What’s In The Box?

Hunt A Killer delivers murder mysteries to subscribers’ doors.

Christine Jackson - October 2018

What’s In The Box?

Hunt A Killer delivers murder mysteries to subscribers’ doors.

Christine Jackson - October 2018

Hunt A Killer co-founders Derrick Smith and Ryan Hogan. -Christopher Myers

Imagine coming home to a mysterious box on your doorstep. You’ve been matched with an inmate in a prison letter writing program, and this box holds the first delivery from your new “friend.” But the accompanying letter from the program’s founder isn’t just an introduction—it’s a mission. This prisoner has done something terrible, the instructions say, and through his letters, puzzles, and gifts, you have to figure out what. Are you up to the task?

That’s the question asked by Hunt A Killer, the Rosedale-based company creating mysteries and delivering thousands of subscription boxes to true-crime fans around the country each month. Originally launched by cofounders Derrick Smith and Ryan Hogan as a murder-mystery escape room at a Darlington campground, the idea pivoted to a subscription service that delivers the crime-solving experience to people’s doorsteps.

“We asked, ‘How can we take this a step further? How can we put all these things together and create this kind of an ultimate experience?’” says Hogan. To streamline the concept while staying true to its successful hands-on approach, he and Smith assembled a 10-person creative team to develop the characters, activities, and materials used to carry out each box’s “episode.”

Since shipping the first boxes in October 2016, Hunt A Killer has grown to include more than 45,000 subscribers and a community of more than 60,000 people who interact through a private Facebook group.

With the company’s second anniversary fast approaching, Smith, Hogan, and their teams in Rosedale and now Seattle are looking toward new projects, including a partnership with the Cold Case Foundation (chaired by retired FBI profiler and Mindhunter inspiration John E. Douglas) that puts some of the funds earned by Hunt A Killer’s fake crimes toward solving real ones. For each box sold, a portion of the proceeds will aid local police forces that are in need of resources. To date, they’ve donated $4,000.

But crime is just the beginning for Hunt A Killer. Its success has inspired the team to jump into other genres. In June, they launched a horror-themed subscription box called Empty Faces, and a sci-fi box is currently in the works for next year. The company will release its first podcast, an audio drama called The Blackwood Project, on October 22.

“Instead of reading a book or going to the movie theater or watching a television show, this is immersive entertainment that you can touch, feel, and smell,” says Hogan. “People are having a lot of fun . . . as long as we’re accomplishing that, everything else will fall into place.”

You May Also Like

The Chatter

Would Increased TV and Film Production Be Good for Baltimore?

Councilman Leon Pinkett hopes to increase production tax incentives with new resolution.


Movie Review: Marriage Story

All divorces are sad in different ways.

On The Town

Holiday Markets and Craft Fairs to Shop for Handmade Gifts This Season

Here's where to find one-of-a-kind presents for everyone on your list.

Arts District

The Top Baltimore Music Moments of 2019

This year, the city’s music scene came of age.

Arts & Culture

Music For The Future

A new Peabody major teaches students how to compose for an ever-changing media landscape.

Arts & Culture

Alpha Dog

A woman-owned printing business leads the way in Woodberry.

Hunt A Killer co-founders Derrick Smith and Ryan Hogan. -Christopher Myers

Connect With Us

Most Read

What to Know About the Maryland Cycling Classic Coming September 2020: For starters, Baltimore's pro cycling event will be more than 100 miles long.

Maryland Politicians React to Trump Impeachment: Local leaders reflect and look ahead at Senate trial.

Will Judge Make an Example Out of Catherine Pugh?: With the former mayor’s sentencing scheduled for February, both sides get to work on their case.

Maryland Native Maggie Rogers Receives First Grammy Nomination: The singer-songwriter was nominated for “Best New Artist” alongside big-name acts.

Four Key Updates on the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: Here’s what the BSO has been up to since performances resumed in September.