Mid by Midwest Productions owner Josh Johnson. Photo by James Kellar


Local lovers of a good “whodunit” can now find themselves participants in a murder mystery. Once a month, people from all walks of life gather at the Gourmet Café (formerly Scholars Inn Gourmet Café and Wine Bar) to assume the identity of custom characters and work on teams to solve a murder in a live-action game created by Josh Johnson, owner of Mid by Midwest Productions. The $40 event includes a buffet dinner and cocktail.

It’s a creative way for people to be someone else and use reasoning and logic to solve mysteries, says Johnson, 36. His company also puts on Bloomington-based trivia games three nights a week at The Players Pub, and books performers at local venues.

Christopher De Young has participated in nearly 20 of Johnson’s events. “Instead of going to the theater, you’re in the theater. Josh creates a great backstory for every character,” he says. “It gives you a chance to step out of your everyday life and experience something different.”

While he enjoys solving mysteries, De Young says he participates because the events are a fun way to spend an evening. “It’s like a cocktail party. You meet loads of different people—doctors, construction workers, waiters, everybody,” he says.

That’s what Johnson, a Cicero, Indiana, native, had hoped. After graduating from Indiana University in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in communication and culture, he worked in event management for local clubs. But he’s always been interested in filmmaking and creative writing. After playing a boxed mystery game, he and his wife, Stephanie—a nurse at IU Health Bloomington Hospital—thought they could do better. They started their own booking, promotion, and production company in October 2014 and began offering the three-hour events for 30 to 50 people.    

Johnson takes inspiration from real-life characters and cultural events. For example, January’s murder mystery was set at an opulent ski lodge at the U.S. National Skiing Championships in 1985. Each guest gets the identity of a character when signing up through Eventbrite.com. During three rounds, players receive clues; gain information by mingling with other players; and try, with teammates, to identify the motive and killer. Winning teams earn gift certificates or other prizes.

For more information, visit midbymidwestproductions.com.