HOLIDAY ORDERING FAQ
I want the mystery to start in December. Can I order now?
I am ordering this for a holiday gift. What date should I choose?
We are based in Toronto, Canada, so you need to factor in mail delivery times when you select a date. Please keep in mind that we cannot guarantee precise arrival dates and holiday mail can be unpredictable. Mail in Toronto usually arrives within 2 business days and 4 days for the rest of Canada. Mail to the USA usually takes about a week but may arrive more quickly depending on where in the country you're located.
Do I need the first letter to arrive before Christmas so I have something to wrap up and put under the tree?
No. Timing the arrival of the first letter can be tricky. You can print a downloadable gift note from our website that announces the beginning of a Mail Order Mystery. We recommend this option for two reasons - 1) the above-mentioned unpredictability of holiday mail and 2) kids get their first letter in the mail, addressed to them, and that is pretty darn exciting for them.
I don’t care what you recommend. I want the first installment to be here before Christmas so I can wrap it up and put it under the tree.
Hey, no problem. This is definitely an option. If you want to guarantee that the first letter arrives before Christmas we can “split” your order. You choose a Thursday for us to send the first letter, which you can then stash in the secret gift cupboard, and then choose the Thursday you would like us to resume mailing the rest of the mystery. Just remember to email us after you've placed your order to let us know you'd like your mystery sent out this way.
I know you usually send out one installment a week for six weeks. Is it possible to send all the installments in one package so I can hand them out at the pace I want?
Absolutely. You might want to hand out an installment per day to keep your kids busy while they're off from school. Or maybe you're going away on a long trip. We can package all of the installments for your mystery together in one box. We'll put numbers to indicate the order in small print on the back. Just remember to email us to let us know.
How do I request special shipping instructions? I don’t see a place in the checkout to enter a note.
If you have any special shipping instructions, like splitting your order, sending all the installments together in one box, holding your order for a few weeks while you are on vacation etc, please send us an email to as soon as you place your order. We cannot make changes to an order once it has been printed and packed.
I am buying more than one mystery for kids who live at the same address. How do I do that?
Please place a separate order for each mystery you are buying, even if they are for kids at the same address. Because all the letters are personalized, placing separate orders helps us make sure that the right name is on the right mystery.
I am buying for three siblings. Do I need to buy them each a separate mystery?
You can if you want to. We know that ages, interests and bickering are factors to consider, but Mail Order Mysteries are frequently and successfully sent to siblings to work on together.
What is a Mail Order Mystery?
A Mail Order Mystery is a story for kids that unfolds through a series of installments that come in the mail. The envelopes could come from anyone, from anywhere, from any time. They could be long-lost relatives, museum curators, pirates, trolls or spies and they could be sending letters, newspaper articles, top-secret files, made-up magazines, wax-sealed missions or hand-written notes. They could be sending keys, locks, maps and clues of all kinds. There are puzzles to solve and codes to crack. All is revealed in the final mailing, a grand finale that includes an artifact or collection of keepsakes unique enough to be a cherished memento of the Mail Order Mystery experience.
What is the Mail Order Mystery Emporium?
The Mystery Emporium sells amazing stuff that ties in to all four of our Mail Order Mysteries. We’ve got S.H.O.E Academy spy hoodies, Mulberry & Perdu detective tees, Enchanted Slumber wall art, pirate clocks, yeti shirts and so much more. Now you can keep the magic alive for all those kids (and adults!) out there who loved their Mail Order Mysteries and wish there was a little bit more. Or if you have not yet done a Mail Order Mystery, but you know a kid who is about to begin one, you can shop for a gift-tie to launch the adventure.
What is the best age for a Mail Order Mystery?
When we create Mail Order Mysteries we have in mind kids between the ages of 8 and 13. At that age they can read independently, decipher codes and solve clues. They are also really hard to buy for. They don’t want more toys and who wants to get them more video games? Treasure Hunt! and Enchanted Slumber are great for younger kids (6 or 7) with some help with reading. Spies, Lies and Serious Bad Guys is our most challenging mystery and we recommend it for 9 and up. (Younger kids may need some help solving the ciphers and clues.)
Read more about which mystery is best for which age in our blog post.
Mail Order Mysteries are NOT for children under three. There are small parts which could present a choking hazard.
What exactly am I getting in the mail? You call these mysteries “stories”. Am I getting a series of chapters or episodes?
Mail Order Mysteries are stories but they are not told in a traditional sense. Each mailing contains written material and/or objects relating to some sort of mysterious event that you will come to understand as the story unfolds. Depending on the mystery you could receive, for example, hand-written letters, top secret folders, newspaper clippings, postcards, maps, keys, necklaces and so on. We make sure there is something to do in each mailing (a code to crack, a puzzle to solve, a number to call) and/or some sort of object. The final mailing contains a “payoff” keepsake or treasure related to the mystery.
Can I find out more about the story and what I am getting before I order?
Of course. Reading more about the story could compromise the surprise but if you are ordering for someone else it only makes sense that you would want details.
If you want to know more about Treasure Hunt! click here.
If you want to know more about Enchanted Slumber, click here.
