Book Club: Murder On the Orient Express

(our costumes were from Archive Costumes at Hale Theatre in Orem UT)

HOW can I even begin to put down in electrical ink here the amount of blood sweat and tears that went into my first hosting event for book club? I just...can't even. But also how fun and rewarding it was to have everyone there having a good time? AMAZING!!! I think I shall put it out in two parts and this will be the first. How I decorated the house. What pieces I chose, what things I steered clear of etc.

First things first. I loooove to read. I got my love of reading from my sweet dad and I will thank him every day for it. I love getting lost in a story and feeling engulfed by it. It becomes an experience. I've decided that's why I love Disneyland so much. It's made from the whispers of stories. It was a larger than life idea. You get swept away in it because it surrounds you with every detail necessary to make it that experience you came for. Everything you see, hear, smell, encounter is meant to transport you away to a different place. 

Month after month in this book club is a new adventure, a new story, a new event and I can't even tell you how blessed I feel having met all the members. They have become true friends and blessings in my life. Even so, I was veeeeeery nervous to host. Being who I am and loving Mr. Disney for who he was, I wanted to create an experience that would do, in some small way, what Disneyland does by sweeping you away. I decided since my month was October, my book was the wonderful Agatha Christie's "Murder On the Orient Express", that I would do a murder mystery and that my house would become a true haunted mansion (as Disney style as I could).  It took a good two months to write it and to transform our home. First on the list was the general story of the home and mystery. The home was old, fallen into repair and the last know living occupants lived centuries ago. Family photos would be in a home so it was decided that we needed some family pictures. I went to the AMAZING Kris at Hale Theatre Archive Costumes and told her my idea. Her and her staff was incredible at coming up with THE most perfect costumes for us!!!  It was so wonderful for all involved that no one had to smile or open their eyes more etc. It was THE easiest family photo EvEr!!!! =D
My Darlings
 Love the use of the local cemetery.
Doesn't he look dapper....and yet melancholy all at the same time? lol
Now ONTO decor!!!!!
Next Kevin and I had to talk budget for the upcoming soiree. Gotta be Dave Ramsey about it right? RIGHT! We decided to split it up between two paychecks. I first went around the house and thought of what Mr. Disney would do or did do when he was creating his mansion. I wrote, I sketched, I talked to myself. Then I went out and priced out and hunted for everything I had in my head or had seen on Pinterest.
Skeletons, potion bottles, pictures, clocks, rats, candelabras, vintage looking platters and dishes, candles and LOTS of webbing!!! What I wanted to steer clear from was anything that actually said "Happy Halloween" or any type of Halloween greeting. That was hard because there are so many cute things out there (and I own a ton) but I couldn't use them. If it doesn't have that kind of stuff in Walt's mansion, then it wouldn't be here in the Springer Manor lol.
 I had Kevin add hooks the either side of the front door and we hung these amazing lanterns (battery operated) from Michaels.
Photo by Summer Nicole Photography
 I set up "scenes" everywhere in the house and after I felt they were just perfect, I cobwebbed the JUNK out of them! I called many neighbors and asked to use their flameless candles. That saved me a LOT of money and they were given back in a great amount of time for them to still use them for their own Halloween decorating.
Photo by Summer Nicole Photography
You can find soooooooo many things at second hand stores! Some of my absolute favs came from there including this old book and clock. I also found some amazing dishes which are further down in the post. I already owned black feathers and I divided them up and put them in already established flower arrangements. Remember the whole point is to take what you already have and spookify it a bit. I wanted my mansion to have been from a long time ago so investing in a few candelabras was a must.....just don't mind the electric lamp in the same pic LOL! This candelabra was purchased at Hobby Lobby.
This old sconce was another second hand store find. I polished it up, had the hubs mount it on a wall and I purchased these candles from the dollar store (two for $1). I just made sure to light them beforehand and create all the wax drippings before putting them in. Although there were candles lit everywhere the night of the party, these bad boys could have been bumped so easily so I left them unlit (plus there were cobwebs everywhere). The fly came in a pack at the dollar store with ants and beetles =).
More second hand finds (love Savers!!!) I took a bag of clothes to this store and it got me a percentage off of my whole purchase. These platters were divine (want to go and find more) the tiered candy holder was only $3 and my FAV of the bunch was this food warmer. It was raised up and had a spot for a candle to go underneath to keep the food warm. We put mashed potatoes in it and this is now going to be a staple for Halloween, Thanksgiving AND Christmas time!!!
Can I please tell you how much I love this old fashioned phone? AND the fact that it was $14.99 at Walmart!!!!! Sure anytime you touch it, there is a cheesy haunting voice threatening you but hey...just don't touch!!! =)
