If you’re looking for interactive ideas for Halloween events this year, consider the merits of a murder mystery party. These types of parties are generally themed events where a fictional murder occurs, and the attendees have to solve a mystery by figuring out who committed the murder. A well-planned murder mystery party combines the fun of dressing up with a little bit of acting, competition, and puzzles, and it can provide a great structure for your event. Though you may imagine a dinner party with guests dressed in Roaring 20’s style when you think of a murder mystery party, this type of event is surprisingly versatile and can be adapted to lots of Halloween party themes.
Another advantage of a murder mystery party is that it can be tailored to your specific budget. You can hire companies that design and bring murder mystery games, and sometimes actors, to your event. For a simpler approach, browse through a number of mystery party kits or take on the challenge of going full DIY and write the mystery yourself. Hosting a virtual event this Halloween? Consider a Zoom murder mystery party that still gives your guests the opportunity to dress up and enjoy the game. Murder mystery games aren’t just for Halloween either, this kind of event can work year-round depending on the theme you choose.
If you’re ready to start planning your murder mystery party but you’re not certain where to start, we’ve pulled together this guide with 15 tips, tricks, and treats to make your event, and your murder mystery, come alive.
How a murder mystery game works
Imagine an in-person version of the classic game Clue. When playing the board game, participants assume a character and receive cards that represent different possible murder weapons and crime locations, all of which are clues. This example gives you some idea of the kind of preparations you’ll need to make to throw a great murder mystery party. You’ll need props, characters for your attendees to play, a location where the staged “murder” occurs, and clues. All of these factors depend on the theme you choose for your mystery and whether you’re writing the story yourself, purchasing a pre-made murder mystery party kit, or hiring a company to handle the entirety of the game.
Here are the steps to planning an unforgettable night.
1. Choose your murder mystery party kit
There are a wide range of murder mystery party kits or packages available for the aspiring murder mystery event planner, from free downloadable plans to companies you can hire who specialize in these types of parties. The level of planning and prop-making you have to do will depend on the kind of kit you choose, and this will likely depend on the size of your budget.
2. Think about your attendance
In order for a murder mystery game to work properly, there are both a minimum and a maximum number of people who can be involved. Plan your game and choose your venue based on the size of the event. If you’re hosting a virtual murder mystery party, think about how many people can be on a video call and still communicate easily.
Typically, when you send out murder mystery party invitations, you’ll assign each attendee a character that they’ll play while they’re at the party. Be sure to give the attendees enough background information so they can come up with a costume and a persona.
3. Understand your target audience
Depending on the demographics of your potential attendees, you may want to adjust your theme and the kind of content you include in the murder mystery game. If you’re planning an event for kids, consider changing the central mystery to be that something special is missing or has been stolen, adjusting the puzzles and clues accordingly. Designing an event for true crime fans? Make sure you spend time on the finer details of the mystery, so attendees are interested and engaged.
4. Decide on a theme
Because your attendees will be doing at least a little acting or participating at the party, decide on a theme ahead of time, if you’re going to have one. That way, attendees can do research about how to put together their costumes or how their characters might behave. This will also help you come with any props or decorations to prepare beforehand, and inform the kind of food and drinks you plan to serve. If you’re planning on getting a murder mystery party kit, many of those are created for a specific theme already.
5. Secure the right sponsors
If you want to offer some special cocktails or merch to your attendees but your budget is tight, sponsors are a great way to get more for your event and expand your promotional reach. Before approaching any potential sponsors, think about the types of companies that make the most sense for both your event and your target audience. For example, partner with a local distillery to create themed cocktails for your event. Or work with a company to make trendy snacks if your event is for teenagers or children.
Getting the word out and selling tickets
Once you’ve made your general decisions about things like theme and budget, it’s time to start generating interest for your event and ironing out the details.
If you need an event platform to help sell tickets or promote your event on social media, check out what Eventbrite has to offer as you create your event from start to finish. Eventbrite also offers customizable event pages that can coordinate with your overall theme.
Here’s what to think about as your event gets closer.
6. Offer different tiers of tickets
If you’re not hosting a free murder mystery party, you may want to offer different ticket types based on the kind of experience your attendees are looking for. VIP tickets could include food and drink packages, exclusive swag or props, or the opportunity to be assigned a character who is an important part of the mystery. Using Eventbrite’s ticketing system, you can create different ticket types and sell to attendees right on your website or Facebook page.
7. Choose your venue to match your theme
Keep your theme in mind when choosing an event space. If your mystery takes place at an 80’s prom, you may want to rent out an event space at a school or a community center. Planning a small event with a Great Gatsby theme? Consider finding a local speakeasy or cocktail bar. When choosing your space, keep in mind how many characters are required for your murder mystery game and how much space they’ll need to move around.
