As we enter the spookiest season, thoughts turn to ghostly visitations, mysterious noises in the night, and other signs of that horror hallmark: the haunted house! And while there are plenty of unassuming homes with unexplainable phenomena (like that spot in your basement that’s always chilly, no matter the season?), when you combine excessive wealth with a tragic backstory, you really get that special, luxuriously Gothic vibe. Here are three of America’s most haunted mansions, each incorporating a haunting blend of power, money, and death.
Speaking of those power, money and death - they’re perfect ingredients for our virtual murder mystery, which just so happens to take place in a mansion as well! Read up on these bone chilling buildings, and then join us for an evening of the luxurious and the macabre.
The Winchester House (San Jose, CA)
The Winchester Mystery House is such a quintessential haunted mansion that Disney used it as inspiration for their Haunted Mansion ride! Starting as a humble 8 room villa in San Jose, the home was purchased in 1886 by Sarah Winchester, widowed heiress to the Winchester firearm fortune. Sarah immediately started construction on the house, which continued for the next 36 years until her death in 1922. Rather than hiring an architect, Sarah directed all the additions herself, which led to unexplainable features like staircases heading to nowhere and hidden windows which never saw the sun, all culminating in a sprawling, labyrinthian mansion that at one point reached seven stories tall! Popular legend says that during a seance, a medium told Sarah the only way to appease the ghosts of everyone killed by Winchester rifles was to continuously build them a new home. The unsettling architecture, combined with Sarah’s fascination with spiderweb motifs and the number 13, creates the perfect spooky environment, and it’s no surprise that visitors tell tales of mysterious figures and disembodied voices.
Franklin Castle (Cleveland, Oh)
Apparently, in the late 1800s elaborate home renovation was a common way for the beleaguered wealthy to distract themselves from their grief. At around the same time as Sarah Winchester started her ceaseless construction, Hannes Tiedemann began expanding Franklin Castle, for much the same reasons - and with the same spooky results!
Initially, Hannes built the ornate Victorian estate to celebrate his prosperous banking career. At first, life seemed idyllic. Then, in 1891 Hannes’s 15-year-old daughter tragically died, followed closely by his mother. To distract himself and his wife, Louise, from their grief, Hannes starting adding onto the house, incorporating multiple turrets, gargoyles, and an increasingly maze-like sprawl of new rooms. Tragedy continued to beset the Tiedemann family, with their next three children all dying in infancy, culminating in Louise’s death in 1895. By this time, the continuous train of deaths, combined with the increasingly eerie Gothic architecture, sparked rumors of hidden passageways, secret torture chambers, and familial foul play. Though Tiedemann sold the home shortly after Louise’s death, visitors told tales of mysterious flashes of light, spectral visions of a woman in black, and the disembodied cries of babies wailing through the walls.
Joshua Ward House (Salem, MA)
While this stately brick building is indeed historic - George Washington stayed there on a presidential visit to Salem - like many classic horror movies, the hauntings come from the property the house is built on. Almost a century before the Ward House was built, the property was home to Sheriff George Corwin, who personally oversaw the executions of 19 people during the Salem Witch Trials. Rumor has it that Corwin tortured suspected witches in the basement of his home. While there’s no evidence to support that claim, the truth is grisly enough: Corwin led the execution of Giles Corey, an accused warlock sentenced to “peine forte et dure,” or being slowly crushed to death. Visitors to the Ward House say they have felt ghostly hands strangling them, or come away with mysterious scratches on their arms and chests. The House is widely believed to be haunted by Corwin and Corey themselves, as well as the ghost of an accused and executed witch. Skeptical? The Ward House is now a hotel, so feel free to stay the night…if you dare!
Picture this: You get on your weekly Zoom call with your parents and grandparents. For the first 5 minutes, Gramma can't figure out how to turn her audio on. Once that's solved, she's still not sure where the camera is, so all you see are Gramma and Grampa's foreheads. Meanwhile, Dad's making dinner in the background, so the conversation is punctuated by pots and pans clattering. And after all that, in this, the sixth month of COVID, the conversations tend to be: "What have you been up to?" "Well...you know...not much. We left the house once this weekend."
Many of us have turned to the internet to stay in touch with family and friends during this time. And while the ability to see our loved ones safely at a distance is a blessing, it's also fraught with obstacles, especially for the less tech-savvy among us. While it still may not be safe to see our far away fam, here are some suggestions to make your virtual hang-outs a lot more satisfying.
