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The Very Strange Case of The Voynich Manuscript

  
  
  
  
  
  

The Voynich Manuscript was purchased in 1912 by a man named Wilifrid Voynich. Though Polish by birth, he was a British citizen living in London. He acquired the book at the Villa Mondragone, which is located near Rome. The manuscript has been dated to the early 1400's according to carbon dating techniques. Voynich purchased it from the Order of Jesuits living at the Villa Mondrogone who were discreetly selling some of their holdings in order to bolster their impoverished coffers. He purchased 30 books at that time, including a mysterious notebook which would later take his name, and a bevy of controversy.

Voynich Manuscript (170)

The book is only about 240 pages long, some of the pages are missing, but what remains appears to be a pharmacopoeia used in the early 15th century as well as commentary about astronomy, biology, cosmology, and recipes most likely for medicinal purposes.

So what's so interesting about a several hundred year old medicinal journal, if that's even what it is? Well, it has defied all attempts at decoding leading some to believe that the manuscript is an incredibly well made hoax. Take, for example, the images of the flora; most of these cannot be identified either by comparing them to actual specimens or the stylized drawings contemporary to the alleged creation date of the manuscript. Some appear to be direct copies from other books while others appear to be combining roots from one plant with the leaves of another and the flowers of yet another plant. Some drawings in the book appear to be a sunflower, native to the as of yet undiscovered Americas. Other drawings appear to be crude renderings of galaxies and cells both of which the technology for was yet to be created, these inferences, however, have been dismissed as wild speculation.

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Historians can confirm it was once in the possession of Georg Baresch who sent several letters to Athanasius Kircher who had published a Codex of Egyptians Hieroglyphs. It is unknown if he ever replied but he did make an attempt to purchase it which was soundly refused. Upon his death it passed to Jan Marek Marci who in turn gave it to Kircher. A letter that came with the manuscript claimed that it had once belonged to Emperor Rudolph II who had either loaned or bequeathed it to Jacobus Korcicky de Tepenecz, The Emperor's head of the botanical gardens.

Record of it disappears after that until Voynich purchases it in 1912. Upon his death it passed to his wife, then to a friend and eventually to Hans P. Kraus who, after he was unable to find a buyer, donated it to Yale University.

So, hoax or history? Well, no one truly knows but linguistics professor Stephen Bax thinks he may have begun to decipher the script and discount the theory that it was an elaborate hoax. According to the professor he focused on what appeared to be proper names, much like Egyptian Scholars have used to decipher hieroglyphs in the past. He uses the plants and star depicted in the book to decipher the glyphs in the book. He has called on other scholars, cryptographers and linguists to join in and help him decode the centuries old manuscript.

Think you're a crack decoder? Then go to Yale Universities' online copy of the manuscript and join in on solving this case. Want something a little less challenging? Then join us at one of our Public Shows, showing around the country. If there's no public show in your area we will come to you! Just call (888)643-2583(CLUE) and select option two to start planning your event today!

The Very Strange Case of Taman Shud aka The Mystery of the Somerton Man

  
  
  
  
  
  

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It's December 1st, 1948 in Southern Australia and one of the world's strangest unsolved mysteries has taken place. At 6.30 a.m. the body of an unidentified man now known as the Somerton Man is found. I'll save you the details of his death because, frankly, that's the least interesting part of this case.

The initial crime, a man found dead on a beach with two unsmoked cigarettes, was hardly remarkable, except for the cryptic code left on the body. Witnesses had viewed him the night before lying on the beach in the same position he was found. They concluded he was likely to be passed out because he wasn't reacting to the numerous mosquitos. Based on the interviews it is likely he died around 2 a.m. the morning on the day the body was found. He was dressed well but missing his hat which was unusual for the time period. Even more unusual was the fact that all the labels were missing from his clothing. That made it difficult to trace his country of origin, whether it be Britain, The U.S. or from within Australia herself. His wallet was also missing.

