Vendome's mystery weekend brings guests into the game

Abigail Pierce (Marney Austin) chats with her niece, "Little Abby" (Sierra Langford), in the murder mystery weekend's, "Sleeping with the Ghosts at the Vendome."

A few of the personalities are employees of MIP: Black Bart (Dan Peckich), Sheriff Ruffner (Greg Lutz), and Virginia Clampit – the busybody school marm – otherwise known as Nancy Killian.

"I like to get to know the guests and find out how they create their characters," said Killian, stage manager for MIP. "Some of them have gone hog wild and created a whole story for themselves."

Even the inexperienced can play this game, Lutz added. "All are good actors in the end."

Hotel Vendome owners Frank and Kathie Langford participated in the murder mystery, too, not only board-and-rooming the guests, but playing themselves – owners of the Vendome, but 100 years ago.

Their 10-year-old twins, Tyler and Sierra, played Jason Mix, Tom Mix's cousin, and Little Abby, an orphaned girl living at the Vendome.

Not to be left out, even grandma got in on the action: Frank's mother, Virginia Langford, played a closet gambler.

The characters – and the weekend – are products of speculative history, Marney said.

"Sleeping with the Ghosts at the Vendome" is a made-up story about what may have led up to the haunting of the Hotel Vendome by a former resident, Abby Byr.

MIP's scenario: born in 1888, little Abby (who would later become the Vendome's most famous ghost) is 7 years old and an orphan. Her snotty Aunt Abigail Pierce, a "filthy rich" New York city widow, is coming to take her back East to live.

From there, the mystery weekend builds in intrigue and conspiracy, and culminates in several "murders."

Each guest's task is to uncover the murderer (or murderers) by Sunday morning.

To aid them in that pursuit, MIP places clues in their rooms – "both for mood and to solve the crime" – ranging from photos of the ghosts to birth certificates, an empty laudenum bottle, a lien document (fake, of course) on the Hotel Vendome, and a garlic clove.

When things wind down Sunday morning, Sheriff Ruffner sums up the situation for the guests.

"We have two people dead. That doesn't happen on my watch – 'til you folks showed up," he says, rather disgustedly, before informing them of something they don't know.

"Abigail was not shot – she was poisoned," he says, amid shocked gasps from the guests.

The murderer is eventually discovered and the guests turn back into real people from the 21st century with a new experience under their belt.

"It's the first time I've ever done this and didn't know what to expect," said Tony Gordoa, who played mortician Frank Nevin. "It was really fun."

"Sleeping with the Ghosts at the Vendome" is only one of Murder Ink Productions' historical three-night events. They also do "The Ghost of the Copper Queen," (set in 1926 in Bisbee) and several one-night productions, including "Who Shot the Sheriff" (1888) and "Spy" (1940s).

The murder mystery events can accommodate as few as 14 guests or as many as 48, and are usually for corporations (MIP has hosted Intel, American Express, and others) or private parties, but are opening soon to the public, Marney said.

The Hotel Vendome weekend was reasonably priced at $168 to $198 per person and included food, hotel and entertainment.

For more information, call Murder, Inc., Productions at (480) 967-6800, or check www.murderinkproductions.com

Contact Sandy Moss at smoss@prescottaz.com