Give Tech-Averse Participants a Walkthrough in Advance
Just because someone struggles with new technology doesn't mean they can't take part in virtual hangouts in a meaningful way. If one of your friends or family is new to video chat, set up a one on one video meeting with them beforehand so you can walk them through the process. That way, they get a chance to explore and ask questions without ten people all sharing their two cents at once. Useful things to point out include: how to connect to audio, how to turn video/audio off and on, how to use a virtual background, how to access the chat, and how to share their screen.
Participate in a structured activity
With every day seeming to blur together into "COVID-time," it can be hard to come up with new conversation topics each week. Try mixing up your weekly call with a specific activity or game! There are tons of ways to play games online, including board games and trivia. If your group isn't into games, or if the learning curve is a little too steep, you could plan an in-home scavenger hunt, organize a show & tell, or take turns asking interview questions about each other's lives. Now is a great time to learn a little more about your friends and family, and planning an activity with some amount of structure creates the opportunity for people to share and interact beyond talking about the weather.
Set Group Guidelines
Remember in kindergarten when you passed a talking stick around at circle time to show whose turn it is to talk? If your virtual hangouts turn into a jumble of cross talk, it may be time to bring back the talking stick. While it might seem a little formal, setting guidelines can help your hangouts run much more smoothly, with less frustration for everyone. Consider guidelines like: everyone muting until it's their turn to talk, using the "hand raise" or other reaction button to signify who goes next, and asking everyone to put their phones on silent during the call.
Pick a Theme
Even varying the little details like your background or your clothes can make a weekly call feel more fun! Choose a theme, then have everyone pick an outfit and a virtual background to correspond. Themes can range from super simple (a specific color or pattern) to outlandishly fabulous (a black tie gala, a Halloween extravaganza) or anywhere in between!
True crime podcasts tend to be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. For avid listeners, the very best true crime podcasts create an escape from the day to day, and a reminder that whatever your personal problems are, they could always be worse. These podcasts certainly accomplish that, and each also provides an extra dimension to take the listener beyond the initial morbid details. From a mental health care perspective to underrepresented stories of marginalized communities, these podcasts are a must listen for any true-crime fan.
Caught up on podcasts, but still looking for a macabre escape? Try our interactive, virtual murder mystery event! Put your investigative skills to the test in our hilarious and engaging show. Who knows? Maybe the murder was you all along! Contact us for tickets today!
What Did You Do?!
Missing & Murdered
I don't know about you, but August and September are big birthday months in my extended family. Since giant, in-person birthday celebrations are still not in the cards, online birthdays are the (virtual) place to be! But how to avoid the dreaded Zoom fatigue and conversations that inevitably spiral into the same commiserations about how "2020" everything is? Try our "Murder...Without a Clue!" virtual murder mystery! Two of our professional actors will guide you and your friends and family through an evening of puzzles, witty banter, and even an in-home scavenger hunt! Here are some additional tips to improve any virtual gathering and create a memorable night together. Read up for ideas, then Contact us to book your private event!
1. Encourage guests to dress up
Let's be real, some of us have been wearing the same rotation of sweatpants and old band t-shirts for the last five months. Give your loved ones a chance to move out of their "comfort zone" (get it??) by encouraging fancy dress, whatever that means to them. in our "Murder...Without a Clue!" event, everyone plays a guest at a billionaire's charity auction, so that tuxedo that's been collecting dust is definitely appropriate! But even those who naturally veer a little more informal will welcome the opportunity to break out their favorite outfit. Plus, at the end of the night we award the title "Best-Dressed," for a little extra motivation!
2. Plan a shared menu
The "dinner" part of "murder mystery dinner theatre" is a little more challenging these days. But with a little creative thinking, you can still recreate the experience of a delicious shared meal with your guests! If everyone is culinarily inclined, consider sending out a recipe in advance for everyone to make on their own. Make sure to provide the recipe about a week in advance, so everyone has time to grocery shop. For a more pampered experience, pick a restaurant for everyone to order takeout! Dainty Dames Events is partnering with local restaurants to offer special menu items, so stay tuned for more information on how to support multiple small businesses at once!
3. Design a signature Cocktail
For your guests over 21, a little booze goes a long way towards getting everyone past the initial awkwardness of talking into your computer screen. And where would classic mysteries be without goblets of deep red wine, dry gin martinis, or flasks of cheap whiskey? Bring a little extra class to your gathering by creating a themed cocktail for the evening - plus, who knows? It might help you gather clues - in vino veritas! And for those who don't imbibe, there are tons of delicious mocktails to add to the mystery vibe.
