Murder Mystery Dinner
“Murder at the Prom” with the Warren-Newman Party
It’s 1987, and the graduating class of the prestigious Gladstone Preparatory Academy have gathered to celebrate their senior prom. The students have brought some awesomely righteous style to the school’s well-pedigreed halls: the grand stone mansions that make up Gladstone’s campus can’t dampen the big hair, shoulder pads, Day-Glo, and chunky jewelry of this graduating class.
But just as the Prom King and Queen are about to be crowned, a cry rings out—there’s been a murder!
It would be an understatement to say that this is, like, totally bogus.
While everyone waits for the police to reach Gladstone’s secluded campus, fourteen students are sequestered in the Headmaster’s Residence—those who knew the victim or were somehow connected to the crime scene. Possible suspects.
With nothing to do until the authorities arrive, and a murderer potentially among them, the assembled group will try to sleuth out the mystery and bring the killer (or killers?) to most excellent justice.
In real life, the 1987 Class of Gladstone Academy is a group of friends assembled for a Murder Mystery Dinner Party at E.B. Morgan House. Hosted by Tam and Brian Warren, this is the second dastardly caper that the group has come together to solve—fully costumed, each with their own character to play, while enjoying a dinner served by our catering team.
The victim, Scott Mahoney, had made enemies as well as friends during his four years at Gladstone: admired for his athleticism, loathed for his King-of-Campus attitude. Despite repeatedly humiliating students he considered weaker than himself, his Division 1 achievements allowed him to dodge expulsion; even among his friends, his arrogant confidence made him hard to trust completely. Totally not a stellar dude—but still, no one deserves to drown (or to be drowned?) in a locker room toilet bowl.
The Murder Mystery Dinner is a special add-on for guests who are enjoying a private rental of one of our inns. The event hosts work with our team to coordinate the event: hosts choose a mystery scenario for their group and select the menu for their catered dinner. The scenarios are pre-determined and centered around a particular theme—everything from a traditional Agatha Christie-style whodunit to a more fanciful narrative set in Ancient Rome. A member of our team serves as the game organizer throughout the evening, making sure that the rules are followed and the game stays on track. Each guest is assigned a character to play as, with clues they must reveal or conceal. Costumes are always encouraged!
For their second Murder Mystery dinner at the Inns of Aurora, Tam and Bryan wanted a theme that was more lighthearted than the traditional “Murder at the Winery” scenario that they’d previously played. “Murder at the Prom” fit the bill, offering a fun twist on the typical mystery and providing their guests with more expressive costume options than the typical ties and cocktail dresses.
“I couldn’t have killed Scott!” protested Ronnie Farber, whose prom tux had been suspiciously soaked with water when he appeared on the dancefloor. “We may have had our differences, but I’m not a killer!”
Bryan Warner, the co-host of the event, said that their group was eager to come back for a second murder mystery after their first experience. “It’s a great thing to do to occupy the winter,” says Bryan. “We’re all from Ithaca, and coming up to Aurora gets you out of town… it feels like you’re on vacation, and the houses are all picture-perfect, like something out of a movie.”
Some guests who are choosing whether to do their first murder mystery might be uncertain about dressing up and playing a character for an evening. But according to Bryan—who doesn’t consider himself an especially theatrical person—the group experience brings the fun out of everyone.
“It gets conversations and humor going that you wouldn’t hear otherwise,” says Bryan. “Our group gets together pretty regularly, we all know each pretty well, and this is a way to get out of the norm.”
In fact, few of the guests had done anything like this before their first mystery with the Warren party.
Before the game begins, the guests reveal their costumes as they descend E.B. Morgan’s central staircase to cheers and applause from their friends. Anyone who’s been to a themed house party or a Halloween dance can appreciate the energy here: part fashion show, part comedy routine, fun for everyone.
Peter Grossman is playing the character of Ronnie Farber, wearing a metallic silver suit, a pocket protector, and a resplendent mullet wig. He says that he’s never participated in an event like this before, and while he did some theater in high school, this is definitely outside of the ordinary.
“It’s a bucket list thing,” says Peter. “I didn’t have to be convinced at all, I’m up for anything. This is gonna be fun.”
Once the guests have gathered in the parlor, with drinks and hors d'oeuvres, the game organizer reviews the scenario and the rules. Each player is given a printed dossier of information: a description of the scenario and the other characters, as well as a list of clues about their own character—some which they must reveal during the course of the game, and some which they’ll try to keep hidden. After the introductions, the group moves to the dining room, where the meal is served and the game begins.
“Of course I wanted him gone!” exclaimed Principal Johnson. “Yes, okay, I might have paid Croonberg to pass him so that he would graduate and get out of my hair. But I didn’t want him gone enough to kill him!”
As the guests enjoy their meals, the game organizer is always on hand to help things run smoothly: making sure that no important clues get lost, gently nudging the questioning to keep the game on track, and helping players with the rules. The guests frequently drop character to socialize as themselves—but the game is always going in the background, ready to be picked up again. By the end of the meal, everyone has at least an educated guess about who the culprit is. There are no losers, and no one gets left behind.
“Nobody suspects the nerdy ones, but you’re right, it was me!” proclaimed the ironically-named Jill Harm. “I hated the way he treated my friends, especially Ronnie, and he wasn’t going to get away with it any more!”
With the game completed and the table cleared, the guests retire to their rooms or gather in the parlor to keep the evening going. The beauty of a private rental is that none of the guests have to worry about after-dinner transportation: everyone is free to relax and have another glass of wine before wandering upstairs to bed. With another case closed for Brian and Tam Warner and their group of part-time sleuths, there’s always another Murder Mystery dinner to look forward to.
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