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How to Plan and Host Your Own Murder Mystery Party

Home > Everywhere > Unusual Things to do | Party Ideas | How To
by Elizabeth Dempsey (subscribe)
Brisbane university student and aspiring writer constantly satisfying my craving for adventure and experiencing the diversity of life. Come explore Queensland with me. What will I get up to next?
Published May 19th 2013
The murderer is one of you
A lot of us humans have a twisted interest in the macabre. We only really have ourselves to blame for the perpetual stream of crime shows that smatter across our TV guides. We may not all enjoy the latest edition of CSI, however, there is a certain satisfaction in solving a mystery. Especially when the murderer is among your friends. Yes, you can go out there and buy a murder mystery kit, however, a better night is promised if you tailor make your own mystery. Who knows how to have fun better than you do?

Step One: Choose a theme and pick a date. If you like themes you can pretty much incorporate anything into this party. If you want a classic mystery theme, go with 1920's circa Agatha Christie. Themes that I would suggest are medieval, supernatural (all your guests take upon supernatural characters such as zombies, witches and fairies), masquerade or a favourite television show or book of yours. The options are as endless as your imagination. Get thinking.

Step Two: Choose your location. Your home would probably suffice as long as there is enough room to sleuth around in. If you have a bigger budget or your aim is to carefully set the scene, consider renting out a location worthy of an Agatha Christie novel. Depending on your theme your location could be anywhere. Clubs, museums, observatories, farms….

murder mystery party
The characters all in their place

Step Three: Before you send out your invites, you have to create a general character for your guests. You will give them motives and make them more complex in your later planning stages. For now create a guest list and design and assign a character for each. A smaller guest list is better for this kind of party but is not necessary. If you choose the supernatural theme, for example, one friend could be the last surviving zombie of an old apocalypse. Another could be a fairy with a gambling problem (for adult parties). This is just so your guests know what to wear. Outfits/costumes are definitely recommended. All your characters should be linked to your location or to the host in some way. For example, all a part of the same business like a hotel, class mates or maybe they all are simply friends with the host. And the last one is even art imitating life.

murder mystery party
Remember to set the scene. If you have time maybe try and make a poster?

Step Four: Create your invitations and send them out to your honoured guests giving each their persona for the night. By mail is always a nice touch. Plus, you can have more interesting invites than a Facebook screen this way.

Step Five: Now you should plan your structure for the night. I hosted my own which was fun but also meant I missed out on a lot of activities and knew who the murderer was in advance. Creating the characters and the plot, however, was a highlight of my host role. I took influence for my night from an old murder party kit I had due to time constraints. However, I added a few of my own characters and made the plot a bit more juicy. My character for the host was 'Holly Spirit' (pun intended). I am, however, planning a supernatural one in a few months and these steps will be my bible. If you do want to get in on the game ask someone else to create the character profiles and choose the murderer for you. If you are younger and live with your parents consider asking them or maybe ask a friend. If you have a big budget consider hiring a party planner for a night of big surprises.

murder mystery party
Dusty Tails feigning innocence?

What I did for mine was create a little booklet for everyone with their character name on the front. Inside was their back story, their relationships and feelings towards other characters and their motive for killing the victim (my victim was a balloon shaped person in army fatigues floating in my pool). For example this is what I had for Paula Muscle's (pun still very much intended) back story:

You ran away from home at age 17. Hitchhiking across the country-and getting no rides- helped build up your legs to a point where you could easily get work as an aerobics instructor. However, after you were caught stealing from the gym office, you decided to disappear for a summer, and take a job at the Summerlot Resort. That first summer, you found yourself in the arms of David (the victim) whenever his wife Goldie was not looking. You loved it here. Everyone knew it. And you thought the world would change when the two divorced, but David still kept a distance.

How you feel about the characters (use this to govern your interactions during the game):

David: He ruined your life with his empty romantic promises but you loved him despite it all.

Eve: Jealous. You secretly suspect that David also has had an affair with her.

Juan: Kinda cute. If David was not around- wait, he is not around- well, maybe…

Moe: Moe who?

Goldie: If she would have just gotten out of the picture life would have been wonderful.

Carly: You hate that she knows David's secrets.

Dusty: You see the way she moons (well mooned) over David and you hate(d) it.

The booklet also included three clues to be divulged throughout the night and details of the character's last encounter with the victim. The last page, that they are not to read until the end, tells them whether or not you they are the murder. The page looked like this: Paula Muscle, please continue to read this page until the very end. Do not look up, do not speak aloud and do not indicate that you know anything. You are not the murderer, which is great for you. But, please keep reading so nobody else could think that you aren't. Keep nodding and shaking your head, whatever you like. Just do not look up until you reached the end of this page.
Now sigh and look up.

You will also have to plan the structure of the night. Here is a suggested plan:

Once all have arrived the host welcomes everyone and the guests introduces themselves with their new persona. Everyone parties about for a while but then you have a planned disturbance such as someone screaming murder or someone coming in and staging their death. The host takes everyone out to the source of the disturbance to find the victim. If you plan to incorporate food maybe have an entrée course here. Play a game of your choice and the winner is rewarded with information. During the main course everyone is given three clues in their booklets to share during the meal. Another game of your choice is played after the main course and the winner is given a clue. Dessert time occurs after the game. Post dessert everyone tells the groups about their final encounter with the victim as their booklet detail. Everyone then writes down on a slip of paper who they think the murderer is and their name. These are given to the host. The host then commands that the guilty party come forward and read their confession (in the booklet). The night well then consist of: partying hard.

Another way for a would be to scatter clues about the premises and the guests to make conclusions by themselves. This is a party for a super sleuth and for someone who does not care too much for structure.

Step Five: The night is here. Decorate your scene and ACTION.

With a bit of time and creativity, you could create the murder of your dreams. See if you or your friends have a hidden Sherlock inside.
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Why? For a party with a bit of intrigue. To keep those brain juices pumping.
When: Whenever.
Where: Your house or a place you've rented out.
Cost: Depends on your budget. Food, decorations, location should be taken into consideration. Could be very reasonable.
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