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Most law-abiding citizens would rather not dabble in any business involving murder and mayhem, but Evangeline’s Costume Mansion finds a way to entice even its best-behaved visitors.
A quick visit can turn into an entertaining hour of aimless milling around. But now customers can infuse some purpose into their wandering as they guide themselves through a murder-themed scavenger hunt, gathering interesting facts at stations throughout the store about some of history’s most notorious villains and gruesome killers.
Evangeline’s store manager Jen Kossmann is responsible for organizing and implementing the hunt into the already-overwhelming layout of the store. Kossmann said the design for each of the 10 stations was inspired by the themes of the rooms themselves.
Rooms’ names are titled after the contents they display. There is a Gothic chamber, a renaissance room, a storybook land, heaven and hell, a saloon and a lab where naughty nurse costumes cover the walls from floor to ceiling.
“I used the store itself as a tool for knowing who and what would go where,” Kossmann said.
Stations are hidden on both the second and third floors of the Costume Mansion, most of which are inconspicuously tucked away in corners of the themed rooms. Others, like Jack the Ripper’s station, can be identified by elaborate decoration (severed heads and blood) and props relating to the character being investigated.
Visitors can collect scavenging guides on the second floor, which contain a map and questions corresponding to each station.
Axe murderer Lizzie Borden’s clue can be found propped up on a fireplace in the saloon room. It was believed that she burned her bloodstained dress after murdering her parents. With tangible visuals accompanying each station, participants don’t need to strain their imaginations to feel the weight of the horrors these individuals created with their crimes.
Criminals on the circuit include Al Capone, Son of Sam, the Zodiak Killer, Blackbeard the pirate, and other lesser-known villains and dark characters from various periods in history.
Kossmann said that in preparing the hunt she did a lot of reading on serial killers. In her research she came across America’s first documented serial killer, H.H. Holmes. Kossmann’s guide makes comparisons between Holmes’ infamous Murder Castle and Evangeline’s Costume Mansion.
It was in Holmes’ Murder Castle that many of his victims were trapped and discombobulated by the unorthodox layout of the building – doors opened onto brick walls, and staircases led to nowhere. Evangeline’s costume mansion has similar features and is recognized as one of Sacramento’s oldest buildings.
Kossmann admitted that she did not want to make the hunt too creepy, but given that the hunt is titled “Murder & Mayhem,” visitors cannot complain when they find themselves embarrassed by their frightful reactions to the mansion’s many hidden scare tactics.
With so much foot traffic coming through the store, Kossmann said there hasn’t been much need to advertise the hunt.
Kossmann said the store is usually staffed by 35-50 employees, but during the Halloween season around 100 seasonal workers join the staff to keep the mansion up and running.
The scavenger hunt is self-guided and can be enjoyed anytime the store is open. Kossmann said she hopes the scavenger hunt will be an ongoing feature in the store by changing the questions and themes that go along with it.
As Halloween approaches, people will begin flooding into Evangeline’s. Kossmann said “it gets really crazy” and furniture is moved to make way for the high volume of customer traffic.
The scavenger hunt adds history and intrigue to the already-stimulating mansion store. Whether you have a morbid fascination with the crimes of murderers or wish to brave the padded-cell dressing room, Evangeline’s offers an escape into the bizarre for everyone who visits.
Evangeline’s is located at 113 K St. and is open from 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.