Mysterious Package Company

With the trends of Ebay and dark web mystery boxes swarming the internet, I think it’s best to pay for something that you know won’t rip you off and still give you that creepy or cryptic box you’re looking for.  If you’re aching for that mystery box, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Mysterious Package Company.  This is arguably the company that got me interested in packaged mysteries in the first place.  I couldn’t always afford them, but I always kept them in the back of my mind for someday.  When I first discovered them, I filled out the membership form and they asked for my blood type.  Why would they need my blood type?  Could they be vampires or some crazy cult?  What am I getting myself into?  There was also little to no information on the internet.  No spoilers or pictures of what could possibly be in the package.  Nowadays you can unfortunately, from people that broke their pledges.  Shame, shame.  It was bound to happen eventually though so I will review the two boxes I’ve received so far with only light spoilers.  If you want spoiler-free, you’ll have to just go buy a box without looking up anything about it. 

The Weeping Book came in a box that contained a wooden crate.  It would be awesome if they could just send the wooden crate but I’m sure that would get destroyed by the post office.  Your first decision is how the heck do I open this thing.  I have a small hammer and quickly got to work removing the four nails keeping the secrets held inside.  I like the crate, but it is made from a cheap composite wood so getting the lid off without cracking it is a challenge.  Worst case you could always glue it back together if you want to keep it.  Once inside, there was an old looking book wedged into the smaller box.  It was all very mysterious as promised and I dove into the contents as fast as I could.

Now the original premise behind these boxes is that you could send them to an unsuspected friend or family member.  Hopefully someone that won’t just throw it away or call the police when receiving scary looking packages.  Every experience is different and can include one to four separate mailings and packages.  The last package is always a brilliantly crafted item that ties the story together and acts as the climax and keepsake for the experience.  They would then receive a reveal letter explaining that it was all fake and everything was sent to you by *insert name here*.  Everyone laughs and hopefully no police were called.  The experiences range anywhere from $100 to $350, so if you had a friend willing to put up that amount of cash for you, you must have generous friends.  I’m still cheap so the two experiences I’ve tried so far were the $100 each.

The entire story for the Weeping Book is contained within the book as a journal.  The journal is well -written and seems like it could have been written by a young boy.  He accounts his recent move to England and everything starts going down hill from there.  The book feels old and looks as though it’s been crammed into this crate for a while.  The journal looks hand-written although it is missing the indentations that you might see in a real journal.  There are creepy images and cryptic letters sparsely sketched throughout.  There is also a witch medallion tied to the front of the book and its silhouette has been burned into the front of the cover.  The medallion itself is a light, cheap metal with a symbol and cryptic letters etched into it.  The story took me roughly one hour to read through and ended with vaguely typical to most horror stories.

Mysterious Package Company – Buried Puppet

The Buried Puppet came in a nearly identical crate with the same issue of opening the lid without cracking the wood.  Inside was some magazine pages to protect the contents which came from a horror movie review magazine.  This is one of the best product placements I’ve ever seen.  Also contained within were a composition notebook, a library card, and the broken pieces to an inhaler.  Of course, giving me a big happy smile was the buried puppet himself, Mr. Bellylaugh.

The puppet itself walks the line between being creepy and cute.  I won’t show any pictures because I think not knowing is half the fun.  He is a high-quality puppet made with nice sturdy material.  His clothing is a weaved cotton, face made of felt, and hair made of yarn.  They did an amazing job of making Mr. Bellylaugh look a bit aged and without actually making it dirty.  I would have immediately been turned away from it if it had dirt or stains all over it.  I knew I had to put my hand in the puppet, but the idea gave me anxiety as though spikes might clamp down around my wrist.  I guess I would be cool with having to chop my hand in case it got possessed to become Ash from the Evil Dead series.  My only complaint of Mr. Bellylaugh is that his mouth was made a little too stiff and so moving it is difficult with one hand.  I’ve had him for a couple of weeks now and so far nothing crazy has happened in my house.  Although I could have sworn I put him on the fireplace mantle and now he’s looking at me from the kitchen counter.  Nah, I probably moved him and forgot. 

The story is written in a composition journal and again looks hand-written.  This story is also about a young boy, but it is written by the character as a young adult.  For this reason, I thought the story was much better than Weeping Book.  As a confession, the writer was able to present the story in a more entertaining way rather than a slow blow-by-blow journal.  The writer is also witty if not a little crazy.  There are also sketches throughout this book that are simple but so animated.  They look like the initial sketches to a comic book before its ready for ink and coloring.  There are additional articles to read on a website for the library where the story takes place.  This was also executed perfectly and brought the story off the pages and into the real world.  Once again there was roughly one hour of content in the story.

Each box contains a single puzzle which is a cipher.  The cipher for the Weeping Book is obvious although difficult to figure out.  I’ve seen that type before, but it has an extra layer to it that will really wrinkle your brain trying to figure it out.  Be warned though because I searched for a hint and accidentally spoiled it for myself.  Once you figure it out, there’s no turning back.  The cipher for the Buried Puppet was much easier but a little better hidden than the Weeping Book.  I didn’t even notice it the first time going through the journal, although after knowing what to look for I found it with ease. 

Because these boxes are designed to be realistic and not look remotely like a game, it can be difficult to know when you’ve discovered everything.  I still have no clue if there might be an additional secret or two in each box.  There is nothing telling you the solutions beyond asking for help from others on the internet.  If the internet hasn’t found it though, there’s nothing else to show you the solutions.  I believe there is nothing beyond the initial story and solving the cipher, but I could be wrong.

