Welcome to the ultimate who-dunit Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt! A life-sized game reminiscent of “Clue,” it’s full of intrigue and no small shortage of plot twists and turns. (Literal “plot” twists…in the Old Town version, you might find yourself deciphering clues near a centuries-old graveyard.)
If you appreciate riddles and strategic board games, this Southern California-based interactive experience brings them to life (or death). You’ll decode the cryptic clues leading you all over town to find the next location and narrow down your murder suspect.
Some Stiff Competition
Recently, staff from NumberBarn and our ClearHello sister companies returned to compete against each other in San Diego’s famous historical Old Town district. Six separate small teams of 3-4 people went neck-to-neck in a game of skill and cunning. Though roughly only 65% of Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt contestants succeed in completing the event, all of our (ahem, brilliant) teams finished in about 3 hours or under! (Don’t worry, there’s a helpline in case you get stuck.)
As a participant detective, my lips are sealed from revealing too many details about the game itself, in order to “protect the integrity of the investigation,” of course. I will say, the clever and intricate steps to discover a game clue kept me on my toes the entire time.
I admit that I have the attention span of a small child, and I frequently refer to board games as “bored” games. (No offense to all you board gamers out there.) However, the Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt kept me intrigued and involved from start to finish. Turning dials and deciphering hints humored my inner “Indiana Jones / Tomb Raider” curious-adventurer alter ego.
I reached out to Alex B., host, designer, and long-time NumberBarn customer, to uncover more of the story behind the legendary Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunts.
A Morbid Sense of Humor
With multiple locations across Southern California, the first official Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt launched in the stunning and eclectic community of Laguna Beach in 2013. More scavenger hunts ensued in San Clemente in 2014, Old Town San Diego in 2015 followed by Newport Beach and most recently, the Dana Point location.
Inspired by a few other scavenger hunt-style events, Alex decided to experiment with creating his own rendition. “I scouted out my hometown, just for the fun of it, to see what I could create.” Not expecting it to evolve into its own business, “it went from a hobby, to something I now do full time with five locations,” he says.
Alex himself is the prolific designer of each of the games. In addition to hosting most of the games, he also manages all of the bookings and business operations. “I have a helper at the larger events, but other than that, it’s a very small business – just me. I’m a bit of a control freak because I want everything to be perfect. I joke that most of my weekday work is hosting corporate teambuilding events… but I don’t work well with others,” he divulges.
The game, however, “definitely involves teamwork between the participants.” Speaking of jokes, we couldn’t overlook the subtle and ironic humor that infiltrates the game, leaving participants chuckling in their “aha moments” as they solve a riddle or eliminate a suspect off the list.
For a Killer Time
Our NumberBarn and ClearHello teams were astonished by the arduous work and calculating details that went into the Old Town Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt game configurations. My team included two software engineers who instinctively applied their experience in complex problem-solving to each of the abstruse scenarios.
(I offered my “astute powers of observation” and familiarity with Old Town’s geography to the team. And stayed vigilant for any encroaching competitors.) Fortunately, solving the murder is a group effort and every team member has something to contribute.
Each scavenger hunt location takes Alex an average of about 8 – 12 months to design. “It takes a long time to get enough ideas for a full game, and I don’t work on the design every day. I may work on it for a few days straight and then take days or weeks off to host the events or wait for ideas to percolate.”
Producing the Dana Point location was the exception, with Alex working non-stop and finishing it in three months due to the COVID shutdowns. “I had nothing else to do. Not nearly as much fun to design that one, but it came out really good,” he shares.
You’ll be Dying to Attend
The scavenger hunt locations differ each weekend, but are open to the public. Guests can sign up with friends or family as a single team, competing against other teams that register that day. Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunts are also available for private events any day of the week and are great for corporate team-building events.
In addition to the Southern California locations, Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt also offers a mobile version, called the Murder Mystery Escape Rooms, which can be brought to your home or office.
The Escape Rooms can accommodate up to 24 people, divided into four teams. Alex admits however that he hosts more scavenger hunts than escape rooms. “They are great, but the scavenger hunts are a more full experience because instead of being in one single room, you’re out exploring a beautiful location,” he says. But if you’re strapped for time or other challenges, the Escape Rooms can come to you and take about two hours to complete.
But wait, there’s more! Don’t miss Sherlock In Your Homes. Playable from anywhere, “it’s the closest thing I could create for an online version of our scavenger hunts,” Alex explains. It’s a fantastic option for those unable to visit one of the Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt Southern California locations anytime soon. Even better, it’s attractively priced at just $25 a team (up to four players).
A Most Compelling Proposal
And since we just recently celebrated Valentine’s Day, perhaps you’ve discovered your soulmate. If you’ve got marriage on your mind, consider a customized “Amazing-Race-styled marriage proposal” scavenger hunt.
Alex will design an “amazing race that leads your significant other from one location to the next, until they reach the finish line,” where you can drop to a knee, pull out a stunning ring, and pop the big question.
He will integrate the best clues from his games, tailoring them to include details and locations that are meaningful to your relationship, like “interests, hobbies, pets, favorite movies, inside jokes. I can work a lot of them into the puzzles.” Alex notes that since it’s highly time-intensive to plan and produce, it’s an exclusive (and more expensive) experience but “a really unique opportunity for someone who wants a very special day.”
NumberBarn Helps Participants Get a Clue
At NumberBarn, we’re always amazed at how our customers use their NumberBarn features, from custom phone numbers to call forwarding, auto-attendant menus and more. We were thoroughly amused by the creative ways the Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt incorporates their NumberBarn phone numbers into their games.
“Sometimes a game will need a phone number limited only to specific numbers, or that does not contain certain numbers. NumberBarn always has plenty of choices, so I can design the clue and easily find a phone number to purchase that will work for me,” Alex says.
Buying a number, setting up or changing the outgoing voice messages are “also fast and easy. I’ve been using NumberBarn for many years, and it’s very reliable. When I’ve needed help, the customer support is great – very fast and friendly.”
Well thanks, Alex, we appreciate having you as a customer! We especially enjoy participating in the Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunts! And personally, as a Southern California native, I’m excited to try out other scavenger hunts in some of the most popular, iconic and scenic locations So Cal has to offer.
Have an interesting idea you’ve been sitting on? It might be time to resurrect it! Choose from thousands of custom vanity phone numbers paired with budget-friendly pricing for porting, parking, calling, texting, forwarding, menus and more!