Historic railroad hosts mystery of Presidential proportions

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As anyone who’s ever read a murder mystery knows — on a train, everyone’s a suspect.  But recently, on Georgia’s Historic SAM Shortline Railroad, the cast of “suspicious” characters was one even Agatha Christie couldn’t have dreamed up.

There were the feuding sisters…the world-famous food critic…the spoiled socialite…

Oh, and did we mention the 39th President of the United States?

All aboard for a madcap evening of intrigue called “Southern Ways and Means.”

FOX 5 was the only television station invited to take part in the interactive murder mystery play, written by Kim Fuller. Fuller is the Executive Director of the Friends of the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, and put together the event as a way to draw more visitors to Plains, Georgia and raise money for a few of its notable attractions. Her uncle — who just happens to be the town’s most famous resident, President Jimmy Carter — thought the idea was a scream.

“I asked him, I said, ‘Will you do it?’ [He said] 'Yes, I’ll do it.’  Like, today he called me to make sure he had his character right!”

Most of the actors taking part in the ad-libbed murder mystery were members of the extended Carter family; the “meddling reporter” for example, was actually President Carter’s sister-in-law, Sybil. The evening’s victim — who ended up dead on a couch with a strand of pearls in her teeth — was played by a family friend, famed Southern chef Paula Deen. 

Proceeds from the event also benefitted Deen’s The Bag Lady Foundation, which supports women and families in need.

“This is like nothing I’ve ever done before,” Deen told the crowd, laughing.  “And I hope I get to do it again!”

After the train ride from Cordele to Plains, guests enjoyed a big Southern dinner downtown. Then, they voted on a murderer, who was taken away in handcuffs by actual members of the Plains Police Department.  

Like any good mystery novel, the evening ended with the bad guy behind bars and everyone else enjoying a satisfying nap on the train ride home. For Kim Fuller, seeing so many new faces in Plains was a perfect way to close the case.   

“We are a small area, a small town, and we need people to see what we can do for them.  We have all kinds of stuff.”