Murder Mystery: Behind the Scenes

Happy Friday everyone! On Wednesday, you may have read the Murder Mystery Party recap from the perspective of the character Mrs. Nellie Ross, but I’m sure you are wondering how this whole thing works! So here is my official review on this particular party set & tips for how I would put on this type of event if I were to host 🙂

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RSVP & Background Info

One of the most crucial aspects of putting on this type of party (especially if there will be more than 10 ppl) is the prep work.  This includes having people rsvp only if they know that they can absolutely make it, and once you have a guest list, assign roles accordingly.  That includes assigning CRUCIAL roles (usually 8-10 ppl) to those that will show up early/on time and in general, roles that sort of fit their personality (as host you are privvy to that).  Then give people PLENTY of time to get a costume/bring food (potluck style works best), so (for costumes especially) I’d say at least a couple weeks.  AND be sure include the background of the party’s setting when you send out the character background. I only knew that it would be set in the 1920s, mobsters would be there and someone would get murdered. While I was given a very brief character background, I was confused why my character as a politician in support of the prohibition would be at such an event. I didn’t even know what the event was for or where this event was supposed to take place.  Also, if I were to buy something like this in the future, I might give more suggestion for backstory to those that are not comfortable making things up (my character is based on a real person, so I actually did lots of research :), see next section)

While I did have to RSVP early (about a month early), I wasn’t given my background info until 5 days before the party, so I really didn’t have much time to shop. Fortunately I had a dress & accessories that worked perfectly for my person 🙂 BUT initially I forgot I had that dress and was in a state of panic trying to find something suitable that I didn’t want to spend much $$ on.  Also, I was a bit confused since we were emailed our background info and told to contact people ahead of time.  But we were not given a full roster of names/email contacts, so nobody could do that. And after I emailed the host about it, we were all told the characters wouldn’t be revealed until the night of the party. I was confused. Plus it turns out a couple of the optional players I was supposed to contact were not actually fulfilled by anyone, so I had less people to contact before/during the different rounds of play (more on that later). I’m assuming they had to purchase an expansion pack and that is something bound to happen, so there’s nothing anyone can really do about that…

M2M_murdermystery_BTS1

The Character, The Costume & The Makeup

Since I’m a very curious person, I typed my character’s name into Google and found that my character (with a slight name change) was based on a REAL HISTORICAL person!  I highly encourage you google more about her, but here is a quick summary and my thoughts on why I think she is inspirational:

M2M_Murder_Mystery1Nellie Tayloe Ross was born in 1876 and grew up on a plantation in Missouri along the Mississippi River. She was the first girl and 6th child of her parents James & Elizabeth Tayloe, but certainly not the last.  Her family seemed to be no stranger to tragedy, for 2 of her older siblings had passed away during their time in Missouri, and after their plantation burned down (and was necessary to leave to live near family in Kansas), she lost her younger sister a year later. She was only 4 or 5, but they apparently were very close.  Then, during her high school years, her mother passed from typho-malaria, so once she graduated high school, she worked as piano teacher to help support her dad and younger siblings.  A few years later she pursued the equivalent of a teaching credential to teach kindergarden (and my personal opinion is that she might have wanted that connection to her late young sister whom was that age when she passed). On a trip to Tennessee, she met her would-be husband William Bradford Ross, lawyer in training and corresponded via letters until they married in the early 1900s.

Their first children were twin boys, George and Jason.  A couple years later they had another boy named Alfred, who died of a tragic buggy accident at the age of 10 months.  It wasn’t for another 6 years that they had their 4th and final son William Jr. During her motherhood time, she was very dedicated to her family and was supportive of her husband’s political efforts. In 1922, he was elected governor of Wyoming, but a couple years later passed away from complications during an appendectomy (appendicitis surgery).  The Democratic party asked if she would take over his position as governor, she didn’t reply, but she was nominated and won the special election anyway. It is said between the need to keep busy during early widowhood and the desire to continue supporting her husband’s political issues (child & women worker rights, supporting farmers & tax cuts….)that she accepted the position. She became the first woman to ever be a governor of a state in the US. Mrs. Nellie Ross is still the only woman governor that Wyoming has ever had. *1,2 

