Lifestyle

Throwing Our First Murder Mystery Party!!: How It Worked, What We Did, and Everything We Learned

October 21, 2019  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

Portfolio

Projects

Design

We're Chris + Julia

read more

What we're                   right now

Loving

browse the shop

Befores, afters, mood boards, plans, failures, wins. We’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all here. 

We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen. 

Even when you don’t want to rip down a wall, you can make that space in your home better. Right now.

browse all

browse all

browse all

02

01

03

Popular Posts

1.

2.

3.

Top Categories

For the last 8 years, we have hosted a big costume party. It has been so fun, but every year they got larger and larger and larger. The last year we did it, we maxed out at over 200 people. So this year, a move felt like the perfect time to scale back a little and do something new, but equally as fun for us. We decided to host a murder mystery party. We had been to one a decade ago, so we were definitely novices. But it felt like a way to get into the Halloween spirit with a small group of 18 people.

So today, I though I’d recap how we planned and pulled off our first (of many, I think!) murder mystery party.

Choosing a Murder Mystery Party

There are a lot of parties out there to choose from. You can order one from Amazon (I heard good things about this one!) and it will come with everything printed and ready to hand out. I stewed over the decision for a few days mainly because our house is obviously under construction so I really wanted to find one that 1. Fit that set description, or could!  2. Accommodated around 18 people and 3. Really inspired some good costumes–it is Halloween after all!

My search lead me to the My Mystery Party site where they will actually guide you to a murder mystery party that is right for you. We landed on Murder at the Poe’s Raven Party. This was the synopsis:

You have received an invitation to a raven party at the Poe Mansion in the gloomy crime-ridden city of Wraith’s Cove. The town gossips are chattering about the disreputable people on Eddie Poe’s guest list. What could Eddie be thinking? Could it be that Eddie has finally gone mad? It appears that at least the Poe Mansion’s in dire need of assistance. Ever since Eddie’s housekeeper quit, the estate is in shambles.

Nevertheless, you are intrigued by the thought of a Gothic dinner party held in honor of a fiendish bird – even if the group of ruffians may cause chaos. Chaos can be fun sometimes, right? This is where your story begins.

An estate in shambles? Check!! The other positive thing about this option for us was that it was an instant print. We only decided to definitely do this two weeks ago so it was nice to print it out right away and get planning!

Planning

I asked my friend Corine to co-host it with me and that’s my first tip! If you can, having a co-host was a life-saver. Once we got our party, we read through the entire thing together. It comes with complete instructions of what to do when. It even tells you what pages NOT to read if you don’t want to know who the murderer is (which we didn’t), but after that initial read through, Corine handled a lot of the murder mystery logistics–printing off the name tags for everyone, stuffing envelopes (each round, each player gets another clue) and making sure everyone had their character assignments before the party. (We sent these a week prior.) The character assignments give a name, background/occupation and costume suggestions. Corine really helped keep the party organized.

I was in charge of food, decor, prizes (more on that in a minute) and hosted it at our home as well. The party said it would be 3-4 hours, but ours was about 2 and then everyone stayed and hung out for another hour or so.

Heels | Stockings | Skirt | Shirt (old) | Tattoos | Suspenders | Fake Glasses

Food

The party we bought actually came with a full menu suggestion along with when to serve it. We decided to not do a formal sit down dinner with courses (although I can DEFINITELY see us trying that in the future) so that it was a little more casual and everyone could continue to converse and eat the whole time. This is probably why ours was shorter too. Instead, we fill our island with an array of foods that were pretty easy to put together:

A charcuterie board served with all sorts of crackers, tomato soup, cheese fondue with bread, caramel fondue with apples, berries, little smokies, pumpkin spice donuts, donut holes, cookies, mulled apple cider, and we had bowls (and skulls) full of candy everywhere, too.

3 Tiered Serving Tray, Marble tiered tray, Charcuterie board, Glass Dome and wood dessert stand

Decorations

Choosing a party in a run down mansion made my job a little easier, but we still didn’t have any furniture in the living room (something we’re waiting for construction to be over to do). I took the opportunity to go thrifting and see what I could come up with. I found an old tufted couch for $35 and some amazing gothic chairs for $10! It was all I needed to pull the setting together. I layered all the Persian style rugs I had in the living room and added the large mirror from our bedroom to really make the room feel more elaborate and filled.

