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Online murder mystery: how to host your own virtual murder mystery over Zoom

Not sure what to do tonight? Beat lockdown restrictions with this guide to hosting your very own murder mystery party over Zoom, and treat your friends to a killer night-in…

Updated on 4 November 2020: As we plunge headfirst into a second nationwide coronavirus lockdown (sigh), many of us have been using technology to partake in online quizzes, Zoom karaoke, and virtual escape rooms.

Others, though, have been unleashing their inner Agatha Christie and partaking in a series of deliciously diabolical online murder mysteries.

With that in mind, then, here’s the ultimate guide to hosting your own virtual murder mystery.

Consider the game to be very much afoot…

Step one: choose and download your murder mystery game

From the players to the plot itself, picking your game will set the tone for the entire night.

Here are just a few of the options available…

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A Deadly Dose: A Victorian Murder Mystery

Fancy making life easier for yourself? Previously performed at the Old Operating Theatre in London Bridge, Play Dead London has transformed their immersive theatre experience into a Zoom-based extravaganza, which means all you need to do is bag yourself a ticket and attend. 

“The year is 1879 and you are all invited to the autopsy of Jacob John Canning. But something is wrong… very wrong,” reads the synopsis.

You guessed it: Canning’s death wasn’t of natural causes, and it’s up to you (and Detective Slaughter) to solve the murder.

Tickets are available from £10 via www.designmynight.com.

A Deadly Dose: A Victorian Murder Mystery
A Deadly Dose: A Victorian Murder Mystery

Whodunnit? Macmillan Murder Mystery

As reported on 28 May 2020: Fancy helping a good cause as you have fun? Of course you do, and that’s where Macmillan Cancer Support comes in.

That’s right: one of the largest British charities (which provides specialist health care, information and financial support to people affected by cancer) has created its very own Whodunnit? Murder Mystery for you to download and host online.

“Get ready for some virtual fun by solving our mind-boggling murder mystery,” a post from the charity reads.

“Once you sign up, we’ll send you all the characters, scripts, and clues that you need to host your Whodunnit online.”

The idea is that you set up a fundraising page to run alongside your mystery, and encourage friends and family to make a donation.

“There’s never been a more important time to raise money for people living with cancer.”

Find out more via the Macmillan website now.

Murder In The Red Room

In Murder in the Red Room, a modern masterpiece is being auctioned off by its owner. Everyone taking part is either an art collector keen to bid in the auction or a key character in the plot… and, yeah, someone dies. Obviously.

This virtual video chat murder mystery game works best for 8-20 people. The company is operating a ‘pay what you can afford’ scheme, so you can pick this one up for £1, £10, £20, or £50.

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Little Rock Horror Shop Murder!

This murder mystery takes place at Hyde Studios, probably best known for its cliché-crammed science fiction and horror B-movies. With a new film in the early stages of production, the last thing anyone expected was for the studio owner and director, Jacqueline Hyde, to vanish mysteriously one evening, leaving no traces apart from a pool of blood, an upturned sign and a slight burning smell.

What happened to Jacqueline Hyde? Where is her body? Who is responsible? And will the new B-movie, ’Little Rock Horror Shop’, ever be made?

This virtual video chat murder mystery game works best for 8-20 people. Prices start from £21.

Murder In Dreary Hollow

Leota Xavier was the most despised lady in the town of Dreary Hollow. With a sharp tongue and scowls galore, this spinster managed to make more enemies than friends during her miserable lifetime. A five-time widow with more money than good sense, she had retired from being the headmistress at Dark Harbor Preparatory School long ago and lived alone in a mansion on the outer edge of town.

To nobody’s surprise, Leota’s body was discovered in her front yard when her butler left her alone one night. The Dreary Hollow Police have summoned you. You either have the missing pieces of the puzzle needed to solve the case, or you are a prime suspect.

This virtual video chat murder mystery game works best for 4-10 people. Prices start from $37.95 (approximately £30.35).

