“If youse wants to learn da secret of “Hal” Cappone’s whereabouts be in da “Back Room” at S. P. Keasy’s Place Twenty-third street and Michigan at 7:00 pm tonight.
Refreshments’ll be soived.
Don’t tell nobody! Be dere!”
The invitation continued on, containing information about the characters that would be attending the gathering. There was also a real address and date listed. November 5: a day conveniently coinciding with my 23rd birthday.
I had always wanted to host a Murder Mystery party. My parents had attended several back in the day and still cracked up every time they thought about the “Hoo Hung Woo?” themed event. I selected a version with a little more sentimentality. Our murderous game, entitled “The Chicago Caper”, was set in the 1920s Prohibition era Chi-town. The event was to be hosted in a “speakeasy” of sorts and the character lineup included everyone from Billy “The Kid” Thrower, a professional baseball player, to Ernie G. Ambler, a notorious mob man, to Silky M. Adam, the club owner.
To create the right atmosphere, my roommates (along with another amazing Wheaton friend in town: Jessie Fletcher) and I raided thrift stores and T.J. Maxx. We decked out the kitchen table in a dark tablecloth and empty wine bottles with candle wax dripping down the sides. We covered the windows with black sheets and hung strands of Christmas lights to set the mood. We found this beautiful, black and gold wrapping paper that transformed our rather boring end-tables into a thematic element of the room. I plugged my ipod in and turned up the speakers so that the sweet sound of jazz filled the room.
In between decorating and getting dressed, we threw together the feast. The game was designed to last for four rounds. Each round was complemented with a food element. We set out appetizers for the guests as they came in: dishes of meats and cheeses, olives, spinach dip and hot bread. It seemed that as soon as we set out the food- everyone came running!
One of the nice things about living in Hollywood is that there are costume stores on every corner. Everybody arrived dressed to the tee. Ten sport a tuxedo and a red felt hat. Tim managed to find an entire baseball costume straight from the 20s! All the girls dolled up in boas, fringed dresses, and feathered headpieces.
There was a grand total of twelve “suspects” involved in the night’s affair. We each knew our character’s basic description, but our player manuals (which we all received at the beginning of the night), gave us insight into the shadier depths of our histories. We took turns introducing ourselves, then began to address one another with specific questions about whereabouts and motives.
A few of us attempted accents. Mine turned into a cross between Jersey and Cockney… not very “Chicaaago”. But I tried!
As the game progressed, more of our backstory was revealed (some was supposed to be kept secret, other clues were to be addressed aloud). We enjoyed a festive dinner of Chicken Parmesan and mashed potatoes, staying in character the entire time. For round three, we brought out the dessert: a delicious tiramisu cake made by my roomies in celebration of my birthday!
At last, we were allowed to make accusations. Sneaky Nicole ended up being the killer! Her alibi seemed rather sketchy, so several people suspected her of the crime. It was fun to see how elegantly the pieces all fit together. The game was very well put together. But, of course, it was truly the people the made this event so delightful; everyone stayed in character until the bitter end. It was quite a wonderful (and memorable) way to celebrate the beginning of my twenty-third year.
Ten pulled out his camera at the end of the night and took photos as we posed with fake cigarettes in our glam-ware. Here’s a few for you: