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

Post Mortem vs. Consulting Detective

Known for their immersive stories, fantastical props, and suspicious packages that have caused some people to call the police, the Mysterious Package seems the perfect company to start a murder mystery game.  Post Mortem: Lights, Camera, Murder! is the first in what will be a series of boxes that allow you to be the detective.  It was apparent to me though that this game uses similar mechanics to another game called Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective.  There are some differences but the Post Mortem was clearly influenced by Consulting Detective which was originally published by Sleuth Publications 1981.  For that reason, I knew I couldn’t review Post Mortem without also addressing the similarities and ultimately compare the two. It’s the ultimate showdown between the Global Detective Agency and the world’s greatest consulting detective.

How the games work:  Using a book that contains the story, you find the addresses of leads and businesses to find out which part of the story to read next.  Strewn throughout the book are the stories and interviews associated with each lead.  When you decide on a specific lead, you can look up the address in the directory or the map.  You then read the interview associated with the number found in the book.  For example, say you found that Billy was having dinner with Sonya at Burger Hut during the murder.  Using the directory, you can look up the address of Billy to speak with his mom about his whereabouts.  Then look up Sonya’s address and see that her story collaborates.  Finally look up the address for Burger Hutt and speak with the staff to find out if they really finished an entire double pizza burger all to themselves.  This allows the story to flow as if you were making all the decisions on a real investigation.  Now I will cover the specific elements of each game that make them unique.

Post Mortem: Lights, Camera, Murder! by the Mysterious Package Company

Post Mortem: Lights, Camera, Murder!

Price: $50 Internet Required: No      Time to Solve: 4-6 hours

Includes: Assignment letter, case book, Los Angeles Directory, 6 evidence bags, newspaper, map of Los Angeles, poster, notepad, pencil, GDA Badge Pin, Final Report and Solution Story

The setting is the rough and tumble streets of Los Angeles in 1948.  The United States is slowly healing from the wounds of World War II.  Everyone loves the glamour and prestige promised by the silver screen, but the town has a dark side.  In the midst of a city-wide scandal with the LAPD, the Global Detective Agency has been contracted by the district attorney to work closely with the police on investigations. Your role as a new detective of the GDA is to solve the murder of a prominent actress and her husband.

Everything I loved: The evidence bags (although seriously lacking in content) made the game super exciting when you were instructed to open one.  Most were notes, but one was picked out of a trash bin and genuinely felt greasy like a fast food receipt which I thought was great.  The story flowed amazingly well, and careful thought was put into lightly guiding you along the right path while still allowing you to make all the decisions.  There are really funny moments when you clearly followed a bad lead with hilarious results.  “…maybe, just maybe..the name … was a fake.”  The use of the three-digit numbers for address locations was an improvement from the Consulting Detective game by making it quicker to find the lead in the book.  They attempted one scene where you have to make a decision, however the result will turn out the same either way.  There is also a Facebook group to help you if you get stuck on any element of the game and meet some fellow sleuths in the meantime. 

Things that could use improvement:  For what you get compared to the Consulting Detective it’s a little on the pricey side.  However, the Consulting Detective had the advantage of already being written and this game does come with little extra things that make it more immersive.  There was a glaring mistake in the autopsy which they quickly corrected.  Although the implications from the mistake suggested one thing, it did not affect the story.  It comes with a poster that is just about the most boring poster ever made. It seems to be a bad hybrid of a lazy Bond film poster and WWII propaganda. The Mysterious Package Company is known for their beautiful props included with their stories and there just isn’t one here.  Similar subscription boxes usually include small trinkets linked to the theme of the story.  I think including a replica of the locket from the story would have been a relatively cheap way to achieve this and make the box seem worth the value.  Finally, the conclusion seemed a little bit of a stretch since I’m not sure how the killer/s escaped without anybody noticing.  Although I will admit most of the evidence was there and I was able to put together most of the pieces. 

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective by SPACE Cowboys

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & other cases.

Price: $50        Internet Required: No       Time to Solve: 15-25 hours

Includes: 10 case files, 10 newspapers, map of London, London Directory, Rule Book

Set in the grimy cobblestoned streets of London at the turn of the 19th century.  Join Watson, Wiggins, and several other characters from the beloved stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as you race through the city to solve several cases assigned to you by the world’s greatest consulting detective himself, Sherlock Holmes.  At the end of each case, compare notes with Sherlock to see how you skills of deductive reasoning rank.  The game is afoot!

Everything I loved: At only $50 for ten cases to solve, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective has a lot of bang for your buck.  The Thames Murders & other cases box is a reprint from the 80’s, so keep that in mind if you’ve seen this game before.  There are two going on three additional boxes available, each containing ten cases.  The second installment puts you on the tracks of the world’s first publicized serial killer, Jack the Ripper, so you know I will be getting that one for sure.  Depending on your skills of observation, each case will take 1-3 hours to complete and solve.  Filled with several references from the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this box is a must own for any fans of the series.

Things that could use improvement:  By the conclusion of the game you get to tally your score compared to Sherlock Holmes himself.  His score is always perfect though and you will lose every time.  However, unless you feel that you have to beat the world’s best consulting detective and genius, it really doesn’t affect your enjoyment overall.  There’s also an app that unfortunately only narrates the introduction to each case and offers nothing else.  I’m not sure what the point is because a blind person still couldn’t complete the rest of the game.  

Both of these boxes shared one more thing in common, they were a lot of fun.  The best thing about them is that they do not require an online element.  You can pack them in the car for a picnic or a remote log cabin in the woods.  Both can be played by yourself or with a group of friends or family.  Really you just have to pick your theme and start cracking the case.  See you next time Mystery Detectives!  Never leave a case unsolved!

-J.C. Mystery Detective