What was that? Fred asked his wife.

Youre imagining things, an unruffled Dolly told him. Now go to sleep.

Fred Oesterreich settled back against the covers of his bed next to his wife. Suddenly he bolted upright. I wasnt imagining that! he said.

You certainly are imagining things, Dolly said in exasperation. Its only a rat or a mouse. If you want to know something, youre drinking too much.

When the Oesterreichs were going out at night, Dolly made it a regular practice to release the trap door to the attic just before leaving. Otto would listen for the sound of the couple closing their front door. As soon as he heard that, he would run down the stairs and gorge himself on the hearty German food all three of them loved: rye bread, cheeses, liverwursts, bologna and anything else edible that happened to be in the house.

Fred Oesterreich was sometimes baffled when he looked at food that had been left over from the previous day. He sat down at the table with his wife and, when he saw the small size of the roast before him, asked Dolly what happened to the meat. She managed to convince him that he had eaten it the night before when he had been drunk. That explanation seemed to satisfy him.



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