The Art of Darkness

Party Like It’s 1929

July 8th, 2009 by Cobwebs

Group PhotoHere’s something that I thought I’d mentioned previously, but my archive search comes up empty so apparently I’m hallucinating. Several years ago, before I had children and could occasionally think straight, a friend and I put together an elaborate Halloween dinner party of the sort where everybody plays a role and they’re supposed to solve a mystery. In this case, it involved a haunted house. I posted details and materials in case anyone else was ever foolish ambitious enough to try something similar.

The premise was fairly straightforward: It’s 1926*, the inheritors of an old house have just re-opened it, and they’re celebrating by throwing a dinner party for the cream of society. During the party, strange things start to happen (disembodied knockings and moanings are heard, a bloody rag is found, objects seem to move). It could be a ghost. However, each of the guests also has a motive for “haunting” the house. Whodunnit?


We sent out an initial invitation, explaining a bit about the theme of the party and asking each guest if they planned to attend, whether they were bringing a guest, and what sort of role they and their guest wanted: A major character (someone with gossip and clues), a minor character (playing along, but in a lesser role), or the maid/butler.

Once we had this, we planned the characters and assigned clues. We decided to base each character loosely on real people. The guests then received a second invitation and packet containing:

  • An invitation, with the envelope addressed to their character’s names
  • General information (with slightly different instructions, depending on whether they were a major character or not). This included a page from an “old book” about the house itself
  • A fact sheet about their character (including two short ones–one of each sex–to accommodate one guest who didn’t know who he was bringing).
  • Some gossip (everything that others knew about them, plus one or two tidbits about other guests)
  • Some “clippings,” background information about their character, plus information about a couple of other guests

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