Hallsville whodunit

Family night at Barb Spencer’s includes dressing up to play Clue
and posing for old-time photos
Monday, June 13, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:17 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The outline of the victim's body is traced in pink chalk. Beside it, on the path leading around the house to the front door, someone has scrawled, “Crime Scene. Who done it? Was it you?”

Barb and Buddy Spencer’s Victorian-style home on Missouri 124 near Hallsville is the scene of the crime.

Inside, crowded around the kitchen table, Col. Mustard, Miss Scarlet, Mrs. Peacock and the French Maid try to piece together the clues.

Sherlock Holmes, smoking a Meerschaum pipe, of course, but wearing a black top hat instead of his usual deerstalker soon joins them. A man with a press card tucked into the hat band of his fedora hovers behind him, snapping the pictures you see here.

In the parlor, Buddy Spencer looks nervous. Is it the crowd that bothers him? Perhaps he has some-thing to hide.

Mrs. Peacock raises a finger in the air and clears her throat. The group members fall into uncomfortable silence as she looks them in the eye, one by one.

“Pizza, anyone?” she asks. “Or is it time for the group photo?”

Tonight is family night, a weekly tradition at the Spencers’. Children, grandchildren and in-laws join Barb and Buddy for pizza, sarsaparilla soda and a dress-up game of Clue, the popular board game come to life.

Later, they pose for a group photo in Barb’s studio and watch a Sherlock Holmes movie in black and white, starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

For Barb, an oncology nurse in Columbia for 25 years, nights like this are more than family fun. They’re part of a growing business.

When not working at Boone Clinic, she operates Vintage Photo Parties out of her home. Clients pose for studio portraits and host parties dressed in vintage clothing.


Barb Spencer jokingly threatens her husband, Buddy Spencer, in response to his good-natured teasing as granddaughter Sabrena Cochrane tries out a Sherlock Holmes costume.

Barb credits her two grandchil-dren, Sabrena and Olivia, as her inspiration.

“They just love to play dress up at Pink Grandma’s house; that’s what they call me,” she said. “I guess I didn’t get enough time playing dress up as a child.”

Barb offers dozens of themes to choose from, including Victorian, Wild West, Roaring ’20s and Southern belles. Three Stooges, pirates of the Caribbean and Civil War are coming soon.

Authentic props clutter her stu-dio and spill over into the rest of the house. A painted replica of San Francisco’s Orient Express Saloon acts as a backdrop. Hats, fans, parasols and furs burst from one steamer trunk. Holsters, ropes, money bags and six-shooters are packed into another.

In the bathroom, a pile of leather lace-up boots hides under the sink. Hundreds of antique dresses hang on curtain rods in the shower.

Costumes are optional, Barb says, but her sister-in-law knows better.

“More like strongly encouraged,” Sandy DeHaven said.

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