By Ashley Lodato
As if those Calvert and Ulmer families aren’t nefarious enough characters without donning costumes and assuming mysterious personae, they had to go and spice up their Christmas Eve with a murder mystery game. Don and Jill Calvert, Laurie and Jeff Ulmer, some friends from Alaska, and all of their various children participated, fittingly, in the “Way Out West” murder mystery by Freeform Games.
Some people play their murder mystery games in street clothes, but not this gang. Oh no — in the name of realism they rented costumes from Miss Kitty’s Old Time Photo Parlor in downtown Winthrop, which enabled them to fully impersonate the characters of Blaise the sexy saloon madam, Slick the hired gunslinger, Lucy the tomboy daughter of the deceased townsman, Deputy Sheriff Dan Fairweather, the notorious gambler Doc Faraday, the local native herbalist Runs Like Deer, two suspicious city slickers hoping to run their railroad through the town of Cactus Gulch, the enigmatic Reverend Entwhistle, who arrived ostensibly to baptize the townspeople but harbored a secret agenda, and the serious Judge Paulson. Who knew that Miss Kitty’s rented costumes for off-site use? The Calverts and the Ulmers, apparently.
All murder mystery participants received basic background information, which set the scene and the circumstances of the murder. Each actor was also given specific information about themselves — their secrets and powers — and a few clues about how to proceed. But, says Laurie Ulmer, “basically it was three hours of hilarity while we all tried to figure out who was telling the truth, who was lying, what people’s motives were, and, ultimately, who the killer was.”
In addition to solving the murder, characters spent much of the game trying to further their own agendas and had to resort to blackmail and bribery in order to do so, just like at any standard holiday family gathering.
Ulmer wouldn’t reveal to me who the killer was lest readers hold it against that person, who was truly an innocent bystander until he or she had the misfortune to be named the killer by the folks at Freeform Games. But Ulmer did say that wearing costumes really enhanced the experience, and “with all the twists and turns in the plot and characters’ behaviors, we were kept totally engrossed the entire evening.”