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Lynden Heritage Museum to host Mystery at the Museum Oct. 27

The Case Of The Three-Armed Bank Robber


LYNDEN — Although prohibition did not commence until 1920, Lynden was nearly split on alcohol consumption by 1915. So split, that the city had two mayors: one who was OK with alcohol, the other who was not.

It wasn’t until the 1920s before Guide Meridian was paved. A wooden plank road for much of its first two-plus decades, The Guide was graveled in 1910. One night in 1915, the Bank of Lynden was robbed. Although police caught one person in connection with the robbery, his accomplice was still on the loose the next day. Suspects included a snake oil salesman, storyteller, bank clerk, policeman, reporter, farmer, barkeep, even a town gossip. Who dunnit?


Come to the Lynden Heritage Museum on Oct. 27 and figure it out for yourself. The museum’s inaugural Mystery at the Museum event is not only a fun way to get people engaged with the Front Street museum, but also a way to raise money to keep the museum relevant.


Known as The Case of the Three-Armed Bank Robber, the mystery will run from 5-8 p.m., at the Lynden Heritage Museum, 217 Front St. Participants — meaning everyone who attends the Oct. 27 event — are charged with interviewing the town’s people to figure out which one of them helped commit the crime.


Amanda May, the museum’s director, said she hopes to make Mystery at the Museum an annual event.


“The key to this year’s event is all the volunteer actors,” May said. “Once we got the ball rolling, we got all the characters filled. That should make it more appealing for people to get involved next year.”


Mother-daughter team Ashley and Emma Butenschoen are two of the several actors who will participate in the show. Although Ashley’s sole performance as mayor was on Oct. 21, Emma is scheduled to serve all three nights (Oct. 20-21 and Oct. 27) as a news reporter.


“I’ve not really acted much,” Emma Butenschoen said. “I have always loved mysteries, solving mysteries. This is pretty much like Clue. It’s so interesting. I’m excited to be a part of it.”


The evening begins as the museum’s patrons enter in the main door before they are directed to the adjacent room on the other side of the gift shop where they meet the storyteller. The storyteller will explain the rules of the game and set the scene of 1915 — essentially, this is the backstory. Then, folks will enter the museum’s town where they can interview suspects, compare notes and then declare on a piece of paper who they think is the guilty party. 


“You are doing all the legwork as the attendee,” May said. “Clue-like. Just no murder. Family friendly.”


Although May and Program Services Coordinator Kate Hisdal came up with the mystery event and backstory, they had to find a scriptwriter: Riley Sweeney, local author and actor.


“My wife Bryna and I wrote and produce Bellingham Terror, a radio mystery series set in 1935 Bellingham, and one of our star actors for that series is Kate Hisdal,” Sweeney said. “She also was the star of Ferndale’s award winning radio drama we produced as a parks program during the pandemic “James Wells and the Case of the Missing Belgian.” Kate reached out earlier this year to see if I would be willing to bring my Mystery in the Park program from Ferndale to the Heritage Museum where we could take advantage of their historic Lynden sets, costumes and experience.”


Sweeney explained that he enjoys working “with real historical events interwoven with good old fashioned mysteries.”


“There’s nothing stranger than real life and by grounding your story in the world that was, it helps make it come alive,” Sweeney said.


Also, each of the three showings delivers a different guilty person. This, Sweeney said, made it “very tricky to write three different endings.”


“There were lots of spreadsheets and color-coding, but I appreciated the challenge,” he said. “Hopefully, participants will enjoy the results.”


Money raised from Mystery at the Museum will go toward children’s educational content development for creating a cartoon mascot to interact with children.


Visit https://www.lyndenheritagemuseum.org for more information or to buy tickets. Tickets are $15 each or $10 for children 17 and younger. Museum members are free.

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