The Scene | Baked to Death: Super sleuths solve Ventfort Hall Mansion murder mystery

LENOX — On a cool and misty evening in spring and among the candlelit spaces of the late Sarah Morgan's 1893 Jacobean Revival-style mansion, a full house of guests gathered along with a hodge podge of celebrity impostors such as "Martha Stupor," "Julia Chives," "Chef Day Ja'vou," "Judge Bacon Whopper Jr." and "kick it up a smidge" guy "Emery Legacy."

The Comical Mystery Tour's "Baked to Death" murder mystery dinner theater, written by actor Kim Lynch of the group, left the audience with sinister questions and in stitches as they tried to deduce, with some clever sleuthing, just who killed the infamous Martha Stupor during her First Annual Martha Stupor Bake-Off.

Tickets to acquire your very own "Sleuth Sheet" were $40 and the event was sold out weeks before, as have been previous such events.

Ventfort Hall Marketing Coordinator Linda Rocke said murder mystery dinner theater events at Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum have played to sold-out audiences since first introduced here as an event in November 2015.

"Since that time, there have been six more with the next one scheduled for Saturday, June 3, with seats still available," Rocke said. The evening includes both the show and a three-course dinner with a cash bar offering beer and wine.

She added, "The Murder Mystery Dinner Theater provides a valuable source of funding for our ongoing restoration and maintenance of the mansion while delighting our audiences."

Owner, producer, director and actor Ken Adams of The Comical Mystery Tour said the theater group started 21 years ago. "And it's been great to entertain audiences and make them laugh ever since," Adams said.

The talented group consists of five actors, including Adams and his wife, Terry, of Greenfield, Roland Giguere of Shelburne, Kim Lynch of Ludlow, and Karen Holbrook Lynch of Northampton. Stage manager Katie is the Adamses' 12-year-old daughter, who is being groomed for the tour.

Upon entering the gilded estate's ornate walls and elaborate stained glass windows with etchings of the Morgan family crest, guests were welcomed by front desk associate Lindsay DeWinkeleer who said, "This is fantastic, we get so much of the community and a wide range of guests at these events."

Tom Hayes who jokingly referred to himself as Rudolph Valentino of Ventfort Hall's program committee, said, "This is always a sell-out event and one of our most successful programs. We do between 80 and 100 programs a year in addition to hosting weddings and other parties."

Hayes was accompanied by his wife, Joy, daughter Carrie and event planner Marsha McDermott of Ventfort Hall.

Beside a glowing fire in the dining room, guests were served fresh garden salads, bread baskets and a choice of wine or beer as passionate actors raised their voices in the commencement of the show. The costumed characters sauntered around the room in a whirlwind of excitement, captivating the guests and engaging them in the role of detective.

There are two rules of The Comical Mystery Tour:

No. 1: Have fun.

No. 2: Pay close attention, observe and make note of everything that happens; see who did what to whom and solve the murder. (If that's too much work, see rule No. 1.)

And that's just what guests did, just like in the pages of an Agatha Christie novel where the question asked all night was "Who done it?"

Well-seasoned super sleuth Carlton Dodge of Dalton has attended more than 25 shows of the Comical Mystery Tour. He sat alongside his daughter Janet Rohlfs of Baltimore and friend Tom Towne of Dalton.

Also sitting at the table was the husband and wife duo Len and Joan Kurzweil from Lowell who were there to celebrate Joan Kurzweil's birthday.

When asked to comment on the performance, Len Kurzweil laughed and said, "This is a killer of an evening!"

John O'Neil and his wife, Margaret Szobesky, of Pittsfield enjoyed the show while sipping white wine.

"I've been here and studied Ventfort Hall as I find the history intriguing, but have never been to this event. This is fun!" O'Neil said.

The Scene: It's the finals of the first annual Martha Stupor Bake-Off and actors introduce themselves in character to the guests, while more and more clues add up until the murderer becomes more apparent.

A buffet dinner was served and later various cakes, coffee and select teas were offered where guests could finally partake in their "just desserts."

Taste-testers were chosen from the audience with names such as "Cher E. Cobbler" played by Ruth Pearce of Stockbridge, "Rocky Roads" played by Len Kurzweil, and "Cinnamon Danish" played by Jane Bresnahan of Pittsfield. Musical performances ensued and prizes were given out to the "Extraordinary Investigators" who pronounced the murderer, along with other prizes, such as the "most confused sleuth."

At the end, Linda Coll of Dalton declared, "I loved this! It is ... a lot of fun!"

The evening ended in a final photo of the humorous and dynamic cast.

Guests of Ventfort Hall's Murder Mystery Dinner left in a state of whimsical satisfaction after having engaged in an eventful and interactive evening of sleuthing success. Who will be next in line to get murdered? And will you be the one to guess the culprit of the evening?

Reserve June 3 in your calendar, as Len Kurzweil said, not only will it be a killer of an evening, but you might never want to leave, at least until you've had dessert.


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