I used creepy cloth on nearly every flat surface and the chandelier, too. But besides that nothing sets the mood like candles. I ordered 24 black candle sticks from Amazon and bought faux crystal holders at the dollar store to mix in with the sticks I already had. Once everything was lit–it was an immediate mood!

Playing the Part

Having never done this, and also knowing our friends, I wondered–is everyone really going to be acting all night? And the answer was a surprising and enthusiastic–YES. Even the people I was unsure of BROUGHT it. The prompts you are handed at the beginning of every round mention people you’ll want to talk to and things to bring up. So it makes it really easy. Some played their part more than others, which really helped everyone else feel comfortable acting their part. My sister brought a fake pack of cigarettes and chain smoked all night and never broke character once. Preston played an illusionist and did ACTUAL magic tricks! Because you are basically handed conversations to have, it goes a lot smoother than the scenario that might be playing out in your head.

Prizes

We decided to hand out 5 prizes at the end of the night. I just got some nice amber apothecary jars from Target and filled them with Halloween candy. One prize was for who had the most fake money at the end. There was a suggestion in the party we bought, to hand out fake money at the beginning and people could buy secrets from other players. Some people were really good at it! We also gave out a prize for the best actor and best actress. We gave out a prize for the person who guessed the murderer correctly (and first)! And the last prize was for best costume.

All in all, it was a wildly engaging and fun evening and we’ll definitely do it again. We got a lot of questions about where our kids were–they were just upstairs! Polly (our 2 year old) was sleeping and we put on a movie and brought snacks up for our older two. There have been times in the past where we’d get babysitters to stay with them if the youngest was awake though.

Unfortunately, Chris was not well enough to attend the whole party. His doctor said he would be and Chris was really working toward that, but he was just too weak. He came down to say hi to everyone for a few minutes and went back to bed. He encouraged me to go through with it, but he was very very missed.

One thing that I’d really love to improve on or add next year are some butlers. Of course it might not fit the theme, but  I think it would be fun to hire some high schoolers to offer food and drinks to guests–really bring the whole night home. Have you done a murder mystery party before??

 

What do you think?

  1. Irmarie Cervera says:

    Dying to this next Halloween… or any other day! Love it.

  2. Kate Ahn says:

    This is so great! My first job at 14 years old was a murder mystery maid/server at a Victorian bed and breakfast in my hometown! My parents attended a party, made the connection with the owners, called me from the party with the offer and I accepted the job. I would help prep/make the plated dinner, serve it, and act the role of the maid (i.e. scream upon discovering a bloody knife in the bathroom ????). It was one of my most fun jobs.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Oh wow! I loved reading about this. It sounds like so much fun.

  4. Haley says:

    Love this! Wanting to plan one soon! Did you use music to help Create the vibe? If so, would u mind sharing playlist?

    • Julia says:

      We completely forgot music! But that’s an amazing idea.

    • beth says:

      We did one using Phantom of the Opera music which worked really well. Toward the end of the night my teenager made a playlist including thriller and monster mash when the party was it’s liveliest lol.

  5. Kaye says:

    This looks so fun! I’m curious, what are your plans for the tufted couch now?

  6. Estelle Carlson says:

    I love the idea of a murder mystery night and I bet it helps to decorate the inside of the house when you have a fun theme! You nailed it on all accounts. Thanks for all the info. I think this is something I want to attempt next year :)

  7. Caryn says:

    We’ve hosted a murder mystery twice – same game each time, but we have moved so entirely new set of people (except my SO who can’t remember anything anyway). I used the one from Freeform Games, Way out West. Up to 24 people is free, but my game got so large I also got the expansion pack. The host doesn’t really have a character, more like a bartender that oversees specific events, special skills, and such. However, it sounds similar to yours where the people don’t have scripts, but suggested people to talk to, their motivations, etc. It’s nice, because no one can die until the last chunk of the game, and even if your character has nothing to do with the murder, he/she has their own special tasks they’re supposed to accomplish during the game.