M2M_murdermystery_BTS2I was so blown away and inspired by her story. For someone to lose so many loved ones, forced to ‘grow up’ early to help support her family and still managed to make lemonade out of life.  From what I read, she did not aspire to be a politician, but accepted the position gracefully and knew that people would be looking for ANY excuse to see a woman put out of power. She was a composed and seemed a fair woman and I have a new found respect for this woman, whom I had never heard of until this party. Not many characters are based on real people, but I memorized this information (and wrote it from memory), since I was so stoked about becoming this character through this backstory. Plus, she is considered southern from the region she grew up, so I adopted a sweet southern accent. People got confused though since I was the governor of Wyoming, but people can grow up in other parts of the country, hello! Since my dress suggestions were conservative 1920s, I donned a long black dress (V neck I know, but best I could do!), with a bolero jacket and long black gloves. AND I was determined to do finger waves 🙂

The Event

 M2M_Murder_Mystery2Overall, I think having one large room worked well since there were places to sit, but still lots of places to stand and congregate. Once everyone arrived (2 crucial characters were VERY late), we were given our ROUND 1 info cards that included things to say/ask and people to talk to.  Some people didn’t remember who there character was and were wary of making things up, but most people really got into it (myself included, and I was the only one who pulled of an accent for the majority of the night 🙂 ). In the middle, we had an unscramble game (was fun) and then we were given our ROUND 2 cards that had more things to do/say as well as included our ‘alibi’ for the murder.  I also got this cute little notebook from Target (came in a 2 pack for 75 cents) to take notes during the party, including the ‘scandalous’ rumors overheard. I added the glitter ribbon for a feminine touch. People thought I was suspicious while writing things down in the book, but in hindsight, I was actually fulfulling my character’s role by ‘noting’ all the illegal activity to send to the ‘federal authorities’ I apparently had a direct connection to as a politician (the fake backstory).

IMG_3847 We all wore nametags as a way to find the other characters we were supposed to converse with, however most females wore dressy material that resisted the adhesive….we found that skin worked better. Unfortunately my arms were covered and I opted not to put it on my forehead or on my chest, so I just had to deal with the falling off tag…Ok onto our ‘scripts: to the left is an example of what each character was given: printouts from Rounds 1, 2, & 3 as well as an ‘evidence’ sheet showing finger prints extracted from the murder weapon (and character names associated) as well as an info sheet for those to try to figure out the murderer.

By the time the ‘investigation’ rolled around (passing out those sheets), everyone was pretty much tired. And then we all had to read this script to say why we didn’t do it. My character had the option of being murdered at the end for saying how appalled I was at the whole event and having some mob person shoot me in the back. That didn’t happen, but it was a bit drawn out having all the characters do that. Plus the sentences were very silly and included phrases like “bees knees” etc…Then when the final person had to go up, they read their lines and we found out that they did it. But the weird part is, they didn’t actually find out till the final round.  I did more research after this game and found that some games do this, but others dont.  Not sure why a character wouldn’t find out till the end, but none of us designed the game…

Overall

I had the MOST fun playing a character and interacting with everyone else playing a different character.  Plus everyone dressed the part, so it worked out well in that respect!  I think for future events (I didn’t host, but this is what I would do having learned from this experience), plan early (also see first section) and investigate other party boxes as well. Some games I read about focus more on the actual people playing characters, buying and trading secrets, trying to accomplish their own agenda…rather than actually try to solve a murder.  Yes people do die in those games, but the goal is more for role playing than murder solving.  However, if the goal were to be to solve a murder, having more scripted clues might help since there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of information given from each character when you interacted with them. Even if the host had to go in and try to ‘help it along’.  But overall, I think that as long as everyone is having fun it doesnt really matter if the murder gets solved or not. Fun experience for sure!

Have you ever attended a murder mystery party? Would you go if invited?

Also see the recap from my character’s perspective by clicking here!

Sources for Nellie Tayloe Ross:

  1. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nellie_Tayloe_Ross
  2. Short biography: http://www.madeinwyoming.net/profiles/extras/NellieTayloeRossbiography.pdf
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3 thoughts on “Murder Mystery: Behind the Scenes

  1. This sounds like a lot of fun, but A LOT of work for the host! I bet a really well organized one would be awesome, although not sure I want to be the one to organize it! Stuff out of my control like people showing up late, etc. would make me nuts!

    • People being late drove us ALL nuts since we couldn’t start without them! And yes, it would really need SUPER organization to run smoothly (or else you would end up like me and confused at the end…). It was still fun, just a bit frustrating at the beginning and anticlimactic at the end.

      I think you can attend these things at certain hotels or bed & breakfasts. They probably have it down to a T especially if they do it fairly regularly.

  2. I always wanted to go to one of these parties! We have a murder mystery dinner theater near by that I have on my list of places to eat. I just need to convince other people how it will be fun to go with me- LOL
    I have thought about throwing one of my own but I am not organized enough to pull it off I think.

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