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How To Host A Nancy Drew Party!

What better party theme than your favorite sleuth--Nancy Drew! The following are some general suggestions for a great mystery party divided by category. Below those, there are specific ideas for a Hidden Staircase Party to give you some clues.

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Themes:

Aside from the general Nancy Drew theme, you can select a favorite book to base the events and decorations of your party on. You can use clues and scenes from the books for activities, games, and skits.

Invitation Ideas:

1. Copy or scan and print images from the books to use on your invitations
2. Send small invitation boxes with a mystery theme trinket and your invitation inside
3. Tape a short video featuring "Nancy" searching for clues to solve a baffling mystery--but she needs your help! Include instructions about the party and how to RSVP
4. Send a Nancy Drew book with an invitation attached

Decoration Ideas:

Incorporate your favorite colors if you like or use the bright color themes often seen in Nancy Drew books over the years: orange, blue, and yellow. Anything goes!

The following are great for filling up a room and making it look festive: balloons and streamers.

Banners and posters can be made using cardstock, poster board, or on your computer. Incorporate images from book covers into the overall designs.

Your tables should include festive tablecloths. If you like to stamp, you can buy or make your own stamps to create a unique tablecloth. Using a cloth tablecloth, sheet, or crepe paper, stamp mystery patterns such as footprints or magnifying glasses. If you like to draw you can attempt to reproduce artwork by painting the tablecloth. A great idea is to take images from book covers and make iron on transfers for your tablecloths. If you want to use place mats you can use the same ideas for the tablecloth. Similarly, you can also stamp napkins.

Party Hats and Blow outs are festive and can be customized with images from book covers.

Centerpieces can be made by decoupaging images from the books onto papier mache items. Books can be stacked in a decorative fashion. A cutout standup can be made using cardstock or matboard.

Party Favor Ideas:

1. Nancy Drew books
2. Little magnifying glasses from party supply stores
3. Nancy Drew detective kits made using a box and mystery themed accessories
4. Charm bracelet with a few mystery theme charms
5. Crafty items made using images from book covers--such as decoupaged boxes or frames
6. T-shirt with Nancy Drew image ironed on

Party Activities:

1. Crafts: Make items using Nancy Drew images--such as decoupaged boxes or frames, T-shirts, nightshirts, or pillowcases (great for slumber parties!)
2. Trivia: Make up trivia from the books and give out prizes
3. Mad Libs: Make up a Nancy Drew mystery mad lib and copy for kids to have fun filling in the blanks
4. Mystery Scavenger Hunt: Take clues from the books and set up a mystery. Divide into teams. Teams must search for clues and when they are all found they will help solve the mystery!
5. Play the 1957 or 1959 Nancy Drew board game
6. Show the 1930s movies, 1970s or 1990s TV show episodes
7. Creative Writing: Have the kids write their own Nancy Drew short story in a cute booklet you've made up.
8. Scrapbooks: Make up cute scrapbooks for each guest and using a digital or Polaroid camera, take pictures throughout the party and let the kids make up their own scrapbook using the pictures, crafty items, and images from book covers.
9. Play the Her Interactive Nancy Drew computer games

Cake Ideas:

1. Have a baker create a cake topper using a Nancy Drew book image.
2. Put a Nancy Drew silhouette or other mystery theme images on the cake.
3. Put a blue car on top of the cake to represent Nancy's car and craft a small Nancy doll to go inside.

Specific Theme Ideas: A Hidden Staircase Party

Setting:

Twin Elms, an old colonial mansion near River Heights.  A ghost appears to be haunting the place.  Eerie shadows appear, scary faces appear at windows frightening everyone, creaking noises and thumps break the silence, strange music is heard playing, and a spine-chilling laugh causes chills to run up everyone's spine.  The ancient mansion has a few secrets to be found: a hidden staircase and secret passageways, not to mention a few clues to the mansion's "ghost."

Menu:

Food items from the book include: chicken salad, biscuits, Jell-O, steak, French fried potatoes, fresh peas, fruit cup, and floating island dessert.  A great adaptable menu for the kids might include: steak shish kabobs, French fries, fruit, and floating island.  A recipe for floating island:

Floating Island

Yield: 4 servings

         1    Egg, separated
     1/8 tsp Cream of tartar
       2 Tbsp Sugar
   1 3/4 cup  Milk
       3    Eggs
     1/4 cup  Sugar
     1/4 tsp Salt
       1 Tbsp Orange juice concentrate-(optional)
     1/2 tsp Vanilla or lemon extract

In a small mixing bowl, beat egg white and cream of    tartar until foamy. Add 2 Tbsp sugar, 2 Tbsp at a time,    beating constantly, until sugar is dissolved (rub a    bit of meringue between thumb and forefinger to feel    if sugar is dissolved) and white is glossy and stands    in peaks.  In 8-inch skillet or saucepan, heat milk    over low heat until simmering. Drop 4 meringues, using    about 1/3 cup each, onto milk.  Simmer, uncovered,    until meringues are firm, about 5 minutes.  Using    slotted spoon, lift meringues from milk onto paper    toweling to drain.  Reserve milk for custard.   

