Adult Mystery Programs

By Kendra Perkins

See also Teen Mystery Parties and Friends of Fangs

Reasons for having summer programs for adults

Every summer, libraries across Texas (and throughout the country) offer summer reading clubs and activities for children and teens.  Adults notice all of the publicity, posters, and excitement and wonder why there isn't anything for them.  From time to time, adults will ask a librarian where their reward is, or what activities might be offered for them.  Some parents wonder how to interest their children (including teens) in reading when they themselves never read.  Other adult readers wish for a way to connect with fellow readers or to keep track of their own reading accomplishments. 

One way to meet the needs of the adult readers is to adapt teen programs for adult use. The investment in time and money to add something for adults is minimal compared to the possible enjoyment and increase in participation by library patrons. It is possible to start a summer program for adults inexpensively and draw more people into the library.

Types of teen programs best suited for adapting to adults

The types of teen programs that are easiest to adapt for adults are ones that do not specifically require audience members or participants to be a particular age. It is also easy to use existing materials for more than one event.  If the library already owns games (board games, video games, cards, etc.), it is likely that at least some of the games will potentially interest adults as well and will require little to make an adult program. Some guest speakers will be willing to do more than one library event aimed at different age levels and will appreciate the chance to get more members for a local guild or other organization.

Example of a program for adults - “Murder Mystery”

Types of murder mystery kits and sources for purchasing them

Murder mystery kits are sometimes sold in malls and toy stores, but these1 are geared towards adults, meaning they would be okay for this audience but would be considered inappropriate in some way for teens.  There are also murder mystery kits that require the purchaser to make props; these can be good if you have time and if someone on your staff feels creative. If possible, you should read the mystery kit ahead, and make sure it is not too juvenile for adults.  If you have someone creative on staff, you can also write a murder mystery completely from scratch.

Another option that works well is to purchase a murder mystery online[1], requiring you only to print out the materials and do some minor preparations (cut out the list of characters and list of clues and set them out for participants to take).  One drawback to downloading a murder mystery online is that they are intended for use on only one occasion; you may be able to contact the company to extend the license if you plan to host the same mystery again.  The primary advantage to downloading a murder mystery is if you can not find materials locally and do not have time to mail-order them. You can find a wide variety of types of mysteries and can even tailor the mystery to your group if you decide to have people preregister so that you know how many participants you will have (or you may opt to have actors play the roles and have all the attendees play the part of "detective").

How to host a “murder mystery” for adults versus one for teens

Adults may have longer attention spans (depending on your audience), so you could possibly have something more involved. There may also be less controversy about it being a murder mystery. Some people think that if you do a mystery for teens, it should not involve murder; others are okay with a murder being involved but limit it to starting after the person has died. With adults, you can have the victim involved beforehand; either a person can randomly draw a card that says “victim” or you could have an actor planted amidst the rest of the participants.  Adults are also less likely to think it is silly if you ask them to dress up for the parts in a murder mystery; many will be interested in getting into a role (or watching others do so) and will not care if the outfit is outdated. 

If you are serving refreshments, you will be less limited by the nature of your audience.  With teen boys, refreshments can either be consumed in less than five minutes or turned into missiles in a food fight, causing the event host to think carefully about food choices and timing of presenting food. Adults would tend not to instantly devour all the food or initiate a food fight.

Possible guest speakers

Many guest speakers initially contacted for teen programs would also be of interest to adults and would be interested in holding a second program for a different audience.  Sources of guest speakers include local business owners, members of local organizations, musicians, authors, someone from the city if there is a new project being proposed, cultural groups, gardening clubs, staff from the county extension office, and more.  Use your imagination, and ask patrons and other staff members for their suggestions.

Programs that can combine teens and adults:

Some programs of interest to both teens and adults can actually be turned into combined events that allow teens and adults to attend at the same time. This works well with some craft activities (such as embroidery, knitting, quilting, sewing, and some jewelry-making). In particular, combined programs are well-suited for activities where the person’s experience or skill level is more relevant than their age.  Some types of writing activities are also good for both teens and adults and could be done together, for instance “write-ins” where prospective writers all sit in a room together writing on their laptops and only have minimal interaction with each other.  Some types of demonstrations and guest speakers are well-suited to a combined audience.  Some authors are of interest to multiple ages; for instance, some fantasy authors and some authors/illustrators of graphic novels have both adult and teen fans. Demonstrations by the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism)[2] are also well-suited to teens and adults together. The SCA actually prefers that parents are around, and teens are so interested in seeing examples of jousting that they tend to not mind having adults around.



[1] purchasing murder mysteries online: - You can download the materials as soon as you purchase them, print out materials, cut out a few things, and you are ready to go. The license is for one-time use. You can select teen or adult, all male, all female, mixed audience, etc. Ordering from this website is a good choice if you don’t have time for mail order and don’t want to create a lot of props. I have used this with a teen group, and they liked it; it would have worked well for adults too. These mysteries are designed for audience participation.

Other online sources of murder mysteries: (You can select children’s or adult, mature or tame.) (They offer mysteries to download and host. This site sounds similar to (There is a performance option.) (This site is performance only, and it costs about $2000 for 100 people.) (They offer mysteries to download at a reasonable price.) (This site has links to lots of murder mysteries, examples of different types, suggestions of where to purchase, etc.) (Searching for “How to Host a Murder” or “Murder Mystery” in the Toys and Games section will bring up results for some murder mystery kits, such as those made by BePuzzled and by Decipher. Decipher’s murder mystery games are called the How to Host a Murder series, and examples include “The Chicago Caper” and “An Affair to Dismember

(You can purchase “How to Host a Murder” kits at Amazon, but Decipher’s own website does not currently mention their murder mystery kits. People in larger cities may be able to find these kits in game stores or mall kiosks, but they can definitely be found online.)

[2] Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), is the main website.

For a regional list, see

Kingdom of Ansteorra, covers most of Texas.

El Paso and Hudspeth counties are in Outlands,

For background information, see the main SCA website.

To find your local group, for Ansteorra, click “Groups in your area” or go to

Ansteorra’s Baronies and Branches website,

To find your local group, for Outlands, click “Officers & Groups: Local Groups” or go to

Outlands’ local groups page, or

to Citadel of the Southern Pass (local group for El Paso and Hudspeth counties

and part of New Mexico) at


Page last modified: December 4, 2013