Murder at the Manor: A Costumed Dinner Party on Lake Erie

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

I don't recall how the conversation started, but a couple months ago, some friends & I talked about how fun it would be to host a murder mystery dinner party. Usually those kinds of "Sometime we ought to..." conversations fall by the wayside, never to be followed up on, but in this case, we moved quickly. Our friends Trevor & Callie invited us up to their family lake house on Lake Erie for a dinner party with a murderous twist!

The game we chose was Murder at the Manor, sold by a British company (& containing a few Britishisms with which none of us was familiar). A few weeks before the party, each of us chose a character from the list of suspects, complete with punny names & short descriptions of their personalities & style profiles. The character I chose was named Misty Visions, described this way:
You are a free spirit in floaty fabrics adorned with scarves, belts, bangles and big earrings. You're often seen listening to unseen forces or reading stranger's palms.
First, let's discuss the locale. How beautiful is this house? It's riiiiight on the lake, which was frozen over in jagged shards in the zero-degree temps. (The same group of friends was here just a few months ago for Trevor & Callie's wedding reception, where the only ice was in our cocktails.)

We showed up at the lake house with costumes in hand, hanging out & snacking on appetizers until it came time to get ready for the murder mystery portion of the evening. Naturally, I went all-out, purchasing a bronze dress, a lace duster, & an armful of bangles, then decking myself out in crystal necklaces & a Roman scarf fashioned into a makeshift turban. I painted on lots of eyeliner & dark red lipstick, & Misty Visions was born.

Mike's character was General Custard, a disgruntled former Army man, & he played the part with some great vintage military pieces, including a sweet hat (not pictured) & an Army canteen. Alas, I didn't really get any good photos of us aside from the group shot above, & this couple pic is disappointingly dark:

At the start of the party, we pulled numbers out of a hat to determine who was the murderer - kept secret, of course. Then, we each received a character manual that included more background on who we were playing, along with specific instructions about how to answer the questions we'd be asked during the game (with different responses to give depending on whether we were guilty or innocent).

The event took place in three acts, & during each of them, we schmoozed & kibbitzed & asked very pointed questions as directed by our character guides. Of course, we embellished a little bit to get in character, with Blanche Batters adopting a Southern swagger & Dr. Fumbles taking on an unidentifiable accent & Cinders drinking whiskey out of an emptied bottle of Clinique cleanser.

By the time act three ended, I was more confused than ever. I had no idea whodunnit!

We all voted on which character we thought was the murderer behind the tragic death of Lord Heathcliff, & my vote went to his new widow, antiques dealer Em Fatale. Alas, I was wrong - as most of us were. Only one guest, it turned out, accused the actual murderer: Dr. Fumbles, played by our host, Trevor!

As the game came to a close, we took shots of whiskey in celebration - we'd completed a murder mystery party! - then changed into pajamas for the rest of the night. Fortunately, the lake house is large enough to sleep the whole gang, & I was in (a very comfy, fluffy) bed by just after midnight, all traces of Misty Visions wiped clean & the former General Custard snoring beside me.

In the morning, our hosts put out muffins & a bubbly egg casserole, & we sat around the spacious living room drinking coffee & just hanging out, enjoying the views of Lake Erie from the huge picture windows that overlook it. Come early afternoon, we packed up & rolled out, & when we got home, Mike & I spent the rest of the day reading & relaxing & napping (OK, that was mostly me).

The verdict? It was such a fun thing to do, & I couldn't be happier that we put our "Wouldn't it be fun if..." idea into action & actually made it a reality. If you have the type of friends who would enjoy getting all costumed up for a ridiculous night of accents & acting, you've got to host your own murder mystery dinner party - & soon.

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