The Gibson Inn and a troop of entertaining actors have solved the mystery of bringing tourists to Franklin County.
“Clark and Dagger,” a production company headed by James Clark of Tampa, is celebrating its seventeenth year of hosting mystery weekends at the Gibson Inn.
Clark said the Gibson has hosted mystery weekends for 30 years. The idea was the brainchild of hotelier Mike Koun and Keith Ferstl owner of Future Productions. Clark started out acting with Crystal’s troop and took over the mystery productions when Ferstl retired.
On Friday, Sept. 14, he and five other professional actors set the stage for a murder at a fraternity party in their latest production, “Toga, Toga, Toga”.
Clark and Dagger performs at the Gibson Inn five times a year during off-season, Sept through Feb.
“Each performance is different,” said Clark, “because we have repeat participants. One family comes from Kentucky every year in December as part of their family reunion.”
He said about 10 percent of the players in his reality game are return customers.
On Saturday, most of the visitors who had come to town to do some sleuthing said it was their first time playing the game and about half said it was their first visit to Franklin County. Many had traveled quite a distance for the mystery weekend. Bill and Andrea Langford and three-year old Christopher came from Pensacola. Scott Plennamon and Eric Cross were from Orlando.
All said they had come specifically traveled here to play detective.
Jim and Ann West came all the way from Memphis and said they chose this week for a visit because of the mystery but would spend a little time on St. George Island when the game was over. They frequently visit the area.
Lisa and David Espenscheid also came from Pensacola. Lisa said she had found the mystery weekend while surfing the internet looking for a weekend retreat.
Guests to the mysteries are encouraged to wear costumes appropriate to the story line and many were dressed to the nines for the evening’s toga party.
Clark said other mysteries have been built around the television show Mayberry RFD, Halloween, Ghostbusting and, next month, the theme is Scooby Doo.
Each mystery begins on Friday night when the crime is committed.
In “Toga, Toga, Toga” a fraternity president with an allergy to peanuts was dosed with peanut oil during a drinking contest at a pledge party.
Players witness the crime and get to examine the scene. Then, on Saturday, they must search the town for clues. The detectives return to the Gibson at the end of the day to compare notes and, hopefully, solve the mystery.
Clark said he normally distributes about 20 clues to businesses within walking distance of the hotel.
Would be detectives can join in the fun without staying at the Gibson for $150. Guests who purchase the whole package complete with a two-night stay, dinner, breakfast and drinks, pay between $500 and $700 for the weekend junket.
The prize for the best detective is a two-night stay at the Gibson.
Clark said he doesn’t know if his players shop as they traipse from store to store, “but I’ve seen some shopping bags today.”
Longtime Gibson employee Ginny Trammell said the mystery weekend usually completely fills the hotel.
Clark said his game brings anywhere from 45 to a maximum of 60 players to Apalachicola for each performance.
That means the weekends inject about $100,000 into the local economy every year.
If you want a clue for your business, when Cloak and Dagger comes to town, contact the Gibson Inn.