An Un-Conventional Murder comes to Langley
For 33 years, Langley has been the scene of a “murder” in late February. Amateur sleuths from far and wide come to the Village by the Sea to help figure out the latest whodunit. A troupe of seasoned actors takes over the town for two days as the mystery, penned by Loretta Martin, unfolds.
Martin has been writing the mysteries for 18 years. She collects ideas all year for her murder mystery, usually including details of current events. Her story is always full of puns, word play and absurd takeoffs of real people in the news.
“It’s thrilling to see the characters I invent come to life,” said Martin. “It’s the highlight of my year.”
“Loretta sets the table, and we create the buffet. Mystery Weekend allows adults to appear legitimately foolish and everyone contributes to the story she writes. I smile perpetually when I think of the funny situations Loretta invents.”
aka Douglas Ferr
The 2017 mystery “An Un-Conventional Murder,” inexplicably mixes Sci-Fi and the legendary Big Foot. Langley residents are baffled by large muddy footprints appearing all over town. While some locals have reported sightings of “Big Foot” in the nearby woods, others are saying it’s all a publicity stunt to promote the first International Science Fiction Arts & Technology convention scheduled in Langley the last weekend in February. Convention speakers and attendees and the BFFs (Big Foot Friends) converge on the village. Then, a murder is committed.
This year’s “victim” is Stone Fissure, a character we never meet but who is the owner of an independent stunt production company, “The Hollywood Fall Guys.”
The 2017 cast of characters learned who they are this time the last week of January. Some play recurring roles, but most have a new persona to adopt each year.
“We never know who we’ll be,” said Rachel McDougald, who has participated as a cast member for 23 years. This year she plays Natalie Drezed, a sci-fi movie costume designer looking for her chance to make it big.
“We make a mad dash to the thrift stores for our costumes once we know who we are,” said McDougald. “This year’s story sounds like a lot of fun.”
Rachel’s husband Joe McDougald plays her love interest Al Luzeon, a techno geek who creates spectacular special effects for movies. Their son Sean has also participated in Mystery Weekend since he was an infant, though he’s taking a break from it this year.
“Sean once played the youngest killer ever whose dad was a mad scientist who made youth serum so he was supposed to be 22, but looked 12,” said his real dad, Joe McDougald.
John Ball, who has participated in every Mystery Weekend since it began in 1984, plays Sketch Able in the 2017 mystery. Able, a cartoon animator and stunt man, is coming out of retirement to produce a movie based on the Norse God Thor. He was in investment negotiations with Stone Fissure, when Fissure was mysteriously found dead.
His “grandson” Peter Barker is played by Shayne Thomas, a 10-year-old veteran of several Mystery Weekends. “I just like doing it,” said Shayne, who plans to wear a Spiderman costume for his role this year.
Annie Horton, another Mystery Weekend veteran, plays the bereaved and greedy widow, Shari Fissure. (Last year she was also the widow of the murder victim.) Fissure played the understudy to her friend Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies. Horton’s costume plans this year include using cinnamon rolls as her Princess Leia signature side buns.
Horton loves acting in Mystery Weekend. “It’s total improv, and total immersion for two days,” said Horton. “One year I played a Scottish ornithologist and at night when I’d go home, I couldn’t make myself lose the accent, even when my family begged me to stop!”
“Mystery Weekend is just a creativity riot!” enthused J.Scott Williams, who travels from Bellingham every year to join the cast. He got hooked when he happened upon Mystery Weekend during a stay at the Inn at Langley in 2000.
“The town was full of way overdressed people and I asked ‘What is going on?’” said Williams. The next year, Williams began participating as an amateur sleuth, and invented his own character, Captain Clewless. (Many sleuths come in costume, adding to the confusion.) After a few years of playing Clewless, cast members invited him to join them as a regular actor. In 2014 he was “arrested” as the murderer in “The Deadly Deed.”
Williams plays Douglass Ferr this year, a founder of the Big Foot protectors group. He’s already got his camouflage costume and is rarin’ to go.
“Loretta sets the table, and we create the buffet,” said Williams. “Mystery Weekend allows adults to appear legitimately foolish and everyone contributes to the story she writes. I smile perpetually when I think of the funny situations Loretta invents.”
Each year, Saranell DeChambeau reprises her character I. B. Fuzz, the world’s shortest retired Texas Ranger. DeChambeau, who has been playing I.B. Fuzz for 18 years, invariably solves the crime and announces her findings to the audience at the big reveal on Sunday of Mystery Weekend. She needs a step stool to see over the podium, but her deductions are razor sharp.
“I look forward to it every year,” said DeChambeau.