Parties with a Twist of Murder!
Parties with a Twist of Murder!
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82 Pirate Party Decoration Ideas

Swashbuckling DIY Murder Mystery Decor

Murder mystery decorations from left: treasure chest and trinkets, skeleton entrance, and skull and crossbones backdrop to table
Left images = Lost Property sign, walk the plank sign and skeleton with "Dead men drink no rum" sign; right image = pirate ship

Hosting a Pirate Murder Mystery - Other Helpful Ideas

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Turn your party entrance and party space into a swashbuckling treat for "Pirates Plunder and Murder", our Caribbean-inspired pirate murder mystery game. Most ideas are also ideal for other pirate parties.

Choose whether to use  an easy mix-and-match approach using whatever decorative items you can gather or whether to theme your decorations around skulls and skeletons, pirate ship, treasure map, the Kraken or the Caribbean.

Whichever option you go for, don't forget to make full use of the printouts in the game's decoration pack. See how to use these printouts in an eye-catching way.

A:- Mix and Match Pirate, Nautical and Caribbean Decorations

This can be the cheapest and easiest option. Gather together any piratical, nautical, Caribbean, "treasure", antique and wooden items that could fit with the mystery game's tavern (called "Sea Dog Treasure Tavern") in the fictional Caribbean haven of Port Plunder. Then decide how to best group these items. (It is sometimes better to group items together into a single impressive display than to scatter them across larger areas.)

Decor that mixes pirates, skulls, skeletons and Caribbean themes
Top left photo: Pirates Only sign written on aged wooden planks; reed fencing over fireplace; decorative birds, shells and fishing nets add a Caribbean touch. Top right photo: mix of treasure chest and antique and bright items. Bottom left photo: Doris's clever mixing of balloons, pallets painted black and topped with a back sheet, netting with fairy lights behind to cast an eerie glow; creepy cloth with red paint to represent blood stains; skull mask with empty black costume; black flag over door. Bottom right photo: Doris's party with guests. See Doris's Pirate Mystery Party.

Items that fall into this mix-and-match decor:

B:- Main Party Space Decorations, Including Dining Table - 5 Different Ideas for a Pirate Murder Mystery

10 For all ideas, you may wish to create a feature wall in your main party space. This is ideal as the backdrop to the party and as a space for group photos and individual guest photos.

11 An easy way to transport your guests back to swashbuckling times is through a scene setter, room roll or wall mural.

B1:-Pirate Treasure 

Left photo = dining table adorned with treasure chest, treasure map place settings, treasure map menu and loot bags. Right photo = treasure chest made from styrofoam
Left photo: One-eyed Shark's place mat sits atop a table mat covered with a red paper napkin; a separate red cloth napkin is folded into a boat shape; treasure chest is filled with costume jewellry. Right photo: Bonnie's superb treasure chest made from styrofoam and painted and then filled with trinkets.

12 Have a treasure chest as your table centerpiece or as the focal point of a separate display. Use an antique chest or wooden chest - or buy a treasure chest from an online party supplier. (We bought a second-hand treasure chest via Facebook Messenger; in Bonnie's superb Featured Party, she created a treasure chest out of styrofoam and then painted it.) Have a selection of necklaces, brooches, rings,  coins, gold-covered chocolate coins, gold-covered ingot-shaped chocolate bars, colored pieces of glass, medals, gold or silver plated cups,  gold candlesticks, fake crowns, small silver trays and other valuable-looking items visible. Have coins or necklaces spill onto the table. (We bought a pearl string chain garland from Amazon.)


Hand-drawn treasure map tablecloth
Beautiful hand-drawn treasure-map tablecloth; Ray and Bonnie created a fictional treasure map and then colored sections such as mermaids

13 Buy or make a treasure map tablecloth. Alternatively, use a cotton canvas or burlap tablecloth and mix with treasure map plates, cups or napkins. Note that a new unbleached cotton dust sheet can give an ideal neutral table covering. For Bonnie's superb Featured Party, she and Ray hand-drew a treasure map on a blank canvas tablecloth.