4. Decorate your space
Throwing a virtual party means you only have to decorate one corner of the house, not the whole place. Plus, if everyone contributes, then you get a whole screenful of festive backgrounds! Consider getting a party-in-a-box as an easy way to get a bunch of supplies. Or, if the thought of actually getting all the laundry off The Chair (we all have The Chair) is too daunting, just slap a fun virtual background on your Zoom call, and voila! Instant party!
5. include pets
Everybody loves pets. This is a no brainer. Got a cute puppy? Get that lil floofer on the screen. Got a cat who's far too dignified to be held? Try it anyways, everyone will enjoy watching the resulting fireworks. Got a colorful lizard or bug friend? Hold 'em up close to the screen for an instant zoology lesson! (Maybe give people a heads up first, though...you don't want your arachnophobe aunt fainting away!)
6. Personalize for the Guest of Honor
Celebrations are, at heart, about people. And even though we can't all get together in person right now, we can still make the guest of honor feel special and loved. Get a cake or favorite dessert delivered to the birthday house, and support a local bakery! Personalize your zoom backgrounds with your favorite silly photo together. And when planning a Dainty Dames virtual event, be sure to tell us about the guest of honor so we can celebrate them in style!
August 18, 2020 marks 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting women in the US the right to vote. (Theoretically, this applied to all women. However, women of color, especially Black women, continued to be disenfranchised by racist voting qualifications that remained legal until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and disenfranchisement and voter suppression of marginalized communities is still happening today.)
In honor of this major milestone in women's rights, we're featuring some real-life lady detectives that blazed a trail in the male-dominated world of crime fighting and undercover work. Feeling inspired? Put on your best Kate Warne impression and join the Dainty Dames for a virtual murder mystery event! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book tickets today!
Kate Warne - The Lady Pinkerton Who Saved PResident Lincoln
In 1856, the recently widowed Kate Warne showed up at the Pinkerton National Detective Agency asking for a job - to be the first female detective. Arguing that she could get information from places where a male detective would stand out, Kate convinced Allan Pinkerton to take her on, and quickly became one of his best detectives.
Right off the bat, Kate cracked an enormous embezzlement case by befriending the main suspect's wife. Through the information she gained, Kate recovered $40,000 in stolen funds, the equivalent of more than $1.25 MILLION today!
As if that's not enough, Kate also played a critical role in saving newly-elected President Lincoln from an assassination attempt on his way to taking office. By going undercover as a flirty Southern belle, Kate insinuated herself into secessionist circles in Baltimore, where she was able to confirm rumors and provide specific details to the Pinkertons as to the nefarious plot. Using that information, Lincoln avoided the would-be assassins by disguising himself as Kate's invalid brother on a train trip from Philadelphia to the capital, arriving safely under Kate's watchful eye.
Kate continued to crack cases during and after the Civil War, at times disguising herself as a fortune teller or confidante to gain critical intel. Allan Pinkerton regularly called Kate one of his top operatives, and placed her in charge of training a new generation of female operatives as head of the Female Detective Bureau.
Maud West - London's Lady Sherlock
Expert of disguise, larger-than life, self-promoting author, and fearless lady detective, Maud West founded her own detective agency in London in 1905, at age 25. For the next 34 years, Maud investigated countless cases of blackmail, abandoned wives, stolen inheritances, and missing persons. To assist in these cases, Maud used her top-notch disguise skills, posing as a lady of the night with "heavy earrings [that] make me look frightfully common," a degenerate gambling businessman, a harmless old lady, or a mysterious fortune teller.
Most of the details surrounding Maud's daring exploits come from Maud herself, as she wrote weekly accounts of her cases in tabloids of the time. While these accounts are of questionable veracity, she certainly knew how to tell a thrilling story! And whether or not she actually infiltrated an enemy spy ring or took down a Brazilian drug cartel, she certainly did run a successful detective agency for over three decades, forging a path to independence and adventure.
Frances Benzecry - the most doctored woman in new york
Like Maud and Kate, Frances Benzecry used the societal dismissal of women to gain information from unsuspecting criminals. Rather than focusing on blackmail, embezzlement, or even assassination, Frances had a different goal: to defend the public from medical malpractitioners - that is to say, from quacks! At the turn of the 20th century, New York City was filled with snake oil salesmen attempting to pass themselves off as licensed medical experts. At best, these fake treatments fleeced vulnerable populations, and at worst, they actively endangered people's lives and health. In 1905, Frances worked with the New York County Medical Society and the NYPD to gather evidence against unlicensed practitioners and regulate the medical profession.