Attempts to identify the Somerton Man (named for the beach at which he was found) were unsuccessful from use of dental records. Many identifications were made over time, including a guess based on a description of EC Johnson, who was later ruled out when the man himself appeared at the coroner's office. Newspapers ran the story with a picture, but all lines of inquiry were soon exhausted.

There was a break in the case when a brown suitcase believed to be that of the victim was handed over to police. It was from the railway station he had been at earlier that day according to a ticket found in his pocket. There were a variety of items found but most interestingly was a coat which, because of the way it was manufactured, could only have been bought in America. Was the man American? Or had he purchased the jacket from someone of the same size who had just been in America?

Around this time a scrap of paper was also discovered deep in one of the pockets of his trousers with the words, "Tamad Shud" which means "it is finished.” A wide search discovered that this was a very rare copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The detectives released this to the press and the copy from which it came was found in a car that had been abandoned two weeks earlier. The detectives concluded that the car belonged to the victim. In the back of the book there were several lines written, believed to be some sort of coded message as well as the unlisted number of a woman living in nearby Adelaide. She was interviewed by the police but asked her name to be kept secret. The woman, later revealed as Jessica Thompson, told them a story about having given the book to a man named Boxall during the war. The Somerton Man was later disproved to be Boxall when he was discovered alive with his wartime copy of the book and the Taman Shud line still intact.

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Recently 60 Minutes revealed that the Somerton Man might be the victim of Ms. Thompson, whom her daughter believes was a Russian Spy, may have had an affair with, and produced a child with the unknown victim. There is a current petition to exhume the body for a DNA test which may prove whether a son of Ms. Thompson was fathered by The Somerton Man.

All attempts at deciphering the coded message in the book have been unsuccessful to date.

This case has been infuriating detectives and police forces for decades. Time has taken away evidence and witnesses, and the window of opportunity to figure out this crime of mystery, intrigue, and murder keeps getting smaller and smaller. Luckily, solving a crime with The Murder Mystery Company won’t leave you wanting to pull out your hair. If you like a challenge, and you think you have what it takes, grab your detective hat and hop on over to a public show with us. We guarantee you will have a killer time.

Famous Mystery Writers and Their Characters: The Poe Edition

  
  
  
  
  
  

Aah Poe, that clever wordsmith. Imbued with the gift of leaving his readers pleasantly creeped out, it is he we must thank for the creation of some of the literary characters we love most. One of these singular creatures is Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin, a mind set to solving crimes before the word detective was even a part of the world.

Among the many delightfully dark writings gifted to our minds from Poe such as “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843), “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839), “The Raven” (1845), and countless other works, his character Dupin, which we see featured in three of Poe’s works, is a marvel. Whether solving crimes on a whim for his own personal pleasure or sleuthing for monetary gain, the mechanics of his mind are astounding.

This character is said to be the bones of which the character Sherlock was written, and it’s even alluded to in the first Sherlock novel, A Study in Scarlet, in a conversation between Sherlock and Watson. Both Dupin and Sherlock have the innate ability to read people based on nuance, body language, and speech, and have a disturbing tendency to reveal the minds of people who thought their secrets were safe so long as they stayed in their minds. How wrong they were!

The character Dupin set the standard for the traditional “gentleman detective,” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentleman_detective) --- a member of the british gentry, very eccentric and keen minded, that often resided in a british townhouse. Dupin lived with his closest friend, and was eclectic in his hobbies (sound familiar?). He was not very fond of the police, indeed, he usually viewed them as an inconvenience at best. The motive for choosing to solve the crimes in the three stories is different for Dupin each time, making him even harder to figure out. Poe’s character is the penultimate in rationality and comes off as snobby due to the fact that he did not interact with other people in any kind of normal way due to his heightened sense of observation and constantly churning process of abductive thinking.

