It's A Mystery Weekend

The cast of the 22nd annual Langley Mystery Weekend gathers together. Any one of these characters could be the murderer. Mystery Weekend participants will try to crack the case next Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25 and 26.  - Brian Kelly
The cast of the 22nd annual Langley Mystery Weekend gathers together. Any one of these characters could be the murderer. Mystery Weekend participants will try to crack the case next Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25 and 26.
— image credit: Brian Kelly

One weekend every year the quiet and safe little town of Langley hustles and bustles with thousands of investigators trying their hand at solving a crime.

Mystery Weekend has attracted visitors from all over the state, country and beyond.

Now, the mysterious event that started 22 years ago is back again.

“People love to do a mystery. They love to try and solve something,” said mystery organizer Loretta Martin.

A mix of creative writers, consistent character actors and island hospitality have contributed to the success of the event.

People keep coming back year after year.

Mike Hill, Saranell De Chambeau and Martin make up Mystery Weekend’s team of writers.

They’ve been coming up with the who, what and where of the fictional murderous plots for five years now.

“We balance really well with each other,” Martin said. “It’s more fun than a group of writers is allowed to have.”

The team has a formula for coming up with the mystery plot. They write the ending first.

The first thing the authors decide is who commits the murder, why they did it, and how the crime was carried out.

“After that we have so much fun weaving in all of the other characters,” Hill said.

The trio of authors make their fictitious victims the sort of person that many would have it out for.

“Usually our victims are really bad guys or gals,” Martin said.

Because of this, every character turns into a suspect.

Many Mystery Weekend character actors participate in the event every year.

Take the McDougalds, for instance.

This family team has been characters in the Mystery Weekend since son Sean was in a stroller.

“It’s fun to do because the people who come to it enjoy it so much,” Rachel McDougald said.

Her son has additional reasons for acting in the event.

“It gives you a chance to actually lie to people without getting in trouble,” he said.

Father Joe and son Sean have both been the murderers in the Mystery Weekend plot at one point or another in their Mystery Weekend career.

“I’m the only innocent one left,” Rachel McDougald said.

The writers are the only ones who know for sure who committed the crime. Each character could be the guilty one, so it’s their job to throw investigators off their trail.

“During this mystery all of the characters have to make the assumption that they did it,” Hill said.

“They are all motivated to throw you off the path and throw the guilt onto somebody else,” Martin added.

The McDougald family has a strategy for maintaining the innocence of their characters in the eyes of the investigators.

“We put flaws in the other characters’ stories,” Rachel McDougald said.

The McDougalds like the way Mystery Weekend draws strangers together to help one another solve the crime.

“You see people who don’t know each other and they band together,” McDougald said.

There are also the fanatics who probably wouldn’t share their mystery-solving strategy for anything.

The McDougalds said they’ve noticed people with pre-meditated sleuthing tactics, notepads and walkie-talkies.

One of the strangest requests Rachel McDougald ever had was to show someone the bottom of her shoe.

Many Mystery Weekend investigators come back every year in attempt to solve the latest mystery.

One group of women make the event a special girls’ weekend out.

“There’s a group of ladies that have been coming for at least 15 years now,” Martin said.

“We call them the hat ladies,” she said. “Every year they they call ahead of time to ask for a brief outline of the mystery and they make themselves hats.”

Their themed headdresses have included Egyptian hats and hats that looked like an igloo.

At one Mystery Weekend, a group of people came all the way from England. A similar mystery event was held in their city, and they were curious about the event in Langley.

Mystery Weekend’s crime-solving occasion also attracts people of all ages.

Organizers said this event is something that whole families can enjoy.

“It is written at a bunch of different levels,” Martin said. “An adult can get a different set of innuendoes out of the mystery than a child does.”

“We try to make it an equal opportunity so the boomers can have as much fun as the kids,” Hill added.

Local merchants and inkeepers appreciate the event as much as the tourists.

Langley Chamber’s lodging coordinator Barbara MacCallum said many participants book next year’s bed-and-breakfast stay right after the event gets over.

“The merchants like it because it does bring people into town from the mainland who normally don’t come over here,” Hill said. “They come over and say, ‘Oh, this is a charming town.’ They’ll get clues on Saturday and go shopping on Sunday or Monday.”

Mystery Weekend is fulfilling one of its main purposes from its creation 22 years ago.

“We have a Victoria Clipper coming in and some buses, so there’s big groups coming,” said Nancy Rowan, Langley Chamber director.

“The whole point was to bring people to town,” Martin said. “And it has grown and grown.”

No mystery there.

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