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Back Issues
2012 - Spring Issue
Vida Buena
Live Performances
Article: Jessica Muncrief
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The Lodge Resort and Spa in Cloudcroft, NM is as well known for its paranormal presence, Rebecca, as it is for delectable food and cozy, antique decor. Couple this with its grand tower and historical ambience, and it is eerily reminiscent of the hotel in Stephen King's horror novel The Shining. Nestled up in the mountains and trees, it is the perfect setting for a murder mystery, a fact that didn't go unnoticed by the Cloudcroft Light Opera Company (CLOC). Since 1994, The Lodge and CLOC have been teaming up to present weekend packages full of mystery, intrigue and amateur sleuthing.

    Photo Captions

Photography by Nick
Salinas and courtesy of
the Cloudcroft Light
Opera Company.

The Lodge
Resort & Spa

601 Corona Place
Cloudcroft, NM 88317

Cloudcroft Light
Opera Company

801 James Canyon Hwy
Cloudcroft, NM 88317
I signed up for the Murder Mystery Weekend aptly titled Spouse-A-Side this past November and was delighted with the intensity and excitement of the event. The dedicated cast, hilarious with their over-the-top personas and cheeky comments, did not break character for a second.

The fictional premise of the weekend was that we were all attending a counseling retreat with our significant others. Everything kicked off on Friday evening with a champagne reception and, for about a half hour, guests tentatively mingled, getting the feel of each other and the game, wondering if the actors (and the murderer) were already immersed amongst us. We needn't have worried, the cast entered with a flourish of loud emotions and colorful costumes, some quite elaborate.

We quickly learned that Fred, the husband of Wilma who was currently weaving through the crowd sobbing loudly, had been found dead in the bathtub that previous evening. Immediately, notepads and pens were brought out and participants began cornering the suspects, attempting to find out just what had transpired the previous evening. Cocktail hour led into a dinner buffet in a dining room upstairs and the game never stopped. Attention to detail and your surroundings is a must if you plan on winning this game. Cast members made suspicious comments during dinner, surreptitiously snuck off together and whispered secrets to each other in corners, all fueling speculations of motive. Police and autopsy reports were also posted near the reception desk for us gumshoes to analyze. At one point, blood-curdling screams had everyone rushing out to the hotel entrance where we found another character, Alice, dead on the front steps from a broken neck. As the evening wound down, everyone retired to their rooms to decipher the abundance of clues and solve what had now turned into two mysteries.

The next day we were left to our own devices for most of the day, but given a list of cryptic messages intended to lead us to even more cryptic clues hidden in thirteen venues around Cloudcroft. (Helpful hint: you will most likely need internet access to decipher some of the clues.) Another champagne reception was held that evening, with the cast showing up in more outrageous costumes with fresh, new drama to tell us about what had transpired during the night. We again had dinner with the suspects, trying to gather as much info as possible while enjoying a tasty buffet. Before the evening concluded, each suspect was called to stand in front of the group and answer any final questions the participants might have.

We were told to turn in our solutions to the mysteries by 8:15 the next morning. Personally, I was more confused now than ever and, as I found out at the solution revealing breakfast the next morning, not even heading in the right direction in my thoughts as to who was the guilty party. I don't want to give too much away about the process because part of the fun is figuring it all out, but I will say that it is difficult and there is a lot of "evidence" to process. Arlen Ponder, the director of the production as well as a cast member, later revealed that they have purposely had to make it harder over the years as the event has grown in popularity and had more repeat attendees who have moved up in the rank of detective, so to speak. Prizes were awarded to those who were the closest to figuring out the mystery as well as a booby prize for the funniest answer.

After all was revealed, we were given an opportunity to meet the cast members and hear about CLOC and its productions. The cast and crew members are all ages and come from all walks of life from students to bank managers to retirees. They perform at least three productions per year and generally host two murder mysteries. The beautiful thing about this organization is that in addition to providing entertainment, they are also dedicated to providing charitable services and donations to the communities in the area. They provide scholarships to local students and are actively involved in many other programs such as the global volunteer organization Kiwanis and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library which provides books to young children. The entire CLOC team is very proud of these endeavors. "We are completely immersed in the community and we feel dedicated to the kids of Cloudcroft," says Arlen, "We've already put one student through college and he is a teacher now."

Despite my lack of investigative prowess, it was quite an entertaining weekend during which I met some really great people. And you can't beat the gorgeous setting and delicious food at The Lodge. I highly recommend this fun, intriguing and humorous weekend. ///
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