This guy, named Skully by the boys, was purchased at Walmart and promptly the hubs made an amazing noose and hun from the chandelier. We also bought flicker bulbs for this light piece as well as any other light fixture in the house. It totally created amazing ambiance. Side note....I had decided to paint the whole interior of the house a different color, can you tell? No more of the glazed faux finish but now it is a grey with taupe undertones. I am bidding out the ceilings being painted cream so that's why the walls and ceiling clash....badly LOL!
Photo by Summer Nicole Photography
These goblets were purchased a few years ago from the dollar store. I had wanted to make single serving trifles for another party I had done. I was serving dinner for about 26 this time so I went on down to the dollar store to buy more. These bad boys are awesome and have now become our normal drinking glasses. VERY durable and a great shape! I went to my local drugstore and asked to buy the baby syringes. Was able to get the for 10 cents a piece and bought the Skinny's brand of Italian syrup flavoring at a local store since it was $2 cheaper than the Torani brand. I filled each syringe, put it in a half cup of Sprite and placed jugs of orange juice around the tables to complete the "Bloody Mary" drink. I had four long tables to decorate and set. I used white table cloths on some and white sheets on the others, purchased black cheesecloth, spider rings, doilies, and fake bugs from the dollar store, porcelain bones from Kneaders bakery and purple chargers from Michael's.
Photo by Summer Nicole Photography
 I already had 8 chargers to start with and they were having a huge sale so I cleaned them out of all the purple they had! I ripped up white cheese cloth and used them for napkins so it looked a bit more spooky, cut the spider rings in the back and attached them like so. I bought these black petals at Walmart and had some ravens from last Halloween plus a few from friends.
Photo by Summer Nicole Photography
I took various jars (mason, spaghetti, vases) and filled them with black beans and some with navy beans, added moss from the dollar store then a candle. There were two candle setting per table and they looked SO amazing in the dark all lit up. I will say though...dollar store candles really do have short lives so if your party will be a few hours, I suggest investing in more expensive ones......one may have gotten down to the moss and caught on fire....just a little bit. No houses, or tablescapes were harmed during the party. The guests were okay too ;). Also to add to the ambiance, I played the spooky organ music you hear in the haunted mansion at Diz plus many other eerie organ music pieces from our speakers above the kitchen cabinetry. It filled the whole house and was perfect!
Believe it or not but these spooky characters came from the dollar store as well!  They were the kind that looked normal and then when you passed, turned into something else. How much more Disney Haunted Mansion can you get??? We already had pictures in these pretty frames so we just borrowed them and put these two on the side wall of the stairs. Now that we have, we are totally wanting to make a picture collage on that slanted wall. I'm so excited!
Photo by Summer Nicole Photography
 This was mine and Kev's favorite family picture that we had taken in the cemetery so he did a little Photoshop magic on it and I took it to my friends at Costco. They were able to blow this bad boy up to a 24x36 poster for only $15.99!!!! This frame usually has a large painting in it so we also "borrowed" it and this whole thing came to be 3x4ft. We decided...since it was kind of hard to get it in there that we would keep this up till the end of Christmas time. It looks like a Christmas Carol too right? RIGHT? lol
Photo by Summer Nicole Photography
The food setup was wonderful and everyone brought the yummiest things ever! For a menu and recipes, you can go this my Pinterest board. The kitchen countertops were filled with yummies and people were able to grab their plates, start on the left, walk all the way around the outer countertops then ended grabbing things on the island then back to their seats. I was very happy with the flow, especially because most people came in rented costumes which meant large ballgowns.
Photo by Summer Nicole Photography
 Lights on. For candle stick holders I used little glass milk jugs, syrup jars, mason jars and actual candlestick holders.
Photo by Summer Nicole Photography
Like I said, the real candles looked amazing all lit at night. The flameless were handy but nothing compared to the real thing. 
 This was the apothecary I created above our microwave. The "spider legs" in the jar (black licorice) is about 7 years old...I know. I keep using it for decor then storing it away on a plastic bag for next year. With that many preservatives, you can. I always add moss to the bottom of the jar before I put them in then a sprinkling over it all for texture. The black speckled jars are from Michaels, the owl is a friends but I loved it so much I went to Gordman's and bought my own. The various poisons and bottles were made using upcycled medicine, soda and syrup bottles. The skin lotion was purchased at Kneader's Bakery, the skull is Walmart.
 Never want to neglect the top of the cabinetry. I already had quite a few skulls (Walgreens, Michael's and Walmart) but wanted to get a few more to fill more jars since I would be decorating the whole house. This other glass container I had already purchased from Tuesday Morning and put a dollar store rat inside. These candle sticks and large apothecary jar came from a store (Robert's) closing down so the candlesticks were each a dime, the jar was $10. I put some extra black cheese cloth over the lamp when it was time so it didn't glow so bright. I lit these candles just for the pic. I would neeeeever suggest having them lit for too long so close to your clashing paint ceiling lol.
 These cups I bought at Walmart for water, used a sharpie for the eyes and just taped the junk out of them. Afterward, I had no fingerprints...

