By Eric Fraley
A murder in the Ekstrom Library left students scrambling around the various rooms of the resource center on Oct. 31 looking for clues. Nine suspects (who rather strongly resembled some well-known professors) had been identified, and it was up to the students and staff members attending to determine which had done the deed, with what weapon, and in what room.
Sound like a familiar board game? The murder mystery was a real-life Clue game organized by Terri Holtze, reference librarian at Ekstrom. The event spanned the entire library, with possible murder sites such as the African-American Collection, the Bingham Poetry Room, and the Writing Center. Players visited each location, where they also found one of the suspects and one of the murder weapons.
‘Every year we try to do something like this for students,’ said Holtze, who, in the spirit of the Halloween season, was dressed as elf maiden Arwen from the ‘Lord of the Rings,’ complete with pointed ears and green gown. ‘Our goal is to have a fun event that gets them into the library so they can learn more about what”s offered here.’
Professors and library workers alike agreed the organizing force behind the game was Ms. Holtze. Sarah Jent, another of Ekstrom”s librarians, elaborated, ‘Terri came up with the idea and got the rest of us on board with her energy and creativity.’
Mildred Franks, who has been with library for 40 years, expressed admiration for Ms. Holtze. ‘She really takes a lot of the work on herself. She asks us for help, and we”re willing to do what we can, but she really is who makes it happen.’
The event had a successful turnout, with more than sixty students and staff members trying their hands as amateur sleuths, in hopes of winning the grand prize of a $50 gift certificate for Ear X-Tacy or one of several other prizes. As the participating professors and the library staff hoped, the students managed to learn a few things from the day”s activity as well.
‘I was amazed when one of the students admitted she didn”t know about the writing center,’ said Dennis Hall, English professor who played Mr. Green. ‘This center is here for students to use, free of charge. Sometimes freshman use it, but it”s mainly used by upperclassmen and graduate students, which is a shame, because it can help writers at all levels.’
The inestimable Ms. Scarlett was quiet and reserved, but the genteel lady became somewhat aggravated when participants kept telling her she reminded them of Lundeana Thomas from the Theatre Arts department.
‘A woman such as me does not have an alias,’ she said from beneath the brim of her trademark red hat. ‘I am innocent, pure as the driven snow.’ Ms. Scarlett did admit, however, that she and Thomas share a love of the library, a love that drove both of them to get involved with the day”s event.
Shirley Willihnganz, communications professor and acting provost, enjoyed her role as the unsettling maid Mrs. White. Very early in the game, she began letting the sleuths draw false conclusions.
‘I can”t lie when it comes to what cards I have, but otherwise I get to mislead them horribly,’ Willihnganz said. Although students learned eventually, a few took Mrs. White”s comments as the gospel truth, leading them to some erroneous conclusions.
The rest of the cast of characters was as follows: Phil Laemmle represented the Political Science department as Colonel Mustard, Dale Billingsley of the Provost”s office was Professor Plum, and Nefertiti Burton of the Theatre Arts department played Mrs. Peacock. In addition to the six suspects of the original game, three more were added for further depth and difficulty. Those three were the suspicious Southern belle Dr. Rose, played by Women and Gender Studies professor Dawn Heinecken, free-spirited hippie Professor Paisley, played by Alan Leidner, who teaches both German and Humanities courses, and the mysterious Frauline Schwartz, portrayed by Mary Carothers of the Fine Arts department. Of course, last but not least, library facilities manager Dave Loeffler acted as sheriff, ready to make the arrest once the guilty party had been identified.
Players heard about the game different ways. Some came out to see a specific professor in character, while others were simply hard-core Clue fans. Shawn Knight, graduate student in Theatre Arts, had a double motivation.
‘Two of my professors are in the game, but the real reason I came out is that I”m a fanatic for the Clue movie,’ Knight said. The movie has an all-star cast that includes Tim Curry, Michael Mckean, and Madeline Kahn, and is set in 1950″s New England. Fans of the game who haven”t seen it should definitely rent the whodunit comedy.
The crowd cheered as Colonel Mustard was arrested for the murder, which occurred in the Collaborative Learning Center with the wrench, though exactly why they were cheering was a bit unclear. Some were happy to learn they had deduced the solution, others welcomed the triumph of justice, and still others just enjoyed seeing Dr. Laemmle get handcuffed while wearing bright yellow pants and an eyepiece.
Ms. Holtze thanked all the faculty and staff who helped make the event possible, as well as the students that came out and participated. Then, as a hush fell over the assembled detectives, she drew out the winner: Nyoka Boswell. Boswell, Theatre Arts major who is currently working towards her Masters, won by having her name drawn first from the correct solutions to the mystery. ‘I thought most of the professors did a great job getting into character. They really took the time to analyze who their character was and what they might say,’ said Boswell.
‘I just hope the students had fun and learned a little about Ekstrom,’ concluded Holtze. ‘We (the library staff) are glad to help students who aren”t sure what the library offers. We want students to get the most out of their library resources.’