Langley wonders “Who Dunit?”
37th annual Mystery Weekend is here
— Created February 23, 2022 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
It might be considered a horrible crime spree – 37 years’ worth – just about anywhere else, but in Langley, there’s fun to be had by all who converge on the Village by the Sea to solve its annual murder mystery.
Langley’s Mystery Weekend is back Saturday and Sunday, after COVID forced its cancelation last year. But murder did not take a hiatus during the pandemic. Quite the opposite, in fact. This time around, there are rumors swirling – could Langley be cursed, or worse yet, home to a cereal killer?
Loretta Martin is the longtime creative “brain” behind the Mystery Weekend’s humorous and inventive storylines.
“Last year (writing in 2020 for 2021 mystery), we actually started writing based on a mystery I had written for a town in New Hampshire,” she said. “They had to cancel their event in 2020 so I thought, ‘Why waste a good story?’ That story adaptation for Langley was almost completed by the time the Chamber decided not to hold the Langley event in 2021. By that time the story seemed “cursed,” so I dropped it and came up with another story line. My co-writers liked it and we went with the new story for 2022.
“We feel proud that the Langley Mystery Weekend is the longest running event of its kind in the nation and it bothered us that the 2020 cancellation might break our 37-year run of murders,” Martin continued. “For that reason, I suggested we write a story about how we DID have a murder in 2021 but no one discovered the body until the end of the year. That was the seed that led to the idea of a ‘Langley Curse’ and our ‘Cereal Murder’ story line.”
This year amateur detectives from locales far and wide will converge upon Langley to try to solve the murder of Gen. Ottis Millez. Authorities believe they could be dealing with a deadly family feud spanning generations. But then a missing luxury fishing boat suddenly reappears without its two famous passengers, a rocket – yes, a rocket – crashes into a nearby field, and two high school clubs start getting into mischief. This kind of mayhem can only lead to – that’s right – more murder.
There is sure to be a killer among the 30 suspects wandering Langley’s quaint downtown, waiting to be questioned by the sleuths who have come to town to help the authorities figure out “who dunit.”
For Martin, who has been the sole or lead writer of these mysteries since 1999, inspiration can come from just about anywhere.
“Ideas come to me from various events during the year or from a popular social issue or even from a catchy phrase I hear or think up,” she described. “I usually run ideas for the next mystery by the cast members while this mystery weekend is going on. If they think some sound like fun ideas, I’ll expand on those and eventually pick a topic, sometimes after tossing the ideas around with co-writers. There have been years when the whole mystery changed direction after an event mid or late in the year.”
To participate in solving the mystery, “detectives” of all ages purchase a clue map and ballot online at visitlangley.com/store or at the visitor information center at 208 Anthes Ave. in Langley. Cost is $15 for those ages 16-64, or $12 for those 65 and older, military or youth under 16. The office opens at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday for Will Call and at 10 a.m. for the general public. The specially created “Langley Gazette” is chock full of clues and the clue map shows where printed clues can be found. Detectives are welcome to check out the scene of the crime and interview suspects to help put it all together. Solutions to the mystery are written on the ballots, which are turned in at Mystery Weekend Headquarters no later than 4 p.m. Sunday. Those who have correctly solved the mystery will be entered into a grand prize drawing.
It’s an event that has brought people back year after year to solve the “crime.” Martin said she loves seeing her stories come to life.
“I enjoy all the writing process and working with a funny cast and sometimes with funny co-writers,” she said. “But my favorite part of the year-long process is the day I see the actors during the mystery event get into character and into the costumes they create. At that time, I have the wonderful honor of seeing the characters I write come to actual life before my eyes. It is an amazing experience!”
One doesn’t need any special training to participate in the Mystery Weekend – just be open to some creative problem-solving.
“I do not look at the story from the perspective of a detective,” Martin said. “I would say I spin a story puzzle which I feel the players will find fun, funny, and enjoyable for all ages. That is the goal I keep in mind. Then I create the characters and the story flows from those two elements. I love to ‘play tricks’ and I love puns, so the mystery often contains a tricky solution and is full of puns and silly doings.”
Find more information on the Langley Mystery Weekend at visitlangley.com.
“In the end it is not if you figure out the correct solution but the enjoyment you and your friends or family have immersing yourselves into a live mystery in a real place and time,” Martin said.