If you’re a fan of horror and mysteries, this company is something you will want to check out.  They’ve had trouble with their quality control the last year or so, but I believe they are working hard to turn that around and put out good stories.  They can be expensive, but if you have the funds I think it’s worth the money.  If you’re a generous friend or family member, I am super curious about what someone’s reaction would be if they had no clue about this company.  I would love to hear all about it, especially if something funny happens.  They’ve also recently updated their website to include spoilers and non-spoiler descriptions of boxes before you pull the trigger on your purchase.  Some of us just can’t buy something so expensive without knowing that we will get our value.  If you receive a mysterious package at the door, OPEN IT!  I’m sorry if it turns out to be something not from the Mysterious Package Company though.  Never leave a mysterious package unopened!

-J.C. Mystery Detective

Murder Mystery Box Review

Murder mysteries provide the perfect balance of mystery and suspense.  The killer is most certainly one of the suspects our brave detective has encountered in the story.  Despite the danger, our hero marches forward to bring the killer to justice.  Being right there in the thick of it with the detective and testing your skills against theirs is exciting.  Murder Mystery Box provides you with the opportunity to help solve a murder using your wit and deduction skills.   

Murder Mystery Box is a quarterly subscription that sends you a box full of contents needed to solve a murder.  Each box contains a journal that a witness or detective wrote during the events surrounding the murder.  Also included are seven bags of evidence which can vary from newspaper clippings, receipts, and small objects.  Everything you need is contained within the box so there is no online elements or websites.  There are also no hints or clues provided so you’ll be on your own to solve the murder.

The story is written in a first-person journal format.  As you progress through the story you will be told when to open evidence bags.  After opening the last evidence bag, you will have a warning page that explains that you now have everything you need to make your deductions.  At this point you should go through all the evidence and come to a conclusion on the identity of the murderer.  After that, the journal continues where they gather the suspects and go over the evidence.  The writer then reveals the murderer and all the evidence that points to them.  In the traditional fashion, the murderer fesses up and usually says something along the lines of “…and I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” The journal is roughly one hundred pages and the whole game takes around 1-2 hours to solve depending on your reading speed and how much time you spend going over the evidence.

The journal provides the narrative for the main story.  The writer typically starts with an excuse of why they are writing down their thoughts and conversations.  I think this is unnecessary considering there wouldn’t be a story without the journal.  Despite this attempt at realism, the journal doesn’t read perfectly like a journal.  It doesn’t break the first-person narrative, but it goes into detail all the conversations and reactions from the other people and suspects in the case.  Sometimes it’s written in the past tense and sometimes written as if the events are occurring real time.  Sometimes it’s written down immediately after interviews and events when it might not be appropriate for the character to write.  It’s a little nitpicky but it’s not really written how a journal should be written.

The evidence bags are the only thing that separate this box from being just a murder mystery novella.  As you progress through the story, it will instruct you when to open an evidence bag.  The first evidence bag almost always contains some cards with images of the characters. This is helpful considering you don’t get much distinction between characters in the narrative.  The rest of the evidence bags contain photos, newspaper clippings, maps, and anything else you might need to help you along the way.  They are usually designed so that you are collecting and seeing the evidence at the same time as the writer.  This is the strongest part of the box. 

Unfortunately, almost all the evidence could be a photo in the book rather than a separate piece of paper.  There is a lack of objects that you would find in other similar subscription companies.  It’s true that most of the other companies include useless trinkets that aren’t always related to the story.  But when charging $27.50 for a very short murder mystery, there needs to be something extra.  The only box I tried that had something like this was the Masquerade Murder which included a masquerade mask.  Just a little something that people can keep on a shelf to remember the game and justify the cost. 

The characters always feel a little flat and don’t stand out.  The story is short, so character development is pretty much out the window.  Instead the writer just explains people and their history. On top of that, this is another box that is in desperate need of some diversity.  I haven’t played the more recent boxes, but I have played six boxes and almost all the characters were younger white people.  All the characters images look like stock photos if they aren’t stock photos.  It might be a lack of diversity in stock photos but for the price they could take some original pictures. Any other photos included are not stock photos especially if they depict the murder scene. 

The stories vary in quality as much as any other murder mystery series might.  Even Agatha Christie wasn’t popping out masterpieces every single time.  It’s true with this series as well.  Some of them can be really well thought out mysteries with just the right amount of evidence to make the reveal a great one.  Some of the stories are lack luster and fall short or have large logic leaps that make little sense.  Sometimes there will be a fun cameo from pop culture that I really enjoyed.  I’m pretty sure that Dean and Sam Winchester from Supernatural showed up in one of the stories.  Though they didn’t really add to the story, I thought it was funny. 

Despite some of the growing pains this company might have, I still had fun with the stories.  It’s always a bit more immersive when there’s items included such as evidence bags.  Unlike many mystery novels, you are invited to help solve the mystery in this game.  Mystery novels tend to drag you along on this wild ride, only to reveal it was some stranger that was never introduced in the story.  In this box, the killer is for sure one of the characters the writer interacting with.  One idea they could use is providing a link to a digital copy of the journal with the box.  This way you can read the journal at the same time as your significant other or family or friends and work together on the evidence.  As is, there’s a little too much reading to read aloud the whole story or pass the journal around.

So if you have the funds and want to try out a murder mystery novella with some physical evidence, give this box a shot.  It might be a great way to get a young teenager to start reading more or add a little more excitement than a normal book.  It would also make an excellent gift to the murder mystery lover in your life.  We all know one, and if you don’t, it’s probably you! And remember, never leave a murder mystery unsolved!  Especially when they might be one of the six suspects sitting in the same room as you!

-J.C. Mystery Detective