How did she gather proof that unlicensed treatment was taking place? By receiving the treatment herself! For ten years, Frances went undercover as a patient suffering various ailments, getting dubious treatments all over the city. Once the treatment had been administered, she reported her experience to the Society and the police, who fined the offenders and officially labelled them "quacks." Frances' methods, and the media's fascination with this lady medical detective, earned her the title "the most doctored woman in New York."
Our murder mystery events come to life thanks to our talented cast of Dainty Dames and Gents! While you can read about their illustrious professional credits and background on our Cast Members page, we wanted to catch up with our cast and get a more personal profile. Last up was Terence Leclere (meet-the-cast-terence-leclere.html). This week, the multi-talented and hilarious Katy Foley!
Social media handles: @ktdidwhatnow (YouTube/Instagram) and @kateflix (Instagram/YouTube)
Time involved with Dainty Dames: 1.5 years
What have you been doing during quarantine?: Painting my house! And filming one woman famous scenes from movies for my channel Kateflix
What’s your Zoom aesthetic?: dogs as props to impress people: I zoom with my dogs! (who are ADORABLE)
Favorite DD character to play: Rouge le Dodo
Favorite Mystery/Detective media (book, movie, show, podcast, etc.): Murder Mystery on Netflix
Favorite weapon in Clue: candlestick
Secret Skill: I’m a marathon runner
If you turned out to be a murderer, what would your neighbors say about you in their evening news interview?: we knew she was wacky, but...??
Anything else you'd like to share?: I love deep dish pizza
Here at Dainty Dames Events, we love two things: 1) Supporting our local community and 2) Getting dressed up in fabulous outfits. A great way to accomplish both of those goals is by shopping at local vintage stores - with the added bonus of supporting Mother Earth! There's no better way to get ready for a murder mystery event than finding the perfect period-appropriate piece from your favorite vintage boutique.
Conscientious shopping is also a great way to support marginalized communities and put your money towards the people and causes that matter to you. With that in mind, here are seven vintage business owned by women of color based out of the SoCal area. And while in-person shopping is a little tricky right now, never fear! All these stores feature online shopping options - along with an incredible range of gorgeous vintage offerings, at a variety of price points.
And once you've found the perfect vintage outfit, sign up for one of our Dainty Dames Virtual Murder Mystery Events and show it off! Happy shopping!
PATTY WACK VINTAGE
Launched online in 2013 by owner/founder Sabine Maxine Lopez, Patty Wack Vintage features a hand curated selection of gorgeous vintage garments for every occasion, all at accessible price points. Sabine's work as a stylist was featured at Queer Fashion Week in 2016. PWV has also had a number of LA pop up events in the past; while those seem to be shelved for the moment, keep an eye out in the future halcyon days post-COVID.
Founded by Natasha Zoë Garrett, this Los Angeles-based online store will make all your neutral and earth-toned dreams come true. Recent offerings have included two piece sets crafted from vintage cotton nightgowns, creating a stunningly simple summer look. Natasha adds new items every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday - put it in your calendar, as these pieces go quickly!
HARLEM RAGSHOP 1934
Harlem RagShop 1934 features funky, eclectic pieces hand selected by Brandee Steger. Their colorful collection spans many decades, with especially fabulous pieces from the 1980s. Clothes from Harlem RagShop 1934 have been featured on TV shows like Glow and This Is Us.
Marie Monsod opened Recess in 2013, and the chic boutique quickly became a mainstay in the LA vintage scene. With collections from the 1920s to today, Recess is an incredible source for elegant vintage pieces from haute-couture to international fashion. They also offer consignment sales, in case you're looking to rehome some classy pieces before restocking your vintage wardrobe!
LITTLE PANDA BEAR FINDS
Self described as "Cool finds for cool people," this online-only store (based out of SoCal) features a range of fun, colorful pieces, with a focus on bold prints and textures, all modeled by the owner, Veronica.
Based out of LA, this online store run by KW has pieces from the 1960s on, ranging from rich, jewel tone statement blouses to sequined sheaths to ethereal white summer dresses.
BONUS: HONEYCUTT VINTAGE
LA based Honeycutt Vintage may not outfit your murder mystery wardrobe - but their selection of vintage homegoods is so wonderful we couldn't help but include it! From embossed books to colorful enamel dishware to home decor, each piece is aesthetically delightful - and functional! The store updates weekly on Sundays/Mondays.
What’s your Zoom aesthetic?: First, definitely click that “touch up appearance” option, then some good lighting. Try to get some good framing in there so I make a good square.
Favorite DD character to play: I’ve had the great fortune to play the French version of Butler Philip Lads (From the "Murder Without a Clue!" event) at over hundreds of Dainty Dames shows over the years. He’s been my favorite to play with his perfect mix of hosting duties and many opportunities for quick witted wordplay.
