Murder Under the Big Top

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Valerie Shaw
May 27, 2024
 by Valerie Shaw on Drama Notebook


A trapeze artist has fallen to his death. A slippery substance on the trapeze bar, and plenty of guilty suspects leads the detective to believe this wasn’t an accident! 15 characters (can be added to or pared down).

After famed trapeze artist, Dennis Dennison falls to his death, a detective summons all the circus employees to the center ring for questioning! Who killed Dennis? Is it the Ringmaster? The Balloon Man? The Lion Tamer? All of them had motives for wanting Dennis dead!

This interactive mystery includes: instructions on how to play; extension activities; a setup story; list of characters and detailed character descriptions; character worksheets and a detective checklist! Below is the setup story and an example of a character description.

The Story…

Big trouble under the Big Top! A tragic accident has befallen the husband and wife acrobat team known around the world as the ‘Flying and Death-Defying Dennison’s’. Before a packed tent of spectators, Dennis Dennison failed to prove that he could fly and as the daredevil acrobats use no safety net, he also failed to prove that he could defy death. Immediately after dispersing the shocked and oddly entertained crowd, the Ringmaster summoned a famous detective(s), Brick Gumshoe, whose immediate snooping led to the fact that it was not an accident…it was murder! And it had to be an inside job because Dennis Dennison’s trapeze bar was covered in a thick layer of some slippery substance! Also, the murder happened inside a giant tent, so how could it be an outside job? All the circus employees have been summoned to the center ring for questioning so that the dirty murderer can be discovered and pay their dues for the dastardly deed that doomed Dennis Dennison!

Character Description Example

Ringmaster –The Ringmaster is the head of the circus, a large man with slick black hair and a bellowing voice, he wants to get the crime solved fast so he can file an insurance claim and collect the payment. All of the performers know how greedy he is, but he also keeps them employed yet grossly underpaid. Dennis and the Ringmaster had a recent argument about a pay raise and Dennis threatened that he would soon quit. Was at center ring at the time of the accident.

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