This Is The Perfect Last-Min Gift For Anyone

by Kiersten Hickman

I think it’s safe to say that we all have that one friend (or, those 10 friends) obsessed with murder mysteries. That person in your life who listens to Serial on repeat, marathons Making A Murderer in a single weekend, and seems to always have some sort of crime series on in the background no matter the occasion. If this sounds like one of your friends, then it’s time to help them become a homicide detective with the curated Hunt A Killer box — a monthly subscription service that allows people to solve intricate, ongoing, fictional murder mysteries. It's pretty much the perfect last-minute gift to give anyone you've been struggling to shop for — especially because Dec. 15 is the last day to order a subscription to guarantee Christmas delivery. (So hop on that, and pronto.)

So, what is Hunt a Killer? Founded by Ryan Hogan and Derrick Smith (a friendship that dates back to middle school bus-buddy days), the site sends out monthly packages that encourages subscribers to dive headfirst into solving a massive, intricate murder mystery created by the company itself. On the 22nd of each month, Hunt A Killer is delivered with various pieces of evidence that relate to a fictional story full of clues, which members have to solve before the following month. Membership is $30 a month for a month-to-month membership, $27.50 a month if you pre-pay for six months, or even $25 a month if you pre-pay for 12 months.

“In the first package, you are introduced to what can best be described as a one-sided pen pal,” Smith, who puts together the packages each month with their writer, Adam Mueller, tells Bustle. “He’s a little creepy, and you don’t necessarily know what he’s talking about, but he’s giving you some cryptic information. But, that pen pal will follow you and he will be with you throughout that membership. So he will be the one to drive the different cases, if you will.”

According to Smith, the monthly subscriptions originated from an event that Smith and Hogan hosted on Oct. 1 — a three-hour action packed evening that invites 200 teams of six into a 200-acre crime scene at Camp Ramblewood in Baltimore, Maryland. This event is Hogan and Smith’s second attempt at creating a live-action thriller experience after three years of hosting Run For Your Lives, a five kilometer obstacle course that submerged over 10,000 runners at a time into a zombie apocalypse.

“We got some good feedback from [Hunt A Killer], and we enjoyed the story telling aspect of that, so we decided to take this Hunt A Killer brand and turn it into a monthly subscription that people could receive on their doorstep [and] interact with more than once a year,” Smith says.

The subscription boxes from Hunt A Killer come with all sorts of clues and tools that aid subscribers into transforming themselves into the homicide detective of their dreams. Clues take all sorts of forms every month — from letters to cyphers, photographs, official documents, and other objects of interest. There's even a backlight flashlight that's meant to help detectives figure out their clues. Subscribers also have the opportunity to immerse themselves in an online community where they can go over evidence and swap theories, all in hopes of receiving trophies after each successful hunt.

“It would be an item that would make sense within the narrative, and would probably be a little bit more special than what you would receive normally,” Smith tells Bustle. “Because as the story progresses, we like to have story lines that are running the whole time — some longer narratives. But the smaller story line, they can conclude within a couple packages, and we definitely like to give a special trophy or special item in that package.”

Smith, Hogan, and Mueller work hard to make every aspect of the experience authentic for their subscribers. Every new subscriber starts off at episode one (no matter when subscription begins) and will progress through the story with each month of their subscription. The world in which they are immersed will also be attached to Live Hunt, the new name for the previous Hunt A Killer live event, which will take place at the end of September of 2017.

Does this not literally sound like a dream come true for any true crime fan? Because, personally, I know I'm already obsessed with the idea. You can check out Hunt a Killer at their website.

Images: Courtsey of Hunt A Killer; Giphy