    I was also pretty surprised how into it with the costumes everyone was. Both times everyone had a blast and we’re planning to do another one soon.

  8. Noreen says:

    My parents did these annually! They used them to break up the long WI winters. My Dad even wrote one once! We hosted one two years ago and it was a blast. The plot was REALLY tricky though and by the time we were through a couple bottles of wine, really no one had a clue about who the murder might be!

  9. Cori says:

    When I was in high school I actually worked a ton of Halloween parties. It was a blast and I was always provided a costume that fit the theme of the party. Also brilliant because at the end of the night all the trash was picked up, dishes done, ice was filled containers/food refreshed, cake served, TP replenished and so on. These were big parties, like 100+ people.

  10. Mary Lou says:

    Oh this brings back a lot of fun memories for me. We hosted our first MMP the first winter we were in our first house. We invited the neighbours and we were all basically strangers. I didn’t know what to expect, would they accept the invitation, would they think it was lame…so many nerves..but they all came, killed it with their costumes and everyone came in and stayed in character the entire dinner party.
    I’ll never forget my next door neighbour Bill who was playing my husband set the tone when I brought the main course in, (Cornish hens)..he exclaimed I’d over cooked a turkey. We all laughed so hard. We all had so much fun, became great friends and took turn hosting these for several years.

  11. Victoria says:

    Love this and love the look, really, but there’s an awful lot of highly flammable material covered in candles…

  12. Liz says:

    Wow! Great pictures of the party.

    Are you planning to keep those chairs? The spindle shapes tie in with the table in your music room. They would look great painted black or just kept as is with new fabric for the seats. Of course, if they are not comfortable, then back to the thrift store!

  13. Amber Polk says:

    I AM SO DOING THIS NEXT YEAR!!! I have been wanting to do a Downton Abbey style party and have butlers, but combined with this!!! Looks so fun. Thank you for sharing with us!

  14. Danna says:

    Love it! Now I want to host one badly! Hope Chris feels better soon!

  15. Val says:

    This is such a neat idea! I can’t wait to plan one of my own. ????

  16. Amanda says:

    Hosting one on Sunday, so much inspiration!!!

  17. Connor says:

    Great post! I miss the podcast and am glad to see Preston is still around ????

  18. Corine says:

    Yes! Best night of the year! I haven’t stopped thinking of every detail. It was SO good! Everyone definitely BROUGHT it. The pic of you and your sisters is…killer!!

  19. Sarah says:

    My extended family all went to Chicago for Christmas last year and stayed in an Airbnb and did a murder mystery one night. My uncle from Chicago “hired” caterers to serve our dinner and bartend…little did we know they were his friends and totally in on it too. They had small parts and everything, which was such a great twist for us!

  20. Cici Haus says:

    This is incredible! Our friend’s birthday is on Halloween and she wanted to do a Murder Mystery dinner party, so we’re about to host our first one!

  21. Sara says:

    I’ve never done a murder mystery but after reading your post, I can’t wait to plan one!! Thanks for sharing all the details! Looks like everyone had a blast! :)

  22. This looks like it was so much fun! The open space and all the extra touches (the rugs, “spooky” art, candles, fabric), really set the tone. I’m sure everyone enjoyed!

all the latest

We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

HI! We're Chris + Julia

read more

Load More

Reader Faves

SHop all

What We're                     Right Now

What We're                 Right Now

Looking for our favorite things? A place to shop our home room by room, or just catch up on what Julia's wearing / loving right now? Browse the CLJ shop. 

Loving

looking for inspiration? 

Almost daily I get asked what I would call my home style. I don’t like to box myself in, but I definitely lean Modern Traditional with an emphasis on comfort when it comes to our home. This especially came up when I shared our Powder Bath Reveal on the blog. I think it changes slightly […]

Can We Send You Our Love Letter?

Another way for us to stay in touch! Joining our weekly newsletter gives you access to exclusive content, never-before-seen photos, your questions answered, and our favorite DIYs. Sign up below!

Follow Along on Instagram

Welcome to our online community where we've posted home, DIY, style, renovations, and family since '09. Renovating our #cljmoderncottage in Idaho and headed for new adventures in Raleigh, NC. #cljfam #cljtransformations

@chrislovesjulia