Death Stalks the Stage

Death Stalks the Stage

Please note: this game has now finished

It’s a winter’s night in 1911, and the Great Alfredo – conjuror and magician – has been found dead in his dressing room at the Apollo Theatre of Varieties. The night’s entertainment began as usual – with two comic singers, followed by a mentalist, a Varioscope film and then an adagio act called Adam & Eve. The Great Alfredo was due to go on after Adam & Eve. However, the dancers came off stage to find no magician waiting in the wings. The theatre manager was immediately summoned, and broke into the Great Alfredo’s dressing room. The conjuror had been stabbed!

The door to Alfredo’s dressing room was locked from the inside, and the key was still in the lock. The window was open… but there were no footprints in the snow outside! How could the murderer have escaped without leaving any footprints?

Alfredo had argued with several of the other performers while the film was showing. It seems some of them were determined to confront him over… something… but were any of them angry enough to take things further? What secrets will be revealed? And…

Who killed the Great Alfredo?

Solution

Let us begin with the facts that are relevant to the case:

During the High Priestess’s act, Harry Damson and William Wharton knocked on the Great Alfredo’s dressing room door, intending to confront him. Harry Damson was angry because he believed Alfredo was treating Bessie Hylton badly; William Wharton was angry because he believed Alfredo had been making eyes at his wife. The two men had an argument with Alfredo that continued until the Varioscope film began to play; however, the magician refused to open his door and they never actually saw him. As the High Priestess left the stage, she caught the end of this argument.

Also during the High Priestess’s act, a heavy and unexpected snow began to fall. By the time she left the stage, it was lying thickly on the ground.

William and Caroline Wharton (Adam & Eve) then went to the stage, to begin their act when the Varioscope film finished. The Great Alfredo was supposed to take the stage after their act finished. He never arrived.

Max Irving was alerted that the magician was missing, and he broke into Alfredo’s dressing room. There, he found Alfredo stabbed, the room locked from the inside and the window open. Although the theatre manager initially thought that the murderer had escaped through the window, he discovered that there were no footprints in the snow outside. It seemed the magician had been murdered during Adam & Eve’s act, and the murderer had vanished into thin air.

As Sherlock Holmes says: once we eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth. It is not possible for a murderer to escape across heavy snow without leaving footprints, or to materialize through a locked door, leaving the key on the other side; therefore, the truth must be that Alfredo was murdered before the snow started to fall (i.e before the High Priestess’s act).

But surely it is impossible for two men to have an argument with a man after he has been murdered? Well… not if one of them is a ventriloquist who is able to mimic the voice of a man on the other side of a door.

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Only William Wharton, a man well-versed in ‘spesh’, admitted to being a ‘vent act’ (a ventriloquist). He murdered the Great Alfredo earlier in the evening, left by the window, and then staged the argument through the locked door as a way of giving himself an alibi.

But what was his motive?

Remember the newspaper clipping in Alfredo’s scrapbook?

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Clearly the child of Mr and Mrs Henry Durham would have a motive for killing the Great Alfredo – the man he believed responsible for the deaths of both his parents.

You didn’t forget that Evelyn can be a man’s name as well as a woman’s, did you? William hardly hid it – after all, he used the name @WilliamEWharton on Twitter (check out that middle initial). And he and his wife used his birth name and her maiden name as their stage names:

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Caroline Adams and Evelyn Durham became Adam and Eve – kinda obvious really.

The Red Herrings

Harry Damson, Bessie Hylton and Millie Deveraux were all telling the truth about their dealings with Alfredo. As was obvious from the scrapbook, Alfredo was something of a womanizer, but Bessie and Millie were fully aware of this. Harry’s protectiveness of Bessie was exactly how it appeared – the over-attentiveness of a slightly creepy older man.

Max Irving was indeed planning to replace Alfredo at some point in the near future. However, he made no secret of this – he even advertised the auditions on the theatre’s Twitter feed!

Caroline Wharton and Joseph the Clown’s history of tumbling and acrobatics were irrelevant – no tumbling act in the world could have got across that snow without leaving any footprints.

Joseph the Clown didn’t like Alfredo, and the magician owed him money from card games. Joseph had written the magician quite an angry reminder about it. However, Joseph freely admitted he didn’t like anyone at the theatre, and seemed quite put out that the murder meant he would never see his money again.

Maria Fay Wilde (the High Priestess) was a fraud. Despite all her protestations, she started her career as a conjuror. Alfredo remembered her from her time as a stage magician, and even kept a poster of ‘The Astounding Maria’ in his scrapbook. What he planned to do with that knowledge was never revealed – perhaps he wouldn’t have done anything. Alfredo always had a soft spot for the ladies, who’s to say Maria wasn’t one of his old flames? I guess that’s one secret that will never be revealed…