Murder Mystery Party 2011

 In Life

Over the weekend, I got a little older…officially. To celebrate this great day, I wanted to do something a little different.

Back in The Mitten, I used to throw parties all the time that could only be described as “epic” and “legendary.” So I wanted to take that tradition and apply it to the start of a legacy party here in Chicago. This required a big idea – something different and fun.

This big idea was a murder mystery party, set in a 1920s speakeasy.

Welcome to the Juice Joint.

Beth and I agreed this would be a fun party, and with Halloween having only been a week previous, another fun opportunity for people to dress up. We found a place online that sold kits, and sent out everyone’s character assignments after they RSVPed, giving them 2 weeks to secure costumes and plan accordingly.

All in all we had 15 people RSVP for the murder mystery (the game can get a lot larger), and another 10-15 people claim they would show up at some point during the eventing. So it was going to be a healthy sized group for celebrating this important day of days.

There was a wide cast of characters, including:
-The Private Eye (me)
-The Juice Joint owner (Beth) and her daughter
-The cigarette girl, the cocktail waitress, the bouncer, and the Diva
-The Chief of Police, the Mayor, the biggest director in Hollywood, and a handful of scarlets
-Nick, the northside mob boss, and Sal, the southside rival
-Nick’s ex wife, current girlfriend, and a slew of other ladies
-Bernie, the “juice” supplier who’s black listed by the bosses
-And many more….

They say “dress to impress” is the way to go, and that applies to your location as well.

Upon arriving, everyone was given an envelope with their pre-murder objectives. I was playing the private investigator, looking into the death of the Juice Joint owner’s husband. I questioned local thugs, staff, old flames, and even some mafia bosses.

Eventually it was time for the Don, Notorious Nick, to make an announcement. Which got cut short. Just like Nick’s life.

They say the Joint has a killer Juice, but in this case it’s literal! Someone done got murdered!

When the murder happened, everyone received a second envelope, revealing new objectives – and for one person, if they were the killer.

What was fun about the game is that everyone had connections to both the original victim, and the victim of the evening. Everyone was a suspect, and everyone had motive. Figuring out who had enough motive to kill became the key piece of the puzzle, and there were a lot of clues to discover throughout the second half of the evening.

Some people had evidence, which they would give – for a price. Others offered up the evidence, wanting the killer found and brought to justice. Other people wanted to hide evidence, or do some back-door peddling of guns. Everyone had something to hide, and no one wanted to be found out.

Everyone has an agenda, and everyone’s a suspect.

The friends who attended the party brought their A game, really getting into character both in dress and in attitude. Some adopted accents, others went full out with costumes and props.

As the evening progressed, people got very comfortable and really wanted to uncover the truth about who done it and more importantly, why Nick was murdered. As evidence continued to filter in, the PI and the Police Chief continued to investigate and interrogate people at the Juice Joint.

The private eye interrogates the club bouncer. “A little hot in here for ya, buddy? Or do you have something to hide?”

Evidence took me around the room to everyone in the place. The ex wife was happy Nick was dead. Turns out Nick had a fling between his wife and girlfriend, which the girlfriend may or may not have known about, and the fling held some resentment. The bouncer was doing more than keeping weapons out of the place. The mayor was running for governor, and had some high hopes for their campaign. The old supplier was trying to get back in with the juice joint owner’s wife.

The list went on, and the motivations were many.

The mayor makes friendly with everyone, including the resident feline of the establishment.

I’m not going to spoil who done it, just in case anyone wants to order this same murder mystery for their own party. In the end, the event took somewhere around 1-2 hours, and everyone had a complete blast. And if you’re worried about it being too easy, know this: only one person guessed the killer correctly!

This party was my birthday present from my girlfriend, and all I really wanted was just for people to show up and have a fun time. And that definitely happened! So much so, people were asking when the next murder mystery would happen. So, out of the gate, the first big Chicago party was a success, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Beth.

It also helps to solidify something that warrants mentioning every now and then, which is that I have the best friends on the planet. Seriously, every single person makes or breaks a party like this, and everyone more than delivered. Everyone dressed up and got into character, everyone had a complete blast, and everyone wanted to come back for more!

The Chief of Police shows off that he’s packing heat. Rumors abound that he’s on the take, but he’ll never admit it.

Some things Beth and I learned from this ordeal:

1) It’s difficult to participate and host at the same time. Especially if you want some great pictures of the event (ie: like for a photo webcomic series). Her and I are thinking next time one of us may host while the other gets to participate, or is the official photographer of the party.

2) Make sure you give character descriptions out early to people, and get them to RSVP and confirm early and often. We had a few last-minute drop outs, which we were easily able to fill from some last-minute interested parties. But we got lucky here. Sure, people’s schedules fluctuate every now and then, but it’s good to have confirmations from your party before you order the kit.

3) Create the scene. Beth went so far to buy brick wall backgrounds for the apartment, and even put in details like signed photos from famous mob bosses, which went behind “the bar.” Mixed with some dim lighting and some period appropriate music, the scene was laid for the perfect location…and the perfect crime!

4) Don’t tell anyone who the killer is. This means you can use the party kit again with another group of friends down the road.

5) Make sure the people you invite have an inner child and an over-active imagination. Thankfully, everyone at the party had these things, and it made the evening perfect. Some people were so in-character they wouldn’t even break when I had to check a text message or answer the phone. “What is this strange device?” they would ask. It was like going to Ren Faire all over again. 😛

6) Props make the game real. Some people brought great props, and shared props with others, which really made the night.

The Chief goes in for the arrest, but has he caught the right man…?

Seriously, this evening was something truly special. And even though not everyone could participate – some people couldn’t make it, some had to leave during, and some couldn’t make it for the beginning but got to enjoy the ending – overall it was an amazing time. I couldn’t have asked for more.

I can’t say thank you enough to my friends and family for being there for me, supporting me over the years, and for making something as awesome as this party happen. You guys all rock, and yes – there will be another party of some sort in the near future!

The PI gets familiar with the Juice Joint owner.

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