Favorite Mystery/Detective media: That would of course have to be the 1985 film Clue, the one that started it all for me. I did also just see Knives Out though and really liked it!
Favorite weapon in Clue: The witty repartees, duh.
Secret Skill: Kindness (awwwwwww)
If you turned out to be a murderer, what would your neighbors say about you in their evening news interview?: He does look a lot like Anthony Perkins...
Anything else you'd like to share?: I’ve been having an absolute blast knowing Jillian and Renee and getting to work and play with them all these years. I credit working with them on their shows early on with where I feel I developed my chops for many of the other immersive shows and experiences I went on to do after.
Our murder mystery events come to life thanks to our talented cast of Dainty Dames and Gents! While you can read about their illustrious professional credits and background on our Cast Members page, we wanted to catch up with our cast and get a more personal profile. First up, the explosively talented actor Tory N. Thompson, also known as TNT! TNT has been with Dainty Dames Events from the very beginning, and brings a dry humor and million-watt smile to every occasion.
You can catch up with TNT on social media (@Tory_Is_TNT) and on his website www.ToryNThompson.com
Some quick TNT facts:
What have you been doing during quarantine?: Raising a puppy
What’s your Zoom aesthetic?: Blank wall and ring light (keeping it minimalist!)
Favorite Dainty Dames character to play: Agent Black (from the "Murder Without A Clue!" event)
Favorite Mystery/Detective media: Recently, Knives Out
Favorite weapon in Clue: Candlestick
Secret Skill: Dodgeball pro (hm, has a dodgeball ever been used as a murder weapon?)
If you turned out to be a murderer, what would your neighbors say about you in their evening news interview?: "He probably played the music so loud to hide all his victims’ screams."
HOW TO DRESS FOR A 1920S MURDER MYSTERY PARTY WITH ITEMS FROM YOUR OWN HOME (PART 2: Suits and pants)
As promised, Part 2 of our 1920s murder mystery party costume ideas: pants and suits! When you're getting ready for a Dainty Dames virtual murder mystery event, your outfit is key. Whether your character is a Fitzgeraldian member of the partying elite, or a Prohibition-defying rumrunner, it's easy to whip up an appropriate costume using clothes you already have. One benefit of traditionally masculine fashion: the historical differences tend to be a bit subtler, so unless one of your fellow guests is a Time Traveler (whats-your-murder-mystery-personality.html), most suits will get you by just fine without too much scrutiny. Get your fedoras and knickerbockers ready, and let's jazz it up!
1920s murder mystery costumes: suits/pants
If your murder mystery character has some shady overtones - maybe the character card hints at rum smuggling, or Al Capone-esque dealings - then you definitely want to dress the part! The 1920s is where we get our classic image of “gangster” from - pinstripe suits with wide lapels and dashing fedoras at rakish angles. Keep colors dark and ominous - think greys and blacks. A pinstripe look is ideal, but if you don’t have that lying around, a white button-down shirt with a dark vest and pants will get the idea across. Slick your hair back with gel or pomade, chew on an (unlit!) cigar, and maybe stash a silver flask in your pocket.
For more of a Jay Gatsby 1920s-millionaire type look, it’s all about clean lines and rich materials. If you have a white suit, or even a tuxedo, now’s the time to bring it out! If not, you can still play a little bit more with color - a blue or brown suit is appropriate here, and you can incorporate a few more patterns, as art deco was really taking off. Cufflinks will really add a touch of authenticity - it’s all about looking like you have money and taste and want everyone to know! For an added bonus, draw on a pencil-thin moustache à la Rudolph Valentino and watch the other guests swoon.
Not a fan of suits? Is your murder mystery a more relaxed affair? While the 1920s were a very dressy time, there are a few fun sporty styles to put together. The most important item is: a sweater vest! If you don’t have one of these ever-so-stylish items, but you do have a disposable sweater, cut the sleeves off, and you’re good to go. You can either really have fun by mixing and matching wild patterns, or go all white for a classic tennis outfit. To get the authentic 1920s sportswear look, tuck your pant legs into some long argyle socks, and show off your shapely calves - who said only flappers get to be leggy? A simple button down underneath, and a newsboy or boater cap, and voila! You’ll be ready for a garden party in no time.
So what do you think? Are 1920s costumes a cinch, or do you find yourself longing for a higher waistline and an end to pinstripes? Never fear, here at Dainty Dames Events we offer a wide variety of themes and settings for our murder mysteries. Stay tuned for future costume ideas across the ages!