Picture if you will a young Righetti lurking around the basement of her two-family home in Queens, red plastic framed glasses sliding down her nose as she peers around the basement steps, holding her place in a yellow hardcover Nancy Drew book with one finger. Quietly she lurks until her target is in sight: Mr. Koenig, her elderly German landlord, who is taking care of the property, pulling weeds from the backyard. But Righetti knows something must be up, he’s a suspicious old man with a secret to solve, just like in her mystery novels.
The thing is my poor landlord wasn’t hiding anything, including his annoyance at being followed by knobby-knee pipsqueak who kept trying (and failing) to unlock doors with bobby pins and solve a mystery. But that love of solving a whodunit has never quite left me, taking up so many forms over the years - from books, to TV show and films and finally, to the True Crime podcasts and series that have proliferated the airwaves in recent years.
Hunt A Killer is a subscription service that taps directly into this cultural zeitgeist. The brainchild of Ryan Hogan, co-founder and CEO and Derrick Smith, co-founder and creative director, Hunt A Killer offers subscribers the chance to solve ongoing, fictional murder mysteries in two ways: a monthly membership box and premium one-time boxes. You’ve probably seen the ads on Facebook, as I did, and unable to resist, I decided to try the monthly service out. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found inside my first two boxes, which were filled with different kinds of clues, physical evidence and case files, codes and ciphers.
Upon signing up for the box, you become part of the Listening Friends of America, a fictional service that connects you with an inmate, who corresponds with you via letters (and some clues) in your box each month. Armed with the clues in the box and some on the internet as well, it’s up to you to play detective and figure out what is hidden in the clues and solve the ongoing mystery being told. And to Hunt a Killer’s credit, you get some pretty cool things in each box, including tools for your research such as a notebook and a black light, as well as some creepy clues like…a tooth.
Having just received my third box, I’m already hooked because as CEO Ryan Hogan succinctly sums it up, Hunt A Killer is a form of entertainment. “Subscription box doesn’t really do our service justice, it’s just the only thing people can relate it to because really we’re episodic entertainment that just happens to be delivered to your doorstep instead of through a TV screen,” Hogan said. Perhaps the beauty and genius of Hunt A Killer is that no matter when you sign up, you start at Box One so you don’t have to worry about missing out on anything or playing catch up, the story begins when you’re ready to start. Though readers beware: while the Facebook group or even Reddit threads are certainly helpful when you’re puzzled over a clue, the ongoing nature of the story means that spoilers are out there.
As Hogan told me, Hunt A Killer was birthed from the desire to create a hands-on interactive experience, akin to escape rooms and interactive theater, which initially resulted in a live Hunt a Killer event. “We came up with a platform that was a 200-acre campground that we turned into a living crime scene and so 600-700 people came out, it was October 1, 2016, and that’s really how Hunt A Killer started.” But knowing that re-creating this experience across the country wouldn’t be sustainable, Hogan and Smith decided to shift to a subscription service, where curated boxes would contain an episode of the story and bring the entire experience to each member’s doorstep.
But if the idea of scouring a fictional crime scene for clues sounds appealing to you (as it definitely does to me), good news! Hunt A Killer will be hosting their second annual Live Hunt this October, a 3-day immersive experience taking place at Camp Ramblewood in Darlington, MD, with live music and entertainment, camping and more. And Hogan explained, this new live hunt will tie directly into the story being told in subscription boxes. “Instead of going out there like ‘here’s a set of murders, go explore the campgrounds and figure it out,’ we are turning Camp Ramblewood into Listening Friends of America and I couldn’t be more excited about this,” Hogan told me. “When people step foot onto the campgrounds, you are going to be in Listening Friends of America, so it’s really going to be this alternate reality game on just a massive scale.”
Check out the trailer for the Live Hunt below:
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a case to solve.