Letters From Dead People Subscription Review – September 2017
Letters From Dead People is an ongoing ephemera-based story delivered monthly by New Orleans artist L. Delaney.
Step into a world where past and present merge. Where meanings are hidden between lines, and heroes and villains disguise their secrets in code. When you open a box, the scent of age-stained pages greets your nose….
My Subscription Addiction paid for this box. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
The Subscription Box: Letters From Dead People
The Cost: $12.99 per month; shipping is free. A 3-month subscription is $34.99 ($11.66 per box).
The Products: ‘A monthly letter delivered from New Orleans – 100 years ago.’
Ships to: Worldwide
Check out the Subscription Box Directory for more mystery and crime-themed boxes!
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Note: I will show all the items that I received – there are spoilers ahead!
This prettily tattered ribbon tied everything together. I have to admit that I am not sure exactly how it was tied originally because I wasn’t the one to open this parcel. The person who opened it by mistake was utterly baffled by the contents before realizing it must have been meant for me!
I contacted the curator – or as she puts it, the ‘madwoman in the laboratory’ – to confirm that I have the full contents. She wrote back promptly and also gave me a few more details about the subscription:
Each mailing is meant to stand on its own as an experience, but is also part of a larger narrative. So those who subscribe for several months will see the development of a story arc. But it is my hope that those who drop in for a month or two will also enjoy their parcels singly!
She also let me know that a website is in the works that will help new subscribers catch up on the story. I did feel a little envious that earlier subscribers have access to more information, so I think a website would be very helpful.
The first item I inspected was this page from an old book. I’m not sure how this ties into the main story, but the page I received seems a little ominous. There’s no indication of what to read first, so it took me a little while to absorb everything and get my bearings.
Next up was this letter, which begins ‘My Esteemed Collabor-gator…’ and appears to be dated September 1, 1927. It helpfully lays out some details of the case we’re investigating: the disappearance of Mina Bird.
For months before her disappearance in May, Mina Bird had been holding séances where she used ‘automatic spirit writing’ to transcribe the words of the dead. She lived in a boarding house run by the infamous ‘Countess’ Willie Piazza, who is involved in the illegal liquor trade. Remember, it’s 1927, so Prohibition is in full swing – but one of its enforcers, the corrupt Izzy Corwin, is a frequent guest of the Countess.
What might he know about Mina’s disappearance? What could we learn from Willie Piazza – and should we trust her? According to my collabor-gator, Mina left behind ‘her papers and an extensive library’, so I am sure that there will be plenty of clues for future parcels.
Here we have a 1926 letter from the Commissioner of Prohibition telling us that the conduct of the occupants of Willie Piazza’s townhouse was ‘unimpeachable’. However, it’s noted that the establishment is under ‘watchful probation’.
The last items arrived in a glassine envelope.
And here we come to a sad part of the story: Izzy Corwin had a teen-aged daughter who died last year. I believe this picture of ‘Bitsy Corwin at age 4’ must be her. The flowers are real dried flowers reminiscent of the corsage pinned to her dress in the photo. Do you think the tattered pink ribbon belonged to her too?
The torn page is a transcript of Mina Bird’s writing from an ‘unknown spirit’ on June 23, 1926. The spirit’s name is hidden in the writing – can you find it? (Hint: look out for capital letters that shouldn’t be capitalized and see what they have in common.)
Verdict: I enjoyed my first Letters From Dead People. The mix of custom ephemera and genuinely older items – especially the dried flowers – is charming. I think the price is fair for the entertainment value in uncovering the story. (This is actually the least expensive box of its type that I know of.) However, I did feel that the experience as a whole could use a little more structure or up-front explanation. The planned website would help a lot, but it would also help to give new subscribers a note covering the basics like a brief summary of the current investigation, whom to contact for help, etc.
This kind of ephemera-driven mystery story is becoming popular, with boxes like Dispatch and Hunt a Killer testing the waters. What sets this box apart is that it’s an ongoing story within a persistent 1920s setting, so there may never be a time when you can say, ‘mystery solved, I’m done.’ If you prefer a more focused (and finite) experience, L. Delaney also has a weekly subscription that runs for five weeks starting in October, called The Case of the Haunted Dollhouse. I think this is an interesting emerging genre for subscription services and I am curious to see whether it takes off!
What do you think of September’s Letters From Dead People? Were you able to identify the ‘unknown spirit’?
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