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Guests solve “murder” at Stronghold

Solving the murder of a newspaper reporter who was just too nosy occupied guests at Stronghold Castle’s first-ever Murder Mystery Dinner over the weekend.

As it turned out only one group of eight guest sleuths picked the right person — Miss Trixie Biltwell, whose left-handedness gave her away.

The event was held on Friday evening and again on Sunday afternoon at the castle on Ill. 2 north of Oregon and was attended by more than 80 people.

Rose Thomas, of Oregon, was in the group who figured it all out on Sunday afternoon.

Set in the 1920s, the crime scenario was that Drew Calloway, the reporter, was found dead in the castle of a blow to the head.

“We had a picture of the dead man with an injury to his head,” Thomas said. “One of the men in our group figured out that only a left-handed person could have done it.”

And as Biltwell’s luck would have it, she was the only left-hander out of the eight suspects, including castle owners Walter and Josephine Strong and their houseguests.

Ray Farrey, of Oregon, said no one figured out the whodunit at Friday’s session.

“Nobody picked the murderer,” he said laughing. “Everyone picked the wrong person.”

For both sessions, dinner guests were divided into tables of eight and introduced to the suspects, Mr. Michael Donaghy, an Illinois State Senator; Miss Heddy L’Amour, Kit Kat Club performer; Mr. Walter Strong, publisher of the Chicago Daily News; Mrs. Josephine Strong, socialite wife of Mr. Strong; Mrs. Connie Canariatto, mob wife of Donnie “Two Scoops” Canariatto; Miss Belle Boudoir, manager of the Kit Kat Club; and Biltwell, a Kit Kat Club performer.

The suspects, who were all played by actors from the Northern Illinois Players Troupe, then went to different rooms in the castle where the groups of guests followed to hear what they had to say.

“Each one gave an explanation of what happened,” Thomas said. “They also tried to cast suspicion on the other suspects.”

“We listened to their spiels but couldn’t ask questions until later,” Farrey said.

Boudoir said Calloway asked too many questions.

“People were upset with his nosing around,” she said. “But I don’t know anything — I just met him tonight.”

Walter Strong, she said, had bought the Kit Kat Club for her because she was a single woman and needed a way to support herself.

She described the club as a place where customers could “unwind and enjoy entertainment.”

Josephine Strong had harsh words for Boudoir. 

“I only invited Belle out of obligation. I didn’t think she would really come,” she said.

Canariatto, however, wasn’t keen on Josephine Strong, whose family, she said, claimed to be in the oil business, but really traded in Possum’s Prevention Potion — “very low class,” she opined with a knowing look.

She also showed little sadness over Calloway’s untimely passing.

“That Drew guy had it coming,” Canariatto said. “He was onto Donnie and me. He knew we wanted to rise to the top of the Capone family.”

One guest from each table could pose questions to the suspects when everyone reassembled back in the dining room.

It was then that Thomas’ table uncovered that Biltwell was the lone left-hander.

Both Farrey and Thomas enjoyed the experience.

“I was not what I expected,” Thomas said. “It was different and it was fun.”

“We definitely enjoyed it,” said Farrey, who attended with his wife. “All the people who were there had a really good time. It just adds more to the community.”

The cast

P.J. Francis as Mr. Walter Strong; Helen Francis as Mrs. Josephine Strong; Jessica MacDonald as Mrs. Connie Canariatto; Noah L. Hansen as Senator Michael Donaghy; Betsy Kaske as Miss Belle Boudoir; Allison Larkins as Miss Heddy L’Amour; Tiffany Lund as Miss Trixie Biltwell; Ed Larson as reporter Drew Calloway; Issac Rhea as pianist Tommy Forte; Andrew Lund as detective Tom Collins; and Sharon Larson as Mrs. Doyle. Directed and written by Noah J. Hansen and Jessica MacDonald.


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