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Hunting the Ripper and Other Mail

Victorian Musings and Ripping Yarns

Christopher Forrest works as an attorney in North Port, Florida. But he also has another calling...

He provides solve-them-yourself mysteries by mail through his other business -- The Mystery Experiences Company. Geeksagogo talked with Forrest about his pursuits. Geeksagogo: Can you tell us about the company's creation? Forrest: I am a published author and I have always been interested in different ways of telling stories. I also enjoy multimedia experiences such as alternate reality games (ARG’s) and I had the idea that using physical objects and documents to tell a mystery story that readers can solve would be a very interesting project. The idea of offering the mysteries as a monthly subscription service came a bit later. We do offer some “one-time” mystery boxes, but most of our mysteries are offered through our subscription service. We did some limited product testing in November and December of 2015, and then did a soft launch of our monthly mysteries in March 2016. We began advertising in earnest in April 2016 and the company took off right away. Geeksagogo: What does a subscriber get in their package?

Forrest: It varies from month to month. Our new mystery, for example, is Jack the Ripper. We provide an assortment of documents including a map, police reports, witness interviews, a suspect book, an autopsy record, letters, a newspaper, photographs, clues including items such as a ship’s log and a receipt from a carriage company, objects including a handkerchief, a bracelet, and a choker necklace, and several puzzles that must be solved to reveal hints and clues about the mystery. In most of our packages, the subscriber will also stumble across website addresses for companies in the story (like in a newspaper ad), email addresses for characters, and phone numbers (on business cards or a handwritten note, for example). All of these are fully functional and allow the subscriber to interact with the characters and the mystery storyline in an immersive way. Go to the website and there is a fully functional web page. Send an email and you will get a response. Call the phone number and it will work. Each of these might provide a clue that you need to solve the mystery. Finally, we have a Facebook discussion group where our subscribers can work together to solve our mysteries,ask for hints or tips, or discuss theories. Geeksagogo: How many mysteries have you released? Forrest: We’ve produced and shipped 18 of the monthly mysteries so far. We have also offered limited editions of four different “one-time” purchase mysteries (we call them Premium Experiences) that are more extensive and have more content that the monthly mysteries. We will be offering two new Premium Experience mysteries this fall. We also did a successful Kickstarter campaign for a standalone mystery experience called Tales from Bedlam Asylum which ships next month. Geeksagogo: Can you reveal anything about the meta-plot behind the mysteries? Forrest: All of our monthly mysteries occur in the same fictitious city (at least in part). Some mysteries are set in the present day and some are set in the past (as far back as the mid-1800’s so far). The same historic families, characters, companies, and locations pop up again and again over time. They are all tied together by the threads of a vast mystery that stretches back to the founding of the city and continues to the present day. All of the monthly mysteries play a part in this meta-mystery, but each monthly mystery can also be solved and enjoyed without any prior knowledge of the meta-mystery story elements.

Geeksagogo: The latest one involves Jack the Ripper. What in your opinion accounts for the fascination with this subject? Forrest: I think Jack the Ripper was the first serial killer that received widespread coverage in mainstream newspapers so there is an abundance of salacious material about the murders. The murders were horrifically brutal. There was enough documented evidence to arouse the CSI/forensic investigator in each of us. The killings took place in Victorian London which gives them a Sherlock Holmes vibe. And the victims were all prostitutes which adds a sordid, voyeuristic element to the crimes. It’s like an R-rated CSI meets Sherlock Holmes meets Silence of the Lambs.

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