We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Kessinger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Roughly 6 years ago, I had the idea of wanting to host a Murder Mystery Dinner event just for fun. At the time, I had just gotten engaged and my fiance suggested that we do one as our Engagement Party. I had browsed through various products, all offering up ideas and stories of how to create a murder mystery event but, in the end, I knew that I wanted to do something that was uniquely my own. So later that year, with 16 people in attendance, I hosted my first event, ‘Vegas 3000’ about a brand new casino opening up in Las Vegas which is undermined when murder strikes. Boy oh boy, did I learn a lot. From all the stories that I had crafted with the characters, to the overarching storyline I was trying to get across and the puzzles that I thought would be fun, I knew what I had done was a success…but I also knew that it could be better! I was taken aback when one of my guests walked up to me and said, “So, are we doing this again next year?” And that started the journey. Every year I wrote a story, came up with characters and puzzles, and gathered everyone together for an evening of good old-fashioned murder.
Each year the number of people grew, and during my fifth-year event, with 63 people in attendance, several people came to me and asked why I was doing anything OTHER than this? And that’s when it hit home for me. That all this time and effort could prove to be something both mentally and financially rewarding! I stood there watching my guests, in full character and costume, laughing and arguing and solving more and more complex puzzles, pretending to fight over rivalries and I was stunned at how much joy I found in seeing everything come to life. I had written these characters and now I got to see the story play out in front of my own eyes.
Of course, this was right when the pandemic was creeping into the world and my plans of hosting large events were quickly scrapped as it simply wasn’t safe to have such events. So I thought long and hard about how I could still channel my creative energy and continue to craft these Murder Mysteries that played out in my head. It was then I realized that much like the “at home” events I had tried to find all those years ago, I could craft events myself. I could create something that people could take to their homes and do with their friends and families! I wouldn’t just be limited to a single night event, this was something that would impact people everywhere. And the warmest thing in my heart was that I WANTED to do this. It was the first time I realized that you really aren’t working if you love what you do.
So now here we sit, wrapping up 2021 and I currently find myself with three murder mystery events designed and manufactured: VEGAS 3000, THE KILLER OF BRISTOL HIGH, and HEROES & VILLAINS. As 2022 approaches, two new events are going to be released: THE ABYSS, about a group of friends going on a deep-sea dive, as well as a new and unique event designed to be played by one or two people, THE BLOODBATH CARNIVAL.
The joy that this all brings me is truly the greatest feeling on Earth and I am beyond excited to see what the future has in store for myself and Cryptic Clue Mysteries.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The one thing that I always want to push for our clients is that they get to have an experience with our mysteries. I want it to go further than just sitting down, solving some clues to get an answer, and then wrapping up your evening. So I have crafted my events with those goals in mind. Yes, you always get a backstory for who you are and how you relate to various other characters around you, but beyond that, you have objectives that have to be completed. Goals to find specific guests to ask them specific questions. There are complex puzzles, that require you to get up out of your seat and actually look at the space around you to find clues and hints. There are scenes that are acted out in front of the group! Scenes that make for amazing bits of hilarity while also handing out further information to lead you in the proper direction. Then there are competitive elements, events that are designed within the boxes to pit your guests against one another. I just wanted to be sure that each box was unique and whether it’s a short story that only takes an hour or a grander one that requires two, you always walk away happy, thrilled, and smiling.
From a technical stance, the biggest thing that I always came across while looking at other “at home” events, was that it was so incredibly difficult to not learn all the secrets of the evening if you were the designated Host. Yes, there were notes and warnings about things not to read and look at, but it was never quite enough. So our boxes, have many components that are prepackaged and completed for you already. This both saves you time, but also it keeps you in the dark about what your others guests are doing. So you get to play along right with everyone else and experience the story completely!
I stand here today, still new and fresh, and I’m learning so much every day about how to be better. I have found that the connections that you make in the business world are truly some of the greatest things that you can come across when it comes to the success of your business. Word of mouth is HUGE! If you come across poorly to someone, you don’t even want to know how much business you probably just lost. But when you make solid connections, through genuine connection with respect and love and laughter, you are guaranteed to succeed.
I think one thing that is so important to remember, is that there is not one end-all answer for when you are “successful.” This is because everyone’s idea of success is different. For me, my confirmation of success comes from seeing the smiles on people’s faces, seeing their costumes, watching them participate in games, and just seeing the true sense of happiness that has been brought into their lives as a result of the hard work that I have put in. And yes, the financial income is a nice little perk lol
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If my best friend and I were given a week to do as we please, I don’t even know where how we would handle ourselves. First, the sheer shock of having a week off work would be amazing. But I know for sure we would make it a point to hit up several Escape Rooms in town, most notably ENTER THE ROOM and 21 KEYS. The thrill and excitement that come with escape rooms are almost as good as one of my own mysteries! I think too we would make sure to make a trip to The Melting Pot for some fantastic fondue! Nobody can knock the experience. The ambiance of the restaurant and the food are simply to die for!
Several nights would probably be spent at The Rabbit Hole or Allusion Speakeasy for some of the best drinks that you are likely to find. And end the week, probably a trip over to The French Kitchen for one of their amazing cooking classes. Perhaps it could be a class all about different kinds of cheese and then making some right then and there! Or, my personal favorite, chocolate!!!!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Without a shadow of a doubt, I have to thank my now husband, Ryan, for all of the endless support that he has given me. Truthfully, if he hadn’t suggested having the murder mystery for our engagement party, I never would have discovered this amazing passion of mine. He has had to spend countless nights, listening to me ask him about character designs, and whether or not story elements made sense, and if he thought a puzzle was too difficult or too easy. And never once has he complained. He is just always there with a hug and a smile when I complete my latest mystery and he asks, “So, now that this is done, what’s the new one you are starting tomorrow?”
The second person I have to thank is my business partner, Caitlin Ortega. This woman came into my life like a wrecking ball and I cannot tell you the number of nights we have spent with a bottle of wine and far too many laughs! But she is right there with me as Cryptic Clue Mysteries takes each step forward. From our first Expo here in Colorado Springs to help with designs for upcoming events, she is there every step of the way to see where she can help, and to reach out to people to see who we can connect with and help grow our business!
Last but not least, I want to thank my enormous family! Most have attended multiple events that I have hosted, and those that couldn’t have always been there in spirit. They have always pushed and supported me and are always eager to see what I have up my sleeve, even when it may not always be “their cup of tea.”
Instagram: Cryptic Clue Mysteries
Other: Tik Tok: Cryptic Clue Mysteries