Kid Detectives Can Try to Solve the Interactive Pinkertonian Mystery at the New-York Historical Society
My daughter is the kind of kid who just can't let a mystery go. If someone eats the last cookie or finally throws out her stale Halloween candy, she'll seek out clues until she finds the culprit. (Mysteries in our house always seem to revolve around food for some reason.) So when I heard that the New-York Historical Society was hosting an interactive, historical whodunnit for kids, I knew it was right up my junior detective's dark, mysterious alley, so we jumped at the chance to attend the final dress rehearsal.
Created by the innovative Live in Theater troupe, which is known for mounting immersive experiences, The Pinkertonian Mystery takes you throughout the museum as you try to catch cunning jewel thief El Diablo. Initially I figured I would just hang back and let the children enjoy themselves, but as we ran around the galleries interviewing suspects and deciphering clues, I became just as invested in the outcome as my kid.
The Pinkertonian Mystery is a two-hour experience inspired by the real-life Pinkerton Detective Agency, which was founded in the mid-19th-century and still exists today. This particular case is set in 1875 and features historical figures like agency founder Allan Pinkerton and the U.S.'s first female detective, Kate Warne. The show starts with fun detective games, like cracking codes and trying to stealthily steal a handkerchief out of a detective's back pocket. Pay attention! Some of these activities will come in handy later.
Soon Mr. Pinkerton himself appears and, after a little historical chitchat including a bit about the Orphan Trains, he says he needs our help tracking down the elusive El Diablo... and suddenly the criminal strikes again, stealing rubies right from under our noses!
Families are organized into teams, given maps and a list of questions to ask suspects, and go off. At each location, you interact with one of the seven cast members, who supply clues as well as red herrings. I found that after the first stop we rarely stuck to the questions. The kids just chatted the actors up. Thankfully they were all great at improving (no matter what the kids came up with they all had great responses), and they also made sure we completed our required tasks. Often we figured out what we needed to do pretty quickly though sometimes we needed extra help.
I don't want to say too much more since it is a mystery after all. The experience is recommended for ages 8 and up, and I agree. My nine-year-old and her 11-year-old friend had an awesome time, but they needed a bit of adult guidance to stay on track. Even with six adults and two kids in our group all working together, we didn't quite solve the case... but we were very close! You have to put a lot of disparate details together to make sense of what's happening.
My only quibbles: Although historical tidbits are interwoven throughout, unless you're schooled in history, you may not be able to tell fact from fiction (I had no idea Kate Warne was a real person until I looked her up). Also, even though you run around the whole New-York Historical Society, the mystery doesn't really have much to do with the exhibits on display. But no matter. We had a blast, and it's a novel and engaging way to explore this worthy museum.
The Pinkertonian Mystery takes place on Sundays, February 15, March 8, April 12 and 26, May 17, June 21, July 12 and 26 at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West at 77th Street. Tickets are $35.