14 Alternatively, hang a treasure map tablecloth from the picture rail to create a stunning party backdrop. Alternatively, for that personal touch, draw your own treasure map on a neutral background. (We find that flat cotton sheets are ideal for painting a wall backdrop and are inexpensive. If you buy a beige-type color, then you do not need to waste paint on the background. You may also wish to "age" this treasure map by dabbing on different strengths of black tea or coffee solutions and by creating the odd tear. Optionally a splash of red paint could form "blood" drops.

15 Make use of the game's treasure map extras - for example, the treasure map place mats (one per character), place cards, menu cards and editable food labels.  We chose to cut a wavy edge around each map place setting - but you could add an extra edge of realism by singeing the edges. (Please follow all safety precautions.)

16 For each guest, provide a miniature treasure chest party favor box, a miniature burlap loot sack or a miniature gold-bar favor box. Fill with chocolates or chocolate-covered coins for your guests to enjoy with coffee. 

17 Provide a central goblet or a miniature treasure chest filled with chocolates to serve with coffee; for extra effect, choose gold-wrapped chocolates, gold-wrapped chocolate coins or gold-wrapped chocolate ingot-bars.

18 Scatter gold-wrapped chocolate coins and ingot bars across the table.

19 Buy a pearl string chain garland (available from different party suppliers). Hang strings of pearls from the ceiling lights (if safe) or drape across different table decorations. (We used them to add to the costume jewelry in our treasure chest centerpiece.)

20 Optionally choose food that reflects this treasure theme - see pirate party food ideas for a superb chocolate-covered treasure chest cake and also a treasure island cheesecake.

B2:-Skulls and Skeletons 

Skull and crossbones flag is a dramatic table backdrop
Left photo: homemade skull and crossbones flag makes an impressive backdrop to the dining table; words were painted on a black sheet and the edges were then cut and frayed. Right photo: Halloween ghost outfit in front of tattered black sheet; black curtains imitate sail

21 Add a spooky touch to your dining table by having a skeleton sitting in the chair of one of your guests - or have the skeleton of Billy Blood (the game's murder victim) be an extra guest at your meal. Optionally have a sign such as "I be Billy Blood - which stinking bilge rat killed me?"

22 Hang a large black skull and crossbones flag at the end of your table to create a dramatic backdrop; this can be hung from the wall or ceiling as you wish. Cut tears in the material to giver a tattered look.

23 Have skulls and miniature skeletons sitting atop fruit bowls, treasure chests, etc. Add eyepatches, hooks and sashes as you wish.

B3:- Pirate Ship Decoration Ideas

Pirate ship forms centre part of our murder mystery decorations - skull and crossbones atop the mast, skeleton in pirate outfit firing the canon, hand-painted palm tree backdrop
Pirate ship with skeleton manning the cannon; an anchor is made out of cardboard covered with tin foil; a hand-painted tropical backdrop adds interest.

24 If space permits, consider having a mock pirate ship. We used a children's garden ship and a cannon bought from a local theatre group to create an impressive party backdrop. (See how we hosted our pirate party for further details.) Optionally paint on a ship's name from the murder mystery game - for example "The Scurvy Skull", "Buccaneer Bounty" or "Doom Raider".  

25 Fold napkins into a boat shape. (See this easy boat napkin folding tutorial.) 

26 Buy skull and crossbones toothpick cocktail sticks and insert these into the top of the boat-shaped napkins to form a "flag". Alternatively, use to decorate food dishes.

27 Drape decorative fish nets over the tablecloth. (Different online party stores sell these in a variety of colors.)

Pirate flags
Left photo: Bonnie had the clever idea of rolling-up paper and then painting it to form the mast pole of this "flag". Right photo: material fragment is aged by shredding the edges to give the illusion of a flag; chains add that extra spooky touch.

