Arcadia Historical Society Reenacts True Local Crime over Dinner
By Galen Patterson
The evening of Nov. 10 was filled with mystery and celebration at Prince Erik Hall in Arcadia.
For the second year, the Arcadia Historical Society has hosted a mystery dinner party with a crime based on actual Arcadian lives.
The area outside the Hall is an open yard-like plot of land, known as Prince Erik Gardens, and on this night, Prince Erik Gardens glowed with all the splendor the original owner had intended.
A large tent presided over the gardens, decorated with finely crafted chandeliers and ornate, fine-dining-like table settings.
After announcements from the Arcadia Historical Society, the show began with a speech by Arcadia resident Lee Shimmin, playing the role of Bill Gettle. Gettle, a wealthy Californian recently relocated to Arcadia, was celebrating the completion of his newly built home in Arcadia. Moments later, Gettle was kidnapped.
The kidnapper appeared from the entrance of the tent, armed with a cap-gun to inspire fear, and cloaked in black with a face mask to hide his identity.
When the excitement had settled, the show continued, and the crowd set themselves to the task of figuring out who had done it.
A detective, portrayed by Alex Uribe, lead the audience on an evening of humorous information gathering and supposition.
In May of 1934, Oil Millionaire William Gettle really had made a fortune, built a home in Arcadia and had managed to be kidnapped at a pool party in the city.
A friend of his had also been kidnapped, but managed to escape, and Gettle himself was found in a house in La Crescenta six days later. His captors were professionals.
Over in Arcadia, in 2018, the kidnapping conspirators were somewhere in the crowd, being accused and tormented by the detective along with the other characters in the performance, while guests read individually-issued clues aloud to help shed light on the mystery.
Arcadia Police Explorers provided an added level of security, and doubled as serving staff. In the gardens, explorers Henry Zhang, Jess Salcido and Matthew Madeiros agree that they are at the event to help in any way they can, and to give back to the community. All three explorers want to be police officers.
As an added bonus, the explorers all play the role of security for the sake of the story, a heightened measure taken by Gettle in response to threatening letters addressed to him.
In the end, Gettle had been rescued, after spending several days in captivity. In 2018, Lee Shimmin emerged from the doorway of Prince Erik Hall while the suspects were gathered at the front of the tent. Smiling and excited, Gettle puts his arms around the two suspects on either side of him, one of which would turn out to be the mastermind of the kidnapping: the contractor whom had built Gettle’s new home and had been denied payment.
However, to the credit of storywriter and caterer Sandy McQuilkin, all of the characters had a reason to kidnap him.
When the evening had ended, awards had been passed out for the actors, the professional accordion player had gone home and the photo booth had ceased operations, Prince Erik Hall fell silent again, but is still pulsing with the history of the Arcadia.