Erie Engineer Writes Murder Mystery Plays: The Last Word
Mike Hayes writes murder mysteries. He also produces and acts in stage productions of those mysteries. He does it for to help raise funds for worthy causes. There's been many successful productions. Mike is currently rehearsing with his fellow cast members for a performance of the latest murder mystery show he wrote. I asked him to remember back to the very first show.
He says the first murder mystery he penned was in the 1990s. Mike was a quality engineer at the former General Electric locomotive plant in Erie. The play was the entertainment for an employee recruitment dinner.
"We did that and it went pretty well,” remembers Mike.
The production went so well that the company wanted Mike to write another script for the next recruitment dinner.
“They said, 'Do it again. Write another one.' It just kept going," says Mike.
At that time, Mike served as a mentor for the Erie School District Robotics Team, sponsored by GE. Someone mentioned to Mike that a public performance of his murder mystery would make a nice fund raiser for the team. Mike protested.
“You can't charge people money to watch the script I wrote. It's not that good,” he said.
The murder mystery WAS good. The fund raiser WAS a success. And now, in 2024, it's time to present another Mike Hayes production. It will be his 23rd. As always, the cast is mostly made-up of employees from the locomotive plant, now owned by Wabtec. Mike is an engineer but his creativity expands to writing. Especially when it comes to naming his characters. The inspiration for the names can pop up at any time.
"The very first name we ever came up with was spoken in regular conversation," remembers Mike. "When somebody came to work more dressed up than normal somebody else, upon seeing them said, 'My, aren't we all Mr. Pressed and Starched."
Mike stood up and declared, "That's the name. That could be the name of a character, Preston Starched."
The title of this year's mystery is Uninvited, Unidentified, and Unresponsive. There's also been Jukebox Jujitsu. Luxury Liner Lunacy, and Murderous Malpractice. Dinner is served to the audience at every performance. Dialogue with the actors is encouraged because the audience must guess who is the killer. It's a lot of fun.
Opening night for Mike's 23rd murder mystery is January 19. He never thought his mystery scripts would still be entertaining audiences and raising funds.
"Not in a million years. Not in a million years,” he says.
This year’s production will benefit not only the robotics team, but also the Wabtec Bids for Kids Program and the Blessed Sacrament Knights of Columbus. The play runs for four nights. January 19 and 20 and February 2 and 3 at Blessed Sacrament School Cafeteria. To get more information, and to order tickets, log on to eriemurdermystery.com.