28 Create a mock sail using a tall wooden pole or post for the mast and 2-3 smaller wooden or metal poles for the booms. (Curtain poles are possible for the booms.) Decide where you wish the sails to be hung and use rope to tightly lash the booms to the mast. Use a Christmas tree holder or a garden umbrella stand to hold the mast vertically upright. Alternatively, if the booms are attached to the wall or suspended from the ceiling, simply roll up paper and then paint it to give the illusion of a tall wooden mast. (See image above for how Bonnie's clever idea looks.) Add sails using your choice of materials. Possible options are flat sheets (black, white, red or cream), striped red and white or black and white material and cotton dust sheets. Top with the iconic skull and crossbones flag - or else secure a cardboard skull and crossbones to the top of the mast.

29 Drape sheets from the center of the ceiling outwards so that they form the effect of billowing sails. Optionally add tears to the sheets. Unbleached cotton twill dust sheets look similar to sails and are inexpensive; flat self-colored sheets could also be used.

30 Hang swathes of material to suggest sails. You might use plain colored sheets (beige, white, black) or red and white or black and white striped material. Alternatively, buy cotton twill dustsheets and use these to cover large areas of the wall. These sheets are also great for covering up evidence of modern living such as bookcases, computers or your television.

B4:- Caribbean or Tropical-Themed Decorations

Left photo: Table centerpiece with tropical fruit; right photo: Caribbean-inspred wall hanging.
Left photo: simple but effective tropical table centrepiece - tropical fruit arranged on a wooden board with candles and a treasure chest behind. Decorative bird perched atop the pineapple. Right photo: Hawaiian flower garlands add a colorful touch.

31 Mix and match vibrant greens, yellows, oranges or turquoises for the tablecloth, table runner, table mats and napkins; optionally incorporate natural fabrics such as bamboo table mats, bamboo table runner, a burlap tablecloth or a raffia table skirt.

32 Use wooden, bamboo, coconut shell or palm leaf bowls and serving utensils. These can be bought from different online suppliers.

33 Use a mix or natural or artificial palm or banana leaves to create a centerpiece, table runner or table mats. (If buying natural leaves online, I would suggest checking the supplier's reviews to ensure that you receive fresh green leaves rather than ones that are turning brown.)

34 Use coconut shell candles.

35 Use a reed or bamboo screening garden fence roll to provide a natural background to other decorations. 

B4.1 Caribbean Table Centerpiece

36 Create a table centerpiece or a table runner incorporating tropical fruit such as pineapples, coconuts, watermelons, papaya, mangos and plantains. (This is very economical as you can eat the fruit later!) Add in natural raffia or bamboo sticks.

37 Spray a pineapple or three with gold paint and add to the centerpiece.

38 Hollow out the top of a pineapple and fill with colorful flowers for an unusual tropical-themed vase.

39 Optionally extend your centerpiece upwards by hanging decorative tropical birds from the ceiling or light arms (if safe) - or use these birds to perch colorfully on the centerpiece. (You can buy honeycomb paper birds, foam birds or inflatable birds from different party suppliers. We used foam birds but could have bought larger inflatable birds for a cheaper price.)

40 Wrap your vase with bamboo sticks or twigs. Fill with real or artificial colorful flowers and leaves such as monstera or palm. If you cannot get fresh leaves, you could buy artificial ones - or buy dried palm leaves.

B5:- Sea or Kraken-Themed Decoration Ideas

The murder mystery game features the hunt for a treasure map leading to the Kraken's Crown so that the wearer can summon this fearsome sea monster to sink any ship on any sea or ocean in the world.

Shell and fake fish

41 Create a table runner suggesting waves on the ocean or seas. Have a base blue table runner using blue material, tissue paper, wrapping paper or card. Over the top of this, scrumple a roll of blue or turquoise organza to represent waves. Optionally add-in ruffles of blue or turquoise tissue paper or tuille.

