This Thanksgiving I decided to plan something other than dinner at the home of a family member. The gothic romance novel I had recently finished inspired me to contact a local Victorian style bed and breakfast that also performed murder mysteries. I spoke to the owners about arranging my own Gothic mystery on Thanksgiving. Since November was the off-season, they agreed.
I felt Thanksgiving was an inappropriate holiday to have a mystery with a murder so the adventure would be part Clue and part scavenger hunt. I enlisted the aid of a couple of the actors from the murder mystery troupe to play the part of the family servants for the evening. Ecru formal invitations, were printed in gothic script, “You are cordially invited to Glen Claret Manor at 7:30 in the evening, for a Thanksgiving feast, in honor of your recently deceased Uncle Maximillion Peabody.” Below were more detailed directions to the inn, instructions to dress in formal gothic costume, select a character from the list enclosed and a more detailed description of their character's knowledge, motives and personality would be sent later.
As instigator of this event I my character was Maximillion's daughter, Belinda Peabody. I arrived at the manor in a rented horse drawn carriage so my entrance was more grand. I was dressed in a beautiful Gothic costume gown complete with lace-edged parasol. Our hostess agreed to use only candles and oil lamps for lighting, to make the atmosphere of the evening more authentic. The all the rooms of the inn were decorated with genuine antiques and reproduced furnishings from the Gothic era. The amber light of the candles reflected off brass fixtures, the crystal and china on the table giving the room a palpable feeling of days past. Since no Gothic setting was complete without a thunderstorm, so I brought one with me. Actually, it was only a nature CD played on a boom box hidden behind the curtains in the parlor. Dinner was a gourmet feast of turkey with cranberry and walnut stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, creamed spinach, buttered rolls and whole cranberry relish. A string quartet played during dinner and we all got into character.
After dinner the maid came in, excitedly announcing Uncle Maximillion's safe had been broken into. The only things known about the thief was he was one of the guests and knew the combination of the safe. The guests were divided into groups and given a list of locations, inside and out of the manor to investigate, but not what might be found or seen there or how to interpret what clues they found. The hostess asked them to be courteous guests and not to touch or pick up anything not marked with a piece of ribbon. The guests were also reminded they could question the servants or any of the other characters. The team with the correct answer would receive a prize. Second prize would go the team who found all the clues.
After an hour and a half everyone was called to the library where the crime had occurred and asked to tell the group who they thought did it, how and why. As it turned out one team found all the clues, but did not know the thief's identity. The other one thought Uncle Maximillion was not dead and had cleaned out the safe himself! They were right!
Pie and coffee was served in the parlor after the mystery was over and my family chatted on and on how unique this Thanksgiving dinner was and much they enjoyed themselves. It was the best Thanksgiving ever.