New Bedford Serial Killer Game: Inspired or Insensitive?
New Bedford has a murder mystery on its hands, one that is all in good fun, but some are wondering if it is also in bad taste, considering the city is home to an unsolved serial killer case that has gone unsolved for decades.
CluedUpp Games, which is apparently based out of the United Kingdom, is promoting an “outdoor detective adventure” that will take place in New Bedford on October 2, 2021. The purpose of the game is to catch the “New Bedford Ripper,” a fictional serial killer that has just claimed his third victim as part of the storyline of the game.
For $51 per team, you can take part with anywhere between two to six players on your team, and start anytime between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. by using CluedUpp’s smartphone app to begin the adventure, which takes about two to three hours to complete.
Similar events have been put on in Providence before, and CluedUpp is advertising the same game taking place in other local communities this fall including Attleboro, Weymouth, Providence, Boston, Waltham and Framingham.
This certainly sounds like a great day of fun – and online reviews seem to be overwhelmingly positive – and a great addition to the “something to do” list here in New Bedford. The only question, though, is if it is tasteless to hold a game about a serial killer in a city where there is still an active case of a real-life serial killer that has gone unsolved for over 30 years.
“New Bedford has had enough of anything to do with murder. They need to find somewhere else to play games,” said Wayne Perry, brother of highway murders victim Debra DeMello.
The New Bedford highway murders took place in 1988, with the bodies discovered into 1989. The killer is confirmed to have killed nine women and suspected of murdering at least two more. Although there were at least three different men considered as suspects by the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office, the murders remain unsolved and the families of the victims are still searching for closure.
A book about the murders, Maureen Boyle’s Shallow Graves: The Hunt for the New Bedford Highway Serial Killer, was released in 2017, creating new interest in the case on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the murders. A forthcoming docuseries The Highway Murders will go even more in-depth on the murders, the victims and the suspects, as well as those who investigated them.
Now, since it appears CluedUpp is based out of the UK because of the mailing address listed on its website, we’re going to give the company the benefit of the doubt that it has no idea that one of its intended locations is also where there is an actual unsolved serial killer case.
Sharing the event ad on this writer’s personal Facebook page was met with mixed reaction from those familiar with the highway murders.
“Unfortunately EVERY city has cases left unsolved, so how do you tiptoe through every one?” wrote Susan Costa Gober. “I say if you’re offended by it, you’re going to be offended by everything.”
“Completely tasteless,” wrote Cheryl Nelson.
“I’ve been seeing ads for this non-stop,” Crystal Cruz wrote. “My original thoughts were, why does it have to be a murder theme at all? Treasure hunt? Bank heist? So many other, better things that I would actually consider, but this is a hard pass.”
In a few Facebook groups dedicated to the highway murders and the victims, there were some who felt it is perfectly acceptable to hold a serial killer game in New Bedford.
“It has nothing to do with the highway murders, if it did then it would be in very bad taste,” Mark Lomastro wrote.
“Not in bad taste at all,” Joseph Frezza wrote. “If it had to do with the murders, then it would be. If it was similar, I could see them being upset.
But not everyone felt the same way – including Adrian Thierry, a true crime researcher and one of the moderators of a group dedicated to the victims.
“It doesn't matter if ‘the case is different.’ Why do it in New Bedford? Why not Attleboro or Bridgewater or Seekonk? It's being done in New Bedford because 11 or more women were brutally murdered there and the case is unsolved,” Thierry wrote. “Jump on that pain and misery and profit. Will any of that money be going to the families of the victims or the New Bedford community? It's making money off of and using the serial killing of women for entertainment.”
Perry did not mince words when it came to his feelings on the event, and what he feels is an outside company profiting off New Bedford’s tragedy.
“To me, it’s another group of inconsiderate money-hungry sons of b----- who are looking to make some fast cash using the misfortunes of 11 women who were murdered by some sick a------ who walked away untouched thanks to some fine police work by the local Keystone Cops who say they did everything they could to solve the case,” he wrote.
Multiple attempts over the past few weeks to reach up to CluedUpp Games via email and social media channels have gone unanswered.
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