During the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, I developed a new passion – murder.
No, not committing them, obviously, but in solving them.
And it’s all through a game.
My wife, Celeste, and I have enjoyed murder mystery party games with our friends for quite awhile. Those are the games where each person acts out a part in a play, even dressing as their character and answering and sometimes eluding questions as all the guests gather to try and solve the case.
This new game is just Celeste and I, working together, sifting through clues and evidence while figuring out who murdered a famous actress in the 1930s in a New York City theater and placed her body in a trunk that remained in an attic until it was found 80 years later.
It’s a mail-order subscription called “Hunt a Killer.” We signed up for a six-month option where you get a new part of the mystery to solve every month mailed to you in a box. For the first box, we figured out what the murder weapon was. Now, with each new box, we are eliminating a suspect.
It’s a fascinating experience that connects the past to the present day. We are working for a modern-day private investigator firm and were “hired” by the granddaughter of the theater’s owner, who includes a letter in every box containing some encouragement and historical information about the theater. She also provides us with online links that contain puzzle-solving hints, background details, photographs – even a playlist of songs and cocktail recipes from the 1930s.
The game’s strength is in its details – what seem like official police and forensic reports, authentic autopsy results, personal letters (you can even see the indentations from the typewriter), photographs, newspaper clippings, train schedules and a ticket, a telegram, a delivery receipt and much more.
It isn’t all just paper items. So far, four boxes into the case, we’ve received a monogrammed handkerchief, a coin purse, a wedding ring and a cigarette case, all fitting into the mystery.
There is no game board, no instructions or rules on what order to proceed. But there is plenty of evidence to go over, cyphers and codes to crack, and old letters to read and connect with the mystery.
Once you believe you’ve solved the mystery in a box, you send an email to your client who verifies if you’ve made the right conclusion. So far, we’re four-for-four. But it hasn’t been easy and I’ll admit that we’ve missed a clue here and there.
There are no time limits in the game. You can proceed at your own pace. And that works well for Celeste and I. We like pouring over the evidence and tossing around ideas of what this or that could mean. The game has been the centerpiece of our date nights for quite a few weeks now.
Solving a secret cypher or using logic to eliminate a suspect is satisfying. But the best part of the game, and I’m sure Celeste would agree, is working together toward a common goal, sharing the same, fun experience, and for at least a few hours, escaping from COVID’s grip by expanding our imaginations.
It’s a killer way to spend an evening.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.