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How to Plan a Murder Mystery Dinner Party

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Hot cider, cool nights and more horror movies than I can count — spooky season must be upon us. So instead of the usual, custom-optional, Halloween parties I decided to spice things up a bit. With the help of a kit from Amazon and a few friends, I decided to celebrate my favorite time of the year by throwing a Haunted Murder Mystery Dinner Party. 

That’s right, 17 people were invited to Bledsoe Manor Oct. 17 — Clue style, on illustrated invitations. Each invite was assigned a role in the murder mystery, everyone gathered for a dinner party celebrating Lord Heathcliff’s wedding to his young French wife, Em Fatale, played by senior Kara Auvray. But before the celebrations could begin, Lord Heathcliff was *gasp* murdered in his pool house. 

The game was played in three acts — the mingling phase, the dinner phase and the dessert phase. Each character’s invitation came equipped with questions to ask other guests to try and discover the murderer, and answers for when they themselves were interrogated. 

But my favorite part of all was the end, when everyone stood in a circle and discussed who the murderer was.

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The planning process wasn’t too consuming, but I have a few tips to help ease the process if you’re planning on throwing the best Halloween murder mystery dinner party.  When it came to planning my murder mystery extravaganza, Amazon Prime was my best friend. It provided me with a plethora of murder mystery online kits. And with my Amazon Prime one-day shipping, I was provided with made-up character information for 20 undecided guests, ranging from a mysterious butler to the doctor that never actually got his medical license. 

Next was the guest list — 17 of my closest friends that I somehow convinced to come to my house on a Thursday night for a spontaneous dinner party. I decided to choose my most outgoing friends to ensure they would follow along with my evening filled with costumes, horrible English accents (or Scottish in my case) and a feast of chicken pot pie from Costco.

Then, I moved on to the characters — because I’m extremely extra, I re-typed and re-designed all of the character cards — with the help of designed-obsessed Lilah Faye of course. But even if you don’t change the characters in the $15 Amazon kit, you can still have an amazing party. As long as all of your guests can make it, because crafting the character relationships, only to have one person bail last minute — thanks, Carolyn — leads to chaos at the dinner table.  

After hours of voice typing — meaning Siri did the brunt of the work — the character cards, the next step was decorations. I set up a red tablecloth and put fake spider webs from floor to ceiling to add to the haunted theme, further strengthening the ominous decorations with a spooky soundtrack my dad found on Spotify. Old-fashioned candelabras illuminated the room, which my mom found in the deep crevices of our basement. So I set the table for 17, while my mom frantically vacuumed the entire house.

 

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Now the party: as I waited for all the guests to arrive I adorned myself in a long black dress with a white apron — my best attempt at a prude maid — and worried about whether my guest were going to fully commit to their character like I did. Fortunately, they dove right in.

The mingling phase began.  Everyone crammed into my entry hallway and began interrogating anyone and everyone they could —  all with the goal of meeting all the suspects in only 20 minutes. 

Among the visitors at Bledsoe Manor were the deceased Lord Heathcliff’s daughter, played by junior Phoebe Hendon, who stood to inherit the entire will in Lord Heathcliff’s death —  making her sound pretty guilty. There was Em Fatale, Lord Healthcliff’s beautiful young widow, who just happened to get married after three weeks of knowing the dude for some priceless antique she wanted to collect — allowing my dreams of living in a gold digging telenovela to become a reality for a night. 

Then we had Ginger Schnapps, played by senior Aislinn Menke, the young famous wedding photographer who had met Lord Heathcliff only once before but still found herself invited to the wedding. Oh, and the 14 other suspects, but those were the highlights. I mean, with 17 characters it was hard to keep track of everyone, especially  considering Inspector Denaux, played by senior Reilly Moreland was screaming she ‘knows the murderer’ every five minutes.

After everyone became acquainted, dinner was served. When the guests were seated EM Fatale clinked her glass and stood for a five-minute all-french speech as the guests stood in confusion — later learning it was about her remorse for her late husband — shout out to French 6 with Madame Losey. 

Ginger Schnapps downed a whole bottle of sparkling apple cider with British Hot shot, Sierra Tango, played by senior Lila Tulp, who was constantly demanding a light for her cigarette — or in her case, just some rolled up white paper. And this was all before dinner was even over, so I guess you could say it was a lot more interesting that my usual Thursday-night TV dinners.

As the night progressed, more hints dropped as to the murderer’s true identity, that is if you could even hear them over the chaos. The Reverend, played by junior Tommy Paulus, and Ginger were constantly screaming at each other because one of them had to have been the murderer. While Investigator Denaux stood on a chair and screamed in Em Fatale’s face because ‘the wife always does it.’ Which left me cracking up over my friends attempts to immerse themselves in the 1900s. 

Along the way, we learned that Ginger Schnapps canceled her trip last minute to make it to this dinner party and that Miss Witherings, played by me, was secretly in love with Lord Heathcliff.

By dessert, the room was complete chaos — filled with screaming and pointing at who they “knew” had to be the murderer without any actual evidence to back up their claim. The tallies came out to be two votes for Em Fatale, two for Ginger Schnapps, four for Cinders and four for Sierra Tango — whose vote count increased once people learned that in addition to being the Police Commissioner, she was an exotic dancer. 

When it was finally revealed that the murderer was indeed photographer Ginger Schnapps, there was an uproar while everyone claimed they knew it all along, and the investigator held out her notebook for everyone to see her chicken-scratched “Ginger did it,” and proceeded to lead her out of the house in makeshift handcuffs.

Although the evening certainly took a lot of planning, when I was sent back to the reality of AP statistics homework and mundane family dinners, I found myself missing being surrounded by all my friends.  For one night, I dined in a spooky English Mansion with a killer and over 16 of the craziest, most outgoing characters around — all without leaving my home. If you ever want to spice up your spooky celebrations, I highly recommend throwing a murder mystery extravaganza. 

Who dunnit

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Author Spotlight

Sarah Bledsoe

Sarah Bledsoe
Senior Sarah Bledsoe is excited for her third year on staff as a designer and sports editor for print. Outside of Harbinger, you can find Sarah in the library doing practice debates, playing tennis, and enjoying the amazing IB program. »

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