Strangers on a Zoom Call!

Due to the pandemic, this year’s SMPS NY-NJ Affiliate Spooky Spirits had to be virtual, which caused a bit of panic at first. But with the popularity of virtual party games and apps like Among Us, an interactive virtual Murder Mystery Party felt like the best fit for this year’s festivities.

SMPS members celebrated Halloween early by becoming willing participants of this Murder Mystery Party, which took place (virtually) in a hauntingly beautiful place – Ireland! Our story begins with Hugh Joyce, the Earl of Stackallen, who was hosting his annual charity gala ball at his lavish family castle deep in the Irish countryside. However, before the festivities could get underway, his body was discovered slumped over his desk. By whom you ask? The infamous crime journalist, January Polten, of course! With a thunderstorm-like blackout and harrowing scream, partygoers were hit with the first event of the night – a MURDER!

Next, the terrified guests were shuffled into three Zoom rooms to start the investigation into the Murder of Poor Old Hugh. As the evidence was uncovered, guests began to interrogate each other as to their whereabouts at the time of the murder and to uncover possible motives to see Hugh dead.

Was someone being blackmailed? A scorned lover seeking revenge? Perhaps a business partner who lost it all in a botched deal?

In the end, three murderers would be revealed that night, one in each respective room!

The first, Professor Rebecca Barnsdale (played by Monica Griffith), a young historian who was assigned to the Earl’s castle to conduct historical research. When she uncovered that the Earl wasn’t the true heir to the estate, he made her destroy all her research, wasting six months of her life! She ended up killing the Earl in a fit of rage!

The second murderer, critically-acclaimed crime novelist January Polten (played by Jen Mannino), revealed the sinister inspiration for her novels – herself! Hugh discovered this author’s bloodlust and threatened to call the police, so she had to silence him…forever.

The third and final murderer of the night was Petrina Fox (played by Ali Panditrao), a shameless social climbing PR consultant who let Hugh bribe several journalists to get her clients coverage earlier in her career. Since then, Hugh has been blackmailing her into covering his various events for free. She grew tired of him holding these bribes over her head for 30 years and decided he couldn’t live a moment longer!

This live-action Clue allowed SMPS members to flex their acting muscles and they didn’t disappoint! Members became musicians, novelists, and overzealous PR consultants with ease, toting instruments, furs, and mustaches! Every detail submerging the participants deeper into the fantastical world of mystery, complete with virtual backgrounds reminiscent of the House on Haunted Hill (the 90’s version).

After the night’s investigative activities, guests of the party met back in the main sitting room, where they told stories of the late Hugh, gossiped about the murderer, and shared their best and worst Halloween costumes. It was refreshing to reside in that castle for a night, instead of our normal offices, makeshift home offices, and living rooms/bedrooms.

In the end, the nation is facing some divisive times, and what better way to bring people together than a little sleuthing!

We hope everyone enjoyed their stay at the Earl of Stackallen’s Castle, and we hope to see you again next year! (With a different host, of course…)