All in all, Dupin makes for a fascinating character in a series of skillfully crafted stories. We salute you, Edgar. If you enjoyed this read, keep your sleuthing eyes peeled for the next famous mystery writer and character! If you want to solve a crime of your own, call (888)643-2583(CLUE) to set in motion your own personal night of mystery, intrigue, and murder with The Murder Mystery Company today.

Top Ten Carnevale Masks of Venice

  
  
  
  
  
  

Greetings Detectives,

One of the shows performed by The Murder Mystery Company is “Murder at the Masquerade.”  This show is a high class mystery where faces are adorned with ornate masks that come from a very colorful history.  These masks originate from Venice and had many uses, though they are mostly recognised today as costume pieces for the much celebrated Carnevale.  

It all began in the late 1100’s and reached over an 800 year period. Masks were used in all aspects of Venetian life. Doctors used them to keep from catching ill from patients, diplomats used them for politics and voting, and the general public used them for anonymity and of course celebration.

There evolved a set of 10 basic masks that were used for different tasks or events, and they each had different meaning. Here we lay them out for you.

 

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1) The Colombina

This mask is one of the more popular mask seen today, at Carnevale celebrations all over the world.  Covering the top half of the face and sometimes the nose, this mask was named after a character in the Commedia dell’arte.  It is very detailed and colorful, and worn most often by women during celebrations and parties.

 

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2) The Bauta

A mask worn by men at political events where anonymity was key for voting and decision making.  This mask was also worn by men who sought to get lost in a crowd and not be recognised.  It is a very square mask that covers the face all the way to the chin, and is either very stark, or heavily gilded. This mask is also known as the Casanova.

 

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3) The Volto

This is a full coverage mask that guaranteed full anonymity to the wearer, and was suitable for either gender.  Venetians wore this mask to parties and celebrations where they wished to be completely anonymous. The mask emulates a normal mouth and nose and has ornate designs over the eye and upper face area of the mask.

 

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4) The Arlecchino

For all appearances, a jesters mask, one of the more outrageous masks seen at Carnevale.  This mask is often adorned with a large colorful collar, bells, and a big headpiece. It’s a full coverage mask worn by more outgoing characters prone to ranting and slapstick comedy. This mask is also seen in the Commedia dell’arte.

 

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5) The Gatto

This mask covers half the face, and looks like it sounds, like a cat.  These mask are very popular at Carnevale. Cats were highly valued, and also very scarce, during the time of the plague, as they were the primary killer of disease spreading rodents, so it’s no surprise that Venetians fashioned a mask after their sassy feline saviors.


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6) The Dama

Worn by the ladies of the Cinquecento, this mask was opulent, covered in jewels and extremely expensive. Ladies wore these masks with fine gowns also covered in jewels and other finery. Interestingly enough, in other cultures in western Africa, there is also a mask called the Dama, and it was worn during funeral rites, and during mourning. What an interesting opposition of uses!


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7) The Moretta

This traditional Venetian mask was worn year round by women.  It was also commonly worn by women visiting convents. It was typically worn with a veil, and was considered one of the more beautiful masks, accentuating the natural beauty of a womans face. Originally created in France, it was adopted as a common Venetian mask.


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8) The Pantalone

This is another masks from the Commedia dell’arte.  It features a long hooked nose, and slanted eyes, and covers the top two thirds of the face. This mask comes in all colors and designs. The character this mask depicts is an old corrupt man who has lost his virility. It is also associated with a man of extreme wit and intelligence.

 

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9) The Medico della Peste

Also from the Commedia dell’arte, and also known as Dottore Peste, this mask has a more gruesome history. Plague doctors in Venetia would wear this long beaked mask stuffed with poultices when they visited sick patients. They believed this would keep them from becoming infected. This mask has a bit of a bad association, but is still very popular during Carnevale.

 

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10) The Zanni

Yet another mask featured in the Commedia dell’arte, the Zanni is associated with a silly, simple minded and sometimes vulgar character. They say the longer the nose of the Zanni mask, the more of an imbecile the wearer is. This mask covers the top half of the face, and has a long thin nose that hangs downward over the mouth and chin.


