The Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition
Mystery Rooms
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In 1938, the Daily Mail commissioned Dennis Wheatley to invent eight ‘Mystery Rooms’ for the Ideal Home Exhibition at Olympia. The idea was that with the assistance of interior designer Mrs Darcy Braddell, Dennis Wheatley would design eight imaginary rooms that might belong to eight real but un-named celebrities, and the public would then be able to view the rooms and try to guess which room belonged to which celebrity. Those who couldn’t visit Olympia in person could still take part in the competition by studying the photographs of the rooms in a fold-out broadsheet. The rooms were full of clues and there were various prizes for the winners.

The photos of the rooms are only known from the competition broadsheet, and it is one of the rarest pieces of ephemera in the Wheatley canon. To date I have only seen two examples.

The one illustrated below was the subject of a talk by Steve Whatley at the 2010 Convention.


A contemporary advert for the 1938 Ideal Home Exhibition


The main Exhibition catalogue







Various inside pages

Click to enlarge the various images




The front and back covers of the folded up Mystery Rooms broadsheet


A panoramic view of the folded out front of the broadsheet



Click to enlarge

How to solve the Mystery Rooms : The Competition Rules


Rooms spread panoramic

A panoramic view of the inside (photographic) section of the broadsheet

Room 1
Room 2

Room 3
Room 4

Room 5
Room 6

Room 7
Room 8

The individual Rooms

click on each to enlarge

The competition proved popular and a number of people got the right answers. 10 competitors correctly named the owners of all 8 rooms (they won £20 each; their share of the £200 1st prize), 137 competitors got 7 right (and received their share of the £100 2nd prize), and a further 111 competitors got 6 right (and received as their prize a signed copy of 'The Malinsay Massacre').

Dennis Wheatley’s own explanation of the clues given in the rooms was sent to all entrants to the contest, and others could apply for a complimentary copy if they wished. No-one I know has ever seen one of these explanations, but hopefully one will come to light in the fullness of time.

To see the identities of the various celebrities and for links to their Wikipedia entries, highlight the spaces following the Room Numbers below with your mouse

Room 1

Sarah Bernhardt

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Bernhardt

Room 2

Anna Sten

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Sten

Room 3

Sir Harry Preston

http://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/page_id__5797_path__0p117p154p340p.aspx

Room 4

Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Beerbohm_Tree

Room 5

Gilbert Frankau

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_Frankau

Room 6

Baroness Orczy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baroness_Emma_Orczy

Room 7

Lord Strabofgi (sic)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Montague_Kenworthy,_10th_Baron_Strabolgi

Room 8

Sir John Lavery.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lavery

The answers were announced in the Daily Mail on 24th May 1938, and come thanks to some fine research by Steve Whatley.

Charles Beck
February 2011

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Copyright © 2002-2006 Bob Rothwell. 2007-2017 Charles Beck.
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