This idea I saw on Pinterest and was truly a nod to Walt's Haunted Mansion (I tried like crazy to get the portraits that stretch but no luck). This is an actual picture off the internet of Madame Leota, put in a craft bowl upside down with black tulle behind her. I wanted to stick an ipod in there and have her speaking but she was right next to my youngest who had a speaking part =).
Photo by Summer Nicole Photography
 Here he is in all his glory. He was our haunted bellhop LOL! He stood in front of my husband's office, which we turned into an elevator, and said,"Going up? Going down? Oh, I'm sorry, the car is full...you'll have to wait for another." He was perfect as all the ladies entered!!! We taped white dollar store tableclothes to the back of the french doors, made a dial to go above and laid a low lamp behind the doors on the floor to look like a car had just started going down. I used a tupperware dish for his had, ribbon and an old Jedi costume. I spray painted large buttons I had in gold and sewed them on...don't look too closely, I'm NOT a seamstress!!!

My husband was a genius to make this but then I got a hold of it.....and totally made the numbers uneven ha! I was in such a rush that I just needed to get it up. He hung his head in his hands and just shook his head. Hee hee!!!
Photo by Summer Nicole Photography
 Outside we had to fashion a murder scene so it was the dollar store AGAIN for the win with these keep out streamers and my handsome oldest being our deputy. He was good enough to work the crowd control and usher everyone in the house. My husband was kind enough to chalk outline where the body was....he was so impressed with his skill, I didn't have the heart to tell him it was supposed to be a girl LOL!!!
Photo by Summer Nicole Photography
 Now this is the photobooth I made for the book we read, "Murder On the Orient Express" by Agatha Christie. The haunted elevator was opened at the end of our discussion to allow everyone to get their photo taken. I adorned the shelves with things from the book. A button, a call rope, a train, a clock set to the time of death, a monogrammed handkerchief etc. The bookshelves are very close together so I decided to put these green striped curtains on a shower rod and just place the rod on top of the two bookshelves. It was perfect and the fabric jut hung to the floor. I bought a black sheet and draped it over my husbands office chair and voila! Instant photobooth. I canNOT tell you how great all these gals were and how in character they were. So excited to share how I put the whole murder mystery together and the characters I made up. Hope you enjoyed this and if you have any questions, please ask! =) Happy Haunting! And ps, since I already had someone text me asking. I spent a total of $260 on everything including the food I prepared for the event.
Photo by Summer Nicole Photography


skcoe said...

But where are YOU?! I want to see pictures of YOU!

Fabulous decor, food, guests...PERFECTION!

Unknown said...

This amaaaaaazing!!! Dying over the details and B&K look SOOO cute!!! You are amazing, Jen! I'm sure everyone had the best time (wish I lived close and could be in your book club!). Xoxoxoxo!!!

Unknown said...

Ditto to that!! I wanna see more pics of you and some closeups of your makeup, Jen! I live for your Halloween makeup every year :-D

Summer said...

You are a rock star....only $260?! So amazing! Thanks for such a spooky, fabulous night!