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Room With a Clue

But repeat guests come year after year, some from as far as Tennessee and Illinois on this weekend. I witnessed several first-timers already signing up for their next visit. I decided to withhold judgment.

We moved from the cocktail crime scene into a different dining room, which quickly became another crime scene -- as well as cabaret and stage. There were two more murders, a speech and some songs from Natasha LaMocha, a washed-up, alcoholic vamp. Pretty simmering town, Boiling Springs.

Guests Ralph Jones and Anita Miller of Hagerstown dress as Boris and Natasha -- of Rocky and Bullwinkle Fame -- at the Allenberry Resort Inn and Playhouse. (Sean Simmers - For The Washington Post)

Thomi Applecart, widow of Tulliver and a former child clown, stood up to declare her own candidacy. A waiter was dragged off at fork point by a bad guy in sunglasses.

And sometime after the shrimp cocktail, Lance Wango Sr. entered the room in a police uniform and Dudley Do-Right hat, accompanied by a long fanfare from a boombox. Wango was no Hercule Poirot. "I'm not so quick on my feet anymore," said the addled senior (77 in real life). "I suffer from night blindness and I don't hear so good."

Sgt. Pepper Freckle, also on the case, entered the dining room blowing a whistle. "Listen up," she bellowed. "Three people are dead and we haven't even had dessert."

Call me clueless, but it took me until breakfast Saturday to grasp that my expectations had been off. I had anticipated something cunning and clever, a sort of live "Murder on the Orient Express." Instead, this was a madcap romp -- Barney Fife in "CSI: Boiling Springs."

Only then did I begin to laugh along. The twists and turns did make for some silly action. At a "mayoral race," we watched (after a pleasant morning bonfire) the candidates literally chase each other around a field in golf carts. Thomi Applecart's was decorated with beer cans and pink fuzzy dice.

The Allenberry doesn't only serve up murder mysteries, which run through the winter. Beginning in March, a free-standing playhouse presents such shows as "Godspell" and "Beauty and the Beast."

The resort also welcomes serious fishing aficionados to the "Yellow Breeches" stream out back -- a prime catch-and-release fly-fishing spot 365 days a year. The property also is near the Appalachian Trail and hiking is a warm-weather activity for many of the guests.

On a snowy walking tour, we learned that the original land grant was from William Penn to the Crockett brothers (family members who preceded Davy). The main building, Fairfield Hall, where much of the murderous action and several of the meals take place, was built in 1785. A limestone barn built in 1812 houses the Carriage Room, site of our morning meals.

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