Death’s Shadow

It’s Coronation Day, 1953. The residents of Albert Street have gathered in murder mystery author Dexter Runcie’s front room to watch their new Queen being crowned on his new-fangled television set and to have a party. Everyone avidly watched the procession and ceremony until someone noticed that Dexter had fallen asleep in his chair! There was much laughter… until they realised he wasn’t sleeping – he was dead!

This was meant to be a day of celebration, a day of pride and patriotism. How on earth did he die? Surely he couldn’t have been murdered… could he?

This virtual video chat murder mystery game works best for 8-20 people. Prices start from £21.

Murder in the Swinging 60s

Pearly Pearl Phoenix was murdered on her birthday as she was organising Turretsfest, aka the grooviest rock festival the world has ever seen.

Her rock star husband sings his adoration of his “Pearly Pearly Pearl”. Her minidress-designing stepmother and her spiv godfather declare themselves to be SO upset. The hippie commune just believes in peace, man. Peace under the moon of love. And oh là là, the French aristocratic rock festival organiser would never hurt “ma chère amie”. Which one is lying? It’s up to you to find out.

This virtual video chat murder mystery game works best for 6-14 people. Prices start from £17.

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Step two: pick a video app

As we’ve mentioned before, Zoom is the app of the moment: not just because it’s easy to use, but because you can host up to 100 participants at once.

Setting up a Zoom account is easy: fill in your details and sign up for free. The only drawback here is that your meetings will cut off after 40 minutes on a basic plan. So, either host one half of the quiz and take a 10 minute break for bathrooms and beverages and re-start the meeting, or upgrade, but it will cost you £11.99 a month.

Step three: assemble your players

What could be more fun than getting together with your pals over Zoom? Getting together with your pals over Zoom in character, that’s what.

Assign the character roles to your players and send them their character packets. As the host, it’s up to you to make sure your cast members review their bios and the suspect list prior to the big event. 

Step four: consider your costumes

Costumes aren’t vital, but there’s no denying that they add to the fun. Consider the theme of your party, challenge your guests to dress up in style. It’ll make it all the more fun when you all log on to play.

As cosplay enthusiast @SillySpoonSweeties writes on Instagram: “Remember to be silly and have a spot of fun every now and again!”

Step five: don’t skimp on the backdrop

Consider the setting of your murder mystery: is it a 20s speakeasy, or a swinging 60s club? Get creative and try to theme your backdrop accordingly. It doesn’t have to be anything special: maybe a candle or two, a goblet of wine, a disco ball (depending on your mystery’s theme), just to help get people in the murder mystery mood.

Step six: consider your mood music

Nothing too distracting: just some nice, thematic music to have on in the background. Trust us when we say that Spotify is guaranteed to have your back.

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Step seven: launch the game

Ensure all guests are added to video call and make sure they have their party booklets and clues ready. As host, it’s up to you to kick the story off and give everyone a chance to introduce themselves. Encourage them to stay in character, wherever possible!

Step eight: exchange information

Usually, these private side conversations would take place in person: a clandestine whisper in the corner of a room, a hurried Q&A in the kitchen, that sort of thing. In this game, though, they will take place via WhatsApp.

Step nine: keep the drinks and snacks flowing

Yes, you could eat beforehand (and it may make life easier in the long run), but it’s way more fun and atmospheric to eat together. Get together on WhatsApp a few days before the event, plan a menu, and make sure to break halfway through the game for a virtual dinner together. It’ll make it feel like a real party!

Step nine: accuse a murderer

Ask everyone to write their guesses on a piece of paper and then, on the count of three, have them hold their answers up at the same time. Ask them to explain why they think they’ve nailed it, too: it’s always good to have people do their best Poirot or Sherlock Holmes impression as they unveil all of their evidence.

Step 10: the big reveal

It’s time to unveil the real murderer, ideally in as dramatic a manner as possible: we recommend asking the culprit to announce themselves on Zoom.

Once this is done, reveal the evidence everyone missed, before toasting their success (or failure) as detectives with another drink. 

Voila! 

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