8. Customize your mystery for the holidays
A little mystery is great for Halloween events, but a murder mystery game can work for other holidays as well. For your next Valentine’s Day event, look for a game that focuses on a crime of passion and sell ticket packages for couples. Relieve some of the winter holiday stress with a humorous murder mystery party that incorporates seasonal activities and treats. In some cases, you may want to have the event on a date other than the actual holiday so as not to conflict with the plans of potential attendees.
9. Get attendees excited through social media
Promote your event on social media by dropping hints about the mystery and giving sneak peeks about the characters. Create a hashtag for the event that attendees can use on Twitter and Instagram both before and during the event and encourage them to post about their experience. This will also help you generate interest for future events. Eventbrite integrates with major social media platforms and makes it easy to post about your event and expand your audience.
Throw a murder mystery party no one will forget
Set yourself up for success on the day of your event by preparing what you can beforehand and enlisting the right people to keep things organized and running smoothly.
Here’s what you’ll want to think about on the day of — besides adding the final details to your costume.
10. Prepare props in advance
Make sure to acquire or craft any props or clues your attendees are going to need beforehand and have them ready at the venue for when your characters arrive. To really help your attendees get into the game, you can send them specific props before the event along with their character assignments. If the props are essential to the murder mystery game, you may want to have extras on hand if the attendees forget to bring them along or misplace them.
11. Create the right ambiance
Set the scene for an immersive murder mystery game with décor and props. Small details, like serving period-specific cocktails in the right glassware or playing music that captures the spirit of your theme, help to immerse your attendees in the fantasy aspect of the event. If your murder mystery is set in a particular era, have your team and vendors dress in line with the theme.
12. Keep the game moving
A murder mystery party has a lot of moving parts that can be tricky to keep on track. If you’re working with a team, make sure you have some people keeping your game on track throughout the night. Guests can get distracted, so ensure that there are people keeping them on task and moving them through the game in a timely manner.
Consider having people who can shadow each team of guests as they look for clues, or post event staff near the clue locations to monitor team progress. Stay in communication with your events team throughout the night so you can keep tabs on where your guests are. And have members of your team stationed to help with vendors and to direct guests looking for refreshments or restrooms.
13. Provide more than just a mystery
You don’t need a traditional dinner party just to plan a murder mystery game, but it’s still a good idea to provide something other than just the mystery. Provide food and drink or have some available for purchase. Decide if you want to incorporate live music or other entertainment that suits your theme for when there are breaks in the game.
If this is an event you plan to put on a regular basis, consider selling some merch that includes the year of the event and the theme. These could become coveted, collectible souvenirs for your regular attendees.
14. Document your event
Take pictures and capture videos at the event to document the experience, and encourage your attendees to post their own photos on social media using your hashtag. You can give out or sell photos to attendees as souvenirs and also use the images and video as marketing material for future events. If your event is a hit and you want to recreate it next year, you’re going to want lots of media showing how much fun the previous attendees had.
15. Collect data and evaluate your success
When the mystery is solved and you’re done running after your clue-hunting guests, your work still isn’t over just yet. Evaluate the success of your event by crunching the numbers and reviewing important information collected during the event. Determine your event ROI, check to see if you sold out of your merch, and see how many guests were posting about your event on social media.
Look for more anecdotal evidence as well that could help you better curate your next event. Did the bartenders notice that a lot of guests asked for a particular drink or cocktail that you didn’t offer? Did you sell a lot of one kind of merchandise, but not much of another? Did attendees remember to use your social media hashtag? The more information you collect, the better prepared you can be in the future.
Ready to solve a mystery — and want a treat?
Whether you still need help coming up with some Halloween party themes or you’re ready to sell tickets to your event, Eventbrite can help. Explore our blog and see how our ticketing service or virtual events platform can work for you.
And now for a treat. If you’re already planning your murder mystery party but could use some guidance, print this checklist to help you from start to finish!
Early planning (1-2 months before the event)
- Determine your target audience
- Choose a theme
- Determine your budget
- Choose a game kit
- Decide how many people to invite
- Select and reserve a venue
- Hire a caterer
Marketing and invites (1-2 months before the event)
- Create event page
- Choose ticket types
- Promote the event on social media
- Promote the event via email
- Send out invites that assign characters to confirmed attendees
- Create an event hashtag
Planning the details (1-2 weeks before the event)
- Make a final plan for food and drinks
- Organize décor
- Create a playlist/discuss a setlist with your band
- Prepare props
- Delegate day-of responsibilities to your team
Post-event follow up and data analysis
- Calculate your event ROI
- Determine how many people attended the event vs. the number of tickets sold
- Collect anecdotal evidence from vendors and team members
- Debrief with your team about what worked and what didn’t
- Send a follow-up email to attendees with photos and video from the event
- Offer attendees a discount or promotional offer as a thank you for attending