   Chill meringues while preparing custard.  In same or    medium saucepan, beat eggs and egg yolk with 1/4 cup    sugar and salt.  Gradually pour reserved warm milk    into egg mixture, stirring until blended.  Cook and    stir over low heat until mixture thickens slightly and    just coats a metal spoon. Remove from heat.  Stir in    orange juice concentrate and vanilla. Pour into    one-quart shallow serving dish or 9-inch pie plate.    Top with meringues. Serve warm or chilled.  Makes 4    servings. (A small amount of nutmeg could be sprinkled    on each meringue just before serving.)

The Mystery:

Nancy must find out who is haunting Twin Elms.  Due to the time constraints at a party and the fact that most children who have read the book, will know who was playing ghost, there are several ways to adapt this mystery to your party to make it new and exciting.  I'll set up one idea below that you can use or adapt to your own ideas.

Scenario:

Using friends or family, have several characters on hand to reenact scenes from the book and involve the kids in helping Nancy solve a mystery. Five players you will need:  Miss Flora Turnbull, Rosemary Turnbull, Helen Corning, Nathan Gomber, and Nancy Drew.

Kids attending the party are detectives assembled to help Nancy solve the mystery.  The role of Nancy is to be the head detective but also the kids' guide throughout the party, so this is a very active role. 

Your set up should involve several rooms from Twin Elms mansion and a secret passageway.  It would be ideal if you have a 2 story house or building to set up your party in.  In this set up, you can have something blocking the base and top of the stairway such as a curtain or sheet or paper which would be painted with an object like a piece of furniture or section of wall.  This of course would be the entrance to the secret passageway and hidden staircase. 

Another solution, especially if you worry about kids on stairways, is to have a house--either 1 story or 2--with a hallway that has several rooms that open up off of it.  This hallway can double as a secret passageway with secret rooms running off of it.  And these rooms would house clues for your detectives and Nancy to find.  You can place signs over various rooms designating them as: parlor, library, kitchen, Miss Flora's Room, attic, cellar and so forth.

The activities of the party would include some short skits with your characters reenacting scenes from the book followed by Nancy helping the kids find clues and complete sleuthing tasks.  Combined would be a scavenger hunt where the kids would find the objects that the ghost stole in various rooms of the house you set up and a few other items you wish for them to find.  There would be several clues to find that would lead to Nancy and the kids finding out where the ghost is hiding in the mansion.

Clues are folded pieces of paper with 'Clue #1' and so forth written on them. Everyone is to be instructed that when a clue is found, they must announce it and the group should gather to read it out loud. Also, the scavenger items should be the same number of kids attending the party. These are to be prizes given out at the end of the evening.  Once all items are found, they can be placed in a large bag and drawn out 1 by 1, or you can number them and have the kids draw numbers and then match their prize to the number. 

Ideas for prizes can include: Nancy Drew books, Nancy Drew's Guide to Life, Her Interactive Nancy Drew CD-ROMs, Audio Nancy Drew books, Gumshoe Girl Nancy Drew: Girl Detective items, handmade Nancy Drew items such as bookmarks, book covers, journals, scrapbooks, picture frames, paperdolls, and so forth. You can get more ideas on what kinds of Nancy Drew merchandise exist by visiting the Nancy Drew Sleuth Unofficial Website: Collectibles Section.

These scavenger items can be hidden or placed in plain sight or a mixture of both.  The number of these items is up to you for each round of the game. These items are to be given to Helen to hold for everyone.  You can also just have each item wrapped up and tell the kids the number of wrapped packages to find.  You can tailor everything to your likes and this includes the number of clues, the kinds of reenactments your characters do, and so forth. 

A read through of The Hidden Staircase would be recommended to give you a good background for the mystery--this one is based on the 1959 revised text, currently in print which can be found at most bookstores or ordered online.  The original 1930 text is slightly different in plot and even clues and such but you can adapt it to the following ideas as well.

Evening Play:

The following is a suggest format for the mystery that you can follow to the letter or adapt to your own ideas:

1. Kids arrive at party and are met at the door by Miss Flora and Aunt Rosemary who welcome them to Twin Elms and mention that the mansion is haunted.  They thank each detective for coming to help Nancy solve the mystery.

