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Local Town Mystery

Local Town MysteryA mystery can capture the imagination and engage the mind. A good mystery can also spice up activities for a family if things become mundane.

It would be great if life worked like a Hardy Boys story where a whodunit just happened every once in awhile. Unfortunately, life does not happen like that and it is typically not that dramatic. This does not mean that a family cannot enjoy a good mystery. Use this activity to create a fun and exciting experience.

How to Find a Mystery

Identifying a mystery usually takes more time than the actual mystery itself. This part of the process can be as much fun as any other aspect of the process. It all comes down to research which sounds boring but really isn't. Every town or municipality has its share of unsolved stories. Just to be clear, we are not necessarily discussing unsolved murders, lost treasures or missing artifacts. A local town mystery can be so many other things as noted in the Possibilities section below.

Here are some ways to research and discover your own local town mystery:

Local Town MysteryCheck with a local library. Normally, town libraries have extra literature based on local geography.

Visit local historical sites and attend historical society meetings. People who participate in historical sites or are members or historical societies are a plethora of information on local lore.

Research the local newspaper archives. Also, ask a local beat reporter.

Check with local church staff. Pastors, priests, and sextons normally serve in the same area for long periods and if their parish is particularly old they will have access to some great information.

Perform internet searches based on your locality. These are not always the most reliable since it is hard to narrow down to a smaller municipality and weed out the internet junk.

Be adventurous and drive around and look for historical signs placed along roads, on trails and on buildings.

Speak to the seniors in town and ask for some good stories. Take the entire family to visit local senior facilities and make some friends. There is a wealth of information and companionship at these places.

What to Do with the Mystery

Local Town MysteryAgain, researching the mystery will usually take much more time than actually doing anything with the mystery. Sometimes researching is all that you get to do as the research solves the mystery. On the other hand you may only uncover a mystery and never be able to solve it. No matter what the outcome, the research can still be a blast.

Generate More Leads

If possible, the research performed should generate additional leads. These leads can take many forms. One type of lead will take you to other people with whom you can then ask more questions.

Write Down Everything

In the tips section, it mentions using a composition notebook. Everyone should keep track of their own notes and compare at different points.

Keep Artifacts

You will encounter brochures, maps and pieces of nature. As long as it is legal, keep these mementos to add to your collection of clues.

Local Town Mystery

Explore New Places

Follow the clues to new places. Be adventurous and explore by looking around. Try to get some older maps since these may reveal more than just local geography but also the history.

Introduce Yourself to People

Let people know what you are working on as a family. Soon you will find that other people will join your cause in trying solve the mystery. Teach children to be respectful when speaking to others and also to be safe.

Regroup and Declare Victory

Do not hesitate to declare some kind of victory when things get boring or stale. Be ready to change directions. I always find that pizza or ice cream is a great distraction once a mystery has run its course.

Most importantly, use the mystery as a chance to explore, learn and meet people.

Local Town MysteryMystery Possibilities

The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. A mystery is a just a question that needs answered. Your kids are an unending source of questions every day so just direct their questions into these areas. Let them brainstorm and try not to inhibit them. Here are some suggestions that can help the ideas start flowing.

  • Your town itself is a mystery. When was it first founded? Who settled it originally? What were its previous names and why did they change?
  • Help find a lost pet.
  • Locate old run down buildings and find out who lived there and how the places got like that.
  • A historical site is a mystery unto itself. Try to find out why it is kept as a historical site and what activity occurred there in the past.
  • Check out cemeteries and pick some people to find out about their lives and how they passed.
  • Find out what the oldest businesses in your town were or are. Find out what the businesses did originally and who started them. Try talking to the chamber of commerce.
  • How did the road you live on get its name?
  • Who was the most famous person to come from your area? Athlete? Writer? Scientist?
  • Research the local archaeology that may exist around where you live. If permitted do some digs.


  • Give each person their own composition notebook and let them decorate it to show personality. Tape a piece of construction paper to the inside of the front and back covers to create pockets to store additional documents. Each person should use this to track clues, etc.
  • Avoid any crime mysteries as these could potentially place your family in danger and expose your children to gruesome details.
  • Respect other people's privacy both with information and property.
  • Be excited. Excitement is contagious and creates energy.
  • Take lots of pictures to document your discoveries. Who knows, you might end up in the local paper with some great discovery.
  • Be ready to punt. If things get dangerous or terribly boring, change directions and grab a new mystery.
  • Review the Hiking safety section.

Local Town Mystery Victory

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Your success as a family ... our success as a society depends not on what happens in the White House, but on what happens inside your house.


- Barbara Bush (former U.S. First Lady)