42 Optionally use the same material that you have used to create the table runner to create place settings. If you have a wooden table and are serving hot food, then, for heatproofing,  it might be best to cover old placemats with the base blue material and then to have a swathe of organza over this.

43 Adorn this table runner with sea shells, fake fish, sharks or crabs, driftwood or sea stones.

44 Put a miniature boat or boats across the top of this table runner. Add miniature Jolly Roger flags to indicate that these are pirate boats. Optionally include mermaids.

45 Create your own miniature pirate sloops to place on the waves. Shape a piece of wood approximately one inch thick into a boat shape using a jigsaw; sand if required. To create the sloop mast, drill a hole in the base that is the right size for a wooden dowel and then insert the dowel into the hole; glue it into place if necessary for stability. Cut a piece or pieces of thick card into the required size for sails; if using a thinner card, glue two pieces together. Cut a hole in the top and bottom of the card so that they can be threaded through the wooden dowel to form a curved shape. Glue in place or use string or tread to hold in place. Add a top skull and crossbones flag.

46 Cut shark fin shapes out of cardboard and paint grey or else cover with silver foil and add these into the central table runner waves. (For stability, you may first need to attach each fin to a flat base of cardboard using glue or a toothpick. In which case, paint or cover the base and the toothpick so that they blend in.)

47 Use a sea or ocean-based tablecloth. Alternatively, suspend a sea-themed tablecloth or wall tapestry from a wall near the table to create a feature wall.

48 Cover areas of your table with decorative fish netting. (Different online party stores sell fish netting in a range of colours.) 

49 Make empty wine bottles into candlesticks. Take a selection of empty wine bottles or other interestingly-shaped bottles. (We found an empty maple syrup bottle was ideal.) Glue on the Kraken's Crown label that is provided in the game's decoration pack. Allow melted candle wax to drip down the bottles to give a feeling of age. optionally glue on small shells. Then insert candles and check for stability.

50 While ensuring fire safety, cover the outside of tea light holders with burlap or twine or blue netting. Glue on sea shells for a sea-themed set of table candles. 

51 Use an octopus, Kraken or mermaid candle holder or table lanterns.

52 Create a stunning feature wall for your dining table by mixing blue and turquoise balloons with decorative tropical fish (paper honeycomb, balloons or inflatable) and using a blue tinsel curtain for the backdrop.

53 Use sea-themed plates and napkins from a party supplier

54 Buy decorative fish netting from your choice of online supplier. (Many suppliers have a choice of different colors.) Drape over your other wall hangings for a nautical feel. Add stretches of rope as you wish.

B5.1 Kraken-inspired Table Centerpiece

55 Use a toy wooden ship - and add the Jolly Roger flag to indicate it is a pirate ship. Alternatively, create your own pirate sloop using the same principle as given above (see tip 56) for the miniature pirate sloops.

56 Create the Kraken's tentacles by using strips of shaped foam or Bakerod and then using wire to hold the tentacles into the required shape. Glue onto a curved wooden base. Add suckers using beads and then paint. YouTube has a helpful video on creating a tabletop Kraken.  Arrange the Kraken's tentacles around the ship.

B6 Other Ideas

57 Create cutlass shapes out of cardboard and paint; alternatively, buy a selection of pirate costume accessories ad hang on your walls.

58 Hire wooden medieval stocks from a party prop shop - or buy a cardboard one. Let your guests have fun posing!

59 If it is Halloween, drape stretches of creepy cloth across your walls and tables.

Left photo: plank made out of styrofoam and painted; right photo: Cutthroat Kat walks the plank in chains.

60 Walk the plank. Have a weathered wooden plank or make one out of styrofoam and paint it. Optionally, have those who fail to guess the solution have to walk the plank!

C:- Create a Drinks' Bar Fit for Your Buccaneer Guests

Garden drinks' bar set in a pirate ship
Impressive drinks' bar made out of a children's pirate ship; "Yo Ho Ho I Want Rum" sign is written on a large piece of cardboard covered with part of a white sheet.

