By Betty Freeman
for the South Whidbey Record
Once again, amateur sleuths from far and wide will come to Langley Feb. 23-24 to help figure out whodunit on Mystery Weekend.
This will be the 35th year that a troupe of seasoned actors takes over the town for two days to play their parts in the annual murder mystery written by Loretta Martin.
Martin has been writing the mysteries for 20 of the 35 years. She collects ideas all year for her mystery, and then writes a story full of puns, word play and absurd takeoffs of real people and current events.
It’s considered the longest-running live mystery event in the nation where the community creates the crime and invites the public to solve it.
Over the years, Mystery Weekend attendance has grown from hundreds of people to more than 2,000 participants last year. Sponsored by the Langley Chamber of Commerce, tickets are sold to wannabe detectives who wander about Langley’s shops and stops for clues.
For the 35th Mystery Weekend anniversary, Martin has gone back in time with her characters and brought them into the present for the mystery, “Killing Time.”
“I stole the title from my niece, who had a murder mystery party,” Martin said. “It set me thinking about the actors and which historic roles I could write for them.”
A cavalcade of characters from the past are brought into the future by absent-minded Professor E.D. Brown, who creates a steam punk version of a time machine, powered by the vibrations of a Venetian glass goblet.
First, Prof. Brown goes back to the Renaissance to bring back his hero Leonardo da Vinci. Unfortunately, Brown accidentally brings back Leonardo’s cousin Bernardo, who was cleaning the artist’s studio when the time machine landed.
Next, he brings Lucrezia Borgia, the original owner of the magic goblets and a suspected witch with propensities to poison.
In Langley, Borgia sneers at the lack of sumptuous accommodations for a powerson of her stature, but she does agree to let the professor see her goblets.
In an attempt to outsmart Borgia, Brown wants to recruit Einstein, but instead of Albert he snags his cousin, Otto Einstein.
Then Brown brings in Merlin, the greatest sorcerer of all.
With more funding provided by D.D. Worbux and with access to two more magic goblets, Brown builds a bigger time machine.
He continues to bring his heroes forward, including Mark Twain (actually his cousin), Captain Edward Smith of the doomed Titanic, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock sidekick Dr. Watson, and colonial herbalist Elizabeth Howe.
All of these historical figures end up wandering about town, perplexing townspeople with their odd ways.
Then a time machine lands in downtown Langley Feb. 16 at the Rob Schouten Gallery Sculpture Garden with the sound of a booming thunderclap. It’s empty. (The official story circulated was that the machine was a steam punk sculpture for the garden.)
Four days later, an enormous explosion rocks downtown Langley and Prof. Brown is found dead amid the rubble of his “sculpture.”
Did someone want to destroy the time machine and just happened to kill the professor in the process?
Or were two crimes committed that day?
It’s up to amateur sleuths to solve the mystery, aided by Coroner Gus Gruesome, policewoman Polly Graph, and detectives Hagatha Kisstea and I.B. Fuzz. Clues will be scattered around town at local stores and costumed characters will be available for interrogations.
Not even the characters know the identity of the murderer. The truth will be revealed 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, at Whidbey Children’s Theater auditorium (formerly Langley Middle School).
How to do Mystery Weekend: some clues for you
There’s no mystery as to the success of Mystery Weekend. Langley Chamber of Commerce staff, volunteers and a cast of characterskeep the game of sleuthing fairly straightforward. Buy a ticket, get a clue map, read a newspaper (yes!) and be on your way unravelingthe murder in the Village by the Sea. Here’s how: Visit the Langley Visitor and Information Center aka Mystery Weekend Headquarters(where there could be a line but it moves fast) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23 and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24.
Buy a clue map for $12 adults, $10 for seniors, youth and military. Pick up The Langley Gazette to read details of the murder; it’s notavailable online or for viewing on any screen. It’s a printed newspaper, remember those?
Fan out all over town, visit the crime scene, pick up clues from participating merchants and interact with the suspects, who will bedressed in costume around town. Photographs of the suspects will be displayed at The Big Gig on the corner of Second and Anthes.
Your guess and solution as to whodunit must be entered on the official contest entry form and returned to Mystery Weekendheadquarters by 4 p.m. Sunday. Correct solutions will be placed in a drawing for grand prizes, provided by local innkeepers andmerchants. Incorrect solutions are eligible for other prizes.
The answer everybody has been waiting for will be announced 5 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 24 at Whidbey Children’s Theater auditorium.Drawings for prizes also take place. If winners are not present, they will be notified afterward. The solution will be posted on theChamber’s website, www.visitlangley.com, after the reveal.
• Mystery Weekend Headquarters is the place to pick up advance tickets, starting at 9 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 23. Advance ticket andapparel purchases can be made online at www.visitlangley.com/store