For our son Sebastian's 11th birthday party, Tracey and I decided to organise a Murder Mystery party. This was rather more work than we had anticipated to get the story and characters sorted out. Even so, it turned out to be a considerable success; the kids absolutely loved it! So, I have included below the plot and all the source materials I used, so that you can re-use or re-write it for your own games and parties.
Normally, these Murder Mystery parties are for adults, and so rely on the guests reacting spontaneously (and in character) as the events unfold. This party was for 10-to-12 year olds, so I thought it best to script the entire event. So, we found that this party is suitable for children who are old enough to read aloud reasonably well, but young enough to enjoy a certain amount of shouting and running around.
I also took care to make the plot comprehensible (mostly!) to all, and to avoid certain adult themes which might confuse the kids or upset their parents.
Since Sebastian's birthday (which is now more than eleven years ago!) I have had a considerable number of people (now more than 5,000!) contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to express an interest in using this material for their own parties.
So, I have made this Murder Mystery Party free to use for anyone who wishes to do so - just drop me a note to get the easily updateable versions. There's no need for any payment, although I have suggested to correspondents who asked that they might care to make a modest contribution to an appropriate charity of their choice.
Use of this Material
I have had many reports of highly successful parties based on content from this website. See these citations to find out what other parents thought, and to see more pictures of mystery parties around the world.
I also see that many people have used these materials as the basis for adult parties, or with mixed groups of adults and children.
Of course, I would be delighted to hear of other (hopefully) successful events based on this material.
I can offer a much shorter and simplified version of the Murder Mystery Party, suitable for 9 younger children. This material is courtesy of my correspondent Kent. Feel free to drop me a note in email if you are interested in using this version.
I can offer yet another version in English, this time for 10 all-female characters, thanks to Beth. Again, send me email to ask for this version.
And now I can provide another version in English with a 1930's train theme, for 18 female characters, with many thanks to Sarah, with updates by Danielle. Send me email to get this one.
And another new version. This time, a version for 11 girls in English with a mystery book theme, with thanks to Angela. Send email to me to get this version.
Somebody else has sent me the version they used. This one is for 21 girls in English. As always, email me.
My contact Keith has produced a version for 12 guests, as well as more detailed instructions on how to add more characters and run the event. Send me email if you want access to this version.
The Poole Family have sent me another version, this one for 18 mixed-gender guests with a "Noble Family" mystery theme. Email me for access.
New! My correspondent Rose has sent me an extended version for 11 older teen girls. Send me email if you want access to this version.
Versions in Languages other than English
I can offer a version of the party for 18 kids, translated into Swedish, courtesy of Anna. As always, please drop me a note in email if you are interested.
I recently came across this splendid report of a party by Martine (in French) based loosely on the materials posted here.
My correspondent Grégory has sent an updateable version for 9 guests, translated into French. Apparently, this was inspired by the event by Martine from banlieusardises.com, as mentioned above. Send me email if you want access to this version.
Linde from the Netherlands has sent me a version for 17 children, in Dutch. Please drop me a note in email if you are interested.
My correspondent Lourdes from Spain has sent me her version in Spanish, for 17 girls. See her description of how she ran the event in the citations here. Please drop me a note by email if you are interested in seeing this version.
Danelle from South Africa has sent me her version for 11 girls in Afrikaans. Let me know by email if you want this version.
The process starts with the party invitations. Each invitation has to be separately devised and printed, since it introduces the character that each child is supposed to adopt for the party. (This is one of the reasons why the event was so much work!)
The invitations need to be sent out in good time, to give both parents and children a chance to think about the character, as well as what clothes to wear. Some additional suggestions for parents and children to help can be found here - I included a copy of this in with each invitation.
Apparently, the invitations themselves caused quite a stir at school. Some of the kids started referring to each other by their party character names!
Running the Party
It is important to ensure that all of the guests have arrived before the formal proceedings start. So, each guest is presented with a personalised instruction sheet on their arrival. This is designed to be folded into three (use stiff paper or thin card) and sealed with wax. Also, each guest was labelled with a sticker with the character's name.
While guests were arriving, we made sure that they all got a drink (another outing for the kids non-alcoholic cocktails!). Once everyone had arrived, then they were all shepherded into one room, and got to sit down (fairly) quietly. The kids were then instructed to open and read the instruction sheet.
The master of ceremonies was Freddie Farr, Barister-at-law - played by yours truly. I managed to borrow a (real!) lawyer's gown and wig for the event (from one of the kids' father). Freddie Farr introduces the event: the reading of the last will and testament for the late Baroness Arabella Rummum, recently passed away under mysterious circumstances.
Tracey played Pinky Beasts, a local music teacher and mother to Ian Beasts (the character played by Sebastian - it's an anagram!). The other important character was Detective Inspector Herring, a bumbling local policeman, played by Sebastian's Grandad. We had a number of other helpers, played by various adults pretending to be the late Baroness's servants: Lucy Lastic, Bertha Broadbotham and Meg Mystic. (We had fun with the names!)
Each guest was introduced. Freddie Farr called out each name in turn, and the child was encouraged to come forward and read out the character introduction from the instructions. As they came forward, I played a short music clip (not included here, for copyright reasons) picked to be appropriate for each character.
After all of the guests had introduced themselves, it was time to get something to eat and more to drink. While snacks and drinks were served (by the late Baroness's servants!), each guest had to track down three of the guests and ask them each a question (as indicated on the instruction sheet). The questions and answers are arranged to ensure that each kid is asked each question by at least three other children. This makes sure that at least some of the children have additional information (for later).
After tea, the guests re-assemble with Freddie Farr. Freddie works his way through the plot - see the plot spreadsheet (download as PDF) - and the kids are encouraged to shout out with questions and answers as we reach each part marked "All" in the spreadsheet. (It got quite loud at times!) Each child has a line or two (on their individual instructions and in the master spreadsheet. The servants help the guests with the reading, if necessary - some guests were either shy or struggled with some words.
Eventually, we reached the denouement: Pinky Beasts (Tracey) is revealed as the murderer and is arrested by Inspector Herring (Grandad). Ian Beasts (Sebastian) is revealed as the long-lost son of the late Baroness and therefore entitled to the inheritance. According to Freddie Farr (Trevor), there is enough in the inheritance for a gift (a going-away party bag) for all of the guests.
I have included all of the invitations and instructions we used in easily downloadable standard PDF format. You could re-use and extend them for your own parties. Feel free to contact me by email if you want a more easily editable version of the materials.
Materials (invitation and instructions) for each of the kids is included below.
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