61 Have a skeleton pirate "serve" drinks out of a pirate boat! Drape the black skull and crossbones flag from the ship's masthead and add the odd accessory such as a bowl of tropical fruit and any skulls or toy cutlasses you have. Use a marker pen and a large piece of cardboard to create a sign such as "Yo Ho Ho I Need Some Rum". (We used a children's outdoor pirate ship that we bought second-hand and then cut some tatters into a black skull and crossbones flag.)

62 Use a selection of bottles of interesting shapes and sizes; add the drinks labels supplied with the game's decoration pack. Arrange bottles on top of a reclaimed wooden barrel (former wine or whiskey barrels are ideal) for an unusual bar corner.

63 Add some wooden planks (or an old wooden door) across the top of two barrels to form a bar. Add sails or a jolly roger flag behind the bar area.

64 Create a drinks' corner on your sideboard - arrange the drink bottles (with labels from the game's decoration pack) together with:

Boxes covered in brown paper and then decorated with aged game printouts; drinks bottles covered with labels from the game

65 Taverns also need drink! (And lots of it.) Cover cardboard boxes in brown paper and then stencil on words such as rum, whisky and grog - or add the drink crate labels provided with the game's decoration pack. (It is best to use the distressed version of the crate labels so that they  visually blend with the cardboard.) Use wet tea bags or coffee grounds to age the brown paper covering the cardboard boxes; cover with (torn) fish netting for a nautical feel. (Or use jute garden netting.)

66 Fill an antique chest, old wooden box or a special party treasure chest with bottles of drink instead of treasure. Arrange skulls, crossbones, cutlasses, nautical items, and gold-wrapped chocolate coins around this box.

67 Use pineapples instead of glasses and add coconut halves.

Pirate bar with pineapple glasses
Pirate bar with pineapple glasses and coconut halves

D:-Create an Arrgh-mazing Party Entrance

Decorations for entrance to a pirate party - skeleton sits atop boxes of rum and gunpowder with a backdrop of reed fencing and a wooden pallet
Impressive party entrance: pirate skeleton sits atop cardboard boxes that are wrapped in paper and aged using teabags; "Dead Men Drink No Rum" sign is written on cardboard that is covered in red napkins; reed fence is in background.

Not many hosts spend time decorating the party entrance - in honesty, if time is short I spend my time on the actual party space itself as that is where guests will mostly be and that is what most affects the mood of the party. However, if you have the time, your party entrance can set the mood for your evening even before the guests enter. A few ideas:

68 Create an eye-catching entrance with a mix of upturned pallets and reed or bamboo fencing. Add some cardboard boxes covered with the signs from our party pack and seat a skeleton dressed in pirate rags atop one. Add a catchy slogan on a separate piece of cardboard. (We used a black marker pen to write "Dead Men Drink No Rum" on cardboard covered in red cloth.) Then simply add a few accessories such as a tankard or rope and create a party entrance your guests will remember.

69 Have a skeleton sitting on a wall or flower tub leading to the entrance. Add a few striped oddments of clothes - or a colourful sash or a tricorn hat. Optionally add a skeletal bird or monkey. Get creative and give your skeleton a wooden leg, a hook hand or some blood stains on the clothes. Team this with an "Enter if you Dare" sign.

70 Have a skeleton dressed in pirate's rags and an eyepatch suspended from a hook or bracket. Write a slogan such as "I Betrayed Hook-Handed Hal" on cardboard and attach to the skeleton's wrists with cotton thread. Optionally, for an extra gruesome effect, have the skeleton hanging from a rope noose. Or recreate the chains used to hang the bodies of convicted pirates by using strips of black cards. (Glue the start and end pieces of one strip together to create the first chain. Then thread a second strip of card into this chain and glue the ends together. Repeat until you have the desired length of the chain.)

