by Pamela Lanier
Murder most foul … what an intriguing way to bring guests to your inn. Murder mysteries have always held the public’s imagination and the idea of combining travel and murder is a temptation hard to resist. Hosting a murder mystery weekend requires no special props or acting abilities, just a willingness to have fun.
If prospective guests are a bit timid, reassure them that they can play their character as passive as they like. They can sit on the couch and let people come to them, approach each character off to the side or they can just listen in on other conversations until they get their feet wet and are feeling a bit more comfortable.
For innkeepers who don’t know how to get started, for 16 years, “How to Host a Murder” by Decipher Inc. has helped creative hosts and hostesses to throw unique and entertaining dinner and weekend parties centered around clever, light-hearted murder mystery plots.
Everything necessary to bring the amusing mystery to life over the course of an evening or weekend is included.
• Complete invitations that assign each guest a role, describing the character and giving costume suggestions.
• A host guide providing details on how the mystery should be played out, as well as menu suggestions, recipes and tips on creating the perfect setting
• A cassette or CD that sets the scene for the mystery
• Player manuals that give each “suspect” the inside scoop on their own motives and activities as well as revealing tidbits about their fellow suspects
As an example, “Saturday Night Cleaver” answers fans’ calls for a disco-themed episode and features a CD with bonus “period music” to help set the mood as players disco down to a solution. To find out more about Decipher Inc. visit their web site at http://www.decipher.com/partyzone/ .
There are lots of inns using Murder Mystery Weekends to fill their rooms.
• Austin Hill Inn in West Dover, Vermont offer suspense and fun-filled weekends where guests assume the roles of suspects, murderers and victims – everyone gets to play detective. The weekend for two includes 2 nights accommodations, a full country breakfast each morning, a dessert reception on Friday evening, a complimentary wine & cheese reception on Saturday evening, individual Murder Mystery character packets, a candlelight 4-course Mystery dinner with complimentary wine and an awards breakfast on Sunday.
• In Petersburg, VA, La Villa Romaine’s weekends include an evening social time on Friday night for all Mystery sleuths, a gourmet breakfast for two on Saturday and Sunday morning, and lunch on Saturday afternoon. Guests will also enjoy a Saturday afternoon winery tour and dinner at the Williamsburg Winery, or a day at Colonial Downs Horse Racetrack in the Jockey Club including an exquisite buffet.
• The Stone Lion Inn in Guthrie, OK offers murder mystery scenarios that take place during previous eras, usually the 1920’s, 30’s, or 40s. About a week before guests arrive, they receive a packet of information in the mail explaining details about the mystery. They are assigned characters along with a short biography. The packet also provides suggestions for dress, what time to arrive, and a list of movies to watch in order to get into the mood for murder. It also contains actual news stories about the events of the era in which the murder occurs.
• The Wedgwood Manor in Crawford Bay, BC offers 2 nights accommodation, with full breakfast, one dinner at Wedgwood Manor, an evening wine and cheese party and a weekend’s immersion in a turn-of-the-century drama!
If an entire weekend sounds like too much work, there are also mysteries that are just for one evening, like:
• In Clyde, Ohio, The Davenport House offers a Valentine’s Weekend Mystery Dinner. It includes an evening of fun and prizes and a fabulous dinner all with a twist, each of the guests needs to track down the clues, question suspects and figure out the physical evidence to solve the “Case of the Deadly Hearts Club”.
• If you want to introduce even more locals to your inn, have a Murder Mystery dinner only on a weekday night. You can give them a tour or have separate rooms serve as different areas for the mystery. You’ll be surprised at how many sleuths live in your neighborhood.
Or, if you prefer something a little tamer:
• Why not have a film festival starring Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes or Hercules Poirot movies.
• Or even create a library of Murder Mystery books and have dates when book lovers gather to discuss their favorite authors during afternoon tea or special dinners.
The bottom line on Murder Mystery events is that they are fun and attractive to guests. Some may be staying at an inn for the first time because of their interest in this genre. It’s the perfect way to open inn-going to a whole new guest list. And, this kind of event allows innkeepers, in this price conscience environment, to give guests’ added value, without having to discount rates.
Pamela Lanier is author of The Complete Guide to Bed & Breakfasts, Inns and Guesthouses, presently in its 18th annual edition, host of TravelGuideS.com available on over 7,000 Internet sites and portals and, with a membership of over 6,000 inns, hers is the largest organization worldwide of independent innkeepers.
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