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Dean murder mystery comes to Peterborough Players

Performance dives into the killing of a Jaffrey man at the height of WWI

  • “Deep Water – The Murder of William K. Dean” will be performed Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Peterborough Players Theatre. COURTESY


Thursday, November 01, 2018 12:10AM

On Aug. 13, 1918, at the height of World War I, William K. Dean was brutally murdered at his hilltop home in Jaffrey.

The town was quickly divided over who committed the horrific crime. Was it his senile wife? A powerfully connected local banker? Or was it a mysterious stranger who had lived on Dean’s property and was considered by some to be a German spy? Some said Dean’s death was connected to signal lights that had been reported on Mount Monadnock, thought to be signs of German espionage.

On Saturday, “Deep Water – The Murder of William K. Dean” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. at the Peterborough Players Theatre. The play features Ken Sheldon in a one-man performance that has been called “outstanding,” “amazing” and “a spectacular presentation.” The play is based on transcripts of federal and state investigations, the Grand Jury report, FBI interviews, newspaper accounts and other historic documents. The production features hundreds of historic images, video footage, and voiceover actors, some portraying ancestors who were witnesses to the Dean murder.

The play, commissioned by the Jaffrey Historical Society through a grant from the Bean Family Foundation, premiered in August.

“Deep Water” is a departure for Sheldon, who is best known for his appearances as Yankee humorist Fred Marple and as host of the hit comedy show “Frost Heaves.” Sheldon plays the part of Bert Ford, a reporter for the Boston American newspaper who wrote extensively about the Dean murder at the time. Sheldon has previously appeared in numerous productions with the Peterborough Players and with The Barnstormers Theatre.

Tickets for “Deep Water – The Murder of William K. Dean” are $15, available at the Toadstool Bookshop and Steele’s in Peterborough, at the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce, online at kensheldon.com, or by calling 283-8627.