Two ideas for a party entrance

71 Create a wooden walkway leading from the "sea" to your home. Use old planks. (We saw some weathered wooden deck squares being given away on Facebook Messenger; there were also wooden pallets being given away.)  Add blue sheets or blue plastic to simulate water. Optionally add a few shark fins cut out of cardboard or plywood and then painted grey. Optionally add ropes down the side of your wooden walkway.

72 Create a "Pirates Only" sign - and suspend a cardboard skull and crossbones from this! Add an eyepatch, glass eye, tricorn hat or striped bandana to the skull. Or have a mini skeleton holding the sign.

73 Create a sign to direct guests to places in the murder mystery game.

Outdoor sign for different places in Pirates, Plunder and Murder

74 Suspend the "Pirates Only - Enter if You Dare" sign above your door entrance.

75 Suspend the "Sea Dog Treasure Tavern" sign above your door entrance. Then arrange wooden boxes, crates and barrels nearby.  Alternatively, cover cardboard boxes with brown paper (to remove modern brand names) and then stick on the crate labels provided in the party decoration pack. Finally, drape with ropes or nets. Alternatively, create your own sign.

Seadog Tavern Sign

76 Print out the larger version of the Sea Dog Treasure Tavern sign provided with the game. Simulate an old rickety tavern sign by cutting across the three horizontal plank lines" given on the sign. Glue each third of the sign onto a piece of cardboard; optionally use a used teabag to slightly distress the printout. Then use cotton or string to attach the middle third to the top third and the bottom third to the middle third; allow the bottom third to sink down at one corner. Then thread string through two holes in the top third and hang from a picture hook.

77 Use cardboard or plywood to create gravestones; write on them the character names of those coming to your murder mystery. Add a skull and crossbones.

78 Walk the plank: have a plank (or planks) leading to your home or garden entrance. Use the "Visit Davy Jones' Locker" sign from the party decoration pack.

E:- Using the Game's Printouts in an Eye-Catching Way

The murder mystery game comes with a large selection of printouts. Most give you a choice as to whether to print them on large paper (A3 or ledger/tabloid) or normal paper (A4 or letter). 

78 Use printouts from game's extensive decoration kit to adorn your walls. Tip: in order to make these printouts look bigger, cover a piece of cardboard with a material to compliment the theme of your table and wall hangings. (For example, if you are using a red and white striped table runner or black and white striped pirate boat sails, then cover cardboard with oddments of the striped material. If you are using burlap or netting for your tablecloth, then cover the cardboard in these. Then glue your printout onto this covered cardboard to follow the theme of your table throughout your party space.

Left photo: pirate printouts are framed on a piece of cardbard covered in red material. Right photo: printouts are distressed and placed on styrofoam

79 Make these printouts look a lot more impressive and eye-catching by framing them on a piece of cardboard, colored card or styrofoam. Putting several printouts together on a large piece of card can be more effective than having several smaller printouts. Optionally, cover the cardboard in a material to match your table decorations so that all of your decorations tie together visually. (I bought a flat, red bed sheet to cover old table mats and coasters with; I then used this same sheet to cover pieces of cardboard for the printouts.) Another alternative would be to cover the cardboard in spare table napkins.

80 Optionally distress these printouts to make them look older: tear rather than cut the edges and use weak brown paint or wet teabags to give the impression of age. 

81 For extra visual effect, put these framed printouts against a second background to really extend the visual impact. (I used a reed fence panel but burlap or a colored sheet would be other great choices.)

F:-Use Cardboard for Some Fun Signs

82 Create your own fun signs using cardboard. These are taken from Cate's superb pirate party. Note that the glass eyes are made with styrofoam craft balls and felt tips.

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Important Disclaimers

These ideas are provided for your inspiration only. Any recipes or recipe ideas should be tested before your party. Ideas for party recipes, decorations or costumes should be adapted as you wish. It is YOUR responsibility to follow any necessary safety precautions.