A Mystery at the Mansion

By Beacon Staff

If television ratings, movies tickets and book sales are any indication, most people enjoy digging into a good murder mystery, following the whodunit and formulating their own theories before the detective eventually nabs the killer.

Fortunately for those who are inclined to a little armchair investigation, the Conrad Mansion Museum will offer a chance to get up off the couch and put those inquisitive skills to work during its 12th annual Death by Chocolate fundraiser.

The fundraiser takes place April 26 and 27 at 7 p.m., and will offer guests wine, hors d’oeuvres, music and two chocolate fountains to enjoy while they work to solve the evening’s murder mystery show.

The show, written and directed by local radio personality Leah Lindsay, takes the audience through a three-hour mystery that they will help solve.

“It’s just a three-hour evening of fun; a live game of ‘Clue,’” Gennifer Sauter of the Conrad Mansion Museum said.

Death by Chocolate is a major fundraiser for the Conrad, a Victorian home designed by Kirtland Cutter in 1895 that housed the historic Conrad family in Kalispell. This event has helped pay for many improvements to the property and mansion over the last 12 years, Sauter said.
This year, most of the money earned at Death by Chocolate will go toward work on the mansion’s gazebo, which is suffering after getting moisture stuck under its shingles.

“It wouldn’t be the mansion grounds without that gazebo out there,” Sauter said.

The storyline for each Death by Chocolate evening is different every year. For this year’s story, Lindsay has combined two favorites set in the 1950s – “Grease” and “Happy Days” – to create “Death at the Sock Hop.”

Without giving too much away, the storyline follows Grease protagonists Danny and Sandy and their friends as they meet up with Happy Days characters Richie and Fonzie and their pals at the Conrad Mansion.

However, as the group is enjoying their evening, one of them is murdered, and it is up to the rest to find the murderer. The audience helps, of course.

Each audience member receives a card to compile clues at the beginning of the night, Sauter said, and they are taken throughout the mansion to various rooms with clues and hints to personalities, motives and other tensions among the Happy Days and Grease crews.

Along with clue rooms, the audience will also visit four or five performance rooms, where the actors will bring the characters and their potential motives and possible alibis to life.

The guests are then asked to write down who they think did it, with what murder weapon, and where in the mansion, Sauter said, very similar to the game, “Clue.”

If more than one guest correctly identifies all factors of the dastardly deed, one of the winners’ cards is drawn to declare an overall winner for the evening, and that successful detective will win two tickets to next year’s show.

And, since the event is a fundraiser, there will also be raffle opportunities throughout the evening, Sauter said. Many local businesses have given generously, she said, and prizes include a chocolate-themed basket, a basket full of board games for a game night, and more.

“While people are upstairs trying to guess the whodunit we’ll draw downstairs and have a list of winners,” Sauter said.

The evening wouldn’t be possible without the acting crew, Sauter said, who, along with Lindsay, donate their time and talent to the effort.

“They are wonderful,” Sauter said. “This is all out of the kindness of their hearts.”

Tickets for the evening cost $55 apiece, and $50 for members. They are available at Station 8 in Columbia Falls; Persimmon Gallery in Bigfork; Whitefish Gift and Gear in Whitefish; and The Bookshelf in Kalispell.

The show sells out each year, so Sauter advised those interested to buy their tickets early.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she said.

For more information on the Conrad Mansion Museum or to donate, visit www.conradmansion.com.

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