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posted: 6/12/2014 3:40 PM

Day in the Life of a History Detective

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  • Spots are still available for a variety of Summer Camps led by professional Lake County Forest Preserve educators.Lake County Forest Preserves

    Spots are still available for a variety of Summer Camps led by professional Lake County Forest Preserve educators.Lake County Forest Preserves

Lake County Forest Preserves

Sneak some learning into your child's summer adventures. Spots are still available for a variety of Summer Camps led by professional Lake County Forest Preserve educators experienced in supervision, safety techniques and activity development. For more information and to register, call 847-367-6640 or visit

From history to art to nature, our camps offer fun summer learning opportunities.

Step into the life of a History Detective, a popular weeklong summer adventure designed to turn young campers into extraordinary investigative, crime-solving detectives. Campers learn about the biggest crimes in Lake County history and use techniques such as fingerprinting, chemical analysis and chromatography to figure out whodunit and why.

Picture this story being told by your child as they are transformed from camper to detective:

"It is a Thursday in July, 9 am. I'm at the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda. Cool place. Today's my fourth day at History Detectives Camp, and I'm really starting to feel like a true detective. So far this week we've tested for fingerprints, looked at hair samples, used powder analyses, and completed an underwater archeological dig! Okay, so we weren't really underwater but the mock dig was still really cool. Our leader, Jen, mentioned that today we'd be solving a real historical murder mystery that happened in Fox Lake in 1930. My family visits the Chain O'Lakes every summer, so I can't wait to get briefed on our case today (that's what Jen calls it when we go over all the stuff we'll do at camp that day).

"Jen and Nicole (another leader) read us a crime report. Apparently, a long time ago there were two guys, one named Al Capone and the other Bugsy, who really didn't get along. They each had their own group of thugs, and they used to commit a lot of crime in Chicago and Lake County. Usually it involved something called "bootlegging," which Jen said involved making and selling liquor, which was illegal to do at the time. It's not illegal anymore, but back then it was. The crime we're solving today involves some of Bugsy's thugs who were murdered in Fox Lake at a resort. Nicole shows us a picture of the crime scene, which shows a lot of tables and chairs pushed over and some blood on the floor. There's even a police officer in the picture pointing to some of the blood!

"The police think that the other guy, Capone, and his thugs might have something to do with the murders. It's our job to get to the bottom of things. We started by interviewing some witnesses, but some of what they said didn't match up. They also kind of looked like some of the museum staff we saw earlier in the week. After we took a snack break and played some games outside, we analyzed some blood samples from the scene. This blood was found near where the getaway car was parked. Jen reminded us that we were actually using fake blood, but it looked real! When we added a solution to the samples, sometimes it made clumps and sometimes it didn't. Jen and Nicole explained that by looking at the reactions, we can tell what blood type it is. If it matches one of our suspects, we might be able to prove that they were there that night. We figured out the blood was A+, which is the same blood type as Al Capone!

"It's now 11:30 am and almost time to go home, so we put together all of our evidence and talked through what we think might have happened. I was so sure it was that Capone guy, but Nicole mentions the police interviewed him and he had an alibi for that night. An alibi is when someone defends themselves by proving they were somewhere else when the crime happened. With Capone ruled out, we look back at our witness statements. A witness in the parking lot at the resort stated they thought they saw someone they knew from Volo, named Vernon. When the police bring him in for questioning, they take his blood type and it matches the blood we found outside and analyzed. After being shown the evidence, he admits he committed the crime. Another crime solved by the History Detectives! Tomorrow, our last day, a real Lake County Forest Preserve Ranger Police Officer is going to come and talk to us about their job and show us their real crime kit. I can't wait!"