A Murder Mystery.

The Historic Heber Senator.

There’s been a murder at the Heber Senator! The award-winning bed and breakfast has seen a massive influx of patrons and would-be detectives investigating this mysterious murder. I sat down with Steve Douglas, owner of the Heber Senator, to get the scoop on what is going on in our normally quiet and peaceful town. It turns out the murder mystery dinners are the newest addition to the wild success that is the Heber Senator Bed and Breakfast.

Steve is a very keen, well-dressed gentleman; he wore a smart vest, white shirt, and bowtie as we sat down and chatted. Steve ran a publishing business for 20 years, and it really shows; his particular knack for storytelling shined bright while we talked about the Heber Senator. After purchasing the building, he did a deep dive to learn about its history and the history of the original owner, Joseph Royal Murdock. “He was a Utah state senator. And that’s where the name of Heber Senator Bed and Breakfast comes from.” Senator Murdock was a prominent figure in Heber Valley. He became a senator in 1900 and served as Heber City’s mayor for 10 years. In addition to his political career, he also founded Heber Valley Mercantile and the Heber Valley Bank whose buildings still stand on Main Street today. Steve describes, “So if you look at [the bank] building, it says 1904 on top,” he gestures to the dining room, “This place was built in 1902. So he basically took the workers and used similar materials and just went, okay, let’s build another one. A few blocks away they built the bank.” In 1911 Senator Murdock helped to raise 2.3 million dollars and oversaw the construction of a canal that provided water to tens of thousands of homes in Utah Valley stretching from Orem to Lehi, it was aptly named the Murdock Canal; the canal is still in use to this day.

Steve describes the decision to open the now iconic Bed and Breakfast, “Living [in Heber] for 11 years now, the first 4 or 5 years we kept driving by this building, [thinking] oh my gosh, if that place ever became available, that would be a great bed and breakfast.” When that opportunity finally presented itself, Steve and his wife Paige jumped on it right away, purchasing and renovating the building in 2018. “There isn’t an inch in this place that we haven’t touched — the wallpaper, paint, carpet, all new beds, everything. But the challenge was getting vintage items that were sturdy and presentable.” Steve and Paige themed the Heber Senator after the building’s original owner and namesake. Senator Murdock built the home for his family: his wife and 11 children, 10 of whom survived to adulthood. It was almost as if it was destined to be a bed and breakfast from the start, with so many bedrooms for the children and a fortuitous decision (made by the senator all those years ago) to insulate between the floors to block the noise of said children. “It did stay in the family for a couple of generations. It was a hospital at one time…and it was abandoned for a while. And the local high school used the building as a haunted house at one time.” When the Douglas’ purchased the building it was an unused boarding house. Most of the pieces of the original construction that have withstood the test of time were maintained to show off the building’s unique charm. One guest described to Steve that the stained glass in the lobby and dining area had originally come from his family’s stained glass facility in Chicago. It was the only facility in the United States in the early 1900s that produced a particular shade of pink stained glass. The building has some real history to it. “In our minds, we’re preserving the legacy, through the history. The place has been through so many remodels over the years that I’m not sure trying to preserve it as an original is possible.” The decor really does feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the turn of the century, but they’re not uncivilized of course; you can still enjoy a few modern amenities.

While we were chatting, a local woman from Midway came into the Heber Senator to ask about the murder mystery dinners. She was quickly greeted by Christine Martinez, the general manager, who promptly asked her if she’d had a tour of the Senator, the guest exclaimed, “I’ve had the tour. I wanted to stay in every room!” During construction Steve took the thirteen existing rooms and converted them into ten individual rooms and suites, “We brought it down to ten actual bedrooms because the other three we converted into bathrooms, essentially, because when the house was built, it was built for a family. And so everyone didn’t have a private bathroom. We’ve turned them into suites and oversized suites with spa tubs; the standard rooms have beautiful traditional bath facilities. And then there’s [sic] a couple of rooms that have vintage soaking tubs and that sort of thing. So we made sure every bedroom had its own bath.” They are happy to give tours between check-out and check-in times of 11 and 3 o’clock. They took me on a tour of all the unoccupied rooms, several of which are named in homage to Mr. Murdock, like the Murdock Room and the Royal Spa Room. My tour started in the Murdock Room, an ADA-friendly room on the ground floor that used to serve as the senator’s office; it’s also the site of the aforementioned murder. The most beautiful room, in my opinion, is The Senator Spa Suite, the official unofficial honeymoon or anniversary suite. It has gorgeous gold accents throughout the room and beautiful marble tile in the bathroom surrounding the jetted tub. Christine tells me with a smile, “I feel so honored that people choose the Heber Senator to celebrate such an important occasion.” Any bed and breakfast worth its salt ought to have a decent breakfast to go along with the stunning bed part of the equation. Fortunately, The Heber Senator boasts exactly that and more, they recently took home the Best of State award in the bed and breakfast category. Their chef, Paul, makes spectacular crepes. Steve “got into it” with a French guest, “They like to poke at us, and I like to poke back; that’s half the fun. They’ll say something about our crepes, like, ‘It’s nothing to write home about’, you know, but the wife will say, ‘Oh, my gosh! It’s the best I’ve ever had!’” With such close proximity to so many ski resorts and all of the other spectacular events and adventures to be found in Heber Valley, the Heber Senator finds itself busiest in the late summer through the winter. Steve wanted to find something to bring in more people during their shoulder seasons — that’s when he resorted to murder.

I’m not saying that Steve is the culprit responsible for the murder that takes place during their Murder Mystery Dinners; you’ll have to go to the show yourself to find out whodunit. During the show, the dining room transforms into a dining car on a train, and the staff of the Heber Senator becomes the various players; Steve himself plays a ticket taker. The Murdock Room, as mentioned previously, is the place where the body is discovered, the twenty or so guests attending the dinner are invited to examine the crime scene. Steve is eager to put his storytelling acumen to work. Steve and Paige are writing a new murder mystery that weaves together stories of the Murdock family as well as a piece of the Douglas family lore. They plan to integrate Steve’s ancestral quilt, which hangs on the wall as you walk into the bed and breakfast, into the plot. When the couple announced that the Heber Senator would start hosting the dinners, they sold out three months in advance in only ten days; with such intense demand, they decided to add more dates. Who knew that murder was so good for business?

The Heber Senator Bed and Breakfast is a beautiful piece of living history. It’s good to know that there are wonderful people like Steve and Paige Douglas with enough passion for the past that they wish to share stories and memories with others trying to make some significant memories of their own.

Attend a Murder Mystery Dinner
118 S 300 W, Heber hebersenatorbedandbreakfast.com
435-777-2262

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