Mystery, murder and mayhem visit Placerville

By From page B1 | November 01, 2013

Downturn Abbey photo 4

MARTY GISH, Linda Griffiths and Enzo do Napoli, left to right, are ready to greet guests during "Downturn Abbey" — a special production taking place at the Historic Cary House Hotel in Placerville on Saturday, Nov. 9. Courtesy photo

What: “Downturn Abbey”

Who:  Cordelia Smythe Mysteries

Where: Historic Cary House Hotel, 300 Main St. in Placerville

When: Saturday, Nov. 9 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Cost: Packages vary

Information: 530-622-4271


Perhaps another ghost will be added to the registry at the Historic Cary House Hotel, 300 Main St. in Placerville, in the very near future. On Saturday, Nov. 9 the hotel, in conjunction with Cordelia Smythe Mysteries, will be presenting “Downturn Abbey” — a murder mystery event that is sure to be an entertaining evening.

Hotel guests will journey back to the early 1900s to help solve a murder in the abbey. Due to the tragic loss of the Lord’s nephew and heir who was swept overboard during a recent yacht race and is presumed drowned in the English Channel, the seventh Earl of Gotsum assembles the family to acknowledge the new heir, Mr. Archibald Smythe, a distant cousin from Scotland.

At this gathering, someone will be murdered. Guests will try to figure out who did it. Was it the Earl, the Lady, or maybe one of the servants. Clues will be hidden throughout the hotel.

The experience begins with a reception in the gracious lobby, moves into the back room and continues on upstairs to some of the guest rooms.

This is not a sit-down, spectator event. Everyone will have a chance to play detective at this party. As guests arrive, they will have snippets of information on their tickets so they will know things that others don’t know.

The mystery begins …

Cordelia Smythe Mysteries is an Internet-based business that sells at-home murder mystery boxed game kits. The production company was created by Linda Griffiths whose background includes working as a paralegal and a social science teacher.


The games a foot

Griffiths’ background in research and writing has been an asset when writing the mystery plots for her games.

In each story there is a minimum of six characters but it can go up to 10 players. An expansion of up to 25 characters can be added. There are options in each story to have multiple murders as well.

There are even versions for corporate events and she’s recently started creating mysteries for juveniles that are used in history classes where historical characters are drawn into the story.

It’s a fun, creative way for the kids to learn about history, she said.

It all started two years ago when Griffiths purchased a murder-mystery dinner package and invited some friends over. She said the first one was a kick, the second one she didn’t like so she rewrote half of it and by the third game she thought, “This is dumb, I may as well just write it myself.”


History and mystery

From there her business has blossomed. All of her productions are murder mysteries and many are based on historical events.

Cordelia Smythe Mysteries games make for a fun evening and Lanny Hardy of the Cary House is looking forward to the evening of intrigue.

The productions are written with a sense of humor as seen in the story “Hibiscus & Homicide” about a beauty and skin care company in the 1960s that has created Hurricane Hairspray, “So strong, your hairdo can withstand a hurricane.”

This party takes place at the company’s annual New Product Launch where the head honcho is CEO Bob “The Big Kahuna” Billyouns.


No script needed

Smythe’s games are not scripted. For the event participants take on the persona of an entirely different person. Each character is provided with details of the person’s past, including secrets to protect, alliances to forge and goals to achieve.

The only thing left is for each player to let loose of everyday inhibitions and let the play begin.

Are Tony Award thoughts buzzing in your brain yet?

Although the majority of Griffiths’ business is Internet related, she does orchestrate events from time to time such as the show at the Cary House — Placerville’s iconic hotel.

When asked where she gets the cast for her productions, Smythe grinned and said she has a lot of “hammy friends.” Many of whom are retired cops.

The troupe goes by the name of The Smythe Players.

She also drafts characters from Imagination Theater in El Dorado County and has worked with an organization in Roseville called Black Hand Comedy.

The cast for Downturn Abbey is made up of The Smythe Players who are all local residents.

The Cary House Hotel is managed by Lanny Hardy and his wife, Lorraine. They joined the hotel in February 2013, bringing with them good energy, excellent marketing talents and a love for the history of El Dorado County. It is a dream job for them.

Their vision is to enhance people’s experiences when they visit Placerville.

Lanny wants guests to think of the hotel, not just for lodging but as a destination. A place to stay while experiencing all of Main Street, Apple Hill Association members, local wineries, shops and restaurants — a place to have fun.

Lanny plans to hold more of the murder mystery events in the future, all of which will involve El Dorado County’s rich history. The hotel has 38 rooms and its guests come from all over the world.

The event on Nov. 9 will include wine and food pairings. The wine coming from four Fair Play area wineries: Colibri Ridge Winery, True Vine Winery, dk Cellars and Cantiga Wineworks and the hors d’oeurves are from the Hey Day Café on Main Street.

Guests are encouraged to dress in vintage clothing for the Downturn Abbey event. So far those who have made reservations have been very positive about coming in early 1900 costumes making it a very colorful event in many ways.

If guests arrive in style by pulling up outside in a car from the period, they’ll receive a special credit on their package. The hotel is offering other special packages and prizes for the event.

To be a part of the production contact the hotel at 530-622-4271. Smythe invites adventure seekers to be a part of history, try to solve the crime, enjoy delicious wine and food, and possibly win some great prizes in the process.

Barbara Tankersley

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