If you want to know more about Spies, Lies and Serious Bad Guys! click here.
Are your mysteries meant for girls or boys?
All of our mysteries are good for girls and boys.
Are Mail Order Mysteries meant to be frightening?
Our mysteries are rigorously assessed by an official Very Nervous Story Tester and have received a Not Scary seal of approval. That said, it may be unsettling for some people to receive a letter out of the blue from a stranger, even if/especially if that stranger is long-dead, writing from another planet or the future etc. You can download a gift note from our website explaining the mail order mystery process before it begins, and depending on the kid, you may want to reassure them that the stories are not real.
Are the stories real?
Mail Order Mysteries are a highly engaging blend of fiction and fact, silly and smart. Any documents that come in the mysteries like magazines, handbooks, book excerpts, newspaper and journal articles are written and created by us, but have been thoroughly researched and contain real information. This can create many opportunities for curious kids to research and further explore topics like geography, medieval history, unsolved pirate mysteries, the work of spies, the creation and use of ciphers and codes etc.
Does my child need to believe the stories are real to enjoy the mysteries?
No. Mail Order Mysteries are meant to be fun. That said, some younger kids may believe the stories are real even if you tell them otherwise. Some older kids may become preoccupied with whether or not the stories are real (making it increasingly difficult for parents to pretend they are) and as a result they may not enjoy the story on its own terms. If you read a novel or watch a movie you do not need to believe it is real to enjoy it, right? This is our opinion here at Mail Order Mystery but we know that every family is different. If your kid is buying into a mystery hook, line and sinker and you're all having fun with it, don't let us try to talk you out of it.
If you would like to announce the arrival of a mystery you can download and print a gift note here.
Is it necessary to solve the codes, ciphers and puzzles in order to solve the mystery?
No. There is no point at which you will not be able to move forward in the mystery, no matter how much you do or do not know. If there are ciphers, codes or puzzles the answer or key will show up at some point in a later mailing.
Can siblings share a mystery?
Yes. We get feedback all the time from parents telling us how much their kids enjoyed working on the mystery together, solving the clues and figuring out the story. The one thing to be keep in mind is that there will be objects and keepsakes in each mystery that will have to be shared among the kids.
I am giving the mystery to someone as a gift. Do you have a card or something I can give them so they know I got them something?
Yes. You can print a gift note from our website. Some kids like surprises more than others so there are two options for gift notes (Mysterious and Very Mysterious). Download and print a gift note here.
Can I choose the exact date for the mystery to begin?
We are, of course, subject to the vagaries of the post, so we cannot guarantee that anything we send in the mail will arrive on a specific date. The date you select when you order a mystery is that date we start sending out the mystery. We mail out our orders every Thursday. When you place your order you can select the Thursday you would like the first installment to be shipped. The first installment of all of our mysteries is shipped normal letter mail so it shows up as a regular letter with the rest of your mail.
How often will Mail Order Mystery installments arrive?
Each mystery contains six installments. We ship the first installment on the start date you select when you order. After that installments will be sent once a week. International orders (outside of Canada & USA) and APO/DPOs are shipped every second week.
How long will it take for my installments to arrive?
We cannot make any guarantees about precise arrival dates. One thing we've learned running a business that relies on mailing letters through the postal system is that the postal system is not always predictable or reliable. Because the experience relies on getting what appear to be mysterious letters that arrive with the normal mail, we send the first several installments of each mystery by regular letter mail. That means they don't have tracking. If you are trying to make calculations of your own we can tell you that we are a Toronto-based company and according to Canada Post guidelines mail within the GTA should arrive within 2 business days, 3 days for anywhere else in Ontario and 4 days for National mail. Mail to the United States is typically delivered in 3-6 days, depending on where in the country it's going, though it's not unusual for US destined installments to take 5-10 business days to be delivered. Please allow at least 5-10 business days for international mailings (bearing in mind that not all postal systems are created equal).
If you are concerned about the reliability of your mail delivery or you don't want to wait that long, we can pack up all of your installments together and ship them in one box. Just send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss details.
How much is shipping?
Canadian orders include the cost of shipping. There is a shipping charge of $12 CAD (aproximately $9 USD) for US orders and $29 CAD for orders outside the USA and Canada, which will be added when you check out. The shipping cost is for the entire mystery experience, not for each installment. If you live outside of Canada and the United States, please be aware that mailings may be subject to import taxes, customs duties and fees levied by the destination country. These fees are levied once a shipment reaches the recipient's country. We have no control over these charges and can't predict what they may be as customs policies vary widely from country to country. You should contact your local customs office for more information.
What currency will you charge me for my order?
Mail Order Mystery processes all orders in Canadian dollars (CAD). However, the contents of your cart is displayed in your local currency or the currency that you select with the currency selector in the upper right hand corner of your screen. This allows you to see the cost of your order in your local currency as you're choosing a mystery. However, you will checkout and be billed using Canadian dollars (CAD) at the most current exchange rate.
What happens if I lose something I need for the mystery? Like a key or something?
Small things are easy to lose and we get it. Obviously we ask that you please try not to lose them, but if you do we will do our best to send you a replacement.