Murder at the Museum

The local historical museum is hosting an open house at the end of the month, and they want it to be more than simply a viewing event, so they’ve decided to use a murder theme. And I’ve been coopted to help figure out how to do create the mystery.

This is not a murder dinner (that will come in February instead of a Valentine’s celebration), nor is a skit. It will basically be just people visiting the museum and . . .

The “and” is where I come in.

My idea was to give people photos of certain exhibits as they were pre-murder. Then people need to find those exhibits, discover what is different, and so learn what the murder weapon was, or the time, or anything else I can figure out.

We will have a body. (In fact, the very first time I roamed the museum, I turned a corner and for just a second thought I saw a dead body.)

People will easily be able to figure out the weapon and time of death because of the photo evidence. But I can’t figure out how they can guess whodunnit. There will be people in costumes of the period, and one of those folks will be the perpetrator. I could leave a clue somewhere, I suppose, that would indicate one of the people. I could give them alibis, I suppose, and have visitors decide which one is lying. I could give a handout, I suppose, with all the motives.

As you can see, I am doing a lot of “supposing.”

I could set up the game where motive isn’t necessary to figure out who did it. I don’t remember, was motive a part of Clue, or was it more, “Colonel Plum in the library with a candlestick”?

If motive isn’t necessary, we could give a small prize to anyone who figures out how the mannequin was killed and who did it (that way it’s not a race, and the museum won’t be destroyed in the process), and then give a main prize to the person who comes up with the most intriguing motive.

If you have any suggestions how I can go about putting together this murder at the museum, please feel free to leave a comment. As you can see, I need all the help I can get.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

11 Responses to “Murder at the Museum”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Oh man, I want to be in on this. This sounds like my kind of party.
    As for how to put it together, I’m just going to refer to what a mystery writer friend has told and what I’ve picked up from listening to the Complete Sherlock Holmes on audio book. You always start with a motive, and work from there, according to my friend. And in Sherlock Holmes, motives usually fall under greed, revenge, or avoiding a scandal. That last one intrigues me, because it’s a very Victorian thing to worry about, but doesn’t get touched too much in stories from the time. Perhaps the victim could have known about a scandal, and the only way to silence them was to kill them. However, before they died, they left a clue as to what the scandal was, which in turn leads to a trail of bread crumbs to unveil the scandal. Once that is unveiled, you can figure out who the murderer is, essentially bringing to light two crimes instead of one.
    Though a museum might not like the idea of a scandal based mystery, especially if it’s devoted to the history of the town. Even a fictional one might give people the wrong idea.
    Still, it’s an idea. And it’s one I would propose using, if I were given the opportunity.
    Hope you’re able to come up with something that’s a lot of fun. Tell us all about it when you do.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      The problem is still how to do it. It’s not like a skit, and there is no Sherlockian character. It’s just a bunch of ordinary people in a museum. So how would they figure out motive, murderer, etc, especially when all the suspects have a motive.

      • rami ungar the writer Says:

        Hmm…you know, there was a Sabrina the Teenaged Witch episode like this back in the lates 90’s, early 2000’s. Maybe you could do like the episode did, and have the people coming to see the exhibit be the murderers. It could be some sort of metatextual exploration about how their desire for a murder mystery actually lead to a death. It would at least be original.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          That would make a good book, and in fact, I’ve been thinking that very thing — to write a mystery about the murder in the museum, and how their desire for a real mystery culminated in a death, but this event has to be simple. There isn’t a lot of room for nuances.

          • rami ungar the writer Says:

            How about a simple puzzle or cypher? People would be given one clue to start with, then search for the other clues. When you have them all together, they reveal the perpetrator.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            That’s the plan. I just don’t know how to show who the murderer is in a way that is concealed yet easy to find. The murder weapon is easy. Just rearrange the weapon display. The time is easy. Change the time on the clock. So the clue to the killer needs to be easy, too, without being obvious. And the motive is always complicated. A scandal, yes, but then you have to show what the scandal is and how it would affect the killer, and do it only with pictures and museum exhibits.

          • rami ungar the writer Says:

            How about using alibis? If the clock is stopped, you check everyone’s alibi and see who’s doesn’t add up. Depending on where you live, you could use time zone differences as part of the mystery.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            The time change aspect is interesting.

          • rami ungar the writer Says:

            If there’s anything else I can do, let me know.

  2. Constance Says:

    How fun!

  3. A Murderer at the Museum | Bertram's Blog Says:

    […] been trying to figure out how to set up a live murder mystery evening sans dinner, sans skit, just a simple game similar to Clue. The best way I’ve come up with so […]

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