Murder Mystery NYC Diaries - Case #5: The Murder of "Curly Tom"

One of the greatest aspects of immersive theater in NYC is the audience’s reaction to various revelations throughout an experience. For audiences to be invested in the story, each character in our interactive theater experiences must be engaging with a rich backstory.

The characters are often filled with intrigue, suspicion, and secrets. They develop multiple layers to their character and, more often than not in murder mysteries, hide their true motives from even the closest of family and friends.

This week, our Murder Mystery Diaries NYC will focus on the life and murder of Miss Annie Downey, Alias’ “Curly Tom” and “Blonde Annie”.

It is said that both Annie’s beautiful face and occupation selling bouquets of flowers in the Bowery are what led to her untimely demise, as the acquaintances she met along the way would lead her down a path to her ruin.

Coming from a well respected family, Annie’s fall from grace into the “filthy dens” in which she lived forced her to go by the name Annie Martin to save her family from any shame. Annie was found murdered at 111 Prince Street on January 17, 1880 under the most mysterious of circumstances.

In unusually happy spirits the day before her murder, Annie was seen by a number of visitors, all of whom were unknown to the building’s owner Mrs. Smidt. Annie told Mrs. Smidt that she would be seeing an old friend before midnight, and to call her when they had arrived. However, no one had entered the house, and Mrs. Smidt had locked the doors. Unfortunately, Annie was never seen alive again.

Annie was found dead the next morning, after her hairdresser had attempted to visit for an early morning appointment. Unable to open the door and her calls going unanswered, Mrs. Smidt phoned the police.

The police had rammed open the door, finding Annie’s bed pushed against the door. She lay cold and stiff, face up, and drenched in her own blood from multiple stab wounds in the head. Annie was also found with a pillow case wrapped tight enough around her neck to blacken the skin and bulge her eyes from their sockets. There were no signs of a struggle, save for a cut above the eye that could have been from a blow to the face.

The apartment had been found in perfect order, with clothes hanging neatly in place and Annie had been found still wearing amethyst earrings and a diamond ring, ruling out a robbery gone wrong.

All of the houses inmates were interrogated, but no information was given to shed any light on the situation. No one had seen anything, and no unusual sounds were heard. Mrs Smidt was sure no one had been in the house when she locked the doors, and Annie’s last visitor had been gone hours before that.

The only theory is that the murderer had entered the house at night without garnering any attention and hid in the room until Annie entered, surprising her and killing her before she could cry out for help. The murderer could have then made his way out through the back door to the alley. Upon further investigation, the police found the padlock had been twisted off. Strangely, the coroner’s report showed that Annie’s cause of death had been strangulation, and that the stab wounds had been inflicted after the knot was tied around her neck, most likely to still her struggle for life.

Stay tuned for the next exciting entry in our Murder Mystery NYC Diaries series!

For the introduction to this series, click here.

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