I don't know how Mud Pie got me to agree to it. Sure, both her brothers had big birthday parties around age 10 (I think Fish's was his 11th, but whatevs). Sure, poor Pie has spent her whole life with a dumb mid-summer birthday so she's missed out on things like bringing treats to class or handing out invitations (July 3, which is actually pretty awesome but again, whatevs). Sure, my sanity is always questionable. But somehow she talked me into it. I may have even suggested it myself. A tenth birthday shindig with none other than a Murder Mystery theme.
We'd actually planned it a week or so away from her actual birthday, but when only one-ish little girls RSVPd "Yes" we decided to postpone. My sneaky self wanted to postpone anyway since I knew we were starting a new homeschool co-op and I expected Pie to make friends quickly, which she did, so we had an abundance of invitations to hand out. She did so at the beginning of October, and last weekend, Halloween, was the chosen date. Now I will share what we did and how it went, in case someone else somewhere someday wants to (make themselves crazy for a week) have the pleasure of planning and executing such an event. Many ideas were outright stolen from this website, and other ideas were swiped from other websites or emerged from the remnants of my brain at some point during that pre-party week. So what did we do?
A little something I whipped together in Pages. We printed them on card stock (three to a page) and cut them out. I also sent an Evite since keeping track of responses would be so much easier online. Once I had confirmation, they were sent their character, but more on that in a moment! Each was asked to dress appropriately and was given one special line or instruction. Things like, "I hate feathers!" Or "Someone stole my ring!" Moms were also invited. Why not? We had as much fun as the girls!
Next for the big event, I decided I would write the mystery myself. My thought process: I'm a writer, this should be easy, I ought to be able to whip this out, no problem at all. Yes, I am this moronic. After several hours I wished I'd gone and bought a mystery kit online. After several more hours I really, really, really wished I'd bought one online. Eventually, I had some semblance of mystery hashed out, complete with a spreadsheet and about twenty sheets of scrap paper. Here's where I made characters and assigned them to each girl/guy and mom who was able to attend.
Finally the big day! When each girl arrived (and one guy, since Fish was attending and was allowed one friend), she received a bag with her "Mystery Item" which was a prop that would be used at some point during the game. Then we gathered at the dining table for tea (apple cider punch - yum) and crumpets (donuts and scones. Yeah, I went all out. Like all the way out to the grocery store). First task: match each attendee with the "profession" on their suspect sheet.
So many streamers! All over the house!
Our mystery began with the Countess (Mud Pie) and her Royal Chicken who lays golden eggs. The Countess suspected someone was out to steal her chicken, so invited all the suspects to tea. They did not know this yet, of course, but they would soon find out! Because the Countess slipped off to the upstairs nursery (her and Rowdy's room) and screamed.
Imagine ten kids and five moms thundering up the stairs to find Mud Pie unresponsive (but very giggly) on the floor! The Coroner declared the Countess dead and together the kids marked out her body.
Oh the fun of masking tape!
What fun. Rowdy, little sister, cried and asked Pie to "Get up!" Which she eventually did because she was actually just knocked unconscious. Sadly, the blow wiped her memory so she had no idea who attacked her and who ... stole her chicken! Another character's ring had also been stolen.
The butler, Fish, was supposed to lead everyone downstairs to watch a video the Countess left for such an occasion, but brothers are not always the most helpful. Thankfully Mom-Housekeeper had that spreadsheet handy! Down we went to watch the recording:
Poison! The tea was poisoned?! We had to be sure! So upstairs we raced to test. Except again Fish had misplaced his Mystery Item, so Mom-Keeper to the rescue with some baking soda to toss in the cup of colored vinegar. Poison confirmed, the Coroner placed everyone under arrest. We followed a thread to the dungeon (basement) where a "Web of Intrigue" had been crafted, painstakingly by Mom and Pie earlier in the day. Which we had to fix about a hundred times because Fish's bedroom lay on the other side. Anyway, it was like a laser maze, but with thread.
We navigated the maze in the dark with glow sticks. Not the best idea for the longevity of the maze.
Inside Fish's room we took mug shots and fingerprints. I made use of a handy iPhone app. Fun! And while waiting for our photo shoot (which didn't take long), we solved Halloween Riddles. Like What did the skeleton order at the bar? Two cokes and a mop! Groan.
Next we returned upstairs because someone spotted the chicken (me - I hadn't quite figured out how to get everyone upstairs). Interestingly, colored eggs were all over the living room. Inside the eggs, puzzle pieces (and candy because you have to have candy in colored eggs!). Next task, put the puzzle together!
Mystery puzzle in progress...
I'd been worried about having enough time, and had pushed things along a little quickly. So at this point we were, oh, like fifteen minutes into the mystery part of the party. It was going a little too quickly. The puzzle took longer than expected. Pfew! I made the puzzle, yes I did and I made it from this picture:
Yes, that's a chicken and a ring.
Our next clue! The chicken had the missing ring, and was last seen where this photo was taken. Down to the family room where a mess of feathers had suddenly appeared. And the poison was taking its toll. We had to pick up the feathers using cooking utensils because our fingers were no longer working!
I detest feathers! That was the maid's "line."
Beneath the feathers, one of which was a paintbrush, lay a message written in chicken language (pig pen code that St. Nick helpfully wrote out). One of the girls had a cypher as her Mystery Item. Of course Mom-Keeper had to remind her, but it worked out fine.
The message told us that the suspect had sticky fingers. So up to the kitchen we went, only to discover a fingerprint on the stove. Who'd have thought our suspect sheets had fingerprints on them! Match up the fingerprints and ... The Artist stole the chicken to save it from the cook, who wanted to cook it! And the chicken laid an egg with the missing ring inside. The Princess (who had lost the ring) paid a reward (fake money, which was her Mystery Item - see how clever I am?) to everyone.
Mystery solved, Mom-Keeper wanted to collapse. But it was only a bit after 3pm and the party didn't end until 4. Plus the Ambassador had not yet arrived (a girl who was planning to come late), and she knew where the antidote to the poison was. Right as I was about to give it up and serve the cake, the Ambassador's mom pulled up in the driveway! Saved!
The Ambassador had a riddle, the solution to which provided us with the location of the antidote. It was inside a pumpkin, mixed in with pumpkin guts. Yuck. But oh so fun!
Digging through pumpkin guts for the antidote
Finally, cake and presents and one last game. An auction of wrapped dollar store treasures, opened in White Elephant fashion. The girls were too polite to steal one another's gifts, however, so most everyone ended up keeping what they got. All good.
Store bought cake. I have my limits.
We wrapped up at exactly 4pm! Except that many of the moms and girls stuck around for a while to chat, eat more cake, and generally enjoy the afternoon, which I must admit was the highlight of the whole event for me. And what did I do the next day? Sleep? Nonono. I vacuumed feathers out of the family room.
My favorite picture: Pie and Rowdy getting ready for the party!