2. Snacks are laid out in the parlor.  Some fun ideas for this party would include: petit fours, small dainty cookies, punch, and a veggie/fruit platter. Once all the kids have arrived, you can pass our their detective kits.  No detective would be without one!  Kits can be assembled very easily using a school pencil box with homemade closure, a small purse, a trunk with handle (great inexpensive paper mache ones can be found at craft stores you can paint or decoupage.)  Items to include in your kit, some of which can be found at Oriental Traders include: paper envelopes, tape measure, tweezers, scissors, roll of clear tape, talcum powder, store-bought or homemade graphite (lead from pencil sanded into fine powder), and a brush for fingerprinting.  A small disposable camera is also an option.  You don't have to include all of these items but the magnifying glass, flashlight, and notebook and pen are a must.

3. Nancy and Helen tell the detectives about the mystery and as they are describing things the ghost has done: playing music, thumps and creaks, spine chilling laugh, someone out of the room can be making these sounds for the kids to hear. 

4. Nancy will describe the things the ghost has taken and suggest that everyone help her find the missing items and clues to where the ghost (Nathan Gomber) is hiding.  All of a sudden Miss Flora screams in fright and points to a window.  Everyone turns to see a frightening face/mask at a window and it vanishes quickly.  Everyone must go outside and see if they can find a clue.

5. Our first sleuthing activity is looking for footprints of the ghost.  Of course you have managed to leave footprints for the kids to find near the window where the masked ghost was.  Each detective can measure the footprints with their tape measure and make notes in their notebooks.  A clue is found near the footprints: a note about a secret passage way used to sneak through the house without being caught.  This clue is yours to tailor to how you are setting up your secret passageway entrance.

6. Back inside, a skit is enacted between Flora, Rosemary, Nancy, and Helen where Miss Flora comes in upset that her pearl necklace has been stolen by the ghost!  A search ensues in the parlor to find the secret passageway and also to find a clue to the missing pearl necklace.  Our second sleuthing activity is to search for hollow areas of the walls by tapping on them.  Clue #2 will be placed somewhere around the room on the wall for someone to find.  Clue #2 will be a riddle or rhyme for a hiding place in the room where the pearl necklace is to be found. This clue is yours to tailor to where you will hide the item.  It will also designate a certain number of items that must be found for the scavenger hunt portion and list each one.  Nancy and the detectives will surmise that the secret passageway is not attached to the parlor.

7.  Nancy will lead the kids to the dining room/kitchen (depending on your house) for dinner.  Menu of your choice.  During dinner, more ghostly noises will be heard. There will be a skit between everyone where they will discover that some teaspoons are missing!

8. After dinner, everyone will head to the library for further sleuthing.  Nancy will suggest that everyone search for hiding places for the ghost and the room will be explored as well as the walls tapped and objects searched for a hidden entrance. A third clue will be found describing another element of the secret passageway's location. This again will depend on how you are setting up your secret passageway.  Also some scavenger items to be found.  And if you wish to include this activity and you included finger printing kits in your detective gear, you can have the kids practice taking finger prints off of objects and also fingerprinting each other using ink pads and putting each person's finger print in their detective notebook.  This can be messy so prepare for that and have wet wipes and such for washing away ink off fingers.

9. Nancy will follow up on the third clue with her detectives and search the room or area where you have the secret passageway entrance--it will be found and everyone will enter.  More ghostly noises will ensure that everyone is on the right track! In the secret passageway, it would be nice if this was a hallway where a few rooms opened up off of it. In the first room, there can be more scavenger prizes and a clue to the missing teaspoons which will be found.  And if you have more rooms, each can be set up with more clues and scavenger prizes.  And you can work out more sleuthing activities as time permits.  Once the kids reach the end of the passageway it will open into the room where Nathan Gomber is hiding.  If he can be hiding in a closet or wardrobe or place like that, it would be great as Nancy can find him and capture the ghost!  If you like, you can have someone play the role of Chief McGinnis and he can arrive and take Nathan Gomber off to jail!

10.  After Nathan Gomber is taken away and the mystery is solved, the stolen items have been recovered, then everyone can assemble to receive their prizes.

Decoration Suggestions:

You can create a lot of party items using some of the clip art on this website such as: posters, banners, invitations, scrapbooks, the detective notebooks and detective kits, centerpieces, table cloths, and party hats.  Paper lanterns are a lot of fun as well as lights and crepe streamers and balloons.  Silhouettes of people and objects can be drawn in black marker on balloons.  To create the impression of eerie shadows on the walls, you can use dark gray or black tissue paper or crepe paper to make cutouts.  If you have a staircase, you can create the impression of a person or ghostly figure using the steps and sides of steps as it goes up the stairs (works best on wooden stair sections).  You can also make crepe or tissue paper masks for the faces of people in your paintings or family portraits.   Displays of Nancy Drew books and memorabilia are also fun and can make great centerpieces.  Charms are fun as well for each guest that focus on The Hidden Staircase theme such as: ghost, mansion/house, necklace, magnifying glass, flashlight, and detective.


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