A rock star named Shamu with green-spiked hair stumbled around the Grand Salon of the University Student Union shrieking in agony. He had a knife wedged in his chest and blood spilled all over his crocodile-skin leisure suit. He died a short while later.
This “whodunit” and two other murders kept CSUN students baffled for several hours at the Murder Mystery Dinner and Show hosted Thursday by the USU Events Department.
“I think I’m a little bit too involved because Shamu dedicated a song to me,” said Jessica Reichers, 21, as she tried to piece together the puzzle of who murdered the singer with a group of her friends.
Attendees were told the murderer was among them and with only the help of a detective and a few sparse clues, they had to determine the killer.
“You don’t know who is pretending and who is not,” said Yvonne McDuffee, 21, cinema and television arts major. “Anyone in this room is fair game.”
Watching the attendees get invested in solving the crime is the best part of his job, said Craig McAlpin, who works with Keith and Margo’s Murder Mystery Dinner, a theater company.
“When you see people getting into the show and everybody is trying to figure out if the person beside them is (the killer), that’s what is fun (…) you never know who is in it and who is not,” McAlpin said.
He plays the host of the event and is accompanied by four other actors. McAlpin said the theater company, which has been in the business of murder mystery events for more than 20 years, stages a variety of detective-style shows as far away as Budapest, Hungary and even on American Orient Express trains across the country.
As the body count increased and clues piled up, students became increasingly suspicious and questioning of everyone around them.
One of those suspicious students was Missy Dominguez, 19, a communications studies major who said part of what drew her to the event was the opportunity to get to know other people and be part of the show.
“I like audience interaction with shows,” said Dominguez, who attended the event with three of her Gamma Rho Lambda sorority sisters. “And when they said it was free, I thought that was awesome.”
The theatrical event, which included dinner, was free for the first 100 students who registered.
Senior Amari Canada, 23, USU events assistant and journalism major, said the event cost the USU around $2,500, which included the theater company, food, decorations and prizes.
Canada said every seat in the house had been reserved, although only about 80 people attended.
“We had 100 people confirmed,” Canada said.
Some students thought the event could have used more promotion around campus since there were several empty seats.
“They advertised it a little bit better last time,” said Krisada Tangtam, 21, who attended a previous murder mystery event hosted by the USU. “This time I just saw one little poster, so people weren’t as excited about it. As a marketing major, I say they poorly promoted it.”
“I was actually surprised that we got in, because we got in late, and last time it was completely packed,” she said.
At the end of the evening, Tangtam, McDuffee and the other attendees had to submit their findings to the detective, Howie Walfish, who revealed the murderer to the audience.
So who killed Shamu?
Unless you were there, it will remain a mystery.