In Our Own Backyard...You're killin' me, here!

It all started with the murder. Well, not technically. The premise was that a murder had occurred, and that everyone at the mansion was under suspicion. The directive: to search down clues that would lead to the identity of the murderer -- and tr...


It all started with the murder. Well, not technically. The premise was that a murder had occurred, and that everyone at the mansion was under suspicion. The directive: to search down clues that would lead to the identity of the murderer - and try to avoid arousing any suspicions yourself.

Sound familiar? Any of us of a “certain generation” and beyond might recognize this as the classic scenario from the popular board game, “Clue.”

In a last-minute moment of indecision last Christmas, I picked up a game of Clue as a gift for our 10-year-old grandson, Ethan. He absolutely loved it, and so did his family. They played Clue most of the winter and even rented the old movie by the same name, which they still watch every couple of months or so.

As I thought about Ethan’s 11th birthday this summer, I found myself in the throes of indecision once again. We host his family birthday party at our house every year, and from the time he was little I’ve decorated with balloons and streamers and whatever superhero or sport he happened to be into at the moment. The last couple of years I’d been wondering when the time would come when I should step back from the classic birthday celebration a bit, realizing he was probably getting a little too old for all of that.

I was reluctant to simply settle for ice cream and cake, however, so I tried to think of something that was a bit less juvenile and a lot more exciting. The answer came to me in a single word: Clue!


I went online and looked up Clue birthday party ideas and discovered that a whole lot of other folks had already come up with the same idea, hosting Clue “murder mystery” parties. I picked up some ideas here and there and ultimately decided to create my own scenario. I sent out the invitation to a night of “mystery and intrigue,” including a role assignment for Ethan and each of his family members based on the familiar characters from the game. My husband, Ken, and I had assignments of our own (Colonel Mustard and Ms. White) and I began to forage through the thrift shops for costumes.

The seed had been planted, and according to Ethan’s mom, a ripple of excitement had begun to spread.

It was then that I hit the wall. I originally thought it would be exciting to stage a “murder” at the very beginning of the evening, complete with a scream from the other room and everyone rushing in to discover the first clue. But I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to have it make sense, when all of the other characters were in the same room together. I had enlisted Ken to be the “murderer,” but we would have had to come up with a logical excuse for him to be out of the room at the time of the scream - and that would, of course, be a dead giveaway to “whodunnit!”

After discussing and discarding several different scenarios, I decided to give up on the dramatic “scream in the dark” concept and settle for making a video of the fake “murder” as the final reveal of the game. Ken wasn’t so certain he wanted any part of it.

Last week, I reminded him that we would have to film the video before the birthday weekend rolled around and suggested doing it that night after work.

“Um, well, I don’t really feel like doing it tonight,” he waffled. “How about tomorrow, or maybe Friday?”

I explained that we might have to do a couple of takes before it was completed to our satisfaction, so he grudgingly agreed to do it that night.

We changed into our costumes, I showed him a sample “script” I’d put together and he set up his iPad to videotape it. The idea was that he, as Colonel Mustard, was supposed to rush into the room, grab me melodramatically in a passionate embrace and declare his undying love for me. I was to resist his advances, saying I was in love with Professor Plum instead. Then, he was to declare that he owned the mortgage on my house and would foreclose if I left him. I, in turn, was to turn angrily on him, revealing the fact I knew he’d had an affair with Miss Scarlet and would tell the world if he wouldn’t give me my freedom. In the end, he was to seethe, “If I can’t have you, no one can!” and bump me over the head with the revolver as I slouched into the couch.


Pretty graphic stuff - except that I giggled through the entire first take. Ken kept flubbing his lines, causing me to forget mine, as our two cats swirled around the room in alarm over our raised voices. It was pure chaos. We decided to do a retake.

“We’d better get it right this time,” he muttered through his fake mustache, “because this is the last time I’m going to do it!”

This time, we actually made it through the whole scene, with only a few little glitches along the way, and it ended dramatically with the hoped-for scream as I crumpled onto the couch. As we played it back, we decided it was good enough to entertain the grandkids.

“Let’s watch it again!” said Ken. And so we did. And then we watched it again, and again.

“You know what?” he said at last. “That wasn’t bad. In fact, we’re actually pretty good! This is going to be a lot of FUN!”

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