These masks are one of the most entertaining parts of the Carnevale experience in Venice. Now that you know about the different kinds, you may have a ton of fun picking out the different kinds you see at our Masked marvel, “Murder at the Masquerade.” It may shine a whole new light on some of our characters! Let us know what you think of these masks and our show!

 

All the images in this article are borrowed from google for demonstration and educational purposes.  The Murder Mystery Company doesn't own any of the images shown here.


How to Make Invisible Ink

  
  
  
  
  
  

How To Make invisible Ink

Hello Detectives, today we are going to learn a skill cultures have been perfecting for centuries. A tried and true recipe for invisible ink is something every good detective needs to know. There are many different methods you can use to achieve your mysterious messages, and a fascinating history to accompany your science experiment, so let’s jump right in and get our hands dirty!

Invisible ink has been around since the Ancient Greek and Roman eras. This seemingly simple process of writing and sending secret messages has a quite long and bloody history, considering the many methods of secret writing were primarily used to commit espionage during times of war.

I’m going to show you a couple simple ways to make your own little concoctions for, and ways to reveal, invisible ink so you will be on your way to sending, leaving, or uncovering mysterious messages using any medium!

First let’s delve into invisible ink that is revealed through a heat source. This is a fairly simple method that is accomplished with a few simple tools, and a few easy steps.

Things You Will Need:
  • lemon juice, orange juice, milk, baking soda, OR vinegar water
  • q-tips, toothpicks, OR a paintbrush
  • a small bowl
  • unlined paper
  • a safe heat source
Step One

Pour your lemon juice (or whatever ingredient you chose) into the bowl and mix it with an equal portion of water. If you are using baking soda, just put enough in where the mixture is slightly grainy after mixing. You can also use undiluted lemon juice, but some color may remain after it dries.

Step Two

Dip your writing tool in the mixture and write your secret message on the paper. Then let it dry, either by itself or in front of a fan. Do not use a heat source.

Step Three

To reveal your secret message, place the encoded paper over a low heat source, such as a 100 watt lamp, in front of a hairdryer, or several inches over a stove burner. Make sure you don’t overheat the paper or it will start to burn and ruin your message!

Now I’ll show you a fun way to make secret messages kids will love! This method is similar to the one above, but uses no heat and is extremely kid friendly.

Things You Will Need
  • baking soda
  • water
  • a small bowl for mixing
  • q-tips or paintbrushes
  • unlined paper
  • flowers (any kind, any color, must have petals, even dandelions work!)
Step One

In your bowl, mix water and baking soda until you have a slightly grainy mixture. Some may settle to the bottom, so just mix it occasionally.

Step Two

Use the q-tips or paintbrushes to draw pictures or write messages on your unlined paper. Let them dry naturally or in front of a fan.

Step Three

Pick your favorite color flower and lightly rub the petals over the paper your invisible message is on. Different flowers will react differently with the soda/water mixture, so the color will be different depending on what type of flower you use. This makes it even more special, because not only is the message a surprise, so is the color you will see it in!

Now you know two cool ways to make, use, and decode invisible ink, so get out there and get to it! If you enjoyed this, check out these other cool methods of making and reading invisible ink. This nifty trick could be a fun way to send invites for a private party, or make an excellent activity at a kids party, say, during a thrilling show put on by The Murder Mystery Company.

Thanks for reading sleuths!

Murder at the Masquerade in Nashville

  
  
  
  
  
  

Hello Detectives!

Are you looking for a fun time that doesn’t involve awkward conversation, loud bar music, or giving you the urge to step into traffic before the night is even half over?  The Murder Mystery Company has the perfect solution for you here in the music city.

