How to host a History Mystery

history mystery homeschooling

If you are in need of a harvest party theme without any ghoulish overtones, consider hosting a History Mystery. This event is ideal for classrooms, homeschool or church groups, or even neighborhood gatherings, and gives kids (and adults) a chance to have great fun with costumes and props. If you’re not careful, you might also learn something along the way!

The History Mystery premise is simple. Each participant attends as an historic figure, complete with makeup, props, accents, and era-appropriate conversation. The possibilities are endless. Let’s say you are coming with your large family. You could dress in mid-century Austrian attire and bring musical props to portray the Von Trapp family of “The Sound of Music” fame. If you are a family of four you could dress as The Beatles. Or you might want to choose a topical theme, such as famous scientists, artists, or army generals.

Another possibility is to knit your group together in a way which is more difficult to guess. For example, when we did this with our homeschool group my children and I each chose a character with “stein” in his or her name. My oldest son was Einstein, and my daughter dressed as Frankenstein. My preschooler came as John Steinbeck, wore a stick-on mustache and carried around a packet with “The Grapes of Wrath – working draft” written on it in bold letters. I got my women’s lib groove on as Gloria Steinem, complete with love beads and a protest placard.

Of course, you don’t have to go with the group theme. Pull out the plastic armor and come as King Arthur, grab a cone bamboo hat and portray Lottie Moon. Actors and princesses, animals and race car drivers, pioneers and heroes, just let your students choose subjects which interest them and watch them go!

Once everyone has arrived and had a chance to mingle, the fun really begins. Put each group or participant in the limelight as the focus of a Twenty Questions game about their character. This is a “yes” or “no” question format. You’ll want to begin by determining the sex of the character, which will not necessarily be the same as the participant. “Are you alive today?” “Did you live in a castle?” “Did your invention affect today’s communication?” Ask up to 20 questions and allow for hints to be given if the group gets stuck. Depending on the size of the group and the creativity displayed, you may not guess every character with 20 questions, and that’s okay!

The key to success here is that you must know the answers to questions about your character. You must do some homework and learn all about that person before you even begin to apply the silly makeup or wigs. Then by the end of the game, everyone else will know all about your historic figure as well.

Wrap up the party with a potluck feast. Bring some of the foods associated with your character or time period portrayed and continue the lesson while you eat. Then take lots of pictures and include them in your school newsletter or yearbook.


Traci Matt is author of Don’t Waste Your Time Homeschooling: 72 Things I Wish I’d Known.

I Choose Joy!

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