Murder at the Spy House

aDSCF4408.JPGA scream pierces the small talk around the vintage dining table where a group of about twenty has gathered on a winter’s night to share a meal in a historic house.  The proprietress rushes in and breathlessly announces that a boarder (who was expected to join us for dinner) is lying dead on the floor of his upstairs room.  Looks of shock and alarm are all-around as the conversations begin again in hushed tones. The dead man is an author and historian whom many of the guests have come to hear give a lecture about spy-craft. The proprietress steps away to call the police. There is nothing for the group to do but wait for their arrival, so dinner proceeds.

bDSCF4414.JPGSoon after, a detective arrives and takes charge. His investigation involves each of the dinner guests in a journey through their possible involvement in the crime and culminates in identifying the murderer … one of guests at the dinner table.

This was the general template of a murder mystery dinner I was a part of recently. The occasion was a social get-together of a Board I am a part of for its members and their significant others. A murder mystery dinner, if you’ve never heard of such a thing, is a bit of dinner theater where most of the parts are played by the customers while they enjoy an elegant dinner.

The venue was a historic property in the eastern downtown area of Albuquerque, New Mexico called “The Spy House.”   cDSCF4462.JPGThe Spy House is a fascinating place in of itself even though it is not linked to any real-life murders as far as I know.  The house is a turn-of-the-century relic and part of a bed-and-breakfast operation (Downtown Historic Bed & Breakfasts) that spans multiple adjacent houses in the Huning Highland National Historic District.

It is notable as the home of an infamous spy of the Manhattan Project era, David Greenglass.  Greenglass and his wife rented an upstairs room.  Greenglass worked at top secret Los Alamos and would hitchhike to and from Albuquerque on weekends.  f1DSCF4465.JPGHe was recruited as a spy by his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg who would eventually be convicted and executed along with Greenglass’ sister Ethel for their role in the spying — purported to have given the design of key atomic bomb components to Soviet Russia.  Greenglass was also convicted but received a prison sentence in return for his testimony against the Rosenbergs.  The transfer of secrets likely took place in this very house where Greenglass met with his Soviet contact, Harry Gold who also was spared execution due to his testimony against the Rosenbergs.

hDSCF4419.JPGInnkeepers Steve and Kara Grant have crafted a script that cleverly weaves the unique history of Spy House into a contemporary dinner drama that engages everyone at the table and culminates in solving the case.  Steve plays the police detective who serves as ringmaster of sorts while Kara is the role of proprietress of the B&B which of course she is in real life.  Each of the guests around the table has a distinct role to play and persona to assume.  Scripts and supporting materials are well organized such that the evening flows without need for preparation or practice.  The events can be arranged for private groups and one public event is offered monthly for open sign-up.

Following are more images from a memorable evening.  Captions, when provided appear before the related image(s) …

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Steve and Kara set-up the evening to come by explaining the history of the Spy House …

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Detective Fineman (Steve) on the beat …

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The dinner was nicely catered by the nearby Artichoke Cafe, a favorite Albuquerque restaurant …

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Numerous books tell the stories of Manhattan Project spies and their infamous work in New Mexico …

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Guilty party …

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