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If you are looking for a reason to dress up and go out, simply buy tickets to our public show in Nashville, a night of murder and mystery that will give you the opportunity to participate in a 2 hour interactive murder mystery show, while also enjoying a delectable 3 course meal, and the best part: solving a murder!  

Come on down to the Old Spaghetti Factory in Nashville to see our show ”Murder at the Masquerade” and get a chance to bust out that ball gown in the back of your closet that you have been dying to wear out. Top it off with a mask and you may even win best dressed! How often do you get the chance to dress up to the nines and see a play, and enjoy a stellar 3 course meal? It’s all up to you now!

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If that isn’t your thing and you prefer entertaining from your lovely abode, we can help with that too.  One simple phone call will get the ball rolling on having an interactive murder mystery show come right into your home!  With a completely flexible program, The Murder Mystery Company can do a show right in your living room, or even your dining room if you want to serve a dinner to your guests while the show is happening.

The Murder Mystery Company doesn’t only do private shows in the home either.  We are more than happy to host any private event for you, at any location, including corporate events. Planning a fundraiser or a team building day for your company? Give us a call to make your next office event truly special. We are waiting to hear from you!

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Can you think of a better way to spend your evening than taking in a show while you enjoy a scrumptious 3 course meal? It beats dinner in front of the tv at home.  You may solve the crime, or even BE the murderer!  There is only one way to find out, click or call (888)643-2583(CLUE) to get information about our show times and locations, buy tickets, or make reservations with The Murder Mystery Company, the experts in Mystery Entertainment.


What to Expect When You're Expecting... a Murder!

  
  
  
  
  
  

Hello Detectives!

So, you just booked a private party with us... Congratulations! You are on your way to having one of the most entertaining  experiences of your life. Choosing us for your evening of entertainment was the first step to making your upcoming party a killer event! You e-signed your contract with us, filled out the questionnaire, and sorted out all the little details.  I bet you are wondering now, what is going to happen at my party?

Let The Murder Mystery Company help you out with some great clues for setting up your night of mystery.

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Let us start with the events before your party begins, shall we? Our actors will show up about 20 to 30 minutes before the start of your party ready to go. They just need a few things.  They will need a space for changing in and out of costumes, an acting space about the size of a pool or air hockey table, preferably against a wall, and a table or empty space to set out suspect binders and costumes.

They won’t take very long to get things into shape before your guests start to arrive.  You can expect the actors to greet each guest as they come in, and mingle with your partygoers before the show starts. They do this in an effort to make your guests feel comfortable, and encourage interaction during the show. If you are feeling frisky, you can tell our troupe members before the show which guests to highlight in the show for maximum entertainment.

The actors will also utilize mingling time to hand out suspect binders, assign characters to your guests, and tell the Rules of Murder.  Guests will have an opportunity to avail themselves of the various props and costume gear brought by the actors. It is important to note that these costume items will include hats, goggles, feather boas, and other accessories. You may want to advise your guests of the theme of your show if they want to dress authentically to that theme. Actual costumes will not be provided.

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Your show will take around 2 hours. This is a perfect amount of time for your guests to have an engaging interactive experience. There will be three acts to the play, each one about 20 to 30 minutes long.  In between these acts there will be time set aside for investigation. Your guests will be given the opportunity to bribe each other for clues, and interact with each other and the troupe.

At the end of the show, everyone will be given an opportunity to reveal who they think the murderer is! After the thrilling conclusion of the show, there will be an impromptu award ceremony where certificates will be handed out to your guests. Then the troupe will clean up all their supplies and materials and beat a hasty retreat, leaving your entertainment space as it was when they arrived.

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Now, there are a few things to consider when planning for your night of mystery.  Your guests are going to want to be sitting for the majority of the performance, so make sure you have adequate seating for every guest.  Your party should be contained to one room so everyone can see the show. Separating people into rooms means they will be missing important plot and clue reveals that will make it harder for them to discover who the murderer is!

Also, you want to make sure that The Murder Mystery Company is the only event scheduled for the time of your party. Other entertainment will be very distracting to your guests and our actors, making it hard for them to put on a great show. If you want to book other entertainment, please make sure it is before or after the show time you have scheduled with us.

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Ok, here is one final tip. Please make sure your guests know what kind of party they are coming to. A surprise murder mystery party sounds awesome in theory, but can be very disconcerting for unsuspecting guests.   Most people have always wanted to do a Murder Mystery, and now they get to come to one with you!

The Murder Mystery Company would like to thank you so much for choosing us for your next big event. Now you are on your way to a thrilling night of mystery, so get ready, and don’t forget your detective hat!


Youdunnit: DIY Feather Hairpiece

  
  
  
  
  
  
Hello Detectives,
Are you heading to a Crime and Pun-ishment event without a clue on what to wear? Fear not, Private Eye! You can whip up a 1920s-inspired hairpiece faster than an investigator can ask whodunnit. (Anyway, youdunnit with this simple tutorial, you clever thing.)
Weapons of Choice:
Glue
Large faux feather(s)
Barrette or sturdy bobby pin
Sequined headband or string of "pearls" fit to your head
Sparkly broach or "jewel"
photo 2
Glue the base of your feather(s) vertically along your barrette and allow it to dry completely. While you're waiting, make any necessary adjustments on your headband to ensure it lays securely across your forehead, just below your hairline.
Fasten your broach onto the headband so it sits comfortably above your ear and attach the dried feather-barrette alongside the broach. The feather should raise above your head and fall slightly forward.
Congratulations, Detective. You've solved your costume caper! Now, toss on a flapper dress and Charleston-shimmy your way to the event. We know you'll have a killer time.
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The Grimprov Method

  
  
  
  
  
  

Here at The Murder Mystery Company, we have a pretty diverse selection of themed shows to choose from, and we change them periodically so return customers can take in and solve new mysteries with our grimprov trained actors and actresses.

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What is grimprov, you ask?

 Grimprov is an acting method invented and used by The Murder Mystery Company that employs a skillful combination of acting and improvisation. This allows our troupes to interact with any audience from young children to adults, and everywhere in between. It’s so important to our shows we even used it in our web address!

 Using the grimprov method, the actors and actresses can actively include everyone in the show, in any size group, whether it is a small group of 8 or 10 people or a huge group of over a thousand! We want every show to make our guests feel involved, and that is why we invented grimprov.  What fun is it to sit and watch a play when the actors and actresses could be coming right to your table for a little chat?

 So, when you come to one of the many shows put on by The Murder Mystery Company, don’t show up expecting to sit back and watch the night go by. Be ready to solve a crime and bring a killer to justice, and don’t forget to bring your detective hat!

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Murder Mystery Wedding

  
  
  
  
  
  

Hello Detectives!

Mr. Neil Burger and Miss Summer McDonald request the honor of your presence as they speak their vows and join in marriage in The Murder Mystery Company’s award-winning show, “Til Death Do Us Part!”

Well, they request your presence and they request that you plan a party that will host their special day too.

With our wedding themed murder mystery show, available to your private parties big and small, you’ll see what bad luck on a wedding day looks like, and believe us; this couple is in for the worst of it. Before they pronounce their vows, death will strike and the happy couple will need your help to solve the mystery of murder so they can live happily ever after.

It’s set to be the perfect day for beautiful matrimony with an unfortunately strong potential for mayhem as well. This wedding themed murder mystery dinner may not go exactly how the bride and groom planned, but it’s guaranteed to be a night you’ll be happy to have been a part of.

Summer and Neil aren’t picky, so you and your guests can wear just about whatever you’d like. In fact, we encourage you and your guests to wear your own wedding dresses or the most ridiculous wedding attire you can come up with. It’ll make their special day that much more special so long as they actually do get the chance to walk down the aisle.

Can you save this wedding? Can you help change those death bells to wedding bells? Begin planning your party today!

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