How my guests ended up solving a murder for my engagement…

Traditionally, the engagement symbolizes the promise of marriage, which must normally take place within the year that follows the engagement. In the past, it was also the opportunity for the parents from both sides to meet for the first time.

For Paul and I we immediately saw this as an opportunity to party and have, not only our parents, but all our family members get acquainted. However, we didn’t want this event to be traditional and we wanted to plan something atypical and bold which was the image of us.

Theme selection

We thought about this for a long time and reviewed our common passions. One activity that we love above all is solve investigations in escape games. Then this was it! We were to organize a giant escape game!

Once the type of activity was decided, we needed to think of a theme (because we also love costume parties 😉). We were planning to get married in 2020 so why not go with a 1920s theme: the roaring twenties?

I must say that it was extremely difficult to find good quality 1920s dresses and suits which weren’t too much expensive. As I am particularly fond of second-hand shops I knew some addresses in Paris which didn’t let us down:

  • Falbalas: located in the St Ouen flea market. This is the place where I found my dress (made in the 1950s but 1920s style) and my husband’s frac (a real treasure as it originated from 1930s). Prices are extremely interesting and the shop’s owner is a true gem!
  • Mamie Blue: this retro thrift store is offering a multitude of clothes from various centuries. The salespersons are extremely helpful and are working with a seamstress if you need anything to be modified. It is also possible to rent costumes there.

We also personalized our online invites on the 1920s theme:

Making of the scenario

With all those elements settled, we needed to elaborate our escape game organization. My cousin, who enjoy organizing events, told us about a murder party (life-size role-playing) she organized at her company. The scenario of such events are often really complex and we didn’t want to completely invent a storyline. She referred us to the perfect website to start our project: Happy Kits.

As its name implies, this website offers complete downloadable PDF game- investigation scenario kits for a reasonable price (35€). They also organize only Escape Home if you’re looking for a fun activity to do during the lockdowns.

In those kits you’ll find:

  • The scenario and accessories;
  • The instructions;
  • The program of the event.

Throughout the evening, the guests are participating to a game-investigation and discover different sets of information (about the crime scene, in the police reports…) which will lead them on a path to unmask the murderer.

As we were browsing the website pages, we found the ideal scenario that corresponded exactly to our theme called Huis Clos. The story is the following: We are in 1920 and live in a mansion. We are organizing a social dinner, during which a murder happens. Several persons are suspected, included us hosts. Our guests are asked to unveil the truth…

We decided to go with this scenario and already had the perfect location in mind: my parents’ mansion.

However, we wanted to customize the story as much as possible and to include more Escape game elements (enigma, sports games…) to have the guests interact as much as possible and cover the age spectrum (10 to 90 yo). The real challenge was the number of guests we had. I have a huge family so we invited 50 people in total. We couldn’t create a role for everyone but still wanted to have a game as immersive as possible. Hence, we had the idea of creating non-player characters that we invented and kept the suspects as fictive characters, except for us who were the hosts.

Party organization

We first started to split the guests into 6 multi-aged teams of 6 to 7 people (more than 7 can be challenging) and mixed up members from both families. Starting from that, we used 6 rooms to create our universe. Each of those rooms had a different objective and had its own non-player character to assist the teams and supervise the game. The most important thing was to use rooms that were spread in the house to avoid interactions between teams and to create a nice flow. We created a timetable to define the schedule for the team in each room, taking into consideration that we planned each escape room to be achievable within 20 minutes. That’s why the non-player characters (NPC) are playing an important role: if they see that the team is struggling to solve the enigmas in the imparted time, they are here to give them tips and help them.

The universes were the following:

1) The attic: the police station

The main goal of this room was for the teams to learn more about the different suspects involved in the murder and their alibis. My brother was playing the role of the commissioner in charge of the case.

The character was a bit too fond of alcohol and women and the room suggested a lot of clues based on this trait 😉.

2) My parents’ bedroom: the crime scene

In this room, the police officer, played by my brother-in-law, was watching the crime scene (I delimited the area with a police tape to avoid someone looking in my parents bed or playing with antiques).

A series of enigma arranged in different locations of the room were supposed to lead the guests to an important information on the murderer’s name.

3) The basement: the morgue

I think this room was my favorite to design. I created the whole decor (including the body) and set it up in the back of the basement to create a dark atmosphere. I even made a dedicated playlist to play some requiems. My sister was playing the role of a wasted coroner who spent her whole night partying and kept forgetting stuff (she was even wearing sunglasses). In this room, the final objective was to discover the victim’s time of death.

During the game, the guests had to get their hands dirty as one of the clue was located inside the body (covered in fake blood)!

4) The living-room

I was the NPC of this room and was playing the lady of the house. The character was really tired after such a long night of being questioned at the police station. She was telling her guests that the commissioner asked her to provide all personal items from the victim. She remembered that he had a suitcase which he left in the living-room but she couldn’t put her hand on it.

After giving them some clues and enigmas, the guests were asked to investigate and they needed to find the suitcase that was giving a precious information on the victim’s shady activities he was running on the side.

5) The garden

My husband was supervising the garden as host and was informing the guests that he had received a letter in his mailbox that belonged to his neighbor. As he was a bit curious, he opened the letter and found out that his neighbor hired a private investigator to follow his wife whom he suspected was having an affair. Hence, in this escape room, the guests were to unmask the identity of the neighbor’s wife’s lover.

6) The garden cabin: newspaper kiosk

Finally, we imagined that the sinister affair had already made the headlines. Hence, we created the character of a special reporter who was writing an article for her journal and had a kiosk in the garden. This escape room was mostly relying on a treasure hunt using a map hidden in the tobacconist’s advertisements.

Once they had found the ‘treasure’ they gave it to the reporter who was more than happy to gossip on the fact that two suspects had a dispute that night at the exact time of the murder.

At the end of the escape game, we gave some time for the team to gather their idea on what happened the night on the murder. Then, they needed to mime what they thought happened the night of the murder.

We really had interesting analyzes and definitely had a good laugh!

Finally, all the guests were rewarded with homemade chocolate cigars and candies which were served on a flapper cigarette tray.

Preparation

The preparation phase was extremely challenging and as I really wanted to do everything by myself (decor elements, treasure hunts, enigmas…) it required a good amount of time (approximately 2 to 3 months).

I brought most of the locks and escape game tools on Amazon:

As I am a perfectionist I also made sure that all documentation included in the escape game were aged (using coffee) and was in accordance with the time period (I even reused original newspaper from the 1920s).

The last element I thought about was to find an atypical wedding funding pot to do with respecting our theme. Luckily I found the perfect DIY for a fortune teller booth on Suzy